Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December Update

Wow! The first half of the school year has flow by! The snow is finally here and room 26 is bustling with holiday activities. As we round the corner toward break, here is an update on the learning that has been happening at school:

During the past month, we saw a great deal of growth in the children's reading abilities. First graders have been working on shifting from just reading through the book to becoming more thoughtful and reflective readers. More specifically, we have been working on demonstrating our comprehension through re-telling. When reading and talking about books with your children, ask them to talk about the following:
  • Main characters of the books 
  • Setting 
  • Main events of the story (Be sure to encourage them to tell from beginning, to middle, to end). 
Next, we will be talking about questions, predictions, and connections we make while reading. We hope you are continuing to enjoy your time reading together and talking about books at home.

Our first grade authors are working toward publishing their second books. These books will be “How-To” book (procedural writing). The students have learned to write clear and detailed directions in sequence. We have everything from “How to Make a Snowman” to "How to Bake a Cake"  to “How Catch Santa!” All very useful books! The children also continue to focus on making their writing more readable. Recently, we have been reinforcing correct sentence formation, making sure they begin with capital letters and end with periods. We want this to become a more automatic skill for the first graders. Look for your child’s second published book to come home after winter break.

Last month, we participated in Rock On, traveling rock activities brought to us from the Children's Museum. We also put a special rock in the rock tumbler and turned this rock into a necklace! Recently the first graders practiced measuring and weighing rocks from their own rock collections using scales, balances, and rulers. Now, we're wrapping up our study of rocks by creating our very own 1st Grade Rock Museum! Look for the official invitation in your child's folder. The museum will be on display in the 1-2 commons from Wednesday 12/14 to Friday 12/16.

Did you know your child is a programmer?!? After the Lower School Code-IN, the first graders have continued to learn about coding in our classroom. First we practiced in an off-line activity called "My Robotic Friend" where the students learned to write algorithms (sets of code) to program their "robot" (a classmate) to create a cup stack formation. Next, we participated in Hour of Code, a world wide movement from to engage children (and adults!) in learning coding. It has been exciting to watch the children problem solve and de-bug as the write their lines of code. There have been many moments of cheering in the classroom when someone finally accomplishes a successful set of code after A LOT of problem solving!!

In math, we have been working on addition and subtraction strategies for numbers to 20. We have learned a strategy called "Make Ten" and another strategy, "Doubles plus one." (See below for examples). In time, these strategies will help students to visualize numbers more broadly strengthening their mental math skills beyond basic memorization. We will also continue learning how to apply these addition and subtraction skills to real-world story problems. You will want to continue to find opportunities to practice math facts with your child at home. Currently, addition facts to 10 and doubles facts will be most beneficial.

December brings many holiday celebrations to room 26. We learned about Hanukkah traditions by playing dreidel, eating latkes, and sharing stories. We also attend Advent ceremonies 2 mornings per week to prepare for the holiday season with singing and prayer. Another special first grade tradition is candy houses. Last Friday, we decorated festive miniature houses with colorful candy to celebrate winter and the holidays. The children are also enthusiastically preparing for a magical holiday performance this Thursday evening (see details below). On the last day before winter break, we will have a relaxing day in our classroom. We’ll take time to enjoy our friends, read cherished holiday stories, and enjoy the magic of this season! Oh yeah...and we'll be nice and cozy because it is a NON-UNIFORM day!

Wishing your family peace and warmth,
Ms. Bennett and Ms. Madden (and Peppermint the Elf)

Upcoming Dates:

December 14-16- First Grade Rock Museum on display in the 1-2 Commons

December 15- Lower School Holiday Program 6:30 PM in the Chapel
                        Children should arrive at classrooms at 6:15. Semi-dressy attire.
                         **Check Lost and Found tables on this evening.**

December 16- Last day of School before winter break NON-UNIFORM Day
                       -Reading Celebration (Children can bring a small stuffed animal.)

January 3- School Resumes

Monday, December 5, 2016

Lower School Holiday Program

The Lower School Holiday program will be on
Thursday, December 15 at 6:30pm  
Students should be at the classrooms at 6:15pm.
This is a semi-dressy evening.  

