Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Where in the world is Ms. Bennett?

What do teachers do during the summer? Well, my summer is starting out with travels halfway around the world to Australia and New Zealand where it is winter! I am here thanks to funding from Breck to explore innovative things these countries are doing in education. If you'd like to follow along with my adventure,  check out my travel blog:

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ideas for FUN Summer Learning

Summer is fast approaching (Yikes! Only a couple more days of school!) and it is a widely known fact that children's academic skills can recede if not attended to over the summer. Luckily, there are many fun and educational things families can do over the summer to keep kids thinking and learning. Here are a few suggestions for our Soon-to-Be Second Graders:
  • Visit your local library. Many offer fun summer reading programs. Read a certain number of books and get special certificates and treats to celebrate your accomplishments. 
  • Talk your parents into taking you to the Red Balloon, Wild Rumpus, or Barnes and Noble bookstore. You don’t have to buy anything to enjoy the stores! 
  • Turn a favorite book into a play or ‘Readers Theater’. Write a script and invite friends over to be a part of the play. When all the parents come to pick up the children, have them stay for a performance. 
  • Keep a journal or diary of any special trips (real or imaginary). Notebooks work well or you can get a fancy journal at your local bookstore.
  • Write letters to Ms. Bennett and she will write you back! Her address is: 317 Groveland Ave. Unit 411, Minneapolis, MN 55403 (THIS IS MY FAVORITE!) 
  • Buy fun postcards. Write to classmates and other teachers from Breck. Look for the addresses in the Breck directory. 
  • Go on a reading treasure hunt. Make a list of all the interesting words you found. Or make a treasure hunt for family members to follow. Writing and reading clues are a fun way to practice reading. Hide a special treat at the end of the hunt like a fun new book or a snack to eat. 
  • Publish your own story. All you need is an idea, some paper, pens, and art supplies. 
  • Listen to books on Tumble Books. Breck has a free subscription (Username: Breck Password: Mustangs)
  • Play math and reading games on the computer! IXL continues to be available to you all summer! You could also download some learning apps for an iPad, iPod, or iPhone. 
  • Play cards and dice games to practice math facts (second graders need to automatically know addition and subtraction to 20!!). Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Make your own game. Use tag board for the main playing area. Make cards that tell the players where to move next. Write the directions. Borrow dice from an old game and invite some friends over to play. 
  • Write poetry or make up your own songs. 
  • Try a new recipe. There are some great kids cookbooks. Read the recipe. Make a list of yummy ingredients you’ll need. Shop with an adult. Read the recipe mix and bake... YUMMY. 
  • Make your own recipe. (Be thinking of measurement and fractions!) 
  • Try some science experiments! You can find a simple science book at the library or local bookstore. Many ingredients for science experiments can be found in your kitchen, too. Make sure you have a grown-up help you with your experiments.
  • Have your parents or siblings play board games with you. There are a variety of great games for thinking and strategy: Othello, Yatzee, Memory, checkers, chess...
  • Choose one of these activities or make up your own. Of course, one of the most important ones that can be done each and every day...READ!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Dino Day

Our first grade paleontologists had a great time at Dino Day! We hiked to the baseball field to measure the actual size of a T-Rex and Diplodocus and took a "walk in their footsteps," so to speak! We also made fossil necklaces, decorated Triceratops masks, and participated in a mock fossil dig. Our Dino Day was complete with a special dinosaur-themed picnic lunch (herbivore/carnivore sandwiches, dino fruit snacks, brontosaurus shaped cookies...yum!) and playing at Natchez park! Here's a glimpse at our day:

Friday, May 26, 2017

Field Day - Land of 10,000 Lakes

We had a wonderful field day! The weather was a bit cloudy but perfect for active games. The first graders had a great time navigating an inflatable obstacle course, getting soaked in water games, and competing in the tug-o-war!! All athletes displayed excellent teamwork and sportsmanship. They were proud to earn their ribbons at the end of the games. Here are some photos and video (we had a lot of fun with slow-mo) from field day:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

May Update

The end of the school year almost here (can you believe it?!?!).  We're ready to finish strong in room 26!

Last month, we began our study of dinosaurs. In the classroom, we have been reading all about these fascinating creatures. On our trip to the science museum, we had the chance to see dinosaur fossils up close. We also attended a special Science Museum class, Dino Dentists. The first graders learned to sort, identify, and compare teeth from humans, mammals, and prehistoric creatures. Be sure to see the slideshow of photos! We also held an exciting Dino Day on the Breck campus (more pictures/video coming soon!)

