Short and Sweet: Spotlight on Science & Math

Hey, firstie families!  Well, I asked for sun! What a sweet gift this weather is.  We were outside on the playground today and two dear firsties asked if they could sit on the blacktop with me.  One said, “it feels so hot and good.  It makes me happy to just sit and rest with you.”  My heart was just about to burst!  It was warm, and the breeze was cool and gentle.  We soaked it up.  (I maaaaaay have given them an extra five minutes . . . shhhh – don’t tell anyone!)  Who knows how long this kind of fabulous Fall weather will last?

This week has been a super busy week.  It’s always a little hectic when you try to get everything in on a short week, but we did it!  Because next week is Literacy Event week, and we’ve been doing some preparing, I can’t share everything we did.  Here is a little spotlight on our fun pumpkin investigations!

At the beginning of the week we discussed methods of measurement.  We talked about how we can measure distance, temperature, height, weight, length, and even time using different tools.  We looked at a few different ones and discovered which tools would be most appropriate for the different types of measurement.


We then made estimates of each dimension.  This is the chart we made for circumference.  The students each cut a piece of string to the length they thought would be enough to go around the pumpkin.  We measured the strings using a ruler.  We discovered this was a great way to measure circumference when you don’t have a tape-measure!


Each child made an estimate of the number of seeds we would find in our pumpkin.  We recorded our guesses and then cut open and counted each.and.every seed within!  They loved scooping out the piles of “guts” and seeds!  That’s it for this week’s “spotlight on science and math.”  We have to save something for the event.  🙂

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Happy {wet} Fall, Y’all!

Okay, firstie families, who else is ready for some DRY Fall weather?!  Every day at lunch time the firsties and I praise God for the rain, but I’ll be honest, I’m singing “rain, rain, go away” the rest of the day!

I apologize in advance for my lack of photographs this week.  We were so busy I kept forgetting to pick up my camera and snap some pictures! I know it’s not fun to read huge blocks of text, so I’ll try to keep it short and sweet.

This week, we added more strategies to our word solving arsenal.  We learned that we can make connections to words we already know (“look” is like “book” and “cook”), go back and re-read when something doesn’t make sense or when we figure out a new word, or skip to the end and read to figure out the word.

To wrap up our discussions about labeling, the firsties made their own labels for different parts of or items in the room.  Here are a few things the firsties thought were important enough to deserve a label:

DSCN1652 DSCN1654 DSCN1656 DSCN1657 DSCN1658 DSCN1659 DSCN1660 DSCN1662 DSCN1664We learned about the writing process this week.  The firsties have been working hard on planting lots of “seed” ideas into their writer’s notebooks, either through brainstorming or by beginning to write stories.  This week, we learned that writing a piece to publish is a much bigger process.  In first grade, students write in their writer’s notebooks, then begin a first draft, edit and revise (which sometimes means writing a second draft, and more editing and revising), have a one-on-one or group conference with the teacher, write a final draft, and then their work is ready for publishing.  This allows students to work at their own pace and self-select their own topics and work to be published.

In Bible, we learned all about Joseph and his coat of many colors.  The students designed their own multi-colored coats that might have looked like the one Joseph was given by his father.  We learned about how no matter what someone has done, we are asked by God to forgive them, just as Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery.  God has a plan for each one of us, and even when we think things are bad, God always has a plan to work everything for our good.

We are studying our author of the month and the alphabet book genre, so we’ve been voraciously reading books by Jerry Pallotta.

DSCN1661 DSCN1663This week in science, we learned all about the life cycle of pumpkins.  We enjoyed a book called Pumpkin Circle, and sequenced the stages of a pumpkin’s life cycle.

DSCN1647The firsties learned about describing words, and did a five senses exercise to describe a pumpkin.  Some firsties told me that they liked the pumpkin (the pumpkin looks good, it feels nice, etc.) but soon learned that true describing words help others experience a thing when they can’t see, feel, touch, hear, or taste it.

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We will be wrapping up our pumpkin study this week.  Things might get a little messy!  😉

In math, we’ve been focusing on money.  We made observations of the penny and the nickel, stamped and made rubbings of their images on our “Money Mat” recording sheets, and realized that we can count multiple combinations of coins by counting by fives and then counting on with ones.  We played SMARTboard games that required students to trade pennies for nickels (many students thought one penny was a fair trade for one nickel), and students worked in partners to make trades using both toy and real coins.


I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Apples, Pumpkins, & Metacognition . . . Oh My!

We have had a GREAT week and a half since my last post.  BUSY, BUSY, BUSY!  Here’s a little run-down of some of the things we’re learning.

In Reader’s Workshop, we learned that readers think and read at the same time.  This “thinking about thinking” has a fancy word: metacognition.  Good readers use metacognition all the time through the strategies they use.


We talked about what we should do if we’re stuck on a word and something doesn’t make sense.  The firsties learned that we can “finger read” by tapping each word as we read, check the picture for a clue, get our mouths ready to say the sounds in the word, wonder “what would make sense?” or look for chunks in the word that we already know.

DSCN1628Check out our firsties practicing these strategies during Reader’s Workshop!

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In Writer’s Workshop we wrapped up our learning about how to make great illustrations with some explorations of drawing books.  The firsties were introduced to these drawing books as a resource.  I can’t tell you how many times I hear children say, “I don’t know how to make a _________.”  I always say, “Imagine that in your mind. What shapes do you see?  How are they connected?” To help us grasp that concept, we put a series of drawing books in our Writer’s Station.  Children can use them to help complete an illustration when they just can’t figure out their idea.