Students will return to the classroom following the program. You can pick up your child from there. Plan to bring his/her candy house home with you that evening. You may want to bring a paper bag.

Also, it’s a great time to check the Lost & Found tables!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Math in Focus Update

This month, we are focusing on addition and subtraction facts to 20. The children are continuing to learn about grouping numbers and strategies for adding and subtracting. Your child will need to become fluent with facts that equal ten (ie. 2+8, 4+6, 3+7...) as well as doubles facts (1+1, 2+2, 3+3...). You may want to fid some fun ways to practice these math facts at home. We will continue to send fun math games for homework that promote practice with addition and subtraction facts, as well.

Ideas for more games:

Play "Concentration" again with playing cards. Players flip 2 cards and try to collect the cards that add to 10. 

Play "Number Search." Draw the numbers from 0-10 on a paper over and over and over again. Make sure to write them mixed up all over the paper (like a word search). Once the paper is filled with numbers, try to find and circle numbers to group the ones that add 10. To make it more challenging, circle more than 2 numbers that would make 10 (ie. 3+2+5).

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Grandparents' Day

We enjoyed a wonderful morning together on Grandparents' and Special Friends' Day. First graders and their guests explored the classroom, created pinecone crafts together, visited specialist classes, and went to a chapel service. Here are some photos from the day:

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Rock On!

Last week, we hosted a Minnesota Children's Museum To-Go class called "Rock on!" The first graders went to an Upper School science lab space to explore sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks. They experimented with sinking/floating, sifting, and sorting. We ended the day with a special surprise...rock necklaces made from their very own rock tumbler rocks!! Here are some photos from the day:

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Responsibilities for Young Children

This month in CARE, we are talking about RESPONSIBILITY. Over the years, families have asked me for ideas to promote more responsibility in their children. First graders are at an age where their level of independence is growing so I wrote a brief article to help families grow this important life skill in their children. Click the link to read more: Responsibilities for Young Children

Thursday, November 17, 2016

November Update

Halloween has passed, the air is getting colder (dare we say the word "snow??"), and the first graders are busier than ever! In the classroom we continue work on the skills and habits needed to grow into more focused students, ready for deeper thinking and learning. Here's a look at what we've been up to lately:

Reading and Word Work

The first graders are becoming more capable and thoughtful readers. We have begun book shopping from our classroom library and our readers can’t wait to get their hands on new books! The last month of reading instruction mainly focused on strategies for reading unknown words and determining the meaning of vocabulary. We hope you have been enjoying watching your child's progress at home through their take home reading. Next, we will be focusing more on the comprehension side of reading and begin to practice retell, making connections, and checking for understanding.

Our word study groups have been an opportunity for us to study how words work. Some of the concepts our groups have focused on:
  • Hearing beginning middle and ending sounds
  • Rhyming
  • Recognizing syllables
  • Learning high frequency (sight) words
  • Making plurals


What an amazing group of authors we have in room 26! After completing our "Small Moments" unit, the first graders are entering into informational writing (a non-fiction genre) with How-To books. In this form of procedural writing, our first grade experts are writing directions to teach how to make or do something. Of course, we'll still be working on spelling, capitalization, spacing, punctuation, and other important writing skills, too.


In Science, we have continued our study of rocks by sorting and classifying our personal collections of rocks. We have also explored the uses of rock around Breck School using our rock guidebooks. We found many types of rock at Breck, including granite in the chapel, slate on the middle school floor, and salt (’s a rock!) in our dining room. We also ventured to the Breck pond to collect a special rock for a rock tumbler experiment. We wondered what would happen to our rocks in a rock tumbler machine. In the end, the tumbled rocks were a bit smoother and shinier...perfect for a rock necklace!!


We are just wrapping up a unit on numbers to 20 in our new math curriculum, Math in Focus.  In this unit, we worked on developing the foundation for place value (tens and ones) as well as a broader understanding of number comparison (more/less, greater than/less than). The students continue to deepen their thinking about numbers and persevere with challenging mathematics. Next, we will take a short break from number and computation to explore another side of math...geometry and shapes!!

Social Studies/C.A.R.E. 