In math, we've been deepening our understanding of place value by studying and comparing numbers up to 120. We're also expanding our strategies for solving addition and subtraction with and without regrouping. We will be ending the year with a quick mini-unit on money!!

In Writer’s Workshop, we’ve been learning about realistic fiction. Our authors created their own characters and imagined their adventures. Then, they worked to put their ideas on paper with details, dialogue, and WOW words (not short, boring words)! But, that’s not all! The author’s have published an entire SERIES about their character as a boxed set. It’s a big task, but our authors were up for it! We enjoyed celebrating with a special dress-like-your-character day (look for a slideshow of photos very soon!) To round out our year of writing, we will have a study of poetry and songwriting.

The first graders continue to make great strides in their reading. They have grown into such capable readers and are experiencing the joy of reading everyday. We wrapped up our guided reading groups to focus on independent reading and book projects to prepare for 2nd grade. Book bags have ended, but we hope families continue to encourage regular reading through the end of the school year and into summer. It’s essential to keep those reading muscles strong!

All in all, we are looking forward a final week of first grade filled with learning, reflection, and celebration. The first graders have a lot to be proud of!

Thanks for your help in making this an awesome first grade year!
Ms. Bennett and Ms. Madden

**The end of the school year is a busy and exciting time at Breck School. Be sure to check the calendar below as there are still many upcoming events! Also, keep a close eye out for details on the Peek at the Week. 

May 26-Lower School Field Day (Land of 10,000 Lakes Theme)-9:30 for grades 1-2, 12:00 Lunch

May 29-No School for Memorial Day

June 1- 1st Grade Portfolio Viewing (AM + PM times available)
             NON UNIFORM DAY for LS students

June 2- Lower School Closing (Casual Summer Dressy Attire)

June 4-Baccalaureate Service (1st graders sing). Meet at room 38 at 4:45.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Science Museum Field Trip Photos

Last month, we visited the Science Museum to study dinosaurs. We explored the dinosaur and fossil gallery, took a side trip to see T-Rex, and attended a Dinosaur Dentist class. It was a great day of science!

Monday, May 1, 2017

News from the Lower School Library

This summer, the Lower School library is being renovated!

Mrs Jones needs willing volunteers to help tidy and pack up the library in advance of the summer renovation project. Please email if interested.

Friday, April 28, 2017

First Grade Recess Talent Show

Here's a look at the MANY talents in the first ever First Grade Recess Talent Show!! This was all organized (and filmed) by the kids! In fact, there were SO MANY talents that there are more acts planning to perform at Monday's recess (as long as it doesn't snow...eek!). Enjoy!


Today, Lisa Heurung (Lower School counselor) taught a lesson on gratitude to our class. Included in her lesson was this moving video (a Thai commercial) that beautifully illustrates the concept. We wish you could have seen the look on the children's faces as they watched. :)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Lower School Closing

Lower School Closing Exercises
Friday, June 1
at 1:30pm with reception to follow.  
Attire is semi-dressy.  
It’s sure to be a festive celebration of the year!  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

April Update

It's feeling more and more like spring each day and summer is just around the corner. The approaching end of the school year certainly does not mean that the learning slows down!

As a part of our social studies curriculum, 1st grade supported the “Birthday Wishes” service project in Lower School. In the classroom, we learned about birthday traditions from many cultures. First graders became more aware of their own family traditions and also broadened their perspectives about birthday celebrations and traditions of other families and cultures. We used our understanding to promote a diverse "birthday wishes collection" in lower school. On Monday, a group of student representatives and teachers brought the donations to the STEP Food Shelf in St. Louis Park and the result was... 345 POUNDS of donated birthday items! This will certainly make many birthday wishes come true!! Thanks for your support.

In Science, we are very excited about our study of dinosaurs! We even had the chance to get up-close with these amazing creatures at the Minnesota Science Museum. In addition to the regular dinosaur exhibits, we also participated in a special "dinosaur dentist" class led by museum staff. Stay tuned for a slide show of pictures from our day as paleontologists!

Tick-Tock goes the clock! Earlier in the month, first graders learned how to use analog and digital clocks for telling time. We mostly focused on hour and half hour times but we also learned other strategies like counting by fives to determine the minutes on the clock. If you're looking for a gift in the near future, you may want to consider getting your child a fun watch. Being able to tell time is kind of an exciting "right of passage" in first grade! Now, we are deepening our understanding of place value by expanding to numbers beyond 100! We are using tools like number line and 120-charts to understand the relationships between numbers and place values. Next, we will begin computation with multi-digit numbers.

