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!

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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!

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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!

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I can’t wait for next week!

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Welcome to the Patience Fruit Stand!

It’s time for a new school year to begin!

Brand new pencils, markers, the fresh, neat rows of sharp crayons . . . this might be my favorite time of year. Everything is crisp and gleaming, and everyone is rested from a summer of fun.

I wanted to share a few articles with you to help your child transition from the easy, breezy summer days to a new routine and hopefully help with any anxiety your child (or you!) may be feeling about a new school year. Just click any of the following images!

How Family Game Night Makes Kids into Better Students

PressEncouraging Reluctant Readers

Ease Back-to-School StressEasing Back-to-School Stress

For your convenience, here is the information presented at our orientation. You may click the images to link to each document. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. I am so happy to help you in any way I can. I’m so excited for this new year!

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It’s Here!

It’s August, which means our favorite time of the year has arrived.  The new school year is here!

There is just something magical about the start of a new year.  Who doesn’t love a chance for a fresh start?  Everything seems new (especially the school supplies – ohmygoodness – crisp notebooks, the smell of box of sharp crayons, boxes of colored paper clips – YAY!) and exciting, the return of old friends and thrill of new ones, and the anticipation all the greatness that is to come!  It’s also fun for parents, even the ever heart-wrenching dichotomy of the thrill of a new experience for our children met with the heartbreak that those children are growing up, seemingly one step further into independence and one step further from the protection of our arms (can you tell I just had a new baby? Emotions. Sniffle). As a mom, I’m fully feeling that, too, as my older little ones prepare for K4 and K2, so I’m happy to have a classroom-full of dear ones to love on and the assurance that my children’s teachers will be loving on them.

Your babies will be my babies every day. I promise to take care of them.

Welcome, Firstie Families!

An exciting year is coming! The Patience Fruit Stand, home of the fabulous Firsties, is a special place, a space that allows us to develop and express our creativity, to take risks, to feel valued and safe. It is a place where everyone learns to treat one another with kindness and respect, and no one says “I can’t!”

Our curriculum is driven by four pieces of children’s literature, through which we integrate the study of art, language, math, science, social studies, and God’s Word. In Uncle Jed’s Barber Shop, patience is groomed in Depression-era southern-America where we follow the life-long struggle of Uncle Jed, the only black barber in a county of sharecroppers, to overcome overwhelming obstacles in his pursuit of a dream. Next, patience grows in the late-1800s, where we homestead along with a self-sustaining farming family in Ox-Cart Man. We learn the value of hard work and diligence, where our food comes from, and the importance of using resources wisely. In our third book, Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie, patience glows through a biographical account of courage, endurance, and faith as the protagonist dutifully and dramatically protects both her family and their livelihood. Finally, we end on a story that asks us to give back by making the world a better place. In Miss Rumphius, patience grows through the story of a young girl who is challenged by her grandfather to do just that. God’s world is a beautiful place, but it is up to us to be good stewards of God’s gracious gifts.

All the while, we build our stamina, independence, and learn reading strategies and the writing process by working in both small groups and independently through reader’s and writer’s workshops. In reader’s workshop, students participate in activities that provide them with opportunities to explore and practice writing, manipulate sounds and spelling patterns, read, develop vocabulary, retell and summarize stories, and build fluency and comprehension. In writer’s workshop, students write to communicate to an audience through studies of writer’s craft, build endurance, develop and refine grade-appropriate writing skills, work on the writing process, and improve fine motor skills and handwriting.

We develop and hone fundamental skills in addition and subtraction, patterning, problem solving, estimating and predicting, graphing, telling time, counting coins, comparing, measuring, numeral recognition, one-to-one correspondence, sorting, sequencing, and number sense in math workshop.

Technology is integrated into almost everything we do through the use of our Kindle Fires, SMARTboard, books on tape or CD, and trips to the computer lab.  We use digital photography to capture and reflect on our learning. Technology is used to dive into God’s Word, read and explore books, practice basic math skills, respond to literature, develop reading strategies, engage in science and social studies extensions, and work with words and spelling patterns.

As first graders, we develop much patience as we continue learning to take turns, wait for attention, take our time to do our best work, and develop communications skills which enable us to solve our own problems. Everyone learns best in different ways, and we learn to be patient with others and to help those who need it. Leaders emerge and children are allowed to be experts on topics of interest. Everyone is an expert at something; we grow deeper through shared experiences.

