Thursday, November 12, 2015

Families and Thanksgiving

My class has been learning and talking about our Thanksgiving traditions - what's on our dinner table, who's at our dinner table, and how Thanksgiving came to be in the first place.  This is the perfect time to talk about families... what makes a family, who we consider family, and activities that we enjoy doing with our families.

Here are some books I love about families (much more to come):

I taught my kids how to draw family portraits, inspired by a lesson that I found on Our Art Lately. The results are lovely!

After drawing a portrait of my own family, I went around to each student and asked them how many people live in their house.  In the process, I learned all kinds of new information!  I drew that many circles on their paper, in the skin tones that they specified.  A number of kids requested different skin tones for different family members, even in families of only one race or ethnicity.  I am fascinated by young children's racial and ethnic perceptions, and how they see themselves and each other.  And, I LOVE the expressions on these portraits!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Healthy Kids, Healthy Choices

Here are some of the books I use to teach about healthy bodies: 

In September I teach a science unit about healthy bodies.  We learn the names of the major bones in our bodies, watch terrific videos from, and host a kid-sized skeleton named Skully.  Parents come in to give presentations from their fields of expertise: everything from handwashing to vision to heart health. 

Since our class name is the "First Grade Smarty Cats," we make little books called "Healthy Kids are Smarty Kids."  The pictures shown here are from two different kids, just to show a range of ideas.  I give the students specific prompts for each page: Write a sentence about what Healthy Kids eat, what kinds of exercise they do, etc.  I love how they have turned out!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Welcome to First Grade Smarty Cats!

Hello there!  Thanks for visiting my new blog, where I'll be writing about the fantastic world of first grade!

A little about me: I'm in my 14th year of teaching elementary students.  I've taught everything from transitional kindergarten (for kids who aren't quite ready for full kindergarten) to third grade.  My favorite grade completely depends on what's happening that day!

I have a new Promethean board, which I love, and am finding new ways to organize my curriculum with this technological wonder.  I'm also piloting Writing by Design for my district, and teaching Math Expressions for the first time.

I believe that an organized classroom and a caring, engaged teacher can make a world of difference for both students and their parents.  I try to be that teacher, every day.  Welcome to my little corner of the world!

A huge "thank you!" goes to Laura Strickland of for the darling cat image.