Our authors are facing another big challenge in writing...FICTION! They have been eager to write fiction since the beginning of the school year and now the time has come. We are learning to write realistic-fiction and have been using the "Henry and Mudge" book series by Cynthia Rylant to build our knowledge of this genre. The first grade writers are creating their own characters and learning to write stories about their own made-up adventures! The children are excited about the idea of writing their own series!!

In our reading work, we'll continue to introduce strategies for engaging in deeper thinking while reading. We're practicing thinking and talking about books with our reading groups and in reading partnerships. We will also be focusing on "questioning" and "inferring." We are encouraging children to take time to ask questions and make inferences while reading. You can support this at home by engaging your child in asking questions and wondering about the book when you read together. Encourage that it's not so much about having answers, but more about the thinking and wondering process. If they think they have an answer, you can broaden their thinking by asking, "could there be another answer?" It's even fun to keep a list of the things you wonder about.

On a final note, spring is a BUSY time!! Be sure to take a loot at the calendar below and keep an eye out for announcements about important end of the year events.

Happy Spring,
Ms. Bennett and Ms. Madden

Upcoming Dates...

Friday, April 28-FUN RUN!! @ Minnehaha Falls Park (Optional participation)

Friday, May 6- Lower School Wacky Dress Day (Non-uniform)

Tuesday, May 9-All School Chapel/Staff Appreciation Day

Wednesday, May 17- Art Institute Trip (Uniforms, Teacher +Art Masterpiece parents chaperone)

Friday, May 19- Lower School Field Day (More info coming soon)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Island Adventure Memories

HERE IT IS!!! The long awaited slideshow of photos from our Islands Adventure!! We "traveled" to 5 islands in the volcanic area known as the Ring of Fire. In Fiji, we learned about and tasted tropical fruit. In Japan, we made carp kites and heard a traditional Japanese tale. In New Zealand, we learned the traditional Haka dance ritual often performed at rugby games. In the Galapagos Islands, we went snorkeling in the Galapagos Marine Reserve and mailed postcards home. Finally, we ended our adventure in Hawaii with singing and a luau lunch! What an incredible experience of learning and fun!

Special thanks to Mrs. Habstritt, Mrs. Wade, and Mrs. Rice for documenting the day
in amazing photos and video!!

Many of these photos are available for download at this link:

Monday, April 17, 2017

Passover Seder

Today, first and second grade gathered to honor the Jewish holiday, Passover, with a version of a seder meal. We sang songs, heard stories and prayers, and tasted some of the traditional seder foods including matzah, parsley, egg, haroset (a chutney of apples and raisins), and horseradish!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Gratitude Journals

“Life Feels Better When We Live With a Grateful Heart.” 

Dear Families,

We are excited to invite you to participate in our Gratitude Journal Project!  Yesterday we began our unit on gratitude by asking students to think of people, experiences and/or things in their lives that they are grateful for. They were then given a journal to write (or draw) about those things and asked to log daily in their journals for four cycles (aprox. 30 days).  At the end of that time, we will have a GRATITUDE CELEBRATION and all students who complete the journals will be invited to the celebration.

Why Gratitude?
Extensive research has shown that children who practice a mindset of gratitude experience positive effects that are far-reaching. They are more optimistic, better able to self-regulate, and more resilient. These effects of gratitude help them to be more successful students, as they feel more confident in school.

What to do?
Each night, ask your child to share his/her gratitude journals with you. It is beneficial for you to share what you’re grateful for as well - or get the entire family involved and make it a family project J The more children talk and listen to messages of gratitude, the more they will begin to internalize this way of thinking and living.

Want more information?
Making Grateful Kids – The Science of Building Character by Jeffrey Froh and Giacomo Bono is an amazing resource for parents on nurturing gratitude in our children. It is rich with both research and practical ideas on how to create a home that fosters gratitude.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call or email your child’s teacher or me.

With sincere Gratitude,
Lisa Heurung, Ms. Bennett, and Ms. Madden

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Birthday Wishes Donations

Birthday Wishes
April 6-21

We are collecting birthday celebration supplies for our local food shelf.  Families who use our local food shelf often are unable to buy extra items that make a birthday special, like...

Cake Mix & Frosting, Candles, Rice, Noodles, Cookie Mix, Pizza Crust mix,
Paper Plates & Cups. Gluten-free, Kosher and Halal items are often needed by families as well. 

If you would like to donate,
please bring items to school April 6-21.  Thanks!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Publishing Celebration

On Tuesday, we celebrated publishing our non-fiction chapter books! We held an "experts forum" in the classroom where our knowledgable authors shared facts about their ocean topic. It was informative and inspiring! We have a group of ambitious first grade authors! Enjoy this slideshow of the celebration:

A Letter from Mrs. Bailey

Please see an important letter below from Peg Bