Kindergarten Reading Weeks of 12/9 and 12/16

I missed my Monday readers last week because of the snow day, but we were happily reunited yesterday.  Last Thursday, I sent home From Cocoa Bean to Chocolate, another non-fiction book.  We talked about how chocolate is made and examined the steps from cocoa pod to finished product.  I may have advised the children that it wouldn’t be outside reason to say that eating chocolate was part of their homework.  Trying the product helps you appreciate the process, right?  We will be tasting some chocolate when we return from break to take our appreciation even further.  In the meantime, they brought home a sheet of questions about the book to do as homework.

Thank you so much for helping your kids with their homework.  Please try to make sure homework is completed in pencil (it makes it easier to read, and easier to correct mistakes).

This week, we spent our class time playing What’s Gnu?  Some kids were familiar with this game and even had it at home, but most were not.  The game requires players to make three-letter words — each player starts with a number of cards that each have two blank letter slots and one letter filled in.  The players then use the slider to reveal two more letters and determine if those letters can be used on any of their cards to make a word.  The game was challenging for most of the kids.  The kids are just beginning to write words on their own, and constructing words with letters out of order was more difficult than they thought it would be.

There is no homework over winter break.  Enjoy yourselves and your time together!

Kindergarten Math Week of 12/9

The reports are in and it seems that no one broke rule #1 and cried while doing last week’s homework (this was not true in first grade, just so you know).  In fact, the kids demanded harder work.  Their wish is my command.  (Not this week, though.  This week’s work should be pretty easy.)

We started class this week with a Five Minute Challenge — 100 addition problems in five minutes.  The top number correct in five minutes was 55; the average score was 27.  The goal is not to reach 100 (though many of them will), but to beat your own score from the previous time.  We won’t do these every week, but we will do them often.

We also talked about number patterns.  I asked the kids — “If I count by 2’s, will the numbers I say be even or odd?”  They argued about this for awhile and seemed suitably confused when they answered “even!” and I said “Nope” and then they said “odd!” and I also said “Nope.”  So we made a chart — if I start at 0 and count by 2’s, the numbers I say are even; if I start at 1 the numbers are odd; if I start at 2 the numbers are even, and so on.  I then asked them to tell me the rule for when the numbers will be even or odd.  Eventually they came up with — if you start with an odd number, the numbers are odd; if you start with an even number, the numbers are even.

We reviewed counting by 3’s and I talked about the way I learned to count by 3’s — by singing/watching “Three is a Magic Number,” of course.  The Wednesday group looked at me like I was nuts (admittedly this is not unusual) and most of them had not heard of the song; the Friday group enthusiastically recognized the Schoolhouse Rock ditty.

Homework is three pages of number patterns.  There is more than one correct answer for each one — it only says to make a pattern, so 10,20,30,40,50,60 makes just as much sense as 60,50,40,30,20,10.  I talked to the kids about how sometimes a question doesn’t have just one right answer and that’s okay.  So long as they can justify their answer that, is.  On Wednesday, we may have discussed the meaning of the word “lawyering” and how it’s okay to “lawyer” me and explain how your answer may not be the same as mine but it is right, too.  What can I say?  You can take the girl out of law school, but you can’t take the law school out of the girl.

We will meet next week!  We won’t have homework over winter break, though.

New First Grade Math Groups — Weeks of 12/2 and 12/9

Welcome back to math!  All of the students have returned if they came for math enrichment last quarter, plus we have added a handful of new faces.  The goal was to reduce the size of the groups, but there just didn’t seem a fair way to draw the line to do so.

We are still studying money.  Last week, I gave the kids Altoids tins full of coins.  We counted out the money and then attempted to divide it up evenly among the group.  In some groups, this was easy and in other groups it wasn’t.  Kids had many different strategies for how to divide the money (including — “if you add the digits of the total and the number you get is divisible by nine, then the bigger number is divisible by nine”).  Homework was a sheet about buying different items.  Thumbs up to those who figured out the question asking how much change you would receive back.  The answer was none, there wasn’t enough money to buy those items, which is pretty tricky.  Double thumbs up to kids who did the bonus questions.  In the kids’ defense, I did not specifically tell them they had to do the bonus questions.  They should, though!  That’s what we’re here for!  We talked about that this week.

