Monday, August 31, 2009

Bunny Hop

Today we played a fun game called "Bunny Hop" to reinforce counting on a number line.

Trumpet of the Swan

Every day after recess we cool down on the carpet while listening to my read-aloud chapter book I share with the class. Our first novel is a timeless classic, Trumpet of the Swan. It's about a trumpeter swan that lacks a voice in the traditional "Ko-hoh!" sense, and learns to speak to the world with a trumpet stolen from a music store by his father. With the support of a sweet boy named Sam, who helps Louis learn how to read and write, the swan has some rather unswanlike adventures and ultimately wins the love--and the freedom--of a beautiful swan. The kids love the book and I've been able to even sneak in a bit of Geography and new vocabulary...undetected! I plan on showing the movie when we are done...shhh, don't tell!

science lab

Our class started Science Lab this week. We go two days in a row every 12 days. Mrs. Daniel's first lesson was an important one...lab safety! The children signed safety contracts and they are eager to share them with you. Be sure to check their Tuesday folders next week...they didn't quite make it in their folder this week!


Everything can't be fun and games...we officially started spelling and handwriting this week. We took our first spelling sure to note that the circled list on your homework packet is the one to use/study for this week's homework and test! Regardless of the resulting list, we are all studying words spelled with the short /a/ sound....daily we have a simple lesson to support our new rule. We also started the 1st of 2 handwriting programs.

This week we mainly focused on the different kinds of strokes to prepare us for learning the actual letters. Some of the strokes were forward and backward slants, side too side lines and forward and backward circles. In math, numeral writing was introduced. Ask your children about "sky writing." We do try to have some fun...

The kids come to first grade exhibiting all kinds of writing, many still using all capital letters. I am seeing all kinds of creations! Hopefully, you will start to see a change for the better. Be sure to give lots of praise when improved handwriting is observed at home!

homework tips

Here are a few helpful tidbits about the yellow homework folders:
  • handed out every Monday (or Tuesday if there was no school on Monday)
  • the entire assignment for the week is in the folder...including spelling, reading log and/or project
  • to differentiate spelling levels, the circled list was decided after a pretest
  • use the spelling list to complete spelling portion of homework
  • everything due on Friday
  • I check for completion and neatness

FYI...concerning "math is everywhere" assignment...picture below shows a sample of what I am looking for. Look for at least 5 examples (don't let me stop you if you want to do more!) of math in your life. Be sure to check junk mail, grocery ads, catalogs, magazines, neighborhood newspaper on the lawn, etc. Have fun!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

PTO invitation

I would like to personally encourage all of you to attend our first PTO meeting of the year on this Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 6:30PM in the school library. The PTO provides free babysitting for ages 2 and up.

The 2009-2010 PTO budget will be voted on so this is an excellent opportunity to learn how the PTO allocates the funds donated by the parents of the school. In addition, Christine Cowan our art teacher and Jill Herrera our PTO president will present more information about the highly anticipated Outdoor Classroom project.
Our students have long reaped the benefits of a strong, active PTO and we want you to be a part of it. Hope to see you there! Don't forget to sign up for cost to student directory!!!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

1st week update

Welcome to Mark Twain!

We had a wonderful 1st week of school. It was nice to see familiar faces as well as our 2 new friends to Mark Twain! We spent last week adjusting to new routines/rules/schedules while getting to know each other. The kids have done well while settling in and learning new procedures/expectations. After much discussion we wrote and signed our “Essential Agreements.” We will keep these displayed throughout the year. We expect to have a fantastic year!

Or 1st PYP planner begins next week. It’s called “What the World Needs Now.” The central idea is…positive attitudes make the world a better place to live in. We will focus on manners and our PYP attitudes/profiles. More to come later. We will also start going to library with our librarian, Mr. Deering next week. We will keep school library books in the classroom to read during class. Gifted and Talented will also start next week. We are scheduled to go every Monday 12:20-2:15. Mrs. Norris is very excited and eagerly waiting to meet her new GT kids!

Our homework routine will also start next week. I will send home a homework packet at the start of each week in their yellow homework folders. Homework is due Friday and will be checked for completion and neatness. Red information folders with work from the previous week and papers from the office. PTO is working hard to send much of their information electronically...expect less paperwork. All my updates, daily photos and newsletters will be online on the classroom blog.

Spelling starts next week. A pretest will be given every Monday so I can see what spelling list to assign each child. Both list follow the same basic spelling rule that is focused on for the week. The list goes home stapled onto the homework packet…with the list circled indicating which one is assigned to your child. Regardless of what list your child is given, bonus words are the same and will be optional. The choice is yours. We will have daily spelling lessons as well as daily homework (in the packet). Keep the spelling homework (and all homework) at home until Friday as I know they will be needed to study for Friday’s spelling test.

Reading logs will also go out next week...stapled to the homework packet. I will explain in great detail to the children…they are the ones reading…not parents. All I ask is that they read aloud to you for a minimum of 15 minutes M-Th. You may use books from home or public library books. They have an excellent selection of beginning readers and chapter books. Parents may also come by my class before or after class to borrow some of mine…I have a bunch! Please fill out the reading log with completed book titles and your signature acknowledging the reading has been done. These will also be checked for completion each Friday.

Thank you for quickly returning all the paperwork from the office. I still need a few more to complete our class. FYI…the “code of conduct” sheet is found in the middle of the Code of Student Conduct book handed out on the first day of school. I'm missing many of these! In addition to the papers, there are 2 things that need to be filled out online on the Mark Twain PTO website: 1. PTO membership form – this is free AND you get a student directory…VERY handy to have! 2. directory form – update all information you want available for the directory…also VERY handy for everyone else! There is a sign-up sheet outside my door for volunteer opportunities...there’s still some openings! If your child read at least 5 books this summer, please fill out the “Millionaire” form in your Tuesday folder next week. Last year the kids were awarded t-shirts for those that turn their completed form! to activate/purchase lunches for your child's lunch card!

Concerning the blog…I update it almost daily. I’m crazy that way! Most importantly, I post necessary information, dates, what’s coming up, etc. but also enjoy posting fun moments from our day. If you are not an “every day checker” then I suggest checking it once a week. I will not send home a hard copy (only this time) unless you do not have online access. If this is the case, PLEASE let me know!

Sometimes I have questions for parents and will post surveys on the left side bar of the blog. Please consider participating. Your vote is anonymous to myself and others and will help me better serve the needs of our class!

Thanks again for a great 1st week. Your kids are GREAT!

Friday, August 28, 2009

pattern block exploration

Along with exploring the pattern blocks with our hands and imaginations, we recorded some of our ideas down on paper!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

HISD Millionaire Reading Program

The Millionaire Reading Club was a coordinated effort by the Department of Library Services, the Literacy Leads the Way initiative and the Reading Department to keep HISD students reading over the summer months. If your child read at least five books over the summer…please let me know! I will be sending home an empty reading log (one was sent home last May) on Tuesday if you need another one. All forms need to be returned no later than September 11 to be included in the official count. *** If every HISD student reads at least 5 books, HISD kids will have read 1 million books!!

math templates

Much of our math this week has been introducing and exploring the math manipulatives we will be using this of which is the pattern block template! You wouldn't believe what we can do with one of these...

Penny Dice game

Today we played our first Everyday Math Game, Penny Dice. The main objective of the game was to introduce game playing essential agreements, counting pennies and comparing quantities. This will be the 1st of MANY math games played this year!

free dress day

It is Free Dress Day tomorrow. It was inadvertently left off the school calendar, but Free Dress Day is alive and well at Mark Twain Elementary! I did not mention this to the children...I know they will be thrilled to hear the good news!!

Tell it to the Prince!

I told the kids about Prince this week. Kids have a lot of tattles/stories to tell...and I am not always available to hear them! I told them to consider writing down the facts and zipping them into Prince's mouth or just whisper them in his ear. They agreed that it helps to just say what you need to say, get it off your chest and move on! I caught a few doing just that!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I Like Me !

Today we put the finishing touches on our self-portraits we created on the 1st day of school after reading a wonderful story, I Like Me! Come check out our "I'm Happy to Be Me" poems that accompany them...we are proudly displaying them outside our hallway!

reading groups/jobs

Today I felt brave enough to start our reading groups and job routine! I have not tested all the new kids yet (I have most of the ending year scores from kindergarten). I told the kids the groups change ALL the time...they really do. Levels are constantly changing. I have one group of 3 or 4 kids work with me at the reading table while 5 other groups are working at their assigned jobs in various areas of the room. Jobs are basically centers. I call them jobs or else they will go hog wild! I see every reading group 3-4 times a week and each group rotates through all 5 jobs. At Open House I will explain this routine further if you have any questions. It takes awhile for the kids to internalize how this routine works...they did a great job! I think we are ready to do it again tomorrow!

Spanish Spider Day

The spider climber is very exciting for 1st graders because they are on the "big kid" playground now...and that means playing on the The Spider! Unfortunately, too many kids on the spider spells danger. To help with this, one class from each grade level plays on it each day. In 1st grade the day your class has Spanish ancillary is the same day your class can play on the spider. Today was our day! This year our ancillary is trying something new...we go to the same ancillary twice in a row! So that means we have another day on the spider tomorrow!

paperwork update...

Help me to get all the required paperwork turned in...about half of the class returned their 1st day envelopes today. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

math today

Our math today was very hands on. We graphed how many letters were in our names on a floor graph, played around with greater than/less than/equal to, added and subtracted big numbers on our own number lines, tallied vowels/consonants on our name tags/friend's name tag, and counted all the way to 100 by 2's on our own hundred's boards stuck inside our school boxes! All in was a fun math day!

They're Here!!!

We finally got the infamous "1st day envelopes!" PLEASE check your child's backpack...I told them the paperwork is your parent's homework! This is what you need to fill out:
  • Read the Code of Student Conduct and sign the slip in the middle stating that you've read and understand student behavior expectations.
  • Go to to register online for PTO membership and give personal information for the student directory. Membership is FREE to all and if you join you will receive a FREE student directory. Once on the website click on "Mark Twain student directory & PTO membership 2009-20010" on the NEWS column on the left. All classrooms/teachers will be rewarded for 100 % participation!
  • Read the yellow Mark Twain Handbook. FYI...Mr. Baker follows ALL rules enthusiastically!
  • Fill out Employment Survey.
  • Fill out lunch application...even if you don't think you need it.
  • Fill out Media Release. Remember to let me know ASAP if you wish not to be a part of our classroom blog!
  • Fill out white emergency card.
  • Fill out blue health inventory.
  • Go to to put money on your child's lunch card.
  • FYI...if you are new to Mark Twain, the deadline to apply for GT testing is September 2nd. If you need more information concerning this contact: Mrs. Norris at

*** Sign-up for room parents and volunteer opportunities have been posted outside my classroom door. Don't be shy...

Whew...that's a lot! PLEASE, PLEASE sign forms by Friday, August 28th. The office will hound me daily if not!!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

1st day of school

We had a GREAT 1st day! We read several of their favorites, Bono Goes to School...was about a monkey that had all sorts of problems at school, decided to make better choices and earned a star from the teacher at the end of the day. Look for your child's star...everyone earned it! We even read the 1st chapter of our teacher read aloud, The Trumpet of the Swan! We graphed how we were going home today, shared what we did over the summer, decided what our essential agreements for the classroom should be, drew our self-portraits, started our math routines and decorated our helper tags. All in all, the day was a big success...we even had a fire drill! The kids must be exhausted... I know I am!

1st day envelopes the packets didn't make it to our classrooms today...count your blessings! Be on the bet is that we get them tomorrow! Please, please sign and return all papers ASAP!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Welcome to 1st grade!

Welcome to 1st grade! I am thrilled to be teaching your child. The first grade team has planned many fun and exciting lessons for your child. Our main focus is on reading and math, but we will be doing lots of science and social studies as well. At Open House I will explain further and in depth about what we have planned for the year and how we spend our time in the classroom. For now, I want to welcome you to my class and explain a few routines to get you and your child through the first few weeks in my class.

The first few weeks are tricky…we have to go over a lot of routines new to your child! This week we will start every morning with a “fun activity sheet” to help establish the routine of putting away their backpack, lunches, folders, information sheets, etc. and then getting straight to their desk to start their assignment. This will help them internalize our morning routine. Starting next week the children will be writing in their journals until 8:30. Soon, I will be soliciting for volunteers to stay during journal time each day so that I may work with small groups…so look at your schedules and consider helping out (we won’t start volunteers until be have Open house). Children LOVE to have their moms (dads and grandparents, too!) help out in the classroom…hint, hint!

We will be starting our spelling program next week. Every Monday the children will be given a list of 10 spelling words…6 spelling words and 4 sight words. There will be a spelling test every Friday. I will also include several more challenging bonus words from current social studies, science. PYP lessons for those that are interested. We will have daily lessons concentrating on these words as well as daily spelling homework. All homework will be due on Friday.

