Tuesday, December 18, 2018

'Tis the Season!

It is that time of the year. You can feel the excitement, the anticipation, the stress and the buzz that really circulates during this time of the year. Each day my students come in with exciting stories and new updates on their holiday seasons. As the children are getting more and more excited about the holiday, we as adults may be getting pulled in more than one direction. No matter how your holiday season is going, one thing remains true. This is a time of the year when we can all stop what we are doing and remember that there is always time to give back. We can do this in any way that we feel comfortable. Donating time, a few extra dollars, toys, gloves, and the list goes on.

In First Grade this year, we decided to combine our love for dogs with a few gathered materials in order to make something special for dogs waiting to be adopted. This week we have spent time preparing for the Naperville Humane Society’s visit to our classroom. We started this journey long before the month of December appeared. We read books on dog shelters, we brainstormed what dogs need in order to survive, made lists of ways that a person can take care of a dog, and lastly, what qualities a person should have if they are looking to adopt. After all of this foundational work, we decided as a group that we wanted to make dog toys for the dogs that are waiting to be adopted in the shelter. This will keep them busy, and stimulate their brains! We then took it a step further. We wanted to thank the new owners for making this amazing choice in adopting a dog. So we made “Thank You” cards for the owner. We tied it all together with a little “Doggie Bag,” treat and all!

The students decorated the dog toy with fabric markers. The creativity was flowing! The students helped in collecting the empty water bottles, some brought in socks, and markers, too. In art class, they designed their doggie bag with the help of Miss Jacobs.

Tomorrow when the visitor from the Naperville Humane Society comes in to talk to our group, we will present her with our hard work and dedicated gifts for the dogs. We can’t wait for our visitor tomorrow, and we hope the dogs enjoy the gifts we have worked so hard to make!

Warm Holiday wishes to you and your family, from the First Grade Puppy Pound!

Friday, December 14, 2018

What Are You Grateful For?

This week in writing, we took a break from our normal lessons and took some time to reflect on what we are grateful for. This time of year helps us remember the important things in our life, and what we need to keep close to us during the holiday season. My 2nd grade students really enjoyed reflecting and discussing with each other what things matter most to them.

For this activity, we watched a quick video from Kid President called "25 Reasons to Be Thankful!" I love showing Kid President videos to my students, because he discusses important topics, but in silly ways that the students enjoy. In this video, Kid President shared 25 things he is thankful for. Some were silly, some were serious, but almost all were non-material items. After the video, we did a Kagan structure to share some ideas of what we are grateful for, especially non-material items. While it is important to be grateful for all of the wonderful gifts you get during the holidays, they are not the only things to be grateful for!

I was blown away by some of the responses the students came up with. After some discussion time, students went back to their seats to create Gratitude Chains. I have seen similar activities done before, but we decided to create this project so students had a reminder of things to look at and take home with them during the holiday season. This week, I had students each write 5 things that they were grateful for, and loop them all together into a chain. Next week, we are going to revisit the activity and add some more links to the chain. To remind the students of these important things during the next week, we hung up the chains on each locker so they could look at them each day.

Here are some of the things that 2nd graders are grateful for:

I hope during this holiday season we all can take some time and reflect on what is really important in our lives among the celebrations and gift exchanges. These 2nd graders sure did!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Genius Hour Update

We have come to the end of our first round of Genius Hour. Students have spent the last few weeks reflecting on their journey during Round 1. They have thought about what they have learned, the challenges they have faced, and the next steps they will take. Miss Tesmer, our district technology specialist, created the following options to provide students with a choice on how they will share their reflection.

Next week, students will do a gallery walk to share their progress and celebrate what they have accomplished. As we move forward students will decide whether they are going to dig deeper with the topic they have chosen or if they want to move on to something different.

Students love this time of their week and do a really nice job taking control of their learning while pursuing a passion that they have.

Below are responses from 6th graders when asked what they enjoy most about Genius Hour:

Leo: "It allows me to open my mind and be really creative. I get to share my music with others and help others by giving advice."

Gracie: "I enjoy the freedom of choosing what I want to learn about. I also like being able to create something."

Kyrell: "I enjoy getting to pick what I am learning about and I feel that the research part will help me when I'm in high school and college."

Anthony: "I enjoy the challenges and learning the different methods for coding."

Ariaha: "I enjoy researching my topic and I feel like I'm actually doing something that will help."

A student created website:

Using egg shells to create composts
Finding ways to repurpose old clothing  
Bloxel Creations

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Gingerbread Man Squeeze

"Run, run as fast as you can, you can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man..." Okay, so we may not be able to catch him but we sure can give him a squeeze!

