First Grade with Jennifer and Matt

Week of October 16th with 1JM

on October 21, 2017

Dear Families of 1JM,

We hope you’re enjoying the weekend, so far, and today’s beautiful weather.  We were very fortunate to have similar weather on the day of our trip to the Tenafly Nature Center.  Thank you, again, to those who chaperoned, and to all who volunteered to do so.

Our next Family Visiting will be on Friday, November 3rd.  We look forward to seeing all of you.  You’ll find additional important dates at the end of this post.



The students have been learning a number of new strategies that will help them grow as readers.  In small groups,  some students continued to focus on using picture clues (“Eagle Eye”, “picture walk”) and learned to use “just the first letter of the word” to help decode the text and read “tricky” words.  The children then practiced these strategies when they read Catch Me if You Can and What Can I Be?, in addition to other texts that they’ve stored in their cubbies, so that they can reread them for further practice.  We have also been adding to our collection of sight words.  With other students, we introduced the reading role of “Discussion Director”, a strategy students use to develop questions that will help others (and themselves) deepen their comprehension of texts.  The students read “Monday Morning” in Fox All Week, stopping here and there to practice their new strategy.  Then, the students wrote down their questions, shared them with their partners, and delivered their favorite questions to the group.  Several wanted to know, “Why did Fox feel that he had to fib?” and “How did he feel when he saw his class on a trip while he was stuck at home?”

The class has also been practicing how to find “Just Right Reading” books that they can read on their own, to a friend, and to an adult.  They use their “Good Readers” bookmarks to save their place in their books.

This week in “Book Talk with Kelly”, Kelly read the final chapters of Ruth Stiles Gannett’s My Father’s Dragon, much to the children’s disappointment — the book now has a new following, with several students adding it to their list of favorites!  Kelly began the lesson by holding the book alongside Have You Seen My Dragon?, by Steve Light, to illustrate how to make text-to-text connections.  Noah noticed, “They both have maps!”  Chloe made a connection about the texts’ protagonists:  “Both are little boys.”  As a follow-up treat, Kelly gave the children lollipops, a connection to the “lollipop bridge” from My Father’s Dragon.

During “Story Time”, Wendy visited 1JM as our guest reader and read I Wish You More, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, to the group.  As a pre-reading activity, Wendy and the students had a discussion about wishes they have made that have come true and wishes they have made for other people.  After the read-aloud, the students were asked to close their eyes and think of wishes they could make for someone else.  Here are some examples of the wishes your children made for others:

  • “I wish everyone in this school has good health.” — Zoe
  • “I wish you more happy than sad.” — Ellis
  • “I wish my sister a happy birthday.” — Esme
  • “I wish you more life than tears.” — Chloe
  • “I wish there’s no violence.” — Akhil


The students reflected on their trip to the Tenafly Nature Center through discussion. Then, they wrote and drew about their experiences and memories from the trip, what they saw and learned. The children continue to write in their journals, using them to document the week’s most memorable events, and drawing pictures that correspond to their work.  Journal writing also offers the children the opportunity to practice writing sight words they are learning or have mastered.


In “Monica Math”, Monica reviewed shapes, sides, and corners (angles) and introduced the concept of symmetry.    Next, she showed the group a number of images on the Smartboard and asked the children to see if they could find something special about these shapes and images, like the Batman insignia, as she drew lines to show how there is symmetry in them.  Monica then had the children stand up and lie down sideways  to illustrate “vertical” and “horizontal” lines of symmetry.  For their “Symmetry Challenge,” the children were given grids and were asked to shade in squares to make designs that had both vertical and horizontal lines of symmetry.  A quick observation made by several members of the class was that the first letter of Harper’s name is symmetrical both vertically and horizontally!

We continued to work with shapes in class, and used pattern blocks to fill in different designs.  With the same designs, students were asked to complete the same task several times, each time using a different number of pattern blocks and recording their results … challenging at first.  After a couple of rounds, all of the students wanted to keep going and challenge themselves even further!

Friday marked our 30th day of school, providing the perfect opportunity to practice skip-counting by 10s and 5s during Morning Meeting.  We also use this time to practice “Calendar Math” where the children answer questions like  “in how many days will it be Halloween?” and “how many days ago was October 16th?,” for example.

