You’re a First Grader…at Last!

Dear New First Grade Friends,

Hi!  I’m Mrs. Cooley, your first grade teacher!  Here is a picture I took with my new teacher planner.  I get really excited about all things related to school and school supplies!

I absolutely cannot wait to meet you!  I have been waiting all summer to find out who is in my class, and FINALLY, today– I got my list of students! I was so excited to see each of your names that I was doing a little happy dance-–I know you are going to be such a sweet, smart, and fun group of friends!

We are going to have such a magical year of learning together.  I just love to learn new things, and I bet you do too!  I absolutely LOVE reading-–and you need to know that I enjoy creating silly voices for characters when I read.  (I am especially good at reading Junie B. Jones books.)  I am kind of famous around here for reading and acting out the story at the same time, so it’s really funny to watch.  Did you like reading stations in Kindergarten?  Well, your new classroom has a play kitchen called the “Reading Restaurant” that is one of my favorite reading and writing centers.  You can cook up recipes, create menus, create stores, and have a BLAST reading and writing and playing.  It’s totally cool and I can’t wait to see your creativity and imagination at work!  I also have some of the most amazing books EVER, including little stuffed book buddies that you can read to.  Check out these guys I got this summer:

Ah!  It’s the Pigeon!  And Elephant and Piggie!  Knuffle Bunny is also one of my all time faves!  All that other stuff is art supplies and Birthday in a Bag stuff.  I’ve been shopping and having fun getting the classroom all ready for you and our learning adventures!

On the first day of school, we are going to do a few of my all time favorite science activities—(parents, if you scroll through my past posts, you can see some of the fun we have had with science learning—just try to keep it a SURPRISE for your upcoming first grader–I want them to be amazed!)

I hope to see all of you at Meet the Teacher on August 4th!  Please bring all your school supplies along with a big smile and hug for me, okay!? Have a great last few weeks of summer, and I will see you soon, first graders!


Mrs. Cooley

Parents, here are some Meet the Teacher Tips!

“Growing” as Learners

The classroom transformed into a little bit of “Seussville” at the beginning of this month!  The kids loved our Dr. Seuss author study, and they were so excited each day to get to read some of their favorite Dr. Seuss books to our special stuffed friends (from Kohl’s!)  The Reading Restaurant challenge was to create a “Green Eggs and Ham Cafe”–they were given green play doh, green string, and green markers to create food, menus and recipes!  They served their creations to their customers, The Sneetch and Marvin K. Mooney. 🙂

After reading a new favorite, Daisy Head Maisy, and then watching the movie version, the kids created daisy head hats!  I had to get a picture!

My junior scientists were THRILLED as we did a mini science lesson about solids & liquids, and then created Oobleck to go with the Dr. Seuss book, Bartholemew and the Oobleck!  It is a fantastic story with a message about appreciating what you have, and also saying the important words, “I’m sorry.”  Our experiment was all kinds of messy fun, so we took it outside to explore.  We were trying to figure out if Oobleck was a liquid or a solid.  (You can make your own oobleck at home with cornstarch, water, and a little bit of food coloring.)  It is TOO COOL.

 When you pick up Oobleck, you can roll it and make it into a ball, but it after holding it’s shape for a few moments, it will “liquify”.  So interesting!

Our science learning continues as we study heredity and traits of plants!  One of our first activities for this unit was to observe two like plants and identify their similarities and differences.  We grabbed our clipboards and took a mini field trip to our school garden!

We were fascinated as we watched several giant bumblebees actually coming to pollinate the flowers!  Well, some of us didn’t watch.  Some of us ran!  🙂

We took our observations indoors at the writing table.  During reading stations, the kids were able to observe a variety of flowers, leaves, and stems, comparing the flowers and checking out some of their parts with magnifying glasses.

During our morning STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) tubs, some students were inspired to build their own creative Lego garden!

One of our science lessons began only with a question:  Do ALL seeds look like what they grow into?  Then I taped 6 baggies filled with different seeds to the front board for observation.  I wrote down their guesses of what the seed could be below each bag.  I didn’t reveal the seed packet until after the students made their guesses.  We discovered that corn and pea seeds look like what they grow into.  The other seeds did not look like what they grow into.

