100th Day, Groundhog’s Day, Star Wars Day, Oh My!

We have been very busy in the Patience Fruit Stand!

This last week was a week of celebrations. The 100th day of school and Groundhog’s Day both fell on Tuesday, February 2nd, and our school-wide Star Wars Day surprised all the kiddos on Friday!

We ate a snack comprised of 100 items, modeled our 100th day shirts (which were fabulous!), made necklaces of 100 Froot Loops, created hats filled with ten 10-frames, all showing a different way to decompose 10, designed towers of 100 cups, predicted and tested the distance of 100 footsteps, created stories of what it would be like to be 100 years old, and wrote 100 words. Here is a little peek into our 100th Day fun!



For Groundhog’s Day, we predicted whether or not the groundhog (Ol’ Punxsutawney Phil) would see his shadow. Most of us were right! We predicted that he would not see his shadow and that spring would be coming soon! We also read Groundhog Day by Gail Gibbons and watched a short science video about groundhogs.

Star Wars Day was described as the “best day ever” by several students in the Patience Fruit Stand. From watching an epic battle between Yoda and Darth Vader, to Jedi Training, to creating their own lightsabers, to writing their own space-themed stories (one was about space cats, because, of course), to designing and building their own space ships out of popsicle sticks, to playing Storm Trooper Blast in P.E., to visiting the 6th grade lego museum, it was a funtastic day filled with excitement and learning. Check out some of the fun!

I had to watch out for the Jawa all day. No one wants to be sold for parts!
Creating a spaceship masterpiece!
She was going for a geometric design.


Hanging out with my best bud, R2D2, and my owner, Master Luke.


The force is strong with those who enter here.


Watch out! Lightsaber battles await!
Storm Trooper Blast probably looked a lot like Dodgeball to the untrained eye.


Our inspiration during spaceship design.



At chapel, we learned that the Bible tells us to put on the armor of God and take up our lightsaber (Maybe sword. Probably lightsaber.), which is the Word of God. We learned that God’s Word is the strongest weapon we would ever need against the dark side.

Pick up your lightsabers, everyone. May the force be with you.

Do Your Personal Best!

This week in the Patience Fruit Stand the firsties continued to develop their understanding of what it means to do their personal best. They wrote books, drew pictures, and sorted stories to illustrate their thinking. The firsties learned what it means to give their “4-Star Effort” every day!



They also learned about what it means to be a good citizen, not only in our classroom but also in the outside world, and began to investigate what it means to be an American. Ask your firstie to tell you about some of the American symbols they learned about or the fancy word for “freedom.” We also introduced the idea of voting and that presidents are elected while choosing a class mascot. As your firstie to tell you about Crocky and Fluff Ball and which one we chose! Don’t be alarmed if your child won’t tell you who they voted for. We learned that voting is serious business, and no one should ever have to share their personal choice if they don’t want to! 🙂

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The firsties have been working on building stamina in readers workshop. They learned this week how to read to a partner. Ask your firstie to tell you what it means to sit “EEKK!” and how to stop, think, and check for understanding. At home, practice choosing “just right” books with your first grader by using the 5 Finger Rule. As your child begins independently reading a text, have them put up one finger for every unknown word. If they read through the page with 4-5 mistakes, that book is too difficult. If they only put up 1 finger, that book is too easy. If they read through and put up 2-3 fingers, that book is “just right,” that is, challenging enough to allow your child to build reading skills while not causing your child to become frustrated or give up.

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In writers workshop this week the firsties have been focusing on writing “small moment” stories. In first grade, many children write stories that sound something like this: “One day I woke up. I brushed my teeth. I got dressed. I ate my breakfast and we drove to school. At school I played and painted. After school I did my homework and ate all my dinner. After that it was bedtime. The end.” Sound familiar? I call these “list stories” because they simply list everything the child could think of to add detail to the story or lengthen it. Instead of writing list stories, writing about a “small moment” invites the child to choose one small part of the day or event, focus on it, and expand it. For example, instead of writing about every single thing I did when I went to Busch Gardens, I might choose to write about riding one roller coaster. I would add details describing what I was thinking, feeling, and seeing as I prepared to ride, rode, and disembarked. This type of writing allows children to practice adding 5-senses details and explore a singular topic in-depth. To help your child develop this skill, instead of asking, “how was your day?” you could tell them to describe their favorite part of the day and then ask more questions inviting them to give details. How did that experience feel? What did it make you think? How did others react? It takes time for writing to develop these qualities, and we will be using a variety of children’s literature to demonstrate and model this kind of writing.

