September 11, 2016


September 11, 2016


Dear Parents,


All the children are  adjusting beautifully to first grade. They  are learning to work independently and to organize their things. Sometimes I feel as if I should just record directions and keep on playing it over and over again since I do feel a bit redundant saying the same thing twenty times. But if the end result is accomplished and the children finally “get what to do”, it is all worth it. First grade is so different from kindergarten and sometimes “it takes a village” to help the children transition. As a testimony to the “children getting it”,  during the past nine days, they have written one Weekend News (we will do that every Monday) five times in their journals and one summary in their Reading Response Journals. Way to go first graders!


This past week I will start my reading groups. The children will meet with me each day to work on skills and read books at their particular levels. These groups are not made in stone. I will change the groups as I see changes in the children's reading levels. During our reading and writing block which is most of the morning, the children who are not at my reading table, work on their journals or Weekend News and then read independently. They are getting used to working without my constant help, although as expected, we still have a way to go. I am amazed at how well they are able to express their creative thoughts in their journals. One day last week I played a song called “The Purple People Eater: which went with a poster of the words that I had hanging up. The children all got up and danced to the music and then wrote a story which began “One day I met a Purple People Eater”. I was so happy when I went around the room and read their journal. They all were able to express themselves.  Again way to go first graders!


Although I will be addressing my homework policy at Curriculum Night tomorrow evening,  I wanted you to have a heads up now since I will begin giving homework on Tuesday. Homework will be given four nights a week. This week I will be giving homework only two nights so that they can ease into the process. Each child will have a reading sheet and a math sheet. I differentiate the homework so that your child’s homework will reinforce the skills that he/she is working on and/or challenge their thinking.  Tomorrow my students  will be making a calendar which they keep in their reading folder. They will make a new calendar each month. Each day at reading group, we will go over the homework from the night before. I believe in immediate feedback so if the child did make an error or did not understand what he/she was supposed to do on the sheet, our group discussions will clear up any misconceptions. Your child will get a sticker on his/her calendar if the homework sheets have been done. If they have not been done or if the homework has not been brought back to school, I will give my students another chance to earn a sticker the next day. ( or even the day after that....after all it’s not college!) At the end of the month, the stickers will be counted. If your child has earned the correct number of stickers (he/she may miss one homework or more considering the circumstances) then he/she will earn a visit to the coveted treasure chest.  As those parents who have had me in the past, a visit to the treasure chest becomes a major event each month. I would like to think that all of my children do homework for the intrinsic value of learning, but I know that sometimes six and seven year olds need positive reinforcement. (The dollar department in Target and Michaels  have become my “best friends”.)  I know that it will take a while for your child to get used to doing homework each night, but after a while, you will see a tremendous difference in your child’s ability to work independently, with less and less assistance from a parent. This is such an important skill for your child to develop and I believe that first grade is the perfect time to begin working on it. If your child is stressed out in the beginning about doing two sheets, just let me know and he/she will still get the sticker for one sheet completed. As a testimony to the importance of homework, last week a parent from last year stopped by my room. He and his son were wondering why homework had not begun in second grade. Both missed the routine.



This Friday your child will receive take home books in a special Dr. Seuss plastic bag. I select books each week for your child to read at home according to his/her reading level. I would like the books brought back the following Wednesday so that I have time to fill the bags again. If your child is not done with the books, just have him/her let me know that he/she would like to keep the books an extra week. I would encourage you to have your child read aloud to you some parts of the books that have been brought home. Encourage fluency and expression during the read alouds.  Please have your child keep a record of the books he/she has read on the sheet in the bag. 


I will talk at length about our math program at Curriculum Night, but I would like to take the time now to tell you about Math Sprints.  Each Wednesday the children will take a one minute math sprint. The Singapore Math curriculum stresses the use of mental math. Children need to have automatic recall of math facts. When a child takes a sprint, he/she has one minute to finish as many problems that he/she can on a page. After the minute is up, I go over the answers and the children put check marks next to their correct answers. They then write their score on the top of the page. After that process has been completed, the children turn the page over and once again try to answer as many problems as possible. (the problems are different) The goal is that each child will improve their score from the first page to the second page. In other words the child is competing only with himself. I do not record these scores. They are only for your child and you to look at. I would encourage you to have your child complete the problems on the sprint that is brought home each Wednesday, whether the process is timed or not. If you have any questions about this, I will answer them on Monday night. I will also be talking about number bonds which Singapore Math keeps on coming back to throughout the year. Number bonds are a visual way to represent the addends in an addition problem. For example, if the target number is 7 and one of the circles in the number bond has a 3, the children have to come up with the other number of 4 to complete the number bond. 

If you would like to order Scholastic books for your child, please try to get the order in by tomorrow so that we get the books in the next few weeks.


I hope to see all of you at Curriculum Night which is tomorrow at 7:15  I will give you a overview of first grade and there will be time for questions. I have also made a sign up sheet for volunteers.  Even if you can only volunteer once a month, your help will be so appreciated.  


If you are coming to Curriculum Night,  please take a look at the wall right besides my classroom. I’m sure that you will enjoy learning about your child’s favorites as well as the favorites of the other children in the class. Thank you for helping to make the transition from kindergarten to first grade go so smoothly. 





(Such a good feeling to finish my second chapter in my “Letters to My Parents” novel.)