Wednesday, September 28, 2011

This week's Ranger is Ryan.  He is eight years old.  He was born in New York City.  His family includes; his mom, his dad and his cousin Levar.  The things he likes to do when he is at home are play video games and read.  His favorite food is calamari.  The food he dislikes the most is brussel sprouts.  His hobbies are doing origami and playing video games.  When he goes on vacation he most likes to go to Disney World.  His dream vacation is to go to Disney Land.  Ryan is really good at math and playing video games.  When I grow up, right now, I want to work at Game Stop.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Our Crayfish Study Continues

During Project Time we have been learning new things about the crayfish. Monday afternoon students conducted an experiment to see whether the crayfish were herbivores, carnivores or omnivores. Students held different types of foods in front of the crayfish to see what which foods they would eat.  We learned crayfish are definitely omnivores and some crayfish even love Cheetos!

Feeding the crayfish.

Feeding the crayfish. 

Today the students conducted an experiment on how the crayfish reacted to an object moving towards them from above, beside, in front of and from behind. We used both large and small objects to see if they reacted in different ways.  The following is a graph showing the total reactions when the crayfish were approached by a large probe (object).

The students also created scientific illustrations by closely observing the details on the crayfish. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Handwriting Without Tears and other Monday treasures

On Monday mornings all students in Forest Class will receive handwriting instruction from Kathy. Today students had their first session of handwriting instruction. The program we use for handwriting instruction is called Handwriting Without Tears.  The following link will take you to a page of parent letters which include brief explanations of the program and a formation chart for the letters in a downloadable pdf format. Parents are invited to explore the website for general information, watch videos, download activities, etc.

On a different note, two Forest girls were making patterns out of nature during recess today and asked if they could share their creations on our class blog. Enjoy!

Lena's nature creation.

Nicolette's nature creation. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Amelia Bedelia Author, Herman Parish

Jenni with author Herman Parish.
It was great to hear Herman Parish talk about writing this evening. He even uses a small writer's notebook!! He said he jots his ideas down in these notebooks. He usually fills up one notebook in about 20 days.

Happy First Day of Fall

Michael using our new ebeam. 

We are using the ebeam technology to learn more about the parts of the crayfish. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

News From the Forest

Helen is this week's Ranger!

Our Ranger this week is Helen. 
She is nine-years-old and she was born in North Carolina. Helen's family includes two moms and a brother.  When she is at home Helen likes to go on the computer, play on her ipod and sometimes read. If she was stranded on a desert island and could only have one thing it would be a boat. Helen's favorite food is sesame chicken. Her least favorite foods are carrots and asparagus. Helen's hobby is vaulting. When Helen goes on vacation she most likes to go to France. Helen's dream vacation would be to go visit the place her grandmother visited When Helen grows up she would like to be a vaulter. 

Notes from the Forest Class teachers

  •  Back To School Night, Thursday, September 22nd, 6:50 to 8:00pm We hope to see you tomorrow night at Back to School Night. We have a fun game of Jeopardy waiting for you. 
  • Meet the Author Herman Parish, September 23rd, 6:00-7:00pm - The author, Herman Parish, who wrote most of the Amelia Bedelia series will be at Flyleaf book Friday evening from 6:00 to 7:00pm.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Shana Tucker Visits Forest Class

Our Ranger Helen invited her friend Shana Tucker to visit our classroom this morning. What a treat! Enjoy some photos and a video from her visit with us today. You can also learn more about Shana and listen to her music by visiting her website

Shana playing Helen's favorite song November. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Strategies for studying spelling words at home

Each week students will create their spelling words by selecting words from preset list. During the week your child will be responsible for studying their list and being prepared to take a spelling test on Friday morning. Below is a list of strategies your child may use at home to study their spelling words each week. 

Helping Your Child Learn to Spell

The best method for memorizing words is to:
1. Pronounce the word and look carefully at each part.

2. Think about its spelling and say the letters out loud.

3. Visualize the word in your mind.

4. Cover the word and write it.  Check your results.

5. Repeat if necessary.

When helping with spelling at home, encourage:

* risk-taking

* keeping a personal dictionary

* sounding out the word

* writing it several times to see which spelling looks right

* using a dictionary or other word source

* using incomplete spelling and underlining it

* drawing a picture or symbol

* trying to visualize the word

* using an electronic speller.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Growing Readers in the Forest

The cool weather made it the perfect morning to curl up with a good book in reading workshop. For this blog entry I want to provide a little more information about what goes on during reading workshop. We have reading workshop on Monday and Friday mornings for about 45 minutes. Reading workshop begins with the whole class gathered on the carpet for a mini lesson. The mini lessons are moments when students can learn about the things readers do to grow their reading muscles and develop their reading life. After the mini lesson students focus their efforts around reading a "just right" book of their choosing. While they are reading the teachers circulate around the room to read and discuss reading strategies with students one-on-one.  As a part of Fridays' lessons I will be selecting different books and authors to showcase so the students can build their "Books To Read" list or as we sometimes call it "your books on deck."

What is the purpose of a reading log? 

You may have noticed your child has a reading log in their red binder behind the "My Reading Life" tab. We have discussed during reading workshop that readers keep records and then use those records to research changes they see in their reading. Record keeping comes naturally for some young readers, but for others it can be a bother. Tracking their reading progress throughout the year builds a student's confidence and strengthens their identity as a reader.  In Forest Class we are asking students to read at least 20 minutes a night from their "just right" book during the weeknights and record this in their reading log. We are also asking students to read the same "just right" of their choosing at home and school until it is completed. I encourage you to help your child record their reading each night in their log. 

Today's featured author

Today we began reading workshop by watching some short video clips about Jeff Kinney, the author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  Since Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a popular book in our class, some students helped me create a basket of books they felt were similar to this series. Below is one of the clips we watched.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Crayfish Observations & Writers' Notebooks

Today we began making direct observations about the crayfish. The students learned the safe way to hold the crayfish and discovered that many of the crayfish are amazing escape artists!

We have a wonderful group of writers in the Forest Class. Each student has selected a writer's notebook that fits their personality and style. They have all begun to record their ideas and inspirations in their notebooks. We are all excited to see the wonderful pieces of writing that grow out of these notebooks!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

News from the Forest 3/21

This week's Ranger is Nicolette.  She is 9 years old.  She was born in Durham, NC.  Her family includes her mom, her dad and her. For pets she has a dog named Rocco, a cat named Lille, a rabbit named Gus and a crayfish named Jane.  The things she likes to do best when she is at home are  walk Rocco and  swim. If she were stranded on an island and could have only one thing with her she would want to have her whole family (including pets) and Helen and Lena. Her favorite food is sesame chicken with rice.  The food she dislikes the most is fish.  Her hobbies are vaulting, riding horses and gymnastics.  When she goes on vacation, she most likes to go to the beach.  She is is really good at all of her hobbies.  When she grows up she most wants to be a famous equestrian.

Family Grouping

Your child found out the skills group they will be working in throughout the year in the Forest Class this week. Skills groups are the small group setting where each child will receive instruction for both math and language arts part of each day.  Each year we wait to meet all of our children who will make the up the Forest Class before determining how we will divide the class into skills groups. 

This year, we have extended the multi-age grouping of our classroom to all our skills groups as well.  As you know, as children enter the Lower School they are then grouped as six, seven and eight-year-olds in either River or Sky class and then as eight, nine and ten-year-olds in either Mountain or Forest class.  Also known as family grouping, this approach provides room for children to develop and grow socially, emotionally and academically without the constraints and labels of a grade. By grouping students according to these age ranges, it deepens their learning experiences as well as their social and emotional growth.  It allows us to create groups with a diversity of gender, learning styles, personalities, and friendships.

We have already met several times in skills groups and we are excited by the enthusiasm and dynamics evident among the children.  We are gearing our teaching to capitalize on the strengths and build on the challenges of each child, and they are so ready!  Be on the lookout for information from your child's skills group teacher for more detail about the year to come.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Crayfish have arrived!

The children were so excited this morning when we received the phone call announcing the delivery of the crayfish. We delayed the start of our math skills groups today to cut open the boxes and place these creatures into their new habitat.

The following are some links we will use to research more about crayfish.

Crayfish Research Link 1

Crayfish Research Link 2 

Crayfish Research Link 3

Crayfish Research Link 4

Crayfish Research Link 5 

Crayfish in the Classroom/Caring for Crayfish

Parts of a Crayfish

Crayfish Research Link 5 

Project Time - The Study of Crustacean Begins

Today we began our study of crustaceans by building our own scientific tools. We are expecting the crayfish to arrive any minute today. The children are so excited to get these crayfish into their new habitat. Here are a few pics from our learning adventures this morning. Enjoy!

Observing a lobster up close!
Building our own scientific tools, probes and tweezers, to use when observing crayfish.

Sawyer creating his tools.


Zoe building her tools.

Eli observing the lobster.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Just Another Fun Friday In the Forest

Here are a few pics we took of our fabulous Forest kids today. We began our day with some reading workshop and then we had an exciting time of fun during field day. At the end of the day we created our own movies in iMovie on our iPads.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

News From the Forest

This week's Ranger is Theo. 
Our first Ranger this year is Theo.
He is nine-years-old and he was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. Theo's family includes his mom, dad, brother and two dogs.  When he is at home Theo likes to play soccer. If he was stranded on a desert island and could only have one thing it would be an unlimited supply of food and water. Theo's favorite food is tacos. His least favorite food is brussel sprouts. Theo's hobby is soccer. When Theo goes on vacation he most likes to go to Sweden. Theo's dream vacation would be to go to England for a year! When Theo grows up he would like to be a professional soccer player for Juventus.

