First Grade Hamsterdam!

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Hello all!

We have been having so much fun learning and scampering into Fall!

The first few weeks have been a lot of routines and procedures and we are finally getting into more academic time- yay! These Exploring Hamsters are so ready to work toward their social, emotional, and academic goals this year! I wanted to give you a few snapshots of routines and activities going on, as well as the concepts and objectives we are learning in our big content areas. At the end, I will post pictures of some of our learning. Enjoy!


  1. The Daily Five (Literacy Stations and Guided Reading Groups, aka Book Clubs)- We have been singing our stamina anthem- Sia’s “The Greatest” with new lyrics, and practicing our “Reading to Self” stamina a couple of times a week for the last two weeks. We can now stay focused and not give up or get tired for four whole minutes! Our goal, by the end of the year, is 30 minutes. This week, we will be introducing “Reading to Someone” stamina practice and adding this into our rotations. I am also finishing my spelling and decoding assessments (and beginning the comprehension (DRA) assessment), so we are beginning our first guided reading groups, which I call Book Clubs, next week! I will post on here what books we are reading in each group, so that you can ask your kid, and know what they are working on with the teacher. During teacher time, we will read books, but spend the first few minutes working on our phonemic awareness and phonics via games, etc.
  2. Fundations Unit 2– We are reviewing letter and vowel sounds and tricky sight words this unit. Fundations is all about incorporating spelling and reading into our phonics and phonemic awareness, so we use Echo and Baby Echo to tap and blend words, change out beginning and ending sounds of CVC words. There are trick words and unit words for every unit. The trick words are the high-frequency sight words that don’t follow phonetic rules. The unit words are the words we are working on sounding out. In this unit, it is basic CVC words, with a short vowel in the middle. As your child does their homework, have them practice their words by tapping, blending, and reading them to you. Lastly, these next two short holiday weeks, we will be finishing Unit 2 by putting together these small words into sentences that we can practice decoding and phrasing. I will be assessing during Book Clubs/Teacher Time how they are doing on their words and spelling.

a.  Trick Words (Sight words) – Unit 2 –  a, is, of, his, and, the

b. Unit Words – sad, sat, sap, mad, map, mat, rag, rap, rat, nap, Nat, nap, lad, lag, lap, sip, lip, rig, lip, lit, fit, fig, nip, mop, not, nod, rug, rut, mud, mug, nut, set, net, met, Meg, leg, let, sob, sub, mop, map, tap, tab, tub, rub, led, lad, bad, bud, bug, rug, dig, dip, zip, zap, tax, web, bet, bit, fit, fig, fog, rib, sob, job, cop, dot, lid, mud, Ted, fix, lap, web, not, ten, bed, at, hip, peg, had, pen, bat, hit, pet, bus, bun, bib, red, jab, kid, nod, but, cup, mix, pot, Ben, pat, jim, tin, cob, rat, big, tip, cot, mad, den, gum, mug, sub, wig, yes, fun, cub, pup, lot, hut, sit, let, gap, sip, dug, cab, Sid, vet, wax, mat, lit, pig, nap, kit, did, pal, fox, nut, gas, him.   Nonsense words are also practiced: sut, vid, weg, kiz, zat, dep, zud, pob, dem, ret, quib, bix.

3. Read Aloud– We have been reading “The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me.” We will be finishing on  Friday the 29th, and will use next week after Yom Kippur to do some closing art and discussions. This was a great introduction to using our comprehension skills, and I have introduced Making Connections, Predicting, Summarizing, and Predicting. We have hand symbols for connections, predictions, and questions, and they enjoy doing these as I read. They love this Roald Dahl story, and I’m excited to begin our next Read Aloud adventure soon!

B. Math

1. We are now doing our Math every morning around our four rotations (8 Smarts Activities, Everyday Math Games, Seat Work, and Teacher Time- a time to practice/extend/enrich the lesson and concepts in small groups). These kids really love to use their math or logic smarts, and enjoy math time a lot- definitely becoming Mathematicians-ish! These last two weeks, these stations have featured the following:

a. Everyday Math Games– Now includes PennyDice, Top-It, and Bunny Hop. This week and next, we will be adding in Rock-Paper-Scissors-Pencil and Monster Squeeze.

b. 8 Smarts Activities – This is the Explorations piece, based around using the multiple intelligences, i.e. integrating other academic areas,  in logical based activities. For example, a STEM challenge, Color by Sum (Art Smart), Scrabble, Tangrams or Sudoku, or what we are doing now, categorizing rocks by property in a chart (Nature and Math Smart). We also explore different manipulatives, making shapes out of GeoBoards, patterns out of pattern and Base-10 Blocks, and observing numbers and strategies we use.

c.  Seat Work – These are Math Journal worksheets to practice our skills, when we have them, or other fun Science or Social Studies extensions in math (estimating/counting/making         patterns with rocks, graphs of family names, projects we are working on, etc).

d.  Teacher Time – This is the time in which I teach our curriculum and practice it in small groups. We use white boards and games a lot, and right now are coming to an end of Unit 1, over the next two short weeks. This unit’s main concepts are: counting by 5s and 10s, strategies for counting backwards and forwards, comparing numbers, using tally marks to record data, ordering numbers, mentally calculating 1 more/1 less and 5 more/5 less, and using number lines and grids to do all of these things. Any activities in the car or at home in which you can practice these skills would be great! The Home Links Family introductory letter also has ideas.

C. Science: Matter and Energy

1.   In science, we have begun our unit on Matter and Energy, beginning with matter. We’ve been doing introductory science observations and skills by doing noticing/mindfulness activities, and  simple questions and experiments through which we can practice our Scientific Method. Observation and Asking Questions are the two things we’ve been doing these first few weeks.

a.  We practiced our first Science Sit-Spot, which is nature observation using the five senses. I hope they enjoyed doing one of these at home!

b.  This week, we began studying the Properties of Matter, using rocks (so much variety!) we found at recess and my own collection to describe their shape, size, color, and texture. We played a description game using these properties, for them to find the rock being described by another friend, and they had a blast! We also are incorporating rocks into math and ELA: by using them to count, estimate, and make patterns as well as describe their properties, name them, and write a story about them in ELA.

c.  During the the next few weeks, we will continue learning what matter is, describing its properties. Excitingly, we will also begin learning about the States of Matter! This will involve  studying bubbles, reading Dr. Seuss’ “Bartholomew and the Oobleck” and making our own, and lots of other experiments with sugar, water/ice, etc.

D. Social Studies

  1. We began our unit on family, and have begun investigating what makes a family, in all its forms. These next few weeks (October and into November), we will delve more into specific projects involving families, all centered around the essential themes and questions of “what is a family and what does mine and my home look like?” “What are my needs/wants and those of my family?” “What is my role/responsibility and those of the other members in our family?” “What is my self-timeline and how does it fit into the timeline of my family?”
  2. At School, we will be: a)  building mobiles of our families, made from drawings by the students. These families may include people and pets not in their nuclear families with whom they feel that special familial connection. b) researching animal clans and the families in nature, made up of so many numerous configurations yet all unique and wonderful. c) Surveys, charts, and graphs of our families, including the names in our families, our traits, and class charts comparing our individual families to those in our AJA families. d) Self-Portrait and my roles and responsibilities Window. e) A Student-Led Learning Map of the concept of Families.
  3. At home, you will be helping with your first Family Monthly Project! This will be sent home on Monday, October 2nd, and will provide details about collecting snapshots, historical information and timeline for our Class Map of our Families, one short family video for our end-of-unit culmination, and details about each family’s traditions (holidays, languages, special foods, music/art, etc). These will be due by the end of October.                                                           In November, we will be using all of this information to do our end of unit celebrations and presentations! This will include “Meet Your Ancestors,” in which grandparents and other family guests will present stories from your family’s histories. Finally, we will have a Family Festival! This will include a Film Festival of our class’ family films, a Sibling celebration in which siblings are invited to share stories and favorite memories of each other, and a Familly Recipes Cookbook, as well as a recipe from Ms. Lane’s family to enjoy. I hope everyone will be able to join us, as we celebrate one of our most important parts of our individuality and identity- our families! 🙂

E. Miscellaneous and Upcoming Dates/Event

  1. Our Class Hamster – We will be voting on a name this week (we ran out of time with the events of Yom Kippur), but I think a longer time to choose a name that “fits” is great. If you would like to take the hamster during one of the holidays or long weekends (or a regular weekend!), please email me and let me know.
  2. Gardening – We will be starting our themed Class Garden, planning, measuring, designing, and planting in October and November. If you have any expertise or a desire to learn and help, please let me know!
  3. Meditation/Mindfulness/Yoga – We have been doing our yoga, and working on breathing and stretching into our body awareness. I have not managed to do this twice a week every week, and I hope to improve our time efficiency so we can! The same goes for mindfulness and meditation. We work on greeting each other, and being mindful by listening to how long a sound vibrates, noticing things with our five senses, slow walking and feeling every step, mindful eating, etc. I wholeheartedly believe this class is at the perfect age to really benefit from learning how to practice mindfulness, and I aim to make this more of a priority in our class, now that we are settled into our routines and academics. First Grade is a big jump from the naps and playtime in Kindergarten, and as such, I am easing them into this increase of rigor slowly- intrinsic motivation and joyful wonder is my goal! My personal “ish” goal is to be more mindful myself, so I hope we can all grow in this so much this year.
  4. The Dot – We read “The Dot” last week, and completed our our dot art on Friday. This week, we will be making frames and hanging these in the hallway, learning the song, building a dot classroom family tree, using The Dot in some of our ELA and Math centers this month, and continuing to connect this to our own uniqueness and the 8 Smarts (how we all our smart and see the world in different ways.
  5. 8 Smarts – We have finished our survey and will be graphing our own smarts, and really taking ownership of building our individual smart muscles toward specific goals. I love using multiple-intelligences because they show the value of every student, builds confidence in each kiddo, and encourages a class community based on mutual respect for who each person is and encouragement toward meeting their goals.
  6. Passports – Which brings me to our Goal Binders/Portfolios. Since we are Exploring Hamsters, we will be using passports to track our progress toward our short- and long-term social, emotional, and academic goals. These will be charts, graphs, checklists, and color codes themed around the 7 continents. The students will be meeting with me to make our goals and passports this month, and we will track them every week. These will be the basis for our conferences at the end of the month.
  7. Tikkun Olam – My family connection to Hurricane victims has not worked out yet, as the families and teachers  are still so overwhelmed. I would love to find some community service opportunities centered around families, so if you have any ideas, let me know!
  8. Field Trips/Other Events –  Our first off-campus field trip will be November 9th to the Sustainable Food Center, which will be right when we are beginning our unit on organisms. Let me know if you can be a driver and chaperone for this! In October, we will be doing a science day outside in the gardens/Science center, to observe and experiment with matter and energy (I have decided to save the Thinkery for the spring, when we dig deeper into forces and energy!). This will be the afternoon of October 27th, and I would love some parent volunteers to help with this! November 30th will be our Family Festival, as of now. Let me know if this causes significant hindrances or problems for anyone.  I’m open to any and all ideas for wonderful hands-on learning opportunities, so let me know!
  9. Volunteering! My wonderful room moms will be working with me these next two short weeks to come up with an efficient volunteering opportunities system. I would really like to have an online spreadsheet/sign-up for different tasks, such as reading aloud, helping with administrative and office tasks, work-at-home tasks, guest speaking, etc. For now, we may just to a binder in the classroom, but I would love it to be something you could look up while at home, work, etc.

Okay, I think that’s about it for now! I know I’m loquacious, and part of that is just me getting comfortable in a new school and culture. I want to thank you all for your amazing support and welcoming spirits! I hope you have a wonderful month of holidays, and please do reach out with any questions, comments, or ideas!

Below are some pictures I did not add to AJA activities, which I encourage you to check out. I will be emailing the videos, as I can’t seem to do this on here!




Kayla Lane


8 Smarts Explorations with Pattern Blocks!


Estimating, Counting, and making patterns with Rocks in Math!



Making Rosh Hashanah Cards for their 4th Grade Buddies!




Building words out of play-do makes them much more fun!



The loved the animals of the Barn Hill Reserve so much!