1st Grade - Tennant

Update: 9/18/17

Greetings Parents,

We’re moving right along, now halfway through September! I am writing to give you an update on our progress. If you have any questions about your scholar’s reading or math classes, you can reach out to your scholar’s particular teachers. This update will only cover what we’re working on in homeroom.


We have mostly progressed past practicing writing the alphabet letters correctly, though we are still working on the capital letters. Again, this should all be review, but for many of the kids fresh practice and re-teaching is often necessary. We are very particular with their handwriting because we know that it is an essential building block of literacy (I could expound on this but if you have any questions about why we’ve decided to put such an emphasis on this, please check out the handwriting FAQ on the side of the web page.)

The greatest part of our energy in spelling time is now focused on helping kids to memorize the first level of basic letter combinations that form sounds like ow, ou, ai, ay, er, ir, wor, ear, ar, ng, ch, etc…These very basic but essential letter combinations are likely to occur in all but the most basic levels of text and are certainly needed as we help kids develop their ability to think up an original sentence and write it on paper mostly independently. This week we are also starting a practice “spelling week” just to see how ready they are for a regular spelling routine (I’ll let you know how that goes).  We are introducing four or five new words daily and asking them to sound them out and spell them. Then we check for accuracy.


In regards to actual writing instruction, I am  excited to announce that we have officially began our first writing unit: Informative Paragraphs.  Our first writing project of the year is the informative paragraph.  At this time we are just writing a paragraph as a class almost everyday. This means I model and guide how to write it while they help generate the sentences we use and sound out the words with me).  Gradually they will take a greater role and eventually (around November) they will write their own paragraphs with a lot of teacher supervision and step-by-step help.

Every year, teaching writing is one of the most challenging parts of the day and my all-time most rewarding effort of the year.  We get to see the majority of these kids go from having difficulty forming even the most basic sentences (if that) to writing full-blown paragraphs and stories- mostly independently. It is sooo hard and I absolutely LOVE it- it is worth all the effort when those that struggle the most hug me at the end of the year and say writing is their favorite part of the day!!!

We are in the very beginning phases of this journey.  They are learning to write even when they’re not sure how to spell words (this can be a real challenge for the perfectionists!!!!), and to generate thoughts without the teacher having to give a prompt or hold their hand.  Usually by March, their skill level is solid enough that they begin to really embrace writing on an independent level and my role transitions to just reading their journals aloud to the class and facilitating conversations about the content and suggestions for improvements.


As for math, we have begun our math drills routine.  The kids tend to love this because while everyone starts off at +0s, everyone can accelerate as fast as they’re able to up to multiplication facts- and each pass-off earns them a nickel!  Here’s how it works:  they have 50 problems to do in 2 minutes.  They are timed for three 2-minute intervals… meaning if they can pass off 150 problems in 6 minutes, they get to move to the next focus digit.  Today was our first day and a small handful passed off their zeros. Once the kids get into the flow of the routine and can train their brains to think of it as one giant race against themselves, the majority of scholars will begin to pass off one or two levels a month.  What I have found in previous years is  that typically three or four scholars will make it to their multiplication facts by the end of the year, while the majority pass off all their addition facts and are working somewhere within the subtraction range at year’s end.

We are also continuing our number of the day routine.  This week’s numbers are 22, 23, 24, 25, 26. If you want to engage in some great math conversations, ask your scholar to tell you about the number of the day: ways to write a number sentence that equals that number, is it odd or even, how would you make that amount in cents, how many tens and ones, etc..


We are about halfway through our “egg experiment”. Our experiment questions are: 1) Which drink will make the egg’s shell turn the darkest? And 2) Will brushing the eggs (like we do our teeth) help keep the eggs from turning as dark as the unbrushed ones?”  We have two sets of eggs (ones that get brushed nightly  and ones that just sit in the liquid 24/7). We check on them everyday and compare the colors. Before we began the experiment, I asked for their hypothesis in regards to which liquid will turn the egg the darkest and whether or not brushing will help.  This might be a fun conversation for you to engage them in. If you've made it this far, you're quite the trooper! As always, feel free to email me with any questions! -Ashley Tennant