Parent Orientation First Grade September 2003 Joan Cordingley, Dawne Lee and Hilary Gibbs, teachers We encourage you to read through this information before our orientation meeting on Thursday, September 18th. Please send us your questions and comments by Monday, so we can use our meeting time efficiently. We will meet in Krist Hall first, then adjourn to the classrooms. Routines: The establishment of expectations and routines are the major focus of the first six weeks of each school year. As teachers, our first job is to build, with the children, the foundation for a productive and cooperative year of learning and an atmosphere of support and collaboration. The children have come together in a new group, from different home and school backgrounds and each with his or her unique personality. We will focus on community-building activities, which introduce and familiarize the children with us, with each other, and with the structure of first-grade. First-grade learning involves participation, making mistakes, trying again. The children require an atmosphere in which they are comfortable with these activities. Students need to be able to function independently without constant adult control or direct supervision. Routines and clear teacher-expectations provide the scaffolding for this independence. “A sense of order and predictability . . . enables children to relax, to focus their energy on learning, and to feel competent.” (Responsive Classroom newsletter) Each child will reach this goal in his or her own time, with teaching and support from teachers, peers, and parents. Classroom doors are open by 8:00 a.m. Children may look at books and visit with each other for before we re-arrange our groups to start instruction at 8:15 (or immediately after Chapel on Thursdays). These first fifteen minutes are important for the children: this is when they move from home/child mode to school/student mode. They touch base with their classmates; they are relaxed and ready to be students by 8:15. Please appreciate this and make every effort to get your child to school on time! Daily work is not always immediately visible. We generate charts, fill in information in various on-going formats (calendars, experiments, book journals, daily journals, writing folders, etc.). Oral language development stimulates and strengthens thinking, reading, and writing, as well as oral communication skills. Process, which includes making and learning from mistakes, is often more important than product. Therefore, we encourage you to visit the classrooms from time to time, with your child as guide. Your child will satisfy some of his/her need to „show and tell‟ while s/he hones communication skills and brings you up to date on our activities. Integrated Curriculum: Teachers make every effort to co-ordinate on curriculum and what is required of the children. We do not have a formal „show and tell‟, but children are encouraged to bring relevant materials and/or information to share. Homerooms and instructional groups (color groups): Homeroom groups are fixed, while instructional groups are flexible. Your homeroom teacher is the main contact person for you and your child. She is the consistent beginning and end of each day, involved in arrival, greetings, and news from home each morning, in reflections on the day and the „red-tape‟ of notices, lunch money, car-pool, etc., at three o‟clock. Flexible instructional groups allow us to tailor our teaching not just to the children‟s academic needs, but to their developmental rates. Just as physical growth is individual and may be gradual or come in „spurts‟, and just as children lose their teeth at differing ages, so cognitive growth happens at each individual‟s own speed. Children experience plateaus in their learning and times when they blossom. With flexible grouping, a child may move between color groups to accommodate this individual rate of development with as little frustration or boredom as possible. All first graders have a half hour of recess together after lunch each day. On Friday afternoons, Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Cordingley will open their rooms to their two groups for various art activities and board games. Schedules: Schedules are posted outside the classrooms. Enrichment classes are Physical Education, Phonics, Art, Spanish, Music and Drama. We work on a three week rotation, with each day divided into three parts. This works well with our nine week report card schedule. Over the three week period, each child spends equal amount of time with Mrs. Lee for Mathematics and Science, with Mrs. Gibbs or Mrs. Cordingley for Reading, and with Mrs. Gibbs or Mrs. Cordingley for Writing and Language Arts. Thematically, groups may cover the same topics at different times of the year and in various ways. Social Studies is integrated throughout the curriculum. Each child will participate in two of each three Fridays. Homework: First-grade homework should not take more than twenty minutes a day. This will include spelling and other word-study assignments from Mrs. Gibbs or Mrs. Cordingley, and math activities from Mrs. Lee. Starting later in September, reading teachers will send home a book for the child to read to the parents at least once a week. Sometimes, homework will be collecting information through observations outside of school. Reading aloud by parents is, I hope, a daily event which both parents and children will continue for many years to come. Susie Zinser will send home a study guide before a Spanish test, but not other homework. Mrs. Davidson will send home information about what the children are studying in Phonics, handwriting practice pages when necessary, and sometimes work which has been started in class. If your child needs handwriting practice, please let them have a few minutes practice at home most days. It‟s important to get into good writing habits as early as possible. Conferences: Conferences will be scheduled on Friday, October 10 and Monday, October 13. A sign- up sheet will be available at the beginning of October. If you would like to have a conference after 3:30 p.m. on any other date during the year, please ask. Field Trips: January 14: by bus from the Mainland to Galveston Island Aesop‟s Fables at The Grand Opera House on Galveston; ferry from Galveston Island to Bolivar Peninsula; the Air Museum. Focus on transportation, basic land forms, reading and writing of fables. February: neighborhood walking field trips start. Others, by carpool, to be arranged. Miscellaneous Information: St.Thomas School Bags come to school Every Day. Tennis shoes are brought to school for P.E. on Chapel Thursdays. Please keep a sweater at school/in school bag Bring a paint shirt to be kept at school Christmas Breakfast party, Book Gift Exchange: First grade has a potluck and pancake breakfast in the week before Christmas break. Parents make and serve pancakes, children eat at tables in the classrooms. Children are invited to bring small samples of a traditional family food, to talk to us all for a minute about its cultural background, and to serve their classmates. We also have a book exchange. Each child brings a wrapped book ($5.). Teachers read a story and gift books get passed one at a time until the story gets to a certain word, then it is unwrapped by the person it stopped at, and the donor is thanked. Valentine‟s Day The focus is on making cards, writing poems, and visiting the Post Office. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ please clip and return _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ please clip and return_ ------------------------------------------------------------ VOTE: Individual Daily Snacks Group Snacks (35 snacks each day for one week) ------------------------------------------------------------ Comments, Questions: Social Studies: physical and human characteristics of places to live and work means of transportation change over time in ways of doing things history of family diversity of American culture variety of work opportunities consequences of choices respecting rights of others common humanity and uniqueness of families family interdependence, cooperation in families and groups culture passed on to children by family, school, and society using and making maps, using symbols and a key introduction of cardinal directions size relationships introduction of Earth/sun relationship, the equator and poles use of maps and globe continents shapes and location Language Arts: The First Grade Language Arts Program is literature based and includes stories, poetry and songs from many cultures. Children respond to texts through writing, storytelling, drama and art. As they reflect on literature though these activities, their comprehension deepens and their thinking is extended. In addition, the children‟s personal experiences, both in school and at home, are intrinsic motivators for both oral and written expression. There are opportunities to write exploring a variety of genres, such as stories, poetry, journals, reports and letters. The First Grade Language Arts Program supports not only children‟s language development, but also their intellectual, creative and social development.