We played a math game called Gingerbread Squeeze with our fifth grade buddies.  The object of the game is to have your partner guess the number you are thinking using a number line and two gingerbread men.  I would use real cookies...but that is just me!

Person 1 thinks of a number between 1-20 and writes it down so he/she doesn't forget.  Partner 2 guesses a number.  Partner 1 tells the person if that number is too high or too low--then they move the gingerbread man either to the left or right depending on what their guess was.
Play continues until you narrow the number down between the 2 gingerbread men.  Switch roles and play again!

We enjoyed squeezing our gingerbread men to find the correct number.  We would have rather enjoyed eating them...but that can be another math activity.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

What's in the Box?

Our current unit in social studies has been met with excitement and curiosity.  To launch the unit, the students spent time investigating artifacts in an inquiry box.  They spent two days analyzing each item and asking questions about how the artifacts connected to one another.  Some students believed that they knew what all of the mystery items were, yet still questioned how all of the puzzle pieces fit together.

After each team worked together to analyze the artifacts, they participated in the structure blob and line.  We grouped the students based on the artifact that they analyzed and then formed a line to allow students to talk with each other.  This structure allowed students to learn more about the items that they did not have a chance to analyze.  I was impressed by the conversations and the attention to detail by the students.  This activity pushed the students outside of their comfort zone.  They were left without many answers and that can be an uncomfortable feeling for some.

The box contained multiple pictures, a map, and a few unknown artifacts.  As a result of these activities, most of the teams determined the "mystery" items and how they were connected.  The tea, cotton, and sugar cane, along with the pictures, helped introduce students to the antebellum period in history.  I look forward to seeing the information gathered and knowledge gained throughout this inquiry unit.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Safety Challenge

Safety Challenge

Safety in the home should be a priority for everyone, especially parents of young children. Lisle-Woodridge Fire Department firefighters were gracious enough to come to speak with third graders about the importance of fire safety in our homes. The students were so excited to learn about the safety tips that they went over with us.


First, the firefighter talked to the children about fire safety and how to prevent fires. They told the children that in order to use matches or lighters, they should first be old enough to have a driver's license! He reminded them about calling 9-1-1 if there is a true emergency and what they should do in case there's a fire in their home. Sleeping with their bedroom door closed so smoke in the hallway would not enter their bedrooms while they slept is also a safety procedure everyone should follow.. They also told the children if there is a fire in their home and they are attempting to exit, they should NEVER return to the home for anything. He reassured the children that the firefighters will go inside to retrieve anything important, including pets.

The firefighters also gave the students the assignment of creating a fire escape plan with their families and practicing the plan together. This is an important task for all families, so everyone knows where they would meet should they need to escape in an emergency.


The last part of their presentation was about the importance of having working smoke detectors in the home. The students were asked to go home and ask parents to test the smoke detectors to make sure they were working. This is an important step to do with children present so they know what the alarm sounds like. They also asked the children to have their parents test the alarm while the child is in their bedroom. Doing so will assure everyone that the alarm can be heard from behind closed doors. He also told them that if they did not have a working smoke detector in their home, he would help supply one to their family.

To end the presentation, the firefighters had all the third graders take a pledge that they would all help him out and become junior firefighters in their own homes. Now all the homes of third graders have an official junior firefighter living there to help keep everyone safe! Thank you Woodridge/Lisle Firefighters!!

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Season of Giving

Recently one of my cousins and his wife had their first baby.  It was a boy.  As a gift I bought  about ten books.  My cousin Matt was thrilled.  He couldn't wait to read to his little boy  the book called  Dada  and one of his favorites Brown Bear Brown Bear.  I was so happy to see that this young family had already made the commitment to read to their child even before he was born.

 My niece Madison has a birthday in October.  One of our school  book fairs is in October  so I always make sure to go shopping for a birthday present!  This year's choice was Reign Rain.

 At conferences I spoke with one Grandma that told me "He finally has the bug!"  When asked her what she meant by that she said her grandson is reading as much as he can get his hands on.  She told me they were on their way to the bookstore after conferences for a special present for her grandson because he is so excited about reading! I later asked the boy what he chose from the bookstore, he picked Mittens because he could read it to his cat named Mittens.  He said the cat loves to read just like him!

 One Elf on the Shelf this year has been found in different places throughout the house with a wrapped  holiday book!  The Elf reports that the boys are loving the books they are receiving and the time they are spending together reading.

