Dear Parents,

The children are very excited to talk to you about the design of their home country's flag.  They have a special homework project that I hope they will share with you today.  We will be doing a painting project next week with their home country flag, and we will also discuss other flags.  In case you find them useful, here are some websites with information about flags around the world.

The CIA world factbook flag index gives a really brief summary of the symbolism of each flag's colors.

There are many sites that provide flag coloring pages, with just the black outlines of country flags.  This one gives you a small, med, large choice which might be handy:

Also, please know that we are in the process of organizing a field trip for our class related to our unit on Communities.  It looks like the field trip will be either October 11th or October 25th.  As soon as I have a definite date, I will send home the permission form and plea for parent volunteers to help chaperone. 

Thank you!  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

  Mrs. Hayden
Dear Parents,

On Thursday, we went upstairs and visited Ms. Horner's Third Grade.  Ms. Horner's students will be our reading buddies.  When we meet, we will take turns reading and listening.  We may even be able to do some projects together related to our reading.  I hope you enjoy the photos that Miss Nina took during our first session together.  We weren't the only visitors to Ms. Horners' class on Thursday!  We also had the chance to meet Spike the Hedgehog!

We are also settling into our routine of bringing home leveled books for daily reading practice.  Some days, the students will be bringing home the book that we used during our Guided Reading lesson.  Other days, the students will be bringing home a different book that they have selected as a "just right" book.  Please do not worry if the levels marked on the books vary from day to day.  It is exceptionally helpful for the students to celebrate their classroom reading by re-reading to a parent or sibling.  The books the children take home should be pretty 'easy' for them, so they continue to build their confidence.  Occasionally I will ask the children to write a sentence or two to respond to their reading in their reading log.  Thank you for your support with this!

See you at the PTO Fair!
Mrs.  Hayden

Dear Parents,

I would like to share some information with you about the results of the Developmental Reading Assessments (DRA), our weekly spelling tests, and some friendly reminders.

* Developmental Reading Assessment
          Thank you all for your support of the First Grade DRA Days.  I mentioned to many of you how grateful I am to ASW for giving us two days to complete these assessments.  All of the children did a fabulous job.  And thanks to the DRA, I have a clear 'base-line' from which to plan our large group and small group reading instruction.  
          When we meet in early November for parent/teacher conferences, I will share more information with you regarding your child's DRA and about the reading learning plan I am composing  specifically for your child.  I will also use this blog to keep you informed about different strategies and skills we are practicing in class.  However, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not wait until November.  I always love sharing your children's successes with you!

*  Spelling Tests
       On Fridays, we have a spelling test.  The first five words for the spelling test are the focus words we added to our word wall the previous week.  Since last week only had three days of school, we only have three words for this week's test (from, good, and eat.)  However, there will also be a dictation sentence using review words.  Students receive one point for each word spelled correctly.  They also receive a point for remembering an uppercase letter at the start of their sentence and a second point for remembering to put ending punctuation at the end of the sentence.  I hope this explains how last week's spelling test of five words and one sentence had a total of ten possible points.  The dictation sentences will increase in complexity as the year progresses, and I will begin adding the challenge words as an option.  If you would like more information, please let me know!

* Reminders
               The school encourages the children to keep a spare set of clothes in their locker for any unexpected emergencies.  Since the weather is getting chillier, this may be a good time to check to see that your child has a complete backup outfit ready.  

          ASW conducted a complete fire drill yesterday.  I am happy to report that our students did a wonderful job exiting the building quickly and quietly.  Please ask your child to tell you about proper fire drill behavior. 

            Also, please remember the PTO Fall BBQ this Saturday at school from 12 - 4.  I hope to see all of you there!

Susan Hayden                    

This is an experiment.  I'm hoping that you will be able to view a VoiceThread of our first class book.  Here's hoping for the best!

Dear Parents,
I'd like to give you an update on some of the work we have been doing in class. 

In reading and writing, we have been practicing writing a simple three-part summary of a story.  This is an important building block for more advanced comprehension exercises that we will address later in the year.  For now, the children need to recall the most important details from the beginning, middle, and end of a story.  This week we have been talking a lot about our families.  This is a nice connection to our Social Studies unit on communities.  One of my favorite books about families is called, A Mother for Choco.  I was very impressed with the summaries the children wrote based on this book.  They took this paper home, so I hope they took the time to tell you about the story.