We have been practicing using many different math tools over the last week to help us learn to use them properly, use “math talk” while working, and review familiar concepts, such as patterning, comparing amounts, number formation, addition, and counting to 120. The firsties have been working independently, in partners, and in groups as they practice the skills they will need for our workshop rotations. They are almost ready to begin our full workshop time! It is important for children to be able to work both independently and in cooperative groupings for skill and social development, and so that I can also work with small groups to assess learning, challenge deep thinking, and provide intervention and remediation for those that need extra help with difficult concepts.

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We read Fireflies! by Julie Brinkloe and began an artistic response piece. These multi-step pieces are beautiful, and almost complete! Look for them in the hallway soon!


This week we also learned about Cain and Abel and wondered whether or not each of them gave their personal best to God. Ask your child which brother gave their personal best and which one gave his leftovers. We learned that even when we don’t give our personal best, God (and our parents, too!) still love us, care for us, and want to protect us. Ask your firstie to share with you how God did that for Cain!


I can’t wait for next week!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mothers are such a gift to our children. One of our sweet firstie saints, when telling why his mother is important to him, said, “she is the one who is always on my side.”  Be still my heart!  We spent part of our week learning about why we should celebrate mothers, creating precious keepsake gifts for our mothers, and preparing this little gem.  Enjoy, and I hope you all have a very wonderful mother’s day!


Love is . . .

Whew! Valentine’s Day is so much fun in the Patience Fruit Stand, but I could tell there were some sugar comas approaching by the end of the day. Maybe myself included! Ha! A special thank you to all the families that worked hard to help make today special by volunteering to bring in treats. Thank you as well to everyone for sending in Valentines for all the children. Delivering their special treats to their friends was the highlight of their day, and watching them open and enjoy some of them at the end was so much fun! As a mom, I know how time-consuming it can be to prepare treats for the whole class. All of your contributions were greatly appreciated. Thank you!

20140214_110507Each student delivered valentines to their friends’ special, handmade mailboxes.


In Reader’s Workshop this week we learned about how asking questions while we read makes us better readers. The firsties helped me think of questions to ask before, during and after reading, and then practiced using this strategy during their independent reading. We also brainstormed lots of ways we could ask questions all day, every day. We learned that asking questions is the best way to learn new things, and that we should always ask questions when we’re curious about something.

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Students use the SMARTboard to identify “Bossy R” words, or words with r-controlled vowels.

We are fully in the swing of our February author study. This month we’re focusing on Leo Lionni. Ask your firstie about their favorite Lionni story we’ve read thus far! The first graders noticed many things that Leo Lionni does well as an author and illustrator. They observed that they can use some of his strategies to make their own writing better, by using more details, writing “five-senses” descriptions, or by drawing more intricate pictures. We also discussed Lionni’s use of torn and cut paper artwork to create realistic images for his books.

alexander and the wind up mouse biggest house inch by inch

In Writer’s Workshop we’ve been thinking about how to choose more powerful words. We looked at several examples of writing and decided which ones were exciting to read and which were a chore. We learned that we should use words that help us to make a mental image of what we’re reading and reflect the five senses. Ask your child how many stories he or she has published so far. Our writing has gotten more detailed, longer, and better (as far as use of conventions) each quarter! Woo hoo!

In Science we’ve been studying the weather and beginning our habitat studies. We learned all about the different types of clouds, how to recognize them, and the types of weather with which they are associated. We’ve also been learning about and reviewing the water cycle. Ask your child what they know about the Arctic and the Antarctic. We thought the cutest Arctic animal was the ermine. I mean, look at this thing! Winner of the Most Darlin’ Lil’ Weasel Award! You might be surprised to learn that they are considered one of the fiercest predators in Alaska. Crafty, swift, and silent, they easily creep into the dens and burrows of their prey, where they target the unlucky animal’s neck, targeting the spinal column. I digress.


They all wrote and illustrated books about their learning this week. Next week we will begin thinking about a new habitat. So exciting!


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A student records words he knows about polar habitats.

Students work to recreate the aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) over the Arctic Ocean using watercolors.

Students create a snowy city landscape using a flick art technique.

In Math we’ve been busy working with place value concepts, comparing and relating numbers (especially in number stories), turn-around facts, and reviewing “rules.” Next week we will begin building our “fact power.” In addition to our usual IXL assignments, I’ll begin sending home Fact Triangle cards for your child to use to practice learning their addition and subtraction facts. We’ve been working with basic facts since the beginning of the year, using games like “two-fisted penny addition,” and tools such as number lines, number grids, dominoes, dice, counters, etc. to help solve addition problems. We will begin using facts tables and these facts triangles to establish the link between addition and subtraction. By the end of second grade, students will be expected to know all of the subtraction facts. Rather than have children simply memorize the facts (we know memorization is NOT learning), we emphasize the relationship between addition and subtraction. When solving a subtraction problem, such as 9-5, children are encouraged to ask “What number should I add to 5 to get 9?” Ultimately, children will be able to solve such problems automatically.

fact triangle

In Bible we’ve been learning about Jesus’ early life and introduced his early ministry. Ask your child about Jesus’ teaching at the synagogue as a child, or about what his words to the woman at the well can teach us about the power of the Holy Spirit. They should be able to tell you that although the woman thought Jesus was referring to physical water, He was offering her something more, Living Water, which would cleanse her heart and remove her sins.
Today our chapel lesson was about love. We read 1 Corinthians 13:4, which says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” The KJV describes “patience” as “long suffering.” In class, we talked about what that means; how do we suffer for one another? We read a book by Eve Bunting and Jan Brett called The Valentine Bears, in which one bear wakes up early from her hibernation to prepare a special Valentine’s Day celebration for her spouse. She goes out in the cold, bathes in frigid water, labors to dig up honey she has stored away, collects special treats, such as nuts, berries, and bugs, and goes through extreme effort to wake her deeply sleeping bear husband. Eventually, when he does not awaken, she attempts to wake him by dousing him with cold water, yet accidentally dumps it on herself! The first graders were able to identify many examples of suffering this doting bear wife experiences while preparing a special surprise. Ultimately her efforts are rewarded when her husband wakes up and surprises her with a gift of his own, and they spend a lovely day together in their cave. The firsties then compared the bear’s love to the way their own parents make sacrifices and suffer for them. The most popular examples were going to work and “slaving away,” as one firstie put it, providing food, shelter, and clothing, and when parents give up their precious sleep to comfort firsties after a nightmare. From their answers, it was clear that these firsties truly feel loved and appreciate all the hard work their parents do for them!


Brilliant. Just brilliant!

I may have mentioned this before, but WHEW, time is flying!  We are two full weeks into our second quarter, and I have seen SUCH huge growth in these firsties!  Every day I see them applying skills, using their “math talk,” and building their schema through the connections they make both within and between content areas.  I am so proud of how far they’ve come – and it’s only November!

Here’s a peek at our learning from the week:

In Reader’s Workshop we learned how our schema can help us before we read by allowing us to tap into our prior knowledge and make predictions about a text.  We already begin to make connections from text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world.  After hearing an article published by a chemist, we learned that we often need to have schema for topics already before we can understand a new thing we want to read.  We learned that people can build their schema by asking questions, reading, doing research, going to museums, watching videos, and watching TV (like Animal Planet or PBS Kids!).

DSCN1804We explored this idea by making a chart of everything we already knew about wolves in fiction storybooks.  Children gave examples of tricky wolves, like the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood who tries to disguise himself as a grandmother in order to eat the little girl, or strong wolves, like the Big Bad Wolf of The Three Little Pigs who could knock down houses just by blowing on them.  Then we read Bad Boys and compared our schema to the wolves in the story.  We talked about how the schema we had from reading books helped us to make predictions about the wolves we might meet in Bad Boys.