Notes from the Forest Class Teachers

  • Writer's Notebook: Very soon we will begin our small language arts groups. During language group time students will work on cultivating their lives as readers and writers. In order to grow as a reader and writer it is important to have the right tools. One of the most important tools every child and teacher will use in the Forest Class is a writer’s notebook.  It is the space where ideas are sown and words come to life. We will be talking to students about selecting the notebook that is a good fit for them. Let us know if you would like your child to use a composition notebook or if you will be purchasing a notebook for your child by this Friday, September 9th. If your child would like to use a composition notebook, we will send the notebook home with your child this weekend so they may personalize the cover.  We will begin using our writer’s notebooks next week, so it is important for all students to have their notebooks at school with them next Monday, September 12th.  
  • Thank you for getting your child to school on time.  The day is always smoother for your child when they have a moment to prepare for their day prior to settling in. 
  • Tell us about your child. Don't forget to take a quiet moment and jot down some things about your child and submit it to one of the Forest Class teachers. We are enjoying getting to know each child, but it is helpful when you provide your insight into the type of learner and interests  your child is at home. 
  • Sign up to help with class laundry. We are looking for families to help wash the towels we use each week to clean in the Forest Class. If you are willing to be a volunteer, please contact one of the Forest Class teachers so you may be put into the laundry rotation. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The dog ate my homework

School is back in session and you can hear the moans and groans when we begin to mention homework. Last year Lisa invited everyone, both parents and teachers, to begin a conversation about homework. What is the purpose for homework? Why do we assign homework? Should there be any homework? This conversation is one that we hope will continue. The more we reflect on our teaching practices and procedures, like homework, the greater impact we have on our students' learning.

We are not into the full swing of our routines in the Forest Class, but this will provide an overview of how homework usually goes in our class. In Forest class your child will have independent reading each night from a self-selected book and homework from language arts and math. Typically, students will be assigned homework Monday through Thursday. 

In our conversation as teachers we have concluded a few things about homework and reasons why we continue to make assignments to be completed at home: 

  1. Homework should be authentic and connected to themes and lessons being taught in the classroom. Assignments that extend the learning beyond the school day are more meaningful to our students. It makes sense to send students home with their writer's notebook (a.k.a. "best friend") to create their own "best list" and worst list" while sitting in the comfort of their home. 
  2. Home is the perfect place to build and practice their reading life. We encourage students to read from self-selected books at their "just right" level each night for at least 20 minutes. Each student will keep a reading log to track their reading life throughout the school year. The reading log will serve as a tool for students to keep track of the books, volume and consistency of their reading life. 
  3. A child's third and fourth year of school is the ideal time to begin building organization skills and responsibility. Homework provides an avenue to practice planning and organizing their work with guidance from teachers and parents. 
  4. Homework should not keep a child from play time and family time. Homework should have a time limit. If you find that your child is working on homework for longer than 45 minutes each evening please let your child's teacher know.
We hope these thoughts have helped provide some background to our thinking about homework. We invite you to participate in the conversation. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Library Grand Opening

It is official! The Forest Class Library is open! The tallest student at CFS, Mike Hanas, was our special guest. He shared some thoughts with our students about his reading life. The children provided a countdown as Mike raced by the shelves and cut the blue ribbon. We celebrated with light refreshments and a story called The Library Dragon by Carmen Agra Deedy. Many of the Forest students left the classroom today with a book they were excited to read over the weekend.  It was a wonderful celebration!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Homes, Spaces and Imaginary Places

We are off to a great start in Forest Class! Our theme this year is homes, spaces and imaginary places and we have wasted no time inviting your child to be a part of this theme. Every student, teacher and visitor is welcomed into our classroom space by an imaginative display at our entryway. This imaginary world came to life as each child in Forest Class created a wooden figure of themselves and placed it onto the landscape. 

We have enjoyed getting to know your child this week. Our time has been spent creating art displays for the classroom, listening to stories, playing games, and working together to create a safe and fun classroom community. Today we worked together to create a classroom contract with rules the children felt would keep our classroom safe and fun. The children are excited to make the contract official by adding their signature tomorrow. 

Tomorrow is also an exciting day because it is the GRAND OPENING of our classroom library! All week students have been longingly looking at the books just beyond the blue ribbons stretched across our classroom library. Tomorrow morning we have a special guest who will come to our classroom and cut the ribbon to launch a new school year of reading. We will post some pictures from our celebration, so make sure to check back.