Tuesday, August 31, 2010

isolating sounds

Reading starts with phonemic awareness -- the ability to notice, think about, and manipulate the individual sounds in words or phonemes. Phonemes are the smallest units of sound in our language that can make a difference in the meaning of a word (like cat versus rat). Today the children were asked to brainstorm for words they heard the beginning /m/ sound and the ending /m/ sound.

Tuesday Folders

Our Tuesday folders issued by PTO are brown in an effort to become more environmentally friendly. To lessen the amount of paperwork many of you have signed up to receive most PTO/school information via email. If you somehow you missed the paperwork involved and have not received the weekly newsletters that go out by email on Tuesdays, let me know! I love the change but am finding all our week's work does not fit in the slim folders. I will also send red folders in addition to the brown folders...they will only contain work from my class and everything else will be in the brown folders. Here are a few helpful tidbits about the red Tuesday folders:

•sent home every Tuesday with the brown folders
•contains only work from previous week except assignments that go in their portfolios or on bulletin boards for display
•PLEASE, PLEASE go over all work with your child as part of their homework assignment...great way for you to informed on what is going on in class as well as a sense of accomplishment for your child
•bring both empty folders back on Wednesday...

I hope this is clear. Confused yet?

Monday, August 30, 2010

least, between, greatest

Today we built towers to better understand least, greatest and between!

Bunny Hop

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

reading groups

I will be reading with all 6 reading groups EVERY day!

Saturday, August 28, 2010


We had a lot of fun with this! After we read Numblers by Suse MacDonald, we decided we could hide number's, too! Enjoy our first slideshow of the year!

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 (will start in a few weeks after we get through review), reading log and/or project
•everything due on Friday
•I check for completion and neatness...unfair to give a grade when parental support varies GREATLY!
FYI...concerning "math is everywhere" assignment for next week...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!

pattern blocks/templates

Along with exploring the pattern blocks with our hands and imaginations, we made patterns with the blocks and even recorded some of our ideas with the templates on paper! Much of our math this week has been introducing and exploring the math manipulatives we will be using this year...one of which is the pattern block template! You wouldn't believe what we can do with one of these...

Scholastic News

I subscribed to a publication called Scholastic News. We will be getting 4 issues each month. Each one comes with an additional activity to do. They are great at incorporating social studies, science and current events into our busy day. It would help me tremendously if you would please consider contributing $5 to help me with this cause. Thanks, in advance for your support!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Welcome to Mark Twain!

We had a wonderful 1st week of school. It was nice to see familiar faces as well as our 3 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! Don't forget to add Tuesday, August 31st to your calendars...there will be a 1st grade coffee with Mr. Baker!

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. Gifted and Talented will also start next week. We are scheduled to go every Thursday 12:20-1:55. 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. Brown information folders with work from the previous week and papers from the office will go home on Tuesdays. PTO is working hard to send most of their information electronically...expect less paperwork. All my updates, daily photos and newsletters will be online on the classroom blog. Please let me know ASAP if you do not have Internet access.

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!

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 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!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

birthday graph

We have been finding new ways to better learn about each other every day this week and have found a way to graph this information. Today was no different...we graphed which month we were born. We found out a lot of neat information concerning our birthdays and discovered May will be a busy month!

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 and yesterday was our day! FYI...we go to the same ancillary twice in a row!

class read-aloud

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!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Penny Dice

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!

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 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!

dismissal procedure

Dear Parents:

In order to ensure a safe and orderly dismissal and so that we can account for every child, we respectfully ask all children in grades 1 through 5 be picked up from the cafeteria only...no pick-ups at the door, please. Kindergarten parents may pick up at the classroom at 2:45. If you arrive at school before 2:45, you must get a visitors’ badge from the front office and wait for your children in the cafeteria, front rotunda, or outside unless you are going to Kindergarten at 2:45.

The building is bustling with a lot of people and this will ensure that teachers know the whereabouts of all children at all times. Thank you for helping us keep your children safe.

John Baker
Mark Twain Elementary

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

summertime memories

We took a moment to share our favorite summertime memories and recorded them on paper plates! There seemed to be a lot of boating and water park fun to beat the heat. Notice our patterns around the edge!


I told the kids about Prince today. 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!

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!

tally marks

Today we reviewed consonants and vowels and at the same time practiced using tally marks for the vowels/consonants on our name tags and a friend's name tag, too.

name graph

We graphed how many letters were in our names today onto a bar braph. It brought on a good discussion about which column had more, which had the least, any even, etc.

Monday, August 23, 2010

1st Day of School

We had a GREAT 1st day! We read several books...one 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. 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!

homework for parents!

Please, please, 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.

Friday, August 20, 2010

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 spelling word and sight words. There will be a spelling test every Friday. I will also include several challenging bonus words from current social studies, science and PYP lessons for those that are interested. J We will have lessons during the week concentrating on these words as well as daily spelling homework. All homework will be due on Friday.

Last year the state of Texas adopted a new math program (Envision/Investigations). It is very organized, thoughtful and many games are included. I will use daily math 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 9 years in kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade…I know both programs 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 again…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 if arriving at 8:01 AM or later. 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. J

I have a classroom blog (www.mrsphillipsatmarktwain.blogspot.com) and update it almost daily. 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 (not much as I was out ill almost the entire year), all of the year before and 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 14th 6-7 PM (and ancillary & GT at 5:30PM) 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 inquiries and listening to your comments/concerns. I have time during my ancillary time at 1:55-2:40 PM, before school at 7:30am, and after school at 3:15pm after carpool duty (except Wednesday when I attend a school-wide faculty meeting and Thursdays when I plan with my 1st grade team) 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 mphillip@houstonisd.org (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.

Thank you in advance for your support,

Mrs. Phillips

*** 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.

sneak peek

Today was the last 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! I can't wait to meet everyone!