Later in the week we drew pictures and thought about a time we had lost something.  We discussed how we felt when we lost that item and how we felt when we found it again.  We metaphorically surrounded ourselves with our schema of loss by literally surrounding ourselves with our pictures of our lost items and read Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems.  The children explained how their thinking about their lost items helped them while they were listening to Knuffle Bunny.  They were all able to empathize with the main character, Trixie, who lost, and later found, her prized stuffed rabbit.


In Writer’s Workshop we have been working on the writing process.  Two firsties published their very first writer’s workshop pieces – pieces that have been through the whole process from brainstorming to drafting to revising/editing to writing a final draft to publishing and illustrating.  I know several more stories are in the final draft stage, and will be published soon.  They will be displayed in the room as the stories start rolling in!  We have been working on taking a story through that process together before breaking to work on our own projects.  We created a thinking map about our character and chose a setting, problem, and solution for the story before adding details and organizing our thinking into a good beginning, middle, and end.

DSCN1803We then moved our ideas into the drafting stage.  It took us three days to complete our first draft, a testament to the hard work that goes into crafting a quality story!  We made a few revisions and will be ready next week to write our final draft and ultimately display our published class story in the room.

In Bible this week we learned all about Peter.  We discovered that God gives us great leaders like Joseph or Moses, but they are never perfect and make mistakes often.  We read the story in which Peter follows Jesus onto the water during a storm, but becomes frightened and loses his faith and footing.  We learned that if we focus our eyes on Christ, we can do anything He asks of us; if we don’t, we get distracted by the world and sink.  The children began creating boats using paper plates and popsicle sticks.  They will attach all the pieces together on Tuesday.  🙂

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In Social Studies we’ve been learning all about timelines and building our schema about past, present, and future.  The children have created timelines of their lives, including making predictions about what they think they will be doing and what they will look like in the future.  They have compared and contrasted past, present, and future changes in communities, schools, toys, and daily American life.

In Math Workshop we explored patterns in shapes and numbers.  We used pattern blocks to cover larger shapes and described the shapes’ attributes, sorted dominoes by odd or even numbers of dots, used pattern blocks to create, name, extend and record patterns, built number sentences, recognized patterns in counts by 2s, 3s, and 5s, used number lines to add and subtract, practiced telling time to the half hour, and used “frames-and-arrows” diagrams to decipher rules for changing numbers.  WHEW!  That is a busy week in math!

DSCN1782 DSCN1781 DSCN1779 DSCN1777 DSCN1774 DSCN1770 DSCN1769Our new Author of the Month is Cynthia Rylant.  The firsties remember her as the author of the Henry & Mudge series they visited when working through their Henry & Mudge book in Kindergarten.  We have many Henry & Mudge books in our classroom library, but this month we are focusing on her more advanced works.  This week we read In November, a poetic nonfiction story about different things that happen in the fall.  The firsties noticed right away that the illustrations were very different than the type of illustrations made for Henry & Mudge.  They realized that Cynthia Rylant does not use the same illustrator for all of her books!  She chooses an illustrator based on his or her style, matching that style to the style of the story she is writing.  Brilliant thinking, firsties!

We made beautiful fall leaves using the colors Cynthia Rylant described in In November.  I’m thinking those will be up on display in the hallway next week.  We just need to make a tree on which these changing leaves can grow!

Remember that on Monday CCA will be closed in observance of Veteran’s Day.

Come out tomorrow morning and walk with the mayor!  Don’t forget to wear something red or your CCA gear!

Have a blessed long weekend!










Have you ever had a mistake turn into a moment?  I mean, one of those mistakes where you’re kicking yourself and thinking, “Ugh, did I really just do that?” and suddenly that mistake turns out to be something really great?  That happened to me this week, and to your sweet firsties reaped the benefits.

Yesterday was Halloween, of course, and one firstie brought in the most adorable spider treats for his friends.  I mean, look at these things:



Guess who forgot to pass them out?


I mean, okay; these things happen.  But I knew that the aforementioned sweet firstie and his mama probably spent hours on these amazing creations.

I knew I had to make it right.

This morning, the firsties were greeted with the following scene:


I can’t describe the excitement to you.