Finally, we invite our firstie families to partner and share in our experiences. We look to parents to support our work and communicate openly and honestly for the benefit of each child. I look forward to a great year; although it will sometimes be messy, it will be a time of new discoveries, developing maturity, and exploring friendships.

I simply can’t wait!

What is my child learning in first grade cover

Click above for more specific information about what first grade looks like in the Patience Fruit Stand.

Central-Christian-Academy shield

Click above to download a copy of the first grade ACOs.

What season is it, anyway?

As my family left church this morning, and my own little ones gave their suggestions for ways to spend this gloriously warm 70 degree afternoon, I got a buzzing notification on my cell phone.  It was my weather app. Apparently, we’re in for somewhere between 3-4 inches of snow and ice tomorrow. WHAT!? Of course, I started thinking about all the ways that would be horrible. Traffic. Scraping more snow and ice off my car. Driving over sheets of ice. What if we have to miss another day of school? How are we ever going to get everything finished this quarter?  I turned around to see my children laughing hysterically in their car seats over who could hold more Goldfish crackers in their mouth while making howling wolf sounds. (Safe, I know.) I couldn’t help but join in their giggles. Then I thought, why let the possibility of a bad day ruin this perfect moment?  I think that’s what God does. He gives us these little gifts, like 70 degree weather, in the midst of what is technically still winter, so that we will truly enjoy them when we have them. So I’ve decided not to panic. I’m not going to dread the possibility of snow. Instead, my littles got to go to the park and play outside, spending every possible moment soaking up the sun so that there might still be a little left shining in their memories tomorrow, when I just might be hearing, “do you want to build a snowman?” (Raise your hand if you sang that line . . . haha). God just loves us crazy like that.

So, what did we do this week?

We continued our investigation into asking good questions while reading. We discussed and shared examples of ways asking questions actually helps us better understand what we’re reading. Students chose passages from their own books and talked about what kinds of questions they asked. We are learning that some questions are easy to answer if you just look back into the story. We call those “thin” questions. Some questions are more difficult, and require research or inference. We call those “thick” questions.  We wrote down questions that children had before, during, and after reading stories, and analyzed whether they were thick or thin questions. We will continue to encourage question asking, especially asking thick questions, to encourage deep critical thinking throughout the year!

We did many activities that got us thinking about choosing powerful words. Some students were asked to share their writing, so that others could give them feedback about how to use powerful words in their writing to make it better; others shared their own examples of using powerful words in their stories. We are REALLY developing our vocabularies!  One student used the word “tenacious” while writing a poem. He then gave us an accurate definition! Color me impressed!

We learned more about Jesus’ ministry on earth this week in Bible. We talked about the story of the men who lowered their friend through the roof to be healed by Jesus. Talk about steps of faith! This also led to a discussion about friendship, and what we should be willing to do, through faith, for our friends. Each student chose a friend to write about and created an acrostic poem using describing words or phrases (another opportunity to use our powerful words).  Of course, we also discussed the fact that Jesus is really our “best friend.”  Anyone start humming “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” just now?

In social studies, we continued our study of great leaders Benjamin Franklin and George Washington Carver. The firsties were shocked to learn about all the things you can do with peanuts and sweet potatoes. In science, we focused on the desert habitat. We learned about many of the animals and plants that live there and did some research practice to answer questions about them. We also chose our favorites, polled our friends, and graphed the data we collected.

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We used our study of the desert to springboard our cactus art projects. We created cacti, labeled the parts, and used mixed media to add details to each one.

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In math, we studied “name collection boxes,” which are simple a tool we use to think more deeply about numbers. Each student was given a large sheet of paper on which to collect as many “names” (ways to show) that number as possible. For example, I could draw a hand with five fingers, five tally marks, a 1 & 4 domino, a 5-dot die, a nickel, or 0+5, 1+4, 2+3, 3+2, 4+1, and 5+0 to show the number 5. Students were given double-digit numbers, however; since they’ve been working with this idea informally since the beginning of the school year. We also looked at patterns in the fact table and used rulers to compare measurements in inches and centimeters. Keep practicing those fact triangles at home!

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I’m looking forward to another fabulous and fruitful week in the Patience Fruit Stand, even if we do get some wintry weather.

If you haven’t already, please send in your child’s third-quarter binder. I’m starting to fill them up with incredible first grade work!

Check out the hallways.  The firsties have projects up everywhere.  See what you can find!

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.