Elections and voting were the BIG topic this month in social studies. We discussed the general ideas of voting, candidates, political parties, and read many fun books like Duck for President and Grace for President. During November and December we are focusing on a familiar C.A.R.E. theme of “Responsibility." We are defining this as: "seeing a need and taking action to do the right thing!" In the classroom, children are discussing ways to be responsible at home, at school, and in the greater community. The holidays are a great time to volunteer as a family if you would like to teach your child more about being a responsible citizen and contributing to others. My favorite resource for family friendly volunteer opportunities is:

Growth Mindset

You may have heard your child talking about growth vs. fixed mindset (a BIG idea for a first grader!) but we talk about this topic a lot in the classroom. When approaching school work, especially if it is challenging work, we often observe children slipping into a "fixed mindset" and they will say things like, "I can't do this!" or "This is too hard." With coaching, we help them to first recognize that this type of thinking is called "fixed mindset" and it does not help us to learn and grow our brains. Instead, we want to re-train our brain to think with a "growth mindset" and say things like "I can't do this...YET" or "This is challenging but I can do hard things!" 

Here is a brief intro video if you are not familiar with the concept:

Looking Ahead... 

A very special day in November is Grandparents' and Special Friends' Day. The children will spend a great deal of time and effort preparing to host their guests in our classroom. If you have not registered your child and his/her guests yet, please contact Barbara Hedensten in Advancement 763-381-8129.

SNOW! I hardly want to say the word but it is likely to arrive in MN soon. When the first glorious snow falls, your child will need to have snow pants, coats, hats, gloves, boots, etc. for recess each day. Many families opt to keep a pair of snow pants at school. Also, be sure to label EVERY item. Our lost and found tends to be FILLED with lost hats and mittens by the end of winter.

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving!
Ms. Bennett and Ms. Madden

Important Upcoming Dates: 

November 18      Pajama Day
November 23      Grandparents' Day (School ends at noon.)
Nov. 24-28          NO SCHOOL-Thanksgiving Holiday/Teacher Workshop
November 29      School Resumes
December 1        Orchestra Hall Field Trip (Chaperoned by teachers.)
December 2        Skating Begins (Volunteers for skate tying will be contacted with details.)
December 9        Candy House Activity (Volunteers will be contacted.)
December 13      Hanukkah Party (Volunteers will be contacted.)
December 15      Lower School Holiday Program (6:30 PM-Chapel)
December 16      Last Day of school before Winter Break (No Extended Day)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Service Opportunity

 Winter Wear Wanted!

The Lower School is collecting new and gently used Winter Wear 
for families experiencing homelessness.
Coats  Jackets  Boots Snowpants

Students may bring donations to their classroom or 
deliver to the "Service Shelf" located near Gym C.
Nov. 29 - Th. Dec. 14 - Thanks!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Math Update

Hello Families,

Currently we are wrapping up a unit from Math in Focus on Numbers to 20. In this unit, we're beginning to lay the foundation for place value (tens and ones) as well as working on number comparison (more/fewer, greater than/less than).

More ideas to keep math going at home:

  • Play "I'm thinking of a number..." To play, say "I'm thinking of a number between 0-20." Child guesses a number. You only answer, "more" or "less." The child continues guessing until they narrow it down to the actual number. Switch roles. It's great practice both ways!!
  • Watch this fun Youtube video about teen numbers:
  • Continue growing adding skills by playing Addition Blocks: 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Publishing and Celebrating our First Books

During the first writing unit of first grade, our authors have done brave work while writing small moment stories. They learned to bring their stories to life with sequence, details, emotion, dialogue (speech bubbles), and action. They have also grown more aware of spelling, spacing, and punctuation. The authors selected a favorite small moment story for publishing and worked for several days to fix up and fancy up their books. We even got some help from some experienced 2nd grade mentor authors!

Last Friday, we celebrated our accomplishments in our author's celebration. We dedicated an area of our library to be the "authors shelf," shared our newly published books with each other, and collected autographs. Your child was excited to share this book with you and we hope you have had time to listen to their story, admire their work, and encourage their strengths as a writer. Please remember to return these books to school by Friday.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Note from Chaplain Zosel (AKA Mrs. Z)

Students are invited to bring in photographs of beloved people in their lives who have died during the past year.  We have an "ofrenda" on a large table in the hall outside the chapel.  Students may bring labeled photos to school, then deliver to me or place them directly on the table.  They will be displayed through Nov. 23, and returned to students by Nov. 30.

Our theme for Grandparents Day is "Salve! May You Be Well!"  Students are encouraged to call or email their Grandparents Day guests and ask them "What does being well mean to you?"  If students would like a response to be included in the Grandparents Day Chapel they can send the response to by Nov. 16.

Thank you for all of the generous contributions to "Breck Scares Hunger!" We are still weighing and tallying, but we are hoping to meet our goal of 14,000 pounds!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween in Room 26

We had a "spook-tacular" time celebrating Halloween at school. The day began with the costume parade and sing along followed by our classroom party. We decorated mini-pumpkins, played Halloween BINGO (with a SUMO WRESTLER!), colored picture frames, and constructed fruit kabob jack-o-lanterns! Please enjoy these photos from our celebration:

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Note about Math

Dear Families-

From time to time, I will post updates from our Singapore math curriculum, Math in Focus, to keep you informed about the work your first grade mathematician is doing in the classroom and ways you can further practice the skills at home. Currently, we are working on a subtraction unit. During this unit we want to make sure that students get a strong foundation on the CONCEPTUAL side of subtraction. Later we will work on fact fluency. For now, you'll want to focus practice on examples and play with the concept of subtraction. See below for ideas:

More ways to practice and play with subtraction:

  • Talk about examples of subtraction that you see in your home life. (ie. At the dinner: "I have 8 beans on my plate. I eat one. Now I have 7. 8 minus one is 7).
  • Make up subtraction stories.
  • Play "What's hiding?" by gathering a small collection of objects (coins, beads, noodles...). Show a total (whole) then take some away and hide them behind your back or under a bowl or paper. Ask you first grader, "what's hiding?" Repeat with totals 10 or fewer. 
  • Play with playing cards or dice: Roll/reveal numbers. Subtract to find the difference. 
  • Play Ballon Pop Subtraction:

Monday, October 24, 2016

Hedberg Aggregates Field Trip

Last week, we took a science field trip to Hedberg Aggregates. We collected rock samples and toured the large collection of rocks at Hedberg.  We also explored their rock displays and sat on their collection of rock benches. Special thank you to Jeff Greeney and the Hedberg company for their generous support of this field trip. We hope you enjoy this slideshow of photos from our trip:

Update about First Grade Homework

Dear Families,
This week we began working into our first grade homework routine. The first layer of first grade homework is the take-home reading routine. Thank you for your support with reading these books together at home and returning them daily. We hope you find this to be a meaningful home school connection.

Many families and children may be curious about how the rest of grade 1 homework will unfold. With the new Singapore math curriculum, we are in the process of developing a thoughtful homework plan to extend our curriculum and provide worthwhile math homework for first graders. We are looking to continue rolling out our first grade homework within the next few weeks. For now, you can anticipate the following about homework:

  • Book bags will continue to come home each day.
  • Other homework elements will be mainly Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.
  • Occasionally, larger homework projects and games will come home with multiple days for flexibility of completion.
  • One piece of the homework routine will be ongoing math fact practice.
  • One day of homework each week will focus on a literacy activity.

This can all be QUITE CONFUSING so know that homework will always be outlined each week on the Peek at the Week. Please sign or initial the sheet after the work has been completed. The “Peek at the Week” should go back and forth in the take home folder each day. Feel free to write comments or questions, especially if your child didn’t understand the homework or if it was too hard.  If you felt it was fun, we’d like to hear those comments, too!        

Please be prepared to be flexible and patient with us as we work toward a meaningful and manageable homework plan for your first grader and family.

Thank you,
Grade 1 Teachers

Breck Scares Hunger

Hello Families,  

We wanted to make sure that EVERYONE knows they are invited to participate in "Breck Scares Hunger".  We are working together throughout all divisions to collect 14,000 pounds of food to help stock local food shelves. This is OPTIONAL, but if you wish to participate, there is an information card in your child's folder. 

Incentives for Lower School:
4 tons - extra recess
6 tons - The bounce house will show up at a recess
7 tons - Mr. Kim will camp out in the Headmaster's Garden, and wear pajamas all day.  Top participants will join him for breakfast, and everyone gets a pajama day!

