First Grade Reading — It’s a Mystery!

I met with all of the first grade reading groups this week.  Membership in these groups is based on DRA levels from last spring.  This trimester I am seeing first graders with DRA levels of 20 and above.  If your first grader is in an enrichment reading group, s/he came home yesterday with a letter from me.

We didn’t waste a moment and started right in on our first unit — mysteries.  To begin, I presented the students with a mystery:  Someone stole all of the Smarties from Mrs. Green’s Smarty Pants.  Who could it be?  Billy has a lot of candy wrappers under his chair, so Mrs. Green thinks it might be him.  But Billy was in library at the time of the crime.  It can’t be him!  Riley says she saw someone still the Smarties and it wasn’t Billy; it was Mrs. Halayko!***

***Please note that we eventually discovered that Mrs. Halayko had indeed stolen the Smarties, but only to borrow them for a specific purpose and with the intent to replace them immediately.

We discussed our Smarties mystery while I introduced some mystery vocabulary we will need during this unit.  Most of the words were familiar to the students.  The only one most* of them had never heard before was “red herring.”  A couple students insisted that a red herring is a bird.  A red herring is actually a fish that has been strongly cured or heavily smoked, turning it red.  In the context of mysteries, a red herring is a false clue, something that leads the detective to an incorrect conclusion (like the candy wrappers under Billy’s desk in our mystery).

*One first grader knew what a red herring was — you go, Stella!

Why is a pickled fish used to embody this concept?  According to wikipedia, “Conventional wisdom has long supposed it to be the use of a kipper (a strong-smelling smoked fish) to train hounds to follow a scent, or to divert them from the correct route when hunting; however, modern linguistic research suggests that the term was probably invented in 1807 by English polemicist William Cobbett, referring to one occasion on which he had supposedly used a kipper to divert hounds from chasing a hare, and was never an actual practice of hunters. The phrase was later borrowed to provide a formal name for the logical fallacy and literary device.”

I confess that I never truly understood this term until I looked it up last year when a first grader asked about it.  Just one of the reasons why working with kids is the best job there is.  I never know what I don’t know until I’m in a room with ten first graders who are full of questions.  (You realize that that last part was redundant, right?  All first graders are full of questions.  The challenge is to make sure you’re full of answers, or that you know where to help find them.)

The kids each took home a mystery vocabulary sheet, Case Report homework sheet, and a mystery book (I know they are reading books that are longer and more difficult than this, but I wanted it to be simple and straightforward for purposes of filling out the Case Report).  Books and homework are due back next Wednesday, September 30th.

Clarification — What it Means if You Received this Post as an Email

Hi Families!

I’ve received a few questions after my First Grade Math post, asking if receiving the blog update via email means that you have a student in a First Grade Math group.  If you receive emails containing my blog updates, this is because you signed up to follow my blog via email (probably last year).  You’ll know if your child is in an enrichment group this year because s/he will bring home a letter from me.  If your child is in First Grade Math, s/he will come home with that letter today.  First Grade Reading letters will come home tomorrow, and Second Grade Math and Reading letters will come home next week.  (Kindergarten letters will take another few weeks).

If your child was in a group last year and isn’t in a group at this time, you can choose to unfollow my blog and stop receiving email updates.  You can find the link to do this on the right hand side of the blog home page, under where it says “You Are Following This Blog” — just click on “manage” and then click the red x to unfollow the blog.

First Grade Math First Trimester — Calculator Tricks

Welcome to First Grade Enrichment Math!  This trimester, First Grade Math will be meeting each week on Wednesdays.  Enrichment Math groups change each trimester depending on assessment information.

We will have homework most weeks.  You’ll know it comes from me because it will have your child’s name and the due date written at the top in green pen.

We started out working on calculator skills, doing math problems on our calculators and then turning the answers into words.  We talked about what letter each number on the calculator looked like when we turned the calculator upside down, and then got to work forming words.

There’s something kids find ridiculously amusing about silly words formed using numbers.  While we worked on our calculator story in class, they were gleefully shouting out the answers as they worked through the problems.

Homework is a two-sided sheet with calculator riddles on one side and a calculator crossword on the other side.  This is not an easy thing to do at home because modern calculators don’t square off the numbers like old school calculators do.  Add to that the fact that turning your iPhone calculator upside down doesn’t work because the screen adjusts, and you’ve got yourself a problem.  There are a couple of easy solutions.  The first is a trip to Rite Aid to pick up a small, simple, old school calculator.  Alternatively, there’s an app for that — Calculator + for your iPhone or iPad has a squared off, old school-style display.  If you lock your screen orientation, you can turn it upside down.  Or just leave the device on the table and walk around to the other side.  Homework and exercise all in one!

Many of our first graders have fallen victim to the fever/cough/congestion that is going around — there were only two students in one of my groups!  If your child missed math this week, I sent home your welcome letter but not the homework.  We’ll catch up next week.

Welcome Back to School!

Hello Everyone and welcome back to school!

It has been such a delight to see everyone’s smiling faces these past two weeks!  I hope everyone enjoyed the summer and is excited to be back.

The first couple weeks of school are usually all about scheduling when it comes to enrichment services.  Students and classes have to be grouped together, lesson times have to be chosen, assessments have to be given.  It’s a process with a lot of moving pieces and I appreciate your patience while we work everything out.

Remember, kindergarten, first and second graders do not have formal gifted identifications.  Enrichment services depend on the students’ needs and assessment information and are subject to change. Reading and Math groups shuffle a bit each trimester at Mount Daniel, and humanities and math groups at TJ also change with each new Tiger Pause session.

In terms of criteria, Reading groups for kindergarten and first graders are based on DRA levels.  Kindergarten Math groups are based on assessments given at the beginning of October and March, and first grade Math groups are based on STAR Math scores.

Second grade services are broken out according to a student’s Level.   Levels are calculated by finding the average of each student’s three most recent STAR Math scores and STAR Reading scores.  Students with averages between 93 and 96 receive Level One services from a grade level Gifted teacher during Tiger Pause.  Students with averages of 97 and above receive Level Two Math and/or Humanities services in small group sessions with the Gifted Specialist.

I have already begun whole class thinking skills lessons with kindergarten and first grade students at Mount Daniel.  I meet with each class every other week. This helps me become acquainted with all of the students and their abilities, interests, and strengths.

Pull-out enrichment services for first and second graders will begin soon.  In the meantime, I have been making the rounds checking in on all of my friends as they get settled in their new classrooms.  It’s going to be a great year!