Social Studies

As an introduction to our Social Studies curriculum, Matt (self-proclaimed lover of maps), led the children in an enthusiastic discussion that answered, “Why are maps useful? What are they good for?”  Responses included: “If you’re lost, [a map] could help you!” and “Tourists use maps!  Tourists use maps!” and “I used a map in Rome! Well, my family did.”  Matt then projected a Google Map of Friends Seminary and it’s surrounding area onto the Smartboard and zoomed out to show Manhattan, New York, and the earth, to illustrate how we don’t belong to just one, small community, but that we are also citizens of our school, our surroundings, and our world.  The students then had turns at  “Google Mapping” their favorite New York City sites (Yankee Stadium was at the top of the list for Teddy) and their homes.  Matt also showed north, east, south, and west on the maps and taught the students never eat soggy waffles, a mnemonic device to remember the directions.


The entire first grade went on a field trip to the Tenafly Nature Center! In preparation for this, the students have been learning about leaves and trees.  After a read-aloud of A Gift of a Tree, the group was asked, “What’s one gift a tree gives to our planet?”  The children then wrote about and drew the gifts that trees give to the earth.  Ari wrote and drew that, “Trees give us food.”  In Lala Jane’s response, she noted that trees give us “…paper and oxygen and food and maple syrup and chocolate and homes and wood.”  On our trip to the Tenafly Nature Center, the children were guided on a hike through the woods by a nature expert, and they searched for the leaves that they had found in Stuyvesant Park and studied in class.  Most of the leaves the students found on our Tenafly nature walk were from the Maple, Red Oak, White Oak trees, and the class favorite, the Sweet Gum tree.

Artist of the Month

In this week’s installment of our unit on Frida Kahlo, the children were shown slides of several of the artist’s portraits and while doing so, were asked to use their “eagle eyes” to study the paintings for common features.  The students’ initial observations included, “She doesn’t smile!” and “She has a mustache! She always has a mustache!”  As the list of common features grew, the children were asked to turn and talk to a friend and come up with the three features they saw the most frequently.  Our list was narrowed down to: animals, plants, roots, and flags.  Then, armed with this list of traits, the students went on a scavenger hunt in search of common features in Kahlo’s paintings, copies of which were posted around Room 20.  Next, the children counted the number of each common attribute found in each painting and recorded their data in graphs.   When we regrouped on the rug, the children shared their findings and shared responses to questions like, “Which painting has the most animals?” “Which painting has the fewest animals?” “How many more plants are there in painting one than in painting three?”  The children were then asked to circle their favorite Frida Kahlo portrait and write their answers to the question: What do you think Frida Kahlo is thinking about?  Some students responded, “T think Frida Kahlo is thinking about animals,” and  “I think Frida Kahlo is thinking about her own death.”

Community Period

This week’s first-grade-wide Community Period was held in Room 20.  Jaja of 1JJ led a presentation on the practice of vocal ministry to help the children (and the adults!) discern how and to whom we share messages that come out of silent reflection in Meetings for Worship and Morning Meetings.   The children were shown several examples of messages and were asked to decide, is this a message for myself, message for someone else, or a message for the group?  When Jaja held up “I played soccer so well today.  I’m really proud of myself,” a number of children decided that this was a message for myself.  Then Pierce raised his hand and shared, “It could be a message for others and the group because it could make other people want to play soccer also and be good at it, too.”

“Inevitably, not all vocal ministry will be equally meaningful to all present. Remember, ministry that does not speak to you may nevertheless be valuable to others” (…/spirit-led-vocal-ministry).

We end most days with a moment of silence and a discussion of the day’s events.  It’s a time for the children to share reflections on their favorite experiences of the day, and for some, this meeting is the highlight.  With every week that passes, we are reminded of how fortunate we are to have as our students this group of very special, thoughtful, kind, and brilliant children who make us laugh, think, and learn, too.

We hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend and the week ahead.

Jennifer and Matt

Important Dates to Remember

Tuesday, October 23rd: La Marqueta with a Mission (3:30pm – 5:00pm)

Wednesday, October 25th: Meeting for Worship led by Jason Craig Harris

Friday, November 3rd: Family Visiting (8:25am-8:55am);   Book Fair (9:15-9:40)

Thursday, November 16th and Friday, November 17th:  Parent/Teacher Conferences


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