Please bring donations to US or MS/LS entrances to be weighed on Oct. 31Nov. 1, or Nov. 2, before school, 7:45-8:30 AM. Donations can also be brought to school on Sunday, Oct. 301-4 PM, LS/MS entrance.

We can do this! Go team!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Singapore Math Night

Below you will find the parent handout from the Lower School Math night with our Singapore Math consultant, Cassey Turner. We will be posting a link to the video of her presentation soon.


Friday, October 14, 2016

October Update

It's been a great first month of school! The children have been busy making friends, learning new routines, and figuring out what first grade is all about. We enjoyed meeting with you at conferences and hope you've been able to connect with your child's learning via Seesaw.  Each month, I also post an update on this website to give you an overview of all the learning that has been happening at school. Here is a little glimpse into what's been going on in room 26:


In reading, we have been working on reading LONG and STRONG! We decorated our very own book boxes and are beginning to fill them with lots of just-right books. We have also started working in reading groups to introduce strategies for problem solving words, building vocabulary, and developing fluency. Later in October, we will begin our take-home reading routine. At this time, you can expect your child to bring home a baggie of books nightly to practice as a part of the homework. We will send more information in a note soon. Thank you for your help with this important part of developing your child as a reader.


We have a strong bunch of writers in room 26!! They have been learning to identify small moments in their own lives that could become a story on paper. We call these "seed ideas." Our young authors are also learning to tells their stories over many pages, adding details to both the pictures and words. Their writing folders are bursting with stories. We'll be ready to publish our first books in just a few weeks! Thank you for your help with the writing folder project. These folders will be a helpful tool for new writing ideas all year long.


We have already finished 3 units in our new Singapore math curriculum, Math in Focus. In these first units, the first grade mathematicians learned to think more deeply about the relationship of numbers and the concept of addition. They were challenged to discover how many possible ways there are to create a total (also called a "whole"). Next, we began to think about addition through math stories. This has challenged the first graders to see math in their own lives and to develop an ability to show and explain our thinking through pictures, equations, and discussion. Now we are moving into a unit about subtraction that will keep building this mathematical foundation for our young learners. If you are interested in knowing more about this new curriculum, please see the posting below about Math Night (Note that this event is a parent-only meeting).


In Science, we are continuing our study of rocks and the Earth. Our field trip to Minnehaha falls was the perfect start to our first grade science work. We practiced our observation skills while sketching and writing about rocks and the landscape. Next in our science unit, we'll be creating our very own collections of rock specimens! The first grade scientists will get their first experience with rock collecting from the HUGE collection of rocks at Hedberg Aggregate Company. We're ready to be "rock hounds!"

Social Studies/CARE

Our CARE theme during October is PARTICIPATION! We've started having conversations and reading books in the classroom about what it means to participate at school and in our communities. This will be a perfect topic for discussion as we lead up to our social studies work on voting and elections.


October will end with some Halloween fun! The Halloween costume parade will take place on Monday, October 31st. As you and your child plan for this special day, please consult the Lower School Handbook for costume guidelines. We will also celebrate in the classroom with Halloween activities and treats!

Happy Fall!

Ms. Bennett and Ms. Madden

Important Upcoming Dates:

October 17 Hedberg Aggregate Field Trip (AM)-Non Uniform. (Chaperoned by teachers only.)
October 17 Picture Retakes (If your child retakes...he/she will need a uniform for the picture).

October 18   Math Meeting for Parents 6:30 PM-Chapel (Childcare available)

October 19   Unity Day (non-uniform). Wear orange to support bullying prevention.
October 19   Swimming Unit 1 Ends in PE

October 20-21 No School/Teacher Workshops

October 31 Halloween Costume Day+Parade (Approx. 8:45 AM in Gym A)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Lower School Parents Math Meeting

Lower School Math Night for Parents (Chapel)
Tuesday, October 18th
6:30 PM

This is a parents-only opportunity for parents of students in kindergarten through grade 4 to learn about Singapore Math in Focus. If you're unable to attend, this meeting will be recorded and posted for viewing at a later date. Childcare is available for Math Night. Click here to RSVP for Math Night AND reserve your childcare spot.