We did some money work in class this week that was easy for a few and difficult for many.  The homework is three pages, including two pages of word problems.  I don’t think it’s overly difficult, just a little time-consuming.

We will have math next week and I will catch the Monday group up on what they missed. We will not have homework over winter break.  Hooray!

New First Grade Reading Groups — Weeks of 12/2 and 12/9

Our new first grade reading groups started last Monday.  Some students who came to reading last quarter are not coming this quarter and some students are new.  The groups are designed to respond to changes in the students’ needs.

Last week, each group took home a different fiction book.  The Monday group read The Littles, the Wednesday group read Henry and Mudge and the Sneaky Crackers, and the Friday group read Bravo, Amelia Bedelia.  I would love for all of the groups to read the same book at the same time (or at least it would make blogging about the lessons easier and less repetitive), but I barely have enough copies of books for one group, much less three!

The Littles readers thought about what it would be like to live a life dependent on borrowing.  We also focused on describing words (which works well with this book since the characters are named after characteristics — the Littles, the Biggs, the new family who comes to live in the house named the Newcombs [subtle, I know]).  We talked about how to summarize a story by hitting the salient points but not including excessive detail.  They weren’t really buying my explanation on this one.  I gave two sample story summaries, one hitting the basics and one that went on forever and covered every plot point, and they vastly preferred the latter.  They were pretty skeptical when I tried to convince them that the first was a better summary.  We’ll get there…

The Henry and Mudge and the Sneaky Crackers readers focused on homophones, homographs, and homonyms.  Before reading the book, people tend to assume that “crackers” refers to a tasty snack, but in this case the book is about detectives and so “crackers” also refers to people who crack codes.

The Bravo, Amelia Bedelia readers of course discussed idioms and taking things literally, since this is the foundation of every Amelia Bedelia story.  We talked about particular idioms and discussed their literal meanings versus what people mean when they use these expressions.  It’s funny how many of the idioms were completely foreign to the kids.

This week, we read some non-fiction books.  Or did we?  Ask your Wednesday or Friday reader if Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express (Wednesday) or Sam Collier and the Founding of Jamestown are fiction or non-fiction and why.

We will meet next week (and I’ll catch the Monday group up on what they missed with this week’s snow/ice day [we called it a snice day at my house; you know how I love those portmanteau words.]) but there won’t be any homework over winter break.

Stay warm!

Whole Class Lessons — 11/13

In kindergarten in November, we read the book Ling and Ting:  Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin.

This book tells the story of twin girls who are almost identical on the outside but very different on the inside.  We talked about how we may have lots in common with someone, but there are always differences as well.  We are all unique, no matter how alike we seem.  We also discussed the reverse — no matter how different we seem, we almost always have something in common.

The kids completed a paper comparing themselves to me.  We all live in Falls Church, we all go to Mount Daniel every week day, but we don’t all have the same favorite color and food.  We are not exactly the same!

Ask your kindergarten student to tell you how to know which girl is Ling and which girl is Ting.  There is a secret that makes it easy to figure out the answer!

In first grade, as a part of their “More Than Words” unit, we “read” two wordless books.  The first was Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage.

This funny book tells the tale of a walrus who escapes from a zoo and the hapless zookeeper in pursuit.  Ask your first grader to tell you how the walrus disguises himself, what leads to his eventual capture, and how it all works out at the end.

Next we read a very different wordless book, Journey by Aaron Becker.

Journey uses beautiful illustrations to tell the story of a bored young girl who uses her imagination (and a handy piece of red chalk) to invent a new and exciting world. Ask your first grader to explain how the chalk comes in handy, and to tell you what happens when the girl goes through the purple door at the end of the book.