So this season as you are making your holiday purchases consider giving a book.  Its a great gift and will always be remembered and appreciated.  Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Super Readers

Kindergarten students have been practicing their Super Reading Powers during our new reading unit. Students have also been using their new pointers to read sight words in their books with pointer power. Students tap under each word one time in order to ensure they are reading each word on the page. This is especially helpful when words have multiple syllables. The pointers help students to keep track of where they are on the page and practice stretching out sounds for words they may be unfamiliar with. Students also read with a partner during our workshop time. Partner times allows students to stretch out words together and practice their pointer powers while taking turns reading their books. Building these foundational reading skills help students prepare for reading books at their levels as our reading skills progress throughout the year.

We have been slowly introducing and practicing sight words throughout the year to build up their word knowledge. Students have been working on activities and playing games with their sight words. We have also been using a Kagan structure, called Quiz, Quiz, Trade to practice these words. During this activity students walk around and a high five a partner, then they show their partner a card that has a sight word on it. Next, their partner reads the word and then they read their partners word. Once they have read each others words they trade word cards and walk around to high five a new partner. This Kagan structure allows students to build social skills with one another as well as practice their sight word knowledge in a fun way. Students are exposed to the words multiple times and practice reading them immediately by sight. When introducing new sight words, we practice reading them, spelling them, and sounding them. We also have movements to go along with them that show the type of letter. Tall letter, reach up, small letter, squat, and fall letter, touch the ground. For the word big we reach up, then squat, then touch the ground as we practicing spelling the word. Once students are more familiar with the new words they get added into our Quiz, Quiz, Trade game.

As students are reading their books they are using their pointer power to identify these sight words. They were thrilled to see how many words they could read in books that they picked up for the first time! You can see their confidence growing as they are able to read more and more words. We are excited to continue to build up our sight word knowledge and continue to practice our super reading skills as our new unit continues. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Little Red: Why Traditional Literature Should be Explored With Children

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

When I recently asked a group of kindergarten students if they had ever heard of Little Red Riding Hood I was not surprised to see that many had not. Traditional literature (not the Disney versions)  has fallen out of favor in many reading curriculum plans and is not something that many parents pick up independently, often feeling that the stories are too scary or irrelevant. Below are my top five reasons for introducing children to traditional literature.

1. Traditional fairy tales provide life lessons for kids. When Little Red Riding Hood's mother tells her to hurry to grandmother's house and not stray from the path she is teaching her the safest way to travel. When Little Red Riding Hood ignores her mother's words and wanders from the path to pick flowers, she learns there are consequences for her actions. The wolf awaits..."What big eyes you have, Grandmother!" But all's well that ends well and because it is a fairy tale there is a happily ever after ending.

2. Fairy tales help to expand a child's imagination of what's possible. Through fairy tales they are introduced to goblins, fairies, magicians, trolls and more. Exploring these concepts can lead to rich writing activities where students can answer the question "What if ____ was real? How would that change our world? It is a safe place to explore and imagine a different scenario.

3. The fairy tale genre can expose children to a scary situation within a short story. It allows students to experience these situations in a safe way. They learn from the characters in the books as they face their fears and learn from their mistakes.

4. Fairy tales introduce and make students appreciative of cultural differences. There are versions of famous stories within many different cultures. One example is Cinderella. In addition to the traditional version of the story, their are others such as Yeh-Shen which is a Cinderella story from China, The Golden Sandal, a Cinderella story from the middle east and The Rough Faced Girl, an Algonquin Indian version of the story. 

5. Fairy tales offer hope in a world that is increasingly scary. The stories tell them that there is good in the world, that truth and justice and good can prevail. A quote from author Neil Gaiman tells is best, "Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."

Our kindergarten students recently began learning about traditional fairy tales in the library. After reading and discussing Little Red Riding Hood they were invited to create an alternate ending to the story. Instead of the traditional hunter saving the day, how would they catch the wolf? They used markers and white board tables to draw their solutions. Next they explained to their table mates how their solution would work. The images, imagination and stories told were priceless!



Last night our incredible 3rd and 4th grade students as well as our 5th and 6th grade chorus students performed their musical and chorus concert for our Goodrich families. These kids were nothing short of amazing! They work so hard to put on a seamless show from speaking parts, to solos, to playing instruments and dancing.

These students learn so much by being a part of these experiences. They learn teamwork, by working together to make a finished product. It takes bravery and courage to get up in front of your peers and an audience to perform and they all come through. They also learn self control and discipline while they are patiently waiting for their part and resisting the urge to talk to their neighbor.

Below I have some photos from the afternoon and evening. Enjoy your holiday season!