They are already a big hit!

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We have also focused on how writers and illustrators use labeling to help their readers understand their message.  Labels tell the reader the names of things.  We read many books that use labels, including Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert, and books that maybe SHOULD have used labels, like Of Colors and Things, by Tana Hoban.

DSCN1637 DSCN1636We practiced how we can use labeling in our writing, and many children decided to use labeling in their own stories this week!

DSCN1629 DSCN1630In Bible, we wrapped up our learning about Noah’s Ark by building our own arks!  Many children thought building arks out of shoe boxes and construction paper was REALLY hard, especially because they had to design their own “gopher wood” paper themselves.  We talked about how much more difficult it must have been for Noah and his family to build a real ark all by themselves, and why it took so many years to construct!

DSCN1584DSCN1556 DSCN1555 DSCN1585  DSCN1586 DSCN1580 DSCN1579 DSCN1576 DSCN1573 DSCN1570We also began talking about Jacob and Esau.  The firsties got to feel some (faux) animal skins like the ones Jacob probably used to trick his father.  They drew pictures depicting each son’s attributes and created a ladder covered with angels, just like in Jacob’s dream.

DSCN1590 DSCN1589 DSCN1587In Science, the first graders have been learning everything about apples and pumpkins.

We first made a chart of things we already know and wondered about apples.

DSCN1564We read Apples for Everyone and Up, Up, Up: It’s Apple Picking Time, and added to the “learned” column of our chart as we learned new things.51muPmzaHxL._SX258_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_ DSCN1639We discovered all the parts of an apple, and learned that there is a star inside!  Ask your firstie to show you where to find it!  Many of us were tickled to learn that British colonists called apple seeds “pips.”  Most of us called the seeds “pips” for the rest of the week.  Hee hee.

DSCN1606 We also conducted an apple taste test after learning that apples can be green, red, or yellow.  Most firsties liked yellow apples best!  We integrated a little math here through a pictograph of our favorites.

DSCN1558 DSCN1557DSCN1559We wrapped up our apple learning with a delicious (and again, math integrated) lesson on how to make applesauce.  Our classroom smelled AMAZING all day!

First, we borrowed Mrs. Alberson’s “Apple Peeler, Corer, Slicer” contraption to peel, core, and slice our 8 medium apples.


We added the pieces to the crock pot.DSCN1613

Next, we added 1/2 cup of sugar.DSCN1615

Then we added 1 tsp. cinnamon.DSCN1616

Finally, we added 1 cup of water.DSCN1617

It was already smelling delicious.DSCN1618

We set the timer for 3 hours and the temperature to high.DSCN1620

Every 30 minutes (or so) we mashed.DSCN1633

We turned the heat down to low for 2 hours.DSCN1631 DSCN1635

And ultimately enjoyed what some firsties described as “the best applesauce I’ve ever had in my life!”  One asked if he could have seconds, and then thirds, and then fourths.  Ha!DSCN1634 DSCN1640DSCN1641 DSCN1643We had enough to share with Mrs. Stephens AND the 2nd and 3rd graders!  They were happy campers, too.

We introduced our thinking about pumpkins by creating a Venn Diagram together showing how apples and pumpkins are similar and different.  The firsties began by filling out everything they knew about apples.  They knew A LOT!  Then we read Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin Pie and listed ways that pumpkins were similar to and different than apples.

DSCN1604DSCN1638 We created a little pumpkin “stained glass” artwork this week.  It looks so festive hanging in our classroom window!  Have I mentioned that I love fall?


Our math learning has focused on building numeracy skills.  We are working on creating a chart for each number.  So far, we have made 1-5.  On each chart we write as many ways as we can think of to show that number.  We typically include dice, ten-grids, money (just pennies and nickels so far), shapes (triangle for 3, because it has 3 sides), roman numerals, tally marks, hands showing fingers, the correctly formed numeral, the word form of the number, ordinal words, and sometimes even the number in different languages (so far we’ve included German, Spanish, French, and Italian. We’ve had to look up those spellings in language dictionaries for sure!). 5 isn’t pictured because it wasn’t on the wall yet when I took the photo.  Oops!  If you stop by the classroom, you’ll see it’s there now!

DSCN1591In Math Workshop we learned about telling and writing number stories.  We practiced using a Change Diagram to write the “starting number” in the story and the “how much did it change?” number to discover the “ending number.”  We always do math stories using units, so we always talk about “math problems” in terms of how many objects are being added or subtracted – never just the number.  Children use manipulative objects (linking beads, counters, beans, toys, linking cubes, etc.) when showing their thinking to solidify this concept in their minds.

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We learned how to play “Roll for 50” to practice counting forward and backward by 1s to 50, and learned all the ways to make 10 by picking up a collection of objects with one hand and seeing how many were left.  My camera ate the chart we made to record our discoveries. 😦

We also began thinking about time.  We discovered that a minute “feels really really long” when timing it.  We noticed that it takes the same amount of time for the minute hand to go all the way around the clock as it takes for the hour hand to move one hour!  12:00 a.m. is called midnight, and it takes twelve hours to go from midnight to 12:00-noon!  The first graders made clocks they will use in their “clock work” (get it? hee hee) for the rest of the year.

I think that just about covers it all.  We are busy bees in the Patience Fruit Stand!

Oh wait!  There’s more!  I forgot about our October “Author of the Month!”  He is Jerry Pallotta, author of the famous alphabet books that give details about everything from sea creatures to “icky bugs.”  Ask your firstie about the first Jerry Pallotta book we read this week.

Have a blessed weekend!