Monday, September 16, 2013

First weeks of first grade


Here is a summary of some notes I’ve taken over Kylie’s first weeks of school. She loves her new school. And Karen and I are very happy with the curriculum and her teachers.

Journal writing.
Kylie’s favorite part of the day is the first 30 minutes in the morning when she gets to write in her journal. The teacher has a journal prompt on the screen/board each day such as “My favorite sport is…” Kylie writes first and then gets to draw a picture and color it with crayons to illustrate her journal writing. We would love to see her journal but it is a part of her schoolwork that stays in her desk.

Plus on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Kylie gets an additional 45 minutes where she gets to write fictional stories.

Kylie has an hour devoted to reading every day. The first 15 minutes consist of a reading lesson, then 35-40 minutes of reading time, and then a 5-10 minute close. Mrs. Lenhart either puts a bin of books onto the table of four desks for the children to choose from or she has books in each of the children’s individual bags. Once the children have their books, they are allowed to sit on pillows or beanbags in their classroom for their daily bit of reading. During their reading time, Mrs. Lenhart works individually with some students and does assessments. Her school follows the Fountas and Pinnell language arts curriculum.

Spelling and Word Study.
Kylie has 20 minutes devoted to spelling every day. Although Kylie hasn’t brought home a spelling list to learn, she has had several spelling tests where the teacher is getting an idea of the spelling skills of her class. The children put up privacy shields around their workspace when they are taking a test. The children also have 20 minutes of word study each day. So far, they’ve worked on learning about each other’s names such as how many syllables in their names and the beginning and ending letters.

Karen and I really like that Mrs. Lenhart corrects Kylie’s backwards 4’s, 5’s, 7’s and 9’s in her math work. Kylie didn’t get any corrections for that in kindergarten. Kylie has an hour of math each day. So far her math work has included counting to ten, identifying what comes before and after numbers to ten, and reading and writing the number words zero to ten and number bonds up to ten. Her school follows the Singapore Math curriculum.

Her school uses D'Nealian style of handwriting which is different from “Handwriting without Tears” form of writing that Kylie learned in kindergarten. Fortunately, there is a handwriting guide on Kylie’s desk for her reference. It’s a bit of a change for Kylie to switch to this more cursive style of printing but she’s learning it well.

Other studies:
Computer and French
On Mondays Kylie has an hour-long computer class. She loved the class where she used a computer to draw a circle, fill the circle with color, take a picture of herself using the computer camera, resize the picture to fit in her circle, and print the picture. The children’s pictures were put on a bulletin board outside their class. Kylie loves her computer class.

On Mondays Kylie also has thirty minutes of French lessons. She is a little behind her classmates in this topic because her kindergarten school emphasized Spanish. But I’m sure Kylie will soon be up to speed learning how to speak French colors, numbers and sing French songs.

Library, Art and Science
On Tuesdays, Kylie gets to spend 45 minutes in the Library and gets to check out 2-3 books. Following the library time, she gets 45 minutes of Art and later in the afternoon, she gets a 30-minute Science lesson. For Science, she gets to go into the other 1st grade classroom and learn about that classroom’s pet teacup pig named Priscilla. Kylie loves Priscilla. She came home and drew a beautiful Priscilla picture and made her a snack of Cheerios. She got to feed her a Cheerio the following day. Later in the Fall, they will study different Science topics but right now, Kylie loves learning about Priscilla the pig.

Music, Social Studies and Drama
On Thursdays Kylie has a 40 minute Music class. The children has created their own musical rhythms using characters like hearts or squares. For example a heart shape could symbolize at “ta” sound and a square could symbolize a “sh” sound. Kylie’s favorite pattern was two slow ta’s and 3 fast sh’s. Kylie has a 40 minute Social Studies class. Right now that class is studying a character development piece "How Full is Your Bucket". It’s all about being kind and helpful and not being mean. Kylie has really enjoyed the fact that the children have individual classroom mail boxes where you can send nice notes to one another. She has written several notes and received some too. And in her 30 minute Drama class, the kids have been paired up in two’s and practice being mirrors for one another—where one child moves slowly and the partner tries to copy it precisely. There are no words during this exercise, but I’m sure there are lots of giggles.

Kylie has 30 minutes of a PE class on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in addition to her daily 30 minutes of recess. The PE coach has lots of very creative, team-building games that use balls, beanbags, cones and flags for props.

Other items I don’t want to forget:
Classroom Treasure Chest. Kylie’s teacher rewards good behavior by giving out pennies to the children. On Fridays, the teacher opens the treasure chest where the kids can “buy” small items like yo-yos, stickers, or sticky hands. The items all cost differently so the kids can buy something with the 1-2 pennies they have earned that week. Or they can save their pennies to buy an item that costs 5-25 cents. Kylie was thrilled with this until she learned that the pennies were plastic pennies. Instead of buying something with the pennies, Kylie just wanted to keep the money which cracked us up. Still, she has chosen to buy something each Friday and is pleased with her rewards.

Classroom roles:
Each week, Kylie gets assigned a new classroom role. The first week is was floor monitor—checking to make sure the floor are cleaned. The second week it was pillow piler—one who returns any pillows back to their correct positions. But for both weeks, Kylie didn’t get to “do” anything because the floors and pillows were tended to by the other children. But I love how conscientious Kylie has been about her role.

2 Moms
Lastly, I want to write how impressed Karen and I have been with the school’s communication with us. All of their school forms have “parent” or “guardian” instead of “mother” and “father”. All of their letters to us have had the correct salutations. The teachers and the principal have been as warm and welcoming to us as they have been to the other parents. But we haven’t experienced that “let’s be extra nice to the gay family” vibe. It’s been perfectly equal which has been perfectly lovely.