First Grade Reading Weeks of 1/6 and 1/13 — Alternating Fiction and Non-fiction

With three books going on simultaneously each week, it’s a bit of a challenge to blog about first grade reading!  The week of 1/6, the kids read either Henry and Mudge and the Sneaky Crackers, Bravo, Amelia Bedelia, or The Littles.  It’s so much fun talking about the double meanings of “crack” and “crackers,” laughing at Amelia Bedelia’s tendency to take everything literally, and speculating about what it would be like to have tiny people (with tails!) living in our walls.

 The week of 1/13 the choices were Sam Collier and the Founding of Jamestown, Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express, or The Copper Lady.  We’ve spent a lot of time discussing the line between fiction and non-fiction.  In the beginning, it was confusing for the kids when a book was labeled as a “true story” yet classified as fiction.  We’ve talked about how a book can be a little of both.

The American Library Association Youth Media Awards will be streamed live here on Monday at 8AM.  I’ve read several possible Caldecott contenders with the first graders (Aaron Becker’s Journey, Bob Shea’s Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great, Peter Brown’s Mr. Tiger Goes Wild) and a much longer list with my second graders, who have been doing a mock Caldecott vote.  Check out the list of books when it is released — many of the kids have strong opinions about who should receive honors.

This week and next our schedule has been/will be nutty — between snow days, rescheduled reading incentive meetings, and teacher work days, my opportunity to see the kids has been limited.  February should bring a big sigh of relief and a more regular schedule!


First Grade Math Weeks of 1/6 and 1/13 — Money Money Money

Last week in first grade math, we met Ms. Miser.  We talked about the meaning of the word miser (ask your child!) and then did several word problems attempting to figure out just how much money Ms. Miser had in her bag.  Each problem comes with a set of clues (such as — she has 8 coins, she has 38 cents, she has more nickels than dimes, etc.)  We used the clues to figure out exactly which coins Ms. Miser had in her possession.  I talked to the kids about how usually you just have to take a guess, start somewhere, see where it takes you, and then make changes from there.  This is difficult for many of them because, of course, they would prefer to have the correct answer the first time.  But learning to take a shot and make changes is an important skill.

We also worked on some Coin Clue Puzzles.  Most of the kids really enjoyed these.  There were two particular rules to which the kids had to pay close attention — the rules about some lines of coins being symmetric, and the rule about coin couples (two of the same coins next to each other in the line).  Once they got these down, they loved trying to figure out which coins were in the line.  We did not finish the packet in class and I asked the kids to either bring it home or put it in their green enrichment folder.

This week, we are working on beginning algebra with Seesaw Balances.  The balances show different “robots” on each side of a seesaw.  Information is given about the weight of one of the robots and then the kids need to figure out the weights of the other robots in order to balance the seesaw.  This is another exercise in trying out answers and making combinations.  Seesaw Balance problem #5 (the back side of the homework sheet) says the kids can use a calculator. That’s fine with me if they prefer it, and it’s fine if they’d rather do it on their own.  The balances we did in class were pretty easy so I won’t be surprised if the kids are frustrated at first with these harder ones.  If they need it, help them work through it and try out different combinations.

Have a great week!

Kindergarten Reading Week of 1/6 — Pow! Crash! Kaboom!

Did you guess this week’s topic based on the title of this post?  We spent our class time discussing everyone’s favorite word (no?  Just me?) onomatopoeia.  Onomatopoeia words, of course, are those that describe a sound, like pow or crash or woof or meow.  In Monday’s class, we watched a short clip of the “onomatopoeia song.”  It was okay, but not super exciting.  In Thursday’s class, we watched a short clip of the old Adam West Batman.  Tons of onomatopoeia words emphasized in big comic book-like bursts.

In class, we made onomatopoeia pictures, picking a word and making it stand out with big letters, bright colors, and a jazzy background.  I also went over the homework, which is a one page sheet of onomatopoeia words.  We talked about how the questions do not necessarily have one write answer (i.e., “sound a cat makes” could be meow, or purrr, or rowr, etc.) and that’s okay.

I am still missing several copies of Animal Hospital.  Any chance there are still some kicking around at home or in backpacks?  I’m short of a class set right now and won’t be able to use that book in the future if the missing copies don’t find their way home.  Thanks in advance for checking!

Kindergarten Math week of 1/6 — Infinity and Beyond!

Welcome back!

I was so happy to see the kids this week.  We jumped right back in and began class with a stumper — what is the biggest number?  There was a wide variety of answers — from 1,000 to “ten thousand million” to googleplex.  No matter what anyone said I always answered back “that’s a big number!  But isn’t that plus one bigger?”  There was some frustration.  In every class, at least one child brought up infinity.  My response was always the same:  “Infinity isn’t a number.  It’s a concept.”

After much discussion, we were able to agree — there is no biggest number.  No matter which number you name, that number plus one is always bigger.  Numbers go on forever.  Infinity encompasses this idea, the idea of something (like numbers) that goes on forever.  Infinity is still a pretty tough concept for young children to grasp.  We read Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford to gather some perspectives on what infinity means to different people.

We then moved on to writing and naming big numbers.  I talked to the kids about how to read large numbers, which includes “knowing comma’s names.”  The first (and sometimes only) comma in a number is named “thousand.”  The second is named “million.”  So long as you know the commas names and know how to read three digit numbers, you can read large numbers.

So to read 999,888,777, you read the number before the largest comma (nine hundred ninety nine) and then read the comma’s name (million), then you read the number before the next comma (eight hundred eighty eight) and then the next comma’s name (thousand) and then the remaining number (seven hundred seventy seven).  Goodness, does this look confusing when written out!  I hope it makes sense.  It did to your children, at least while they were here in the cloffice.  Once they leave, all bets are off.

We next talked about place value.  We discussed how in a number like 562, the 2 is in the ones place and is worth 2.  The 6 is in the tens place, so it’s worth 60.  The 5 is in the hundreds place, so it’s worth 500.  We wrote 500 + 60 + 2 on the board and agreed that it equals 562, while 5 + 6 + 2 equals 13.  Which is really not even close to 562.

We did all of this in thirty minutes, so it may require some refreshing at home.  Speaking of which, that’s one other thing we did — I reminded the kids that it is okay, even expected, to feel frustrated when doing the homework.  It is not supposed to be easy.  It is okay if they have to spend some time thinking about it.  Being “smart” doesn’t mean that everything comes easily and we do it perfectly the first time.  It means that we persevere even when things are difficult.  I reminded the kids that the “no crying” rule means they should work to/though frustration but take a break or move on if they become really upset.  These ideas will take time for some of them.  For many of these kids, this is the first truly challenging work they’ve done.  Learning how to deal with that is a process.  It’s not always a fun process (for them or you), but it’s a necessary one.

Homework is a whopping four-page packet.  Budget that week’s time in which they have to complete it.  I don’t think any one piece of it should be too challenging, but if it is, let me know and let your child move on/skip that part.