“What happened?”

“Oh no!  They escaped!”

“There’s one on my desk!”

“One’s crawling up the shelf!”


I will continue to maintain that I have no idea how these silly spiders got out of the bag, or what would make them scurry around, and I don’t have to; the firsties were ready to let their imaginations fill in the blanks!

“They had a Halloween party!”

“Someone’s put magic dust on them before we left the room yesterday and they came alive!”

“It was my Elf on the Shelf!”

“Maybe it was a disco party!”

“They wanted to trick or treat at our seats!”

Can you see where I’m going with this?  The firsties got busy writing an imaginative story describing the spiders’ overnight antics. They described the spiders and what they looked like, and wrote about dancing with them all night long, or trying to snuggle with the Patience Pals on the shelves.  Some wrote about their desperate attempts to get into the morning work baskets to try to learn first grade work, or their efforts to reach the library where they would read books all night long.  Their ideas are so creative!

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So, maybe it was just the Lord’s will that I would be frazzled and forgetful at the end of a Halloween class day so that we could have this awesome creative writing experience.  God’s plans are always better than mine!

Have a blessed weekend!

Week Two . . . check!

Somehow, short weeks are always the most chaotic.  There is so much to do!  The week FLEW by, but we were still able to stuff in LOTS of learning.

This week, the firsties learned how to read to someone in our reader’s workshop.  They are still building reading stamina, and today they read for 27 uninterrupted minutes with a friend!  That is pretty amazing for the second week of school!  They practiced three different ways to read to their partner.  The first, we call “Check for Understanding.”  That means two partners share one book, one partner reading while the other checks for comprehension.  They hold a little check mark (everyone gets their own!) that has comprehension prompts on it.  DSCN1410For example, they might say, “I heard you read . . .” and fill in with a question word (who, what, when, where, why, how).  The reading partner would answer their question.  They also might “I Read, You Read.”  In this scenario, the partners share one book and take turns reading.  Finally, they may choose to read two different books and check for understanding together.

The first graders also learned a lot about writing this week.  They collected information about the tools writers use, for example, whether it’s better to write with a crayon, pencil, marker, or colored pencil.  After a few attempts, the children came to the conclusion that for writing words, a pencil is better.  It is easy to see and fit little letters within little lines.  They realized they could write more if they used the right tool, and make their illustrations better as well.  They also realized that more colorful illustrations are more beautiful illustrations, and that they should use the other tools of writing (colored pencils, crayons) for that purpose.  As a result, the firsties are writing some really great stories in their writer’s notebooks (still a favorite time of day) and making very nice, relevant illustrations to go with them!

DSCN1413(Milo and Otis: Once upon a time there was a cat and she lived in a farm and she was about to have kittens)  This student wrote four more pages to this story, and has already decided it will be the first story she will publish.  🙂

In Bible this week we reviewed Creation and learned about Adam & Eve.  The children drew amazing pictures depicting what they imagined the Garden of Eden looked like both before and after the Fall.  We also learned a lot about names, and that Adam was tasked by God to name all the animals He had created.  The students learned the meanings of their own names and created beautiful artwork to show their names and their meanings.


In Social Studies we are still focusing on citizenship.  We read many books to help us learn how to behave both at school and at home, including My Mouth is a Volcano, Lucy Walker Nonstop Talker, and The Way I Act.  Now, all I have to do is say, “volcano!” and watch each student “bite their words” and breathe them through their nose.  Ask your child to tell (and show!) you the four first grade rules!  It was also the first official week of classroom jobs.  We’re still training, but they were SO excited to get busy working!


In art, we learned about primary colors and how they mix to form the secondary colors.  We started on a project that we will finish next week.  🙂

Overall, it has been a fun and successful week.  These littles are LEARNING!  They tell me all the time, “Mrs. Rhodes, I worked hard on building my stamina today!” or “Please can I write in my writer’s notebook, Mrs. Rhodes?” or “That is not peacemaking behavior.  We can fix it though.”  LOVE.LOVE.LOVE.