We had a somewhat heated discussion that I didn’t expect (the best kind, if  you ask me) when a first grader informed me that a wordless book doesn’t have an author, just an illustrator.  Interesting point!  I argued that, most of the time, when a book has a separate author and illustrator, the author writes the story and the illustrator draws the pictures to show what happens in the story.  Here, the authors/illustrators use the pictures themselves to tell the story, and since the story is of their creation, they are most certainly authors.  Some of the kids still disagreed.  What do you think?

More books about likes/differences and more than words being shared in kindergarten and first grade right now!

Kindergarten Reading Groups — Week of 12/2/13

Welcome to kindergarten enrichment reading!  I see each kindergarten group once a week for half an hour on Monday or Thursday afternoon (this is a change, so if your welcome letter says “Wednesday morning,” pretend it says “Monday afternoon”).  The groups will re-configure next quarter based on assessment information; they are designed to be fluid, based on the students’ needs.

This week, we spent some time going over the rules (did you hear about Rule #1?) and getting acquainted.  We talked about how some of the reading we do in group, and some of the questions we ask and answer, will be difficult sometimes.  That’s okay!  We’re here to push their limits, and that is what we’ll do.

Some weeks the kids will bring a book home with a sheet of questions about the book.  This week, the Monday kids brought home Animal Hospital and the Thursday kids will bring home Mammals.  Both are non-fiction, though Animal Hospital does have elements of a fictional story mixed in.  Other weeks the kids won’t bring home a book because we’ll be doing other reading-related activities like word games, parts of speech, anagrams, onomatopoeia… the list goes on.

There will be homework almost every week.  This week, as always, your child’s name and the due date is written at the top of the homework in green.  That’s how you know it comes from me.  Homework is due one week from the day it is assigned.  It’s always okay to turn it in early!

I also gave the students their green enrichment folders. These folders will stay in the classroom with the students. They contain stand-alone activities for the students to do when they are finished with other class work or when they have already mastered the concepts being taught or reviewed. I will check the work when it is finished and send it home. I will also put new activities in the folder as needed. You are welcome to send things in from home for your child to do as well.

Although I told the kids that the folders should stay at school, I’ve heard that some of them were accidentally sent home.  If your child brought his/her folder home, would you send it back in?  Thanks so much!

I will post updates about our activities here on the blog.  Stay tuned!

Kindergarten Math Week of 12/2/13

Welcome to kindergarten enrichment math!  I will see kindergarten students this quarter on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings — each group once each week for half an hour.  These groups may change next quarter based on assessment information.

This week, we spent some time going over the rules (did you hear about Rule #1?) and getting acquainted.  As I said in the letter I sent home with your kids, in math group I will go as fast as the fastest student.  Some kids won’t get it every week.  That’s okay!  But we’re here to push their limits, and that is what we’ll do.

We talked about even and odd numbers this week and I told the kids that even numbers are “friendly” and odd numbers are “unfriendly” because with even numbers everyone has a friend to pair off with, but with odd numbers someone is always left out.

I asked the kids to come home and challenge their parents to write a large number and ask if it is even or odd.  Your child should be able to tell you (and explain his/her answer).

There is a two-sided even/odd worksheet for homework this week.  As always, your child’s name and the due date is written at the top of the worksheet in green.  That’s how you know it comes from me.  Homework is due one week from the day it is assigned.  It’s always okay to turn it in early!

I also gave the students their green enrichment folders. These folders will stay in the classroom with the students. They contain stand-alone activities for the students to do when they are finished with other class work or when they have already mastered the concepts being taught or reviewed. I will check the work when it is finished and send it home. I will also put new activities in the folder as needed. You are welcome to send things in from home for your child to do as well.

Although I told the kids that the folders should stay at school, I’ve heard that some of them were accidentally sent home.  If your child brought his/her folder home, would you send it back in?  Thanks so much!

I will post updates about our activities here on the blog.  Stay tuned!