In math, we are continuing our work in Unit 1:  How Many of Each?  The children have been counting many different objects, identifying strategies to check their counting for accuracy, and comparing two amounts to determine which is larger.  Next week we will apply this work to solve addition problems with a variety of strategies.  We will also practice different ways to show our solution to a problem.

On a non-academic note, we have asked the children to be careful when they pack their snack for our morning snack break.  The children have generally been bringing healthy snacks, but sometimes some of the children bring a full meal which they have trouble finishing in such a short time.  Every child is different, so Miss Nina and I don't want to tell you what your child should bring.  But it would be helpful to us if you and your child pack their snack knowing that our snack break is just 10 minutes long.  The children need to get a quick energy boost and be ready to clean up and jump back into our busy morning of learning.  Thanks so much for your help with this.

Finally, this morning I saw a young child ride his bike across the street without looking, just on the road to the school entrance.  He was nearly hit by a car that was headed out to the main road.  I was so frightened for him.  To make it worse, he wasn't wearing a helmet.  I shared this story with the class, telling them how much I care about their safety and well-being at school and always.  We talked about looking both ways before crossing any street, and the children also promised that they would wear a helmet when biking, scootering, or roller-blading.  We will talk more about general safety tips in the next couple of weeks.

As always, thank you for your continuing support.  If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to send me an email or stop by the room.  We are on the same team! 

Hi.  My name is Susie, and I'm addicted to learning.

I registered to take a graduate course taught by ASW's own Technology Director, Bill MacKenty.  The course is titled, "Technology:  Best Practice as a Catalyst for Learning."  Why did I add the demands of a course to my already full schedule?  There are many reasons.   I was captivated by the description of the course that was shared.  I am also acutely aware of my need for any and all further education in technology.  I am intensely jealous of my children who are native speakers in techno-speak.  For me, it is a struggle.  A welcome struggle, though.  And, to be completely honest, there is something - well - addictive about learning.  Technology just happens to be my personal frontier.

My first homework assignment for the course is to blog my reflection from our first  session.  Here are some of my thoughts from Saturday, in no particular order:

*  When I am in a formal learning situation, I think about my students.  If I'm having a hard time sitting still or being attentive, I think about how my students might also have a hard time staying focused on the task at hand.

* I love this opportunity to share my love for learning (even when it involves sitting still) with my students.

* I am proud that I am taking this course simply because I want to learn what is being offered.

* I am motivated by learning skills and strategies that I find relevant, or  better yet, immediately applicable in the classroom.  I am not cut out to be a researcher.  I wonder how my students find the content of our day.  Do they see that learning to read is a vital skill, something that has immediate meaning, something that will improve their daily life starting now?

* It is profoundly affirming to reflect on best practices with my peers.   For some reason, it is difficult for me - alone -  to recall things I do well in terms of employing technology to promote collaborative, constructive, and differentiated learning.  However, if I reflect on this question with my peers, I realize that I am not alone.  We are a team of professionals, and as a team, we are already doing quite a lot! 

* I don't expect that my gnawing hunger for learning, specifically in the realm of my professional development frontier, will be satisfied anytime soon.  I think this course is one step on that path, and definitely in the right direction.  But Goodness Gracious, I still have a long way to go.

How do you find that technology improves your learning?
It was wonderful to see all of the parents for our Hopes & Dreams conferences this past week.  You demonstrate that education is a priority in your family.  The power of that message is amazing.  Thank you!

One question that recurred was:  How can we help our child at home?

Of course, we all know the value of staying in touch with our child's teacher and the activities in our child's class.  For you, this means - perhaps - checking your child's homework folder, confirming that your child has mastered our word wall words, and encouraging your child to read and write as much as possible.  Is there something more?

We know that children at this age need a lot of sleep.  They also need a lot of time for unstructured, imaginative play.  Our children learn so much from play - how to take turns, how to work together with a friend, and how to visualize their dreams, for example.

I invite you to consider your family routines that help your first grader develop a sense of independence.  Does your son tie his own shoes?  Does your daughter carry her own backpack?  These may seem like simple tasks, or as my dad would say, "no-brainers."  But I truly believe that a child who feels confident in her ability to take care of herself will transfer that confidence to new and challenging tasks at school.  Learning anything new is made easier if one approaches the challenge with confidence.

How do you help your first grader practice independence?  What are your memories of learning confidence as a child?