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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.

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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!

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Kevin Henkes, Dr. Seuss, Listen-to-Reading, & an Alligator’s CHOMP

It was another busy week in first grade!  We focused on authors and illustrators, and read several new books by our September Author-of-the-Month, Kevin Henkes.  We discovered that he likes to write using animal characters, and his stories usually have a lesson about how we should treat one another.  We learned that writers write stories that are near and dear to their hearts, so Kevin Henkes must think treating others kindly is important.  As writers, we can also write about things near and dear to our hears.  So far, we’ve read Chrysanthemum, Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse, Wemberly Worried, A Weekend with Wendell, and Kitten’s First Full Moon.  The first graders made lots of observations about Henkes’ illustrations, and how he uses color to help tell the story.  We learned that in first grade, we’re all authors and illustrators and should always do our best work.  We read a story together called The Boy on Fairfield Street, which is a biography of Dr. Seuss and how he became a famous writer.  Ask your child if they can remember Dr. Seuss’ real name!

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Here are some Reader’s Workshop pictures from this week.  The firsties have been doing a great job building stamina each day!  We introduced “Listen-to-Reading” this week, which helps us to build fluency and interesting vocabulary.

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Also, if anyone has any old Walkman tape players that the Lord is just laying it on their heart to donate to the first grade classroom, we will gladly take them.  I had two players bite the dust last week.  (Please note that the awesome yellow one featured in photo 8 is legitimately retro.  It belonged to my dad in the 90s, and is still working like a charm!)

Last week, we learned about Cain and Abel in Bible.  We discussed whether or not Cain made a good choice when he killed his brother, and came up with ideas of other choices he could have made.  We realized that God always gives us a choice in every situation, and we have the power through the Holy Spirit to make a good choice every time, even when it’s hard.  We made a list of good choices we can make at home, ways we can be helpers to our families, and wrote them on paper flowers we then “planted” into paper cups.  Our good choices and fruitful actions can bloom from our integrity, planted in humility, grown from the seed of the Word of God.

In Social Studies, we learned that part of being a good citizen involves making decisions, and often members of communities make decisions through voting.  We use voting all the time in first grade; sometimes we use them to set reasonable goals (how many minutes can we build stamina today?) or to decide on the name of a class story we’re writing.  We also learned that adults use voting to make really big decisions for our country, as when electing our leaders.  Some students thought it wasn’t fair that only adults get to vote for the President of the United States, and we discussed why that might be the rule.  Most children concluded that “grown-ups know more stuff” and “are older” so they are “better at making good choices.”  Thank goodness these precious ones have such faith in us!  🙂

Last week we worked on building our number sense in math.  We played games that reinforced “before and after” concepts, used number lines, played “penny-dice” (a counting and trading game) and “top-it” (the player with the larger value card wins the round), practiced counting forwards and backwards, used tally marks and made mathematical predictions.  We also compared numbers using math vocabulary (greater than, less than, equal to) and learned how to read number sentences.  The firsties LOVE watching and making the hungry “alligator mouth” chomp-chomp-chomp the larger number!  We’ve been practicing counting by ones, twos, fives, and tens, and learning which numbers are even and which are odd.  Ask your child how to know whether or not a number is even.  They should be able to tell you two different ways!  🙂  We’re collecting weather data each day and graphing our findings, and keeping track of the number of days of school on a number line, hundreds chart, straw collection, and by using coins to make and write each day’s value.

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This week, the firsties will be adding Wilson Fundations homework.  There is a daily assignment that allows children to practice the phonics concepts we’re covering each week, but please feel free to have your child adjust that schedule according to your family’s needs.  As long as the assignments are complete by Friday, your firstie can complete them at their own pace.  Each child has been given a sight-word assessment, so they will not have to practice sight words they already know.  Wilson calls these words “trick words.”  In the GO Book, you will find your child’s “trick words” list.  The words highlighted in pink are words your firstie already knows.  Choose the first un-highlighted word at the top and move left-to-right along the row when choosing words to learn each week.  Students should learn two new words each week.  As children demonstrate mastery of the words, I will highlight them on that sheet for you, so you will know whether or not that word needs more practice or has been mastered.  Please keep the sheet in the GO Book so that when I assess your child periodically, it’s there for me to highlight words.

Also, please send in a cardboard shoe box (please label on the bottom with your child’s name) by Thursday.

I am so looking forward to another awesome week!

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.

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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!

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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!