In teams of two, we planted “mystery seeds”.  We made scientific predictions about what we thought our seeds might grow into–fruit, vegetable, or flower.  I am REALLY hoping they begin to grow soon.  A little worried about my own gardening skills!  HA!  🙂

We also completed a plant STEM activity.  The challenge was to construct a model of a tree–with roots, a stem, and leaves–and, the tree must stand upright.  The junior scientists were given a list of materials they would be provided with–a cup, soil, straws, and pipe cleaners.  First, they had to develop a plan for what they thought they might do before they were given the materials.  The students worked in teams to begin constructing their model.  Many were surprised that they had to change their original plans, because it was not working the way they had mapped it out!  They also realized that working with another friend, they had to share ideas and talk about changes they wanted to make together.  When the kids shared at the end, many revealed that they thought the activity was harder than they thought it would be–but none of them ever said that–they kept pushing through, trying different ways to make their trees, and they worked for 30 minutes diligently.  So AWESOME.  Little engineers at work!

Check out the finished “tree models” below, and their adorable creators:

As you can see, we are definitely “GROWING” as learners this year!

Sweet February!

Sweet February!  This month has so many of my personal favorite holidays and themes for teaching!  We started February with a study about groundhogs.  We also created a mini book all about Punxutawney Phil–the magical groundhog–who appears each Groundhog Day to predict the weather!  On Groundhog Day, we watched Punxutawney Phil’s weather prediction, and then the kids made their own groundhogs to take outside to see if they would see their shadows! As you can see, it was a very cloudy day…so we talked about how shadows are made!

As Valentine’s Day approached, our classroom was busy creating Valentines and kind cards at our “Valentine Creation Station”.  The kids loved making cards for their friends and family, and it was so sweet to see the faces of friends who received nice messages!

Our play kitchen challenge (a.k.a. The Reading Restaurant) was to create a Valentine Treat Shop.  The kids were given a few boxes, paper, markers, and craft materials to set up their play shop.  It is rewarding to observe their imagination and creativity at this station.  The authentic learning through play that happens is incredible–just at this station, I watched as students were writing menus, taking orders on order pads, creating signs and decorations, adding price tags to treats, and whipping up treat box labels to go with all the fun “treats” they cooked up!   They named their shop “The Love Joy Cupcake Shop”.  So stinkin’ cute.

Some friends even found a little time to make their teacher a specialty cupcake.  It was “delish”.  🙂

And, of course, we had our Valentine exchange and Sweetheart Snack!  I snapped a few pictures as the kids were checking out all their fun surprises!

Any lesson with treats is always a big hit–even though my first graders were very surprised that I voted “No” on our class graph below!  On Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras Day, we sampled Mini Moon Pies and created a bar graph to show our data.  After creating a bar graph as a class, they were asked to take the data and create their own tally chart in their math journal to show the results.   

I hope you all enjoyed your special Valentine from your first grader–their responses were precious!  Thanks for reading all about our Sweet February!

Christmas Airlines, Gingerbread Shop, & a Grinch Party

The month of December was full of so many fun and interactive learning activities!  Our biggest project of the year is our Christmas Around the World Scrapbook.  Each student was given a Christmas Airlines boarding pass and passport for their journey to each country!  From our comfy classroom chairs, the tiny world travelers were able to “fly” aboard Christmas Airlines with Mrs. Cooley as the flight attendant and tour guide to each country!  We visited the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in NYC, got a treat from the Navidad piñata in Mexico, sampled real gingerbread and stollen bread in Germany, created tiny Christmas cards and opened Christmas crackers in England, took photos of all the tourist sights of Italy, and saw 360 degree views from the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France!   All along the way, students journaled, crafted, and placed keepsakes from each country into their scrapbooks.

img_3691Stopping to take a picture in front of the BIG Christmas tree in NYC!  After a little ice skating, of course.


Even Miss Annie came to teach us more about traditions around the world in some of the same countries we were studying!  Below is a picture of Eva dressed as St. Lucia from Sweden!


December also brought us a few cozy PJ days.  I love this picture.  They are PRECIOUS!


Polar Express Day is always a magical day in our room.  We read the book by Chris Van Allsburg, then watched the movie together and sipped on hot chocolate–YUM.


We even transformed our reading restaurant station into a hot chocolate shop!  The kids were also inspired by gingerbread stories and gingerbread cutouts with buttons and ribbon to create a gingerbread cookie shop.  They wrote recipes for how to make cookies for Santa.  They also were given ornaments, a tree skirt, and a star, and were able to decorate a tiny Christmas tree at this station.  After decorating, they could write a “how to” piece teaching others how to decorate a Christmas tree!