Last year the state of Texas has adopted a new math program (Envision/Investigations) which will be new to everyone. It is very organized, thoughtful and many games are included. I will use this time to introduce all the routines we use in math as well as incorporate the other math program Mark Twain purchases in addition to the required program. I’ve used the Chicago Everyday Math program for 8 years in kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade…I know it will prepare the kids for next year. Everyday Math homework is called “Home Links” that go right along with what we learn each day in class. Home Links also include weekly letters to the parents and answers for the homework for the following week…keep an eye out for it! Keep these as a reference tool…I know you will find these very interesting and helpful when working with your child at home. Home Links are sent home in the yellow homework folder on Mondays and are due back Friday. They will be checked for completion.

A homework packet will be sent home in a yellow folder next Monday to give you an idea of what to expect each week. The routine will be similar every week. I am asking that your child (not parent) commit to reading at least 15 minutes each night (Mon. - Thurs.). A reading log will be sent home to list book titles read and a parent signature. From time to time we will break from our normal homework routine to do a simple project at home instead. Again, homework folders are due on Friday.

I hear this year our home communication folders will be brown…they have been red in the past. They will be sent home every Tuesday. They will have notes from the office about events around school, important dates/information, and ALL (except work I decided to display) of the work done in class the previous week. Many notes this year will be sent electronically. Please go over all work with your child. They are proud of their hard work and are eager to share their knowledge with you as you become more familiar with what is learned in class and how well he/she is doing.

The bell rings at 7:50 and class begins right away. Every child should be on time in the mornings. If not, a tardy slip from the office is needed to enter class. This is an HISD policy and Mr. Baker is strict about following this procedure. If your child is sick and misses school, a note needs to be brought to me within 3 days of returning back to school.

*** Please fill out all paperwork in the big manila envelope ASAP. The office really needs the information quickly and will hound me DAILY for it…hint, hint.

I update our classroom blog almost daily....sometimes more! I’m weird that way. The kids, parents, grandparents, etc. LOVE the constant and updated information about our class. Be sure to sign the media release enclosed in the manila envelope so I can include your child in this exciting experience! If you are not wanting your child involved in this project, please let me know in writing immediately. Much of what you see will be information concerning what was done in class each day, class work, quotes from the children, upcoming event information, etc. I do not use any names…sometimes initials. If you need a better idea of what I am talking about…visit and decide for yourself. Currently, it has last year’s class an even a bit from the year before that! Feel free to comment as you wish on our blog (I will show the kids how to do this, too!)…please be aware they are first sent to my school email for approval by me before being publicly posted.

I look forward to getting to know your children! I am confident that we will have a successful year! Please plan now for a babysitter and attend Open House on Tuesday, September 15th 7-8 PM so that I may explain how my classroom works in more detail and give you the opportunity to ask questions. Please know that I am very open to answering your questions and listening to your comments/concerns. I have time during my ancillary time at 10:10 AM (except Thursdays when I plan with my 1st grade team), before school at 7:30am, and after school at 3:15pm after carpool duty (except Wednesday when I attend a school-wide faculty meeting) to have parent conferences. I am ALWAYS available through email and it will be checked several times each day. My email address at school is (please note there is not an “s” on my email address). Please do not hesitate to contact me.

WOW…that’s a lot of information…but not too much! I look forward to getting to know everyone and sharing my class with you. Thanks in advance for your support!

*** The weather is very hot. We have a daily 30 minute recess after lunch. Children are permitted to bring a water bottle to take outside.


I actually plugged the pencil sharpener in today and tried to sharpen 100 pencils...and it didn't work! If anyone has one at home that isn't being used...we could use it in our classroom. The pencil sharpener is a constant issue (and obsession) in here!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Did you know?

I went to a IB conference this week...I really enjoyed talking with other IB teachers in our feeder pattern. It was nice to exchange classroom experiences with other PYP schools, Roberts and River Oaks as well as learn a bit about what goes on at IB schools after they leave Mark Twain! I thought I'd share an AMAZING (and frightening) video that was shown...something to think about!

Monday, August 10, 2009

sneak peek

Today was the 1st official day back to school...and boy have I been busy! Take a peek at our classroom...this is probably the cleanest the room will be all year! Still no class lists...your guess is as good as mine!