Lastly, don’t forget to SELL SELL SELL those yummy peanutty goodnesses!  VA Diner is a major fundraiser for us, and every little bit helps!  Family, friends, neighbors; everyone wants to support your precious child and their school!  🙂

Also, we have brand new, beautiful car magnets!  They’re only $1.  I’ve already snatched up four.  Get ’em while they’re hot off the presses!

The Firsties’ First Week

It’s hard to believe that the first week of school is already done, but WOOO, have we been busy!

The first few weeks of school are all about building community and learning classroom procedures and routines. I tend to take my time establishing our learning environment, which includes showing children what the expectations are and how they can reach them. It’s much better to take the time now than to wait until there are problems!

Pictures are worth 1,000 words, or something like that :), so here is a little photo tour of some of the things the children have been learning and doing this week:

Here, a few firsties build stamina while learning to read independently. They have learned that good readers can read three different ways: looking at the pictures and making up a story that makes sense, looking at and trying the words, or by retelling a familiar story by looking at the pictures.  They have also learned why it’s important to choose our own books, that we should choose things to read that reflect our own interests, that we choose books that we can comprehend, that we should choose books in which we know most of the words, and that there is a purpose for reading.


DSCN1379Lena is shocked by something she read in this book!  🙂





The firsties are learning how we use our daily calendar to keep track of the days of school.  They are learning number concepts, such as ways to build numbers, place value, how to use number lines, how to count and write money, and how to keep and tell time.  We also use our calendar to keep track of our daily weather patterns and graph lost teeth.  We are making and extending patterns, spelling the days of the week and months of the year, and playing math games together.  It’s a fun time that is chock-full of learning!


Every day we begin with a morning meeting and message.  I write a letter to the students each day.  This gives them authentic repeated exposure to the parts of a friendly letter.  We use this time to build community, sing, read poetry, fiction and non-fiction texts, and search for punctuation marks or sight words in our morning message.


In Writer’s Workshop we usually spend lots of time free writing.  This week we learned how to brainstorm ideas for writing and what resources we have in the room to spark ideas.  Here, students are collecting words from around the room to use in a story.





Kylie plants “seed” ideas into her writer’s notebook.  This is one of the firsties’ favorite times of the day.  Many beg each morning to start right away!



This week we worked with lots of graphs, both in our morning work as review as well as with other language and literacy activities.  After reading First Day Jitters, we made “jitter juice,” tasted it, and graphed our experience.  As you can see, only one taster didn’t like it, and two firsties weren’t interested in trying it.  Trying new things is always something to work on!  🙂

DSCN1371Our social studies learning is revolving around learning good citizenship.  In first grade, we call good citizens “peacemakers.”  We brainstormed together lots of ways we can be peacemakers.  As you can see, the firsties drew on their prior knowledge of the fruit of the spirit!


We created a David character from the book No David! and wrote about ways we can be peacemakers at school and at home.


These are only a few highlights of the week (the things I remembered to grab my camera and take pictures of – haha!).  We also learned the seven days of creation in Bible and created a 3D book to help us remember what God created each day.  In science this week the children were amazed to see that sherbet actually floats in liquid!  It was interesting to see how the liquids and the sherbet eventually blended together to create the jitter juice.  In math we explored some of the manipulatives (blocks, linking cubes, etc.) to create patterns and shapes.

I’m so excited for the rest of this year!  It is going to be fabulous!

Still the one . . .

New year, new blog title! As we pull together our school theme and work toward continued school-wide unification, we are making some changes. Check out the first grade classroom’s awesome awning (can you believe Mrs. Stephens made these HERSELF?!? with a little installation assistance from Mrs. Finch).


Firsties and firstie families, we have a great year ahead of us. I absolutely cannot wait to get started! Here is a little “sneak peek” of what you will see on the first day of school:




We have so much learning and exploring to do together! Don’t forget that Parent Orientation Night is Thursday, August 22nd at 7pm. I am continually praying for each and every one of my sweet students and families, and I can’t wait to see what this year has in store!

Field Trip!

Field Trip!

To cap off our study of the polar regions, the Firsties took a mini-field trip to visit the third graders’ milk jug igloo! They loved crawling in, pretending to be Inuit people as they imagined what it would be like to live inside. Hanging out with the penguins was pretty cool, too.