We ended the month celebrating together with our Grinch themed Christmas party!  Our sweet room mom went all out!  The food, decorations, and craft were ADORABLE.  I mean, look at those cupcakes!  Grinchy perfection.


The party was so much fun–it only got a little crazy when I asked everyone to change into their new socks from our silly sock exchange!  HA!  But, listen, I can live with a few moments of crazy– because these pictures are the cutest and I am so glad I captured the moment!  Sweet friends!


I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas break!  I can’t wait to see what new adventures the New Year brings!

The Screaming Balloon Experiment

We have been learning about sound and sound waves this past week.  We went on a “listening walk” to listen for sounds around our school.  We also did a Mystery Sound Box activity.  I shook 8 boxes with different items inside each, and the kids made predictions about what they thought was inside each box.  It was tricky!

On Friday, we did an easy sound experiment called “The SCREAMING Balloon.”  Each group was asked to come choose a balloon “baby”.  I told them to be careful, because some of the babies were screamers!  Once they chose a balloon, they were asked to swirl the balloon around to see if it was a quiet balloon or a SCREAMING balloon!  Some were shocked when their balloons started to scream!  Each group knew that something was inside the balloons, but why were some screaming, and some not?


We talked about what was inside the balloons.  Inside some of the balloons, I placed a penny.  In others, I placed a hex nut.  They were allowed to look at each, to see the difference in the two objects.  The kids observed that the hex nuts had points, while the penny’s edges were smooth.  Since we had talked about how sound is made by vibrations, the little scientists quickly concluded that the hex nut was what was causing the screaming in the balloons.  The penny will swirl around inside the balloon without making a noise. Since the hex nut has uneven sides, it created a vibration inside the balloon and made the noise.

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Contraction Surgery

Mrs. Cooley’s class…reporting for surgery!


Contractions are two words put together to create a shorter word.  For example, can and not become “can’t”.

We have been talking about contractions and apostrophes for a few weeks, but to help the kids practice this concept, I gave each surgeon a bucket of word “patients” and a patient chart, and they became surgeons for the day–using scissors to remove letters, and bandaging the patients using band-aids as the apostrophes!  The kids were SO engaged that the room was CRAZY quiet as they worked/performed surgery!  It was so much fun, and quite possibly one of my favorite teaching days ever!  We had a BLAST! They were thrilled to know they could keep their masks and gloves!  🙂 Check out some of the talented surgeons below:

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We made a chart of our contraction word patients so we could remember some of the tricky contractions we need to know how to read and spell this year!


Learning with Apples!

Apples took over our classroom during the month of September!  We used apple themed activities to have fun with literacy and math skills! The kids loved the book, Apple Trouble!  After reading, everyone created their own hedgehog character, and then practiced retelling the story using pieces they created.  That silly hedgehog had so many things stuck to his back!


At our “Reading Restaurant” station, the kids had several reading themed activities to complete using the apple sensory tub!  After completing the activity, the kids got creative and used the sensory tub pom poms and plastic apples to cook with in our kitchen.  Some wrote fantastic apple recipes–including one unique recipe for Apple Brownies!


We practiced combinations of 7 by going “apple picking”.  The apple farmers were challenged to come up with several different ways to make the number seven using red and green apples!  Pom poms were an awesome math tool and visual for us to make combinations!


img_3107Look at all the combinations we came up with!


On Johnny Appleseed’s birthday, we celebrated with an Apple Tasting Party!  Many thanks to the families who sent in items to make our party possible!  We also made homemade applesauce in the crockpot together.  It smelled WONDERFUL!  After cooking, we did a shared writing activity to write the steps for how to make applesauce.


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We created a pictograph to show our favorite apple treats!  Apple cereal was a class favorite!  We had so much apple-licious fun!


Math Tubs and Counting Collections

The first couple of weeks of school, we have been working on building number sense and counting skills.  The kids have been working with ten frames, and have been practicing subtilizing through something we call “number talks”.  (See the terms chart below to learn more!)

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Each day, the kids are taught a math skill to practice with an activity or game, then they are asked to apply their learning independently.  After the little mathematicians can show me their new learning, they are able to choose a math tub to continue their learning and practice skills we have learned before!  They love math tub time, and I have shared a few pictures of the games in our current math tubs below!

BUMP is a class favorite!  This game is perfect for basic addition skills–and, using dot cubes with math games helps with subitizing!  I plan to send home BUMP as a homework game soon!

