Reading : Last week, we started a new reading unit which is primarily focused on decoding strategies. Decoding strategies are strategies that readers use to figure out how to read tricky words. Often times, children are told to 'sound it out' when they encounter a word that they do not know how to read, but this strategy is only effective some of the time and doesn't place any importance on understanding the meaning of the text. As we go through the strategies in school, I will post them on this website. Please encourage your child to try out different strategies when encountering unknown words, as it will increase his/her success rate.
When we learn the decoding strategies, we pair them up with an animal to help the students remember them. Last week we learned about Spoon the Raccoon Detective and Hugo the Huge Mouth Hippo.
Spoon the Raccoon Detective is 'always on the look out for picture clues' to help figure out tricky words. Sometimes, when you look at the picture that corresponds to the text, it will help you figure out a word you are trying to read. When your child is reading and gets stuck on a tricky word, you can encourage him/her to look at the picture and figure out what's going on. This works especially well in very early first grade level readers, when there is very simple text on a page that is closely matched with what is going on in the picture. Of course, however, this doesn't work all the time.
Hugo the Huge Mouth Hippo 'always has his mouth ready' to read tricky words. This means that when you encounter a tricky word, you should say the first sound of the word. Sometimes the word pops right into your mouth. This is a great strategies to use because it forces the students to make meaning out of the text. We often say that Hugo the Huge Mouth Hippo and Spoon the Raccoon Detective are best friends because they work very well when you use them together. Getting your mouth ready to read a word while looking at the picture for clues about what would make sense increases students' success rates even more.
Author Study : The students are really enjoying Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie books. If you haven't already, I strongly encourage you to take some out of the library for your child. They are very richly developed stories with simply text that you will enjoy along with your child. I have found that these books are great gateway books to get students to enjoy reading.
Writing : We had out first publishing party last Monday! The students were very proud of their published writing pieces and were very excited to share them with their peers. I've posted some pictures of our publishing party below this post. I hope you enjoyed reading the copy of your child's published piece that I sent home.
After our publishing party, we started our next writing unit, which focuses on writing detailed pieces. The way that we do this is by having the students write 'small moments.' For example, rather than choosing to write about a whole vacation in one piece, we work on having the students 'zoom in' on one particular part or event and stretching that moment across pages. This forces the students to narrow their focus and include details. Therefore, instead of writing about a whole trip to Florida, a student would choose to write about the time when he was wading in the water and got knocked over by a wave.
One way that you can help work on this at home is by encouraging oral story telling of true events. The hardest part of writing often isn't the physical aspect of writing the words down, rather organizing the ideas in one's head. I know that many first graders aren't particularly forthcoming about sharing what went on during a school day with their families, but encourage your child to tell you about something that you weren't present for (whether that be an event in school or a play date your child had). Ask questions to make your child dig deeper for details. Make sure that your child sequences the events in the story correctly. You could even tell your child to pretend like he/she is going to write about his/her trip to the store in writing workshop. Ask your child exactly what he/she would say.
Math : We spent a lot of time going over pennies and nickels last week. Please work on counting various penny and nickel coin combinations at home. By now, the students should be fairly successful with this skill. Encourage your child to organize the coins before counting so that he/she can count the nickels first and the pennies afterwards.
We also learned two new math games last week. Penny Plate is a game that works on developing students' complements of ten skills. The directions for this game are in your child's binder. The other game is called Penny-Nickel Exchange, which helps to develop students' penny and nickel counting/exchanging skills. The directions for this game will be going into your child's binder whenever we get into school this week.
Social Studies : Last week we spent time talking about neighborhoods and looking at how maps depict real places. The students are very interested in maps right now. At school, we used Google Maps to find Cherry Hill School and various other River Edge landmarks. Going between the 'map view' and 'satellite view' gave the students a great connection between how real places are shown on maps. When you have some free time with your child, go to Google Maps and locate where you live. Also, whenever you're looking at a map, whether it be on paper, the computer, or your phone, share it with your child and talk what you can see.
Here are some pictures from last week: