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April Newsletter

Dear Families, 

We hope that you had a relaxing and enjoyable April Break.  Please see below for important curricular updates: 


This month we looked carefully at punctuation and various fonts to help us read fluently and with expression.  We learned that big words tell us to read with a big voice and little words tell us to read with small voices.  We noticed bold and italicized words in read alouds and in our own books and learned to read these words with strong feelings.   

In April we will begin our Character Club Unit.  During this unit, children will identify main and secondary characters and describe characters based on their traits.  Children will compare characters across books and will understand that knowing a character well can help us predict their actions.   

Writing/Content Study 

During March we wrote All About books based on topics that we know well.  We used the information that we gathered through interviews, books and the internet to help us add more to our books.  We included many different non-fiction features in our books such as a table of contents, diagrams, fun facts, headings, bold words, and a glossary.  We are so excited that so many families got to see our books on Family Thursday! 

Our April writing is based on our content study, which is restaurants.  During the first half of April we will interview a restaurant owner, a chef, and a server.  We will also begin to visit a variety of restaurants and write persuasive restaurant reviews.  We will learn to describe the service, the menu and the décor and will learn to include evidence in our writing that supports our opinions.  You can extend this work at home by visiting and talking about different restaurants that you frequent with your family.  Ask your kids to describe their favorite dish and the reasons why they would recommend or not recommend a restaurant. 

Our first neighborhood restaurant walk was a success!  We loved checking out the different restaurants in our community and noticing their similarities and differences.  We will take numerous field trips during this unit and will email all dates once they have been confirmed.  We are excited for families to join us on our trips and welcome many chaperones! 


During March students took an inventory of classroom materials.  We learned to group items into tens and ones in order to count efficiently.  We noticed that in a 2-digit number, the first digit represents the number of tens and the second digit represents the ones.  We began to mentally add and subtract multiples of ten based on our understanding of place value.  For example, we recognized that if we were solving a problem like 37 + 20, we could add 2 tens to the tens place for a sum of 57.   

In April we will begin our Measurement unit.  Children will understand that distance is measured as a series of units and that units used in measuring can vary in size.  Students will begin the unit using non-standard units (their own feet) and will grow to understand that standard units are needed to ensure accurate measurements. 

Important Dates 

Colleen visits on Wednesday April 11th for an interview with a restaurant owner. 🙂 Thanks Colleen!

First Grade visits Suteishi Sushi Restaurant.

Many More Trips Coming up. We will send emails when the dates are finalized.


Erin and Alina 

P.S. Regarding Field Trip Permission Slips:

We’ll be sending out many trip forms in the coming months. If you ever lose one, here is  BLANK copy. Please try to use the forms we send home rather than the blank because we always fill in specific information about the trip before handing them to families to sign. However, if you do lose a form and need to use a blank copy, please take the time to fill in the following information before handing it in to us.

  1. Your child’s name
  2. Signature line
  3. the Date
  4. Destination of the trip.

Thank you. Here is the link for the trip form. 

March Newsletter

Dear Families,

We hope you had a relaxing and enjoyable break with your children. Although February was a short month, we were very busy. Please see below for important curricular updates:


Much of our February reading work focused on poetry. We studied the different features of poems such as white space, rhyme, rhythm, repetition, and imagery. We read poems from many different anthologies, including our class anthology. We learned that some poems have shape, poets use specific word choices, and that poems can be about many different topics. We noticed that poets write lines and use interesting punctuation. We are excited to revisit poetry when we prepare to write our own poems this spring.

This month we will look carefully at the work of Donald Crews during our Author Study unit. We will notice how Crews uses punctuation and varying fonts in his books as we continue to work on fluency and expression. You can support your child with this work at home by pointing out interesting punctuation in their books and taking turns reading character parts.

In April, we will begin reading series books in Character Clubs.


February marked the end of our How-to writing unit. We began the unit by looking at different types of how-to books and noticing their features. We brainstormed a list of topics that we know well and could teach others about. We learned to grab our readers attention by starting our piece with a question or a reason that would motivate our reader to read our books. We planned steps across our fingers and acted out our steps to ensure that we included important details. Next, we drew teaching pictures and labels. We added transition words to show the sequence of our steps and wrapped our pieces by finding a way to let our reader know that they were ready to try out our directions. We celebrated by sharing our books with partners and offering compliments as well as helpful suggestions for future how-to books.

Children will continue working on informational writing by writing their own All About Books this month. Students will begin the unit by revisiting non-fiction books and noticing their features. We will choose topics that we know a lot about and will learn to create a table of contents, fun facts, diagrams, glossaries, and various other sections in our books. During the latter part of this unit, we will use books to research interest topics and write a second All About book based on our research.

In April, we will switch genres and learn how to write persuasive pieces.


Students delved into geometry this month as we worked with Van Hiele puzzles. Children used a set of shapes to compose, draw and identify new shapes. Children learned to name and describe shapes by examining their characteristics such as the number of sides, number of vertices, and number of angles.

This month marks the beginning of our Organizing and Collecting Unit. This unit is designed to help students develop a deep understanding of place value in our number system. Throughout the unit, students will count assorted objects and will learn to group those objects into groups of ten and individual ones. Children will learn that place determines value (ie: in the number 56, the 5 represents 5 tens or 50 and the 6 represents 6 ones, or 6.) This understanding will help children as they begin to use more sophisticated strategies, such as splitting apart numbers, to add and subtract and solve problems mentally.

Content Study

In February we studied, rehearsed and performed plays during Readers Theater. Children practiced reading fluently and with expression by thinking about how their character was feeling and what their character might sound like. Children worked on projecting their voices and using their bodies as they acted out their parts.

March is an exciting month because we will begin Restaurant Study. During this unit children will learn how restaurants work. We will visit several different types of restaurants and write persuasive reviews about the businesses we visit. We will interview different restaurant workers to learn more about their roles and responsibilities. After that, we will create our own restaurant!

Important Dates:

March 15th- Parent Teacher Conferences (sign-up coming soon)

March 29th- Family Friday

March 30-April 6- Spring Break


School Business: Please take some time to complete NYC School Surveys. Take the 2018 NYC School Survey online.

Thank you to all who joined us on our 100th Day Celebration. We had a blast and look forward to seeing you on our next Family Friday!


Alina & Erin

February Newsletter


Children have been really digging into their books and thinking carefully about the way they read and engage with text. This month in reading we zoomed in on decoding, comprehension, and self-monitoring strategies. Decoding strategies target word-reading. Some important points about decoding include: looking at the beginning, middle, and end of a word, looking for a taught spelling pattern or a little word (ex: if you can read –ake, you can read it in make, rake, shake, and mistake). If you can’t decode the word, then you might skip the word and read to the end of the sentence and then think about what would make sense.

Comprehension strategies involve stopping to think about text: when we stopping to think, readers make sense of what they already know about the book, make predictions about what might happen next, and go back and reread if they are unclear about what happened so far. As we read, readers can stop and revise their predictions based on new information in the book. Children can also make connections to their lives as well as to other books they have read. Finally, readers can wonder about books by posing questions as they read. These strategies help students move beyond the text and into the realm of inferring.

Self-monitoring involves using metacognitive processes while reading to notice when something does not make sense and to choose an appropriate strategy for self-correction. Self-monitoring involves both decoding and comprehension.

Next, we are moving onto our Poetry unit. We’ll study elements of poetry including rhyme, meter, word choice, imagery, white space, etc. Later in the school year, students will use what they learned to write their own poems.


We are coming to the end of our How-To Unit. First graders thought about topics they knew well and could teach another person. We talked about the features of nonfiction texts that we had read aloud in class. Then everyone implemented these tools to create dynamic How-To books. Children made sure to include an introduction, a list of necessary materials, sequential steps, and an ending. Writers used words such as first, next, then, after that, and finally to indicate transitions between steps. We talked about how important it is to add details and be specific so that your reader will know exactly what to do.

Next in writing, we will shift focus to writing All-About books. Rather than teaching someone how to do or make something, these books teach information about a particular topics. Nonfiction features such as diagrams, pictures with labels, fun facts, glossaries, table of contents, and sections help organize and clarify information for readers. Students will use these features to carefully present information about a topic they know well. Then kids will use nonfiction text to research a topic of interest and write a second All-About book on that topics.


This month in math we focused on addition and subtraction strategies through the context of the Double Decker Bus Unit from Context for Learning. Using the rekenrek as a visualization and problem-solving tool, students continued to develop complexity and efficiency in their problem-solving. By using the 5’s and 10’s structure of the rekenrek to visualize quantities during problem-solving, students eventually begin to develop higher level strategies for problem-solving. For example 8+8 can be solved multiple ways. At the beginning of first grade, students used counting on to count up from 8 keeping track on their fingers. After the doubles unit, some kids could automatically recognize it as a doubles fact. Now, a child might break one eight apart to get to the next ten

8+8 = 8+(6+2)     One 8 is broken apart to get to the nearest 10

(8+2) = 10           10+6 is a tens plus fact that most kids know equals 16


This kind of problem-solving sets up a foundation that leads into 2nd grade math where kids are working with multiple digits. Here is what kids might work on in second grade math.

If 8+8=16, then 58+8 = 66. If you can break apart a number you can solve more quickly using mental math.

Ex: 68+78

What is happening mentally…

Decompose into tens and ones                68+78 = (60+8) + (70+8)

Use a doubles fact:                                      8+8 = 16

Combine the tens using a known fact: if 6+7 = 13, then 60+70 = 130

Finish:                                                           130+16 = 130+(10+6) = 146

68+78= 146


Content Study

Our current unit of content study is Reader’s Theatre. Readers Theatre is a fluency building unit. Children will take notice of the major differences between reading a book aloud, and acting out a story on a stage. Some important aspects of theatre include: actors, scenery, props, and a script. The script gives the actors direction: when to speak, who is speaking, and how to say the lines. This unit encourages readers to develop phrasing which involves reading words in chunks of 3 or 4 rather than word by word. Thinking about the character’s feelings helps children develop expression in their reading, which means altering one’s voice by attending to punctuation and in order to sound like the character or the storyteller.

Important Updates

Family Friday is coming up. Be on the lookout for updates. The topic will be the 100th day of school.

Winter Break is February 16-23. We hope you have a lovely break!

The New York City Rescue Mission is collecting donations for hygiene kits. Children decorated brown bags for the kits with heartwarming pictures. Please be sure to check the flyer that was sent home today for what you can donate.

January Newsletter

December was a busy month.  We enjoyed meeting new families during Meet the Teacher day and Family Friday.  Thank you to all who attended!


First graders studied non-fiction features this month.  We learned to identify differences between fiction and non-fiction books.  We found different features in our books and thought about the different ways features help us understand our non-fiction texts.

During January, we will spend a few days revisiting our reading workshop routines.  We will devote the remainder of the month to learning additional strategies that readers use to decode tricky words and understand confusing parts of books.

You can support your child at home by asking them to think about what strategies they can use when they are stuck on a tricky word.  You can continue to assist your child comprehend their books by asking questions about the books they are reading.



First graders wrote fiction stories in December.  They wrote stories that included characters, a setting, events, and a solution.  First graders added details by adding dialogue, thinking, feelings, and small actions.

We also began to write non-fiction how-to books.  Writers are learning to include materials, transition words, and step-by-step directions with teaching pictures.  In January we will continue to write how-to books.

You can help your child with procedural writing at home by having them name and/or write the steps for a daily routine such as brushing your teeth or making a simple recipe, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.


First graders completed a geometry unit about attributes.  We learned that color, shape, and size are attributes that we can use to describe and sort blocks.

In the latter part of the month, we began a problem solving unit.  We began our study by visualizing the action in different story problems.  We are learning to use a problem solving checklist to ensure that our math responses are clear and complete (see below).  We will continue to explore problem solving in January and will learn new strategies so that we can become efficient problem solvers.

You can support your child at home by asking them to model and solve simple number stories.

Seed Study

In Seed Study, students planted kidney beans.  It was great to involve so many families in our first planting day.

On December 21st, teachers from The City Growers Program visited the first grade.  We learned about worms and began to make compost.  We now have our own red wriggler worms in our classroom!  We will send a google doc requesting food scraps each week to feed our worms.  Thank you in advance for helping out with this project.  The children are very excited.

We are excited to continue writing and drawing like scientists and look forward to planting different seeds inJanuary.



Important Dates:

Monday, January 15th– MLK Day, school is closed


Thank you for your generous gifts.  It was so kind of you.  Happy Holidays!



Alina & Erin


December Newsletter

November was an exciting month for first graders.  Children welcomed their new classmates with open arms.  Children are learning about their new classmates and the adapting to new routines, rug spots, and line spots.  Please encourage your child to remember to line up in their line spot during morning drop off.  Overall, the transition from four to three classes has been a smooth one!

Please note that birthday celebrations will continue to occur on a monthly basis at the end of the month. We will put parents in contact with each other to coordinate items.



First Graders concluded our fiction elements reading unit.  We learned to use story elements such as characters, setting, a kickoff and other important events and a tie-up in our retells.

In the latter part of the month, we began to take a close look at non-fiction books.  We compared fiction and non-fiction texts and sorted books based on the fiction and non-fiction elements that we found. 

This month we will continue to explore non-fiction texts.  We will identify non-fiction features and the purpose of each feature.  We will practice using text features to locate important information in our books.  We will study different texts on the same topic and notice how the information presented is the same and different. 

You can support you child as they read non-fiction at home by discussing features, facts, and wonderings as they read.



First graders are using all that we learned during our last fiction reading unit to plan and write fiction stories.  Children are learning to choose a character and setting and plan a kickoff, events, and a solution, or tie-up.  We will learn to elaborate by adding dialogue, thinking, and feelings and will use a checklist to ensure that our stories are complete. Children will continue to work on conventions through the use of an editing checklist.

We’ve used oral storytelling to tell stories together and children have come up with many interesting characters and events.  You can try this activity at home by taking turns naming a character, setting, kickoff, events, and a solution. 

Our following unit will focus on non-fiction writing.  Children will write how-to books based on our seed study unit. 


First graders completed a unit on doubling.  We studied partners and pairs and played many doubles games to help us learn our doubles facts.  

We began a geometry unit of study about the attributes of shapes.   We are learning that shape, size, and color are attributes that we can use to name and sort shapes.  We will learn that different shapes can share attributes (e.g., both rectangles and squares have 4 sides) and that shared attributes can be used to define a larger category (e.g., quadrilaterals).

During the following unit, we will focus on problem solving steps and strategies.


Seed Study

In Seed Study, students observed, sketched, and wrote about seeds.

This week we began to explore how seeds travel.  Students used straws to explore how seeds move through air and water and noticed that different seeds move in different ways. 

In the upcoming weeks we will plant seeds to observe how they grow. We will also explore the conditions that a seed needs in order to grow well.

We will plant with students on December 15th and will need several families to volunteer to take our plants home and water them over the break.  Please let us know if you’re interested in helping out.


Important Dates:

Friday, December 4th – Meet the Teacher 3-3:45

Friday, December 15th– Family Friday, 8:45- 9:15 –Planting Day!

November Newsletter


First Graders are concluding a unit of study about the elements of fiction. Children learned that fiction stories are spun from our imagination and can contain things that wouldn’t happen in real life. Kids learned that most fiction stories have common elements or features including: title, setting, characters, events, a problem, and/or a solution. Not all stories have all elements. Kids realized that Piggy and Gerald books usually have no setting. Some stories may not have a problem. Understanding the elements of fiction helps kids comprehend and talk about books, including being able to retell a story to a friend. You may notice a new bookmark in your first-graders reading bag that they can use when reading and talking about books at home. The other side offers some suggestions for decoding tricky words.

Next we will be moving into a unit of study about the features of nonfiction text.


First graders were very excited to complete their first writing cycle of the year! We started by thinking about what was important in each first grader’s life. Students generated a list of ideas which then became fodder for imaginative stories or realistic nonfiction books. Children wrote over several pages to expand their books, and they used the five senses to add details to their writing. After a few weeks, they looked back at the books they created and began the publishing process. Kids reread their books and changed whatever didn’t make sense, they used the Word Wall to fix spelling, they added punctuation, they created covers and titles for their books, and finally, they practiced reading aloud to prepare for presenting their books to others.

Next, we will use everything we learned about the elements of fiction to write our own fiction stories with vivid characters and interesting events. One thing that helps story writing…is story talking. Next time you see an interesting picture, you may try asking your child what they think is going on in the scene.


First graders are finishing a unit of study about doubles and pairs. We started by asking students to think about how our class walks in two lines and whether everyone has a line partner in our class of 21 kids. We then asked, what if the class had only 3 people, 4 people etc. Students explored numbers between 1-30. Then we moved into doubling: we asked kids to think about real life things that usually come in pairs: shoes, gloves, etc. Kids explored the realized that if each person in a group has 2 of something, then the total number of objects can be found by doubling the number of people. Students used doubles facts (1+1, 2+2, 3+3…) and skip counting by 2’s (2, 4, 6, 8…) to problem solve. They recorded their problem-solving process through pictures, numbers, number sentences, labels, and words. Check out the bulletin board between Room 304 and Room 302 to see some of their work.


Next, we are moving into a geometric unit of study about the attributes of shapes.

