A normal week in FIRST grade

first-grade-rocks-corelFrom time to time I read in the media that our students aren’t learning as much as they need to be.  This is something I may read but it doesn’t jell with my personal experience with our students and teachers.  Recently I received the following communication from a first grade teacher that summarized the work that was done in class last week.  I was amazed at the planning, thinking, detail, and precision that is put into learning with even our youngest students.  Check this out:

“Last week we continued bravely on with our handwriting letters (we’re nearly done with the practice sheets.) Our process with these has really evolved, however, since we first began doing them. At the beginning of the year we did a fully separate lesson on the letters, whereas now practice sheets are often on student desks when they enter as “bell work.” This means that once students have done all their morning preparations for the day, they do the paper, and upon its completion can go right into book shopping for their reading bag or do independent reading. Meanwhile by about 8:30 I have begun meeting with students for small group instruction. We briefly do calendar, weather and “day of first grade”(in about 2 minutes, and this is student led.) Around 8:45 or 8:50 we head for the gathering place where we often share literature or have a mini-lesson that will help us do something better in our literacy work during Daily 5. Some-time between 9:00 and 9:10 students check in for their first round of Daily 5. We do 2 rounds of approximately 20-25 minutes, during which students will do one reading choice and one writing choice (1 round each.) We are really only doing Daily 4 at this point, as we have not yet added “Listen to Reading.”

First Grade WritingSo what are all those miscellaneous papers with word lists on them? They are our first practice papers for “Word Work,” a way for students to practice spelling and make words their own.  So far for “Word Work,” students have been able to select words from various lists made available to them, practice writing them first in fun ways – like using wipe-off boards, pipe cleaners, play dough or rainbow writing,  (to name a few) and then write them in pencil. This process will evolve further starting tomorrow, when students will only do this for the first 10 minutes of the round, and then will go right into “Work on Writing,” which could be work on original stories, poems, journaling, etc… Building the routines and layers of Daily 5, as well as small group & individual conference work, can seem very time consuming, but it is extremely worthwhile, in that it develops student independence allowing me to do more with differentiation and direct instruction.

Last week in math we continued in Module 2 of Stepping Stones with using count-on strategies in addition. We also spent significant time writing about math problems in our Mathematician’s notebooks, trying to always show a picture, a sentence with words explaining the strategy we used, and a number sentence (addition, subtraction equation or other.) We will do more with this as we create our own Fall number stories at the end of the coming week. Stepping Stones lessons will feature nonstandard measurement this week as we finish the module, looking toward our Module 2 test on Mon., Oct. 14th.

Students designed their own question for our Science inquiry investigation about the weight of 3 apples. What will happen to the weight of 3 apples prepared 3 different ways over a week’s time? Each day we would use a pan balance to weigh 1 whole apple, one peeled apple and one chopped up apple, all of which had initially the same weight when they were whole apples. Students talked about what was happening with the weight from day to day, what they thought must be causing the differences, and predicted what they thought would happen as the week went on. They also recorded their data on a table and wrote about predictions and observations. It was always a moment when you could hear a pin drop as we added unifix cubes as our unit of measure to the other side of the pan balance. What great scientists they were! Inquiry is most importantly about the process of wondering, asking questions, observing, predicting ; the many higher level types of thinking, rather than getting to the bottom line answer of what we, as adults, may think we already know about how things work in the natural world. It’s about letting students discover things on their own.

We discussed changes in matter and how heat could turn certain solids into liquids over time on Applesauce Day, which was Friday.  Students first took turns adding ingredients according to our recipe, and then we were done with the preparation and the apples bubbled away all-day until it was time to enjoy all that yumminess in the afternoon. Such a wonderful aroma makes everyone happy!

We also brainstormed adjectives/describing words through our apple tasting of the Red Delicious variety, read and wrote about how apples grow(our apple booklet will be coming home soon.) We enjoyed Smartboard games about vocabulary via our Scholastic News, as well as a learning few October poems in our poetry notebook.”

Just a normal week in FIRST grade!!!

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