Plus or Minus One Bingo–this game has the kids using mental math skills.  After drawing a card off the top of a deck, they have to decide whether they want to add one to that number, or subtract one.  The kiddos playing this game were super engaged in their learning!


Addition Bowling–students roll two dice, add the pair together, then cover that number on their bowling pin mat.  The first to “knock over all the pins” is the winner!  Simple, but addition skills and subitizing are again the focus of this game.


The piggy bank game is a great way to practice coins and their values.  Your child will have to correctly identify and give the values for each coin this year!  Whenever you have extra change, take your coins out and practice this skill with your child!  🙂  If they are already able to identify and name the coins, you can have them practice counting nickels by 5’s, or dimes by 10’s!


Snap cube sums is an awesome math tub for visual learners to SEE how addition combines two numbers.  This group worked hard to build each number and write the sums.


Each Friday, your child will do “Counting Collections” to build number sense, counting skills.  This week we did our first counting collections.  Everyone was given a cup of fun items to count.  They were asked to count, then recount the items in the cup.  Many kids organized their objects into groups, which helped their accuracy! After counting, they are to represent the number in their journal, then label their drawing with numbers and a total.  As the year progresses, our counting collections will move into numbers over 100, so organizing and grouping their collections will be especially important!


Little Scientists!

We kicked off first grade with a few exciting SCIENCE activities!

The kids faces were PRICELESS when we made our magic bracelets.  I gave everyone a bag of clear beads and a pipe cleaner, and told them that even though the bracelets looked a little plain, they were actually magical.  Immediately they got to talking with their table friends about what they thought the bracelets could do.  Some thought they might glow in the dark.  Others thought they might be able to make them fly!  Some wondered if they might change color.  One friend hoped it would grant wishes.  I loved seeing that spark of curiosity–and it is my hope to keep the kids curiosity for learning all year long!  I told them we would be taking a walk outside, and by the time our walk was finished, they would know why those bracelets are special.  You see, if you are going to have an amazing first grade year, something will happen to that clear, plain looking bracelet….


The kids were absolutely amazed when they stepped outside–those plain, clear beads became bright & multi-colored!  I was so impressed, because they immediately started questioning why it happened.  Which became a lesson about scientific thinking–because scientists do exactly what they just did–predict, question, and wonder!  The kids shared so many smart ideas–a few kids wondered if the bracelet changed color because of the change in temperature–going from the cold air conditioning to the heat outside.  Some kids wondered if it had to do with LIGHT.  *YES!  These are UV beads, and they change colors in the sunlight.*


Later in the week, we went outside to do one of my favorite experiments of all time!  It is so easy–all you need is Mentos candy and a 2 liter of Diet Coke.  I also have a Mentos “loader” that I bought to attach to the coke bottle so I have time to RUN!  HA!  I asked the kids to predict what they thought might happen.  Then we set up the experiment, and counted down from 10–I pulled the launcher, and the Diet Coke exploded, creating a geyser that shot about five feet into the air!  I can never grab a picture of it while it’s happening, but here was the after…


After the experiment, we went back to the classroom to talk about why they thought the candy made the Diet Coke explode.  Their ideas are below. Everything on the chart is what the kids said to me.  We learned a new word–“Dissolve”–and we made plans to set up another experiment to see if it will work with Sprite, too (thanks to Jett for his awesome suggestion!)  I think I have a class full of little scientists!   This year is going to be a BLAST.



Wish List Items!

I had so much fun at “Meet the Teacher” last night!  Thank you for coming and bringing supplies–that helps prepare all of us for the first day of learning!  I had a few parents ask about my wish list!  If you are able to purchase one of these items, I know our class would benefit greatly from it!  I have added a play kitchen to my classroom for the first time EVER.  I am beyond thrilled to have it as part of our “Reading and Writing RESTAURANT”  literacy station–so I have added several items to my Amazon wish list to help us “stock the kitchen” with fun foods and cooking utensils!  I am also very excited to try out “Morning Tubs” this year.  When your child arrives at school for the day, they will have from 7:30-8:00 to build, create, experiment, solve, and have fun with the creative tools inside each tub.  It is my hope that through morning tub PLAY–they will discover, question, and become creative and imaginative thinkers!  I have asked for play-doh (and some other building/science/art materials) on my Amazon wish list.  I cannot wait to see these new additions to the classroom in action!  I know the kids are going to have such a great time learning!

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