Social Emotional Learning

Children thought about events in school or in their lives that trigger intense emotions. We read a book about a child who goes to a special calming place when they are feeling very upset. The children then chose a space in the classroom where they could go when they felt upset. We generated some calming activities to choose from and made those materials ready in that area. We named it the Peace Corner. Students have been practicing using the Peace Corner as a calm down space and then coming back to the class activities when they feel ready.


 Seed Study

In Seed Study, students are exploring seeds. First we observed seeds and noticed that seeds come in a variety of shapes, colors, sizes, and textures. Then we collected foods that may have seeds in them. Students made predictions about whether they would find seeds in a food, then we dissected to find out. Children are learning to be scientific about studying seeds: they make predictions and give reasons, they observe carefully and talk about what they notice, and they record their observations with realistic drawings, pictures, labels, and words. In a few weeks we will be planting seeds to observe how they grow. We will also explore the conditions that a seed needs in order to grow well.

Upcoming Events

Family Conferences will take place on Thursday November 16. We will send out a sign-up sheet soon.

Upcoming field trip to the Oculus Greenmarket on November 14.

There is no school on November 7, 23, and 24.

Next Family Friday will take place on November 17. More details to come.

October Newsletter



HALLOWEEN TUESDAY OCTOBER 31, 2017  (see Denise’s upcoming email for more details)


  1. Monday: Science
  2. Tuesday: Music
  3. Wednesday: Big Blocks
  4. Thursday: Library
  5. Friday: Art and P.E.



First graders have been practicing reading quietly and independently for up to 16 minutes every morning!

Also, they are also practicing reading their just-right books- which don’t feel too easy or too hard, but may have a few tricky words. Each student now has their own book box with approximately 10 books. Each week, students will switch those books for new ones from the Classroom Library. (More info on that to come). Additionally, each week, we visit the School Library, where students choose one book to keep in the classroom for the week.

In reading, we try our best by…

  1. Staying in our quiet bubble
  2. Staying focused on reading the whole time
  3. Using strategies for tricky words
  4. Taking care of the books
  5. Never giving up

We have been reading with partners, discussing books, and making predictions. This month, Class 304 will study the features of fiction (characters, setting, problem, events, and solution/tie-up). At home, you can ask your child to talk about the books they read, name their favorite part, what they think about the characters, and/or if they liked the book and why.



First graders were very excited to begin writing as soon as they entered the classroom! Students have practiced quiet and calm independent writing; creating imaginative fiction stories and informational non-fiction pieces.

First graders have been working on building independence in writing. Students have paper choice in the writing center, and they use the writing chart to support their process.

“If I think I am done writing, I can…”

  1. Re-read my story. Does it make sense?
  2. Check punctuation, spelling, and finger spaces.
  3. Add details to words.
  4. Color illustration.
  5. Start a new piece.

Our word wall allows first graders who need help spelling a tricky sight word. We have added familiar kindergarten sight words and will begin learning new first grade sight words soon! Other words can be spelled with invented spelling by stretching out a word and listening for the sounds, or tapping each sound in the word (ex: c-a-t).

This month in writing, we will review letter formation and begin writing narrative pieces about students’ personal experiences.



In math, we have been looking closely at math tools, many of which first graders are familiar with from kindergarten, including ten frames and the bead string. As they count the days of school, first graders are noticing patterns on the bead string, ten frames, and the hundreds chart.

The class has also been working on how to be helpful math partners. When playing a game or sharing one task, first grade mathematicians must work together by talking it out, sharing supplies, and stopping to agree or disagree with each other’s ideas.

This month, we will work on our doubling unit. We started by posing a question… “There are 21 kids in our class. When we walk in two lines down the hall, will everyone have a partner?” Students had to demonstrate how they knew their answer to be true by representing their thinking on paper. Some kids began thinking about how to ensure all kids have a partner by adding a teacher to the line. Eventually, kids will construct understandings about doubles facts, realize that all doubles are also even numbers, and that they are made up of groups of pairs. At home, you can look for things that come in doubles and count how many pairs and how many single objects.


Students have been talking about their feelings. Together, we read books about characters’ life experiences and discussed that we all have emotions, and that events in our lives can make us having certain feelings. Feelings can be less or more intense, and may even feel out of control. We can feel emotions in our bodies. Students wrote about times in their lives when they felt happy, sad, scared, and angry. We bound the work into feelings books, which are now housed in our classroom book display shelf near the rug area.  We will be creating a peace corner this month that students can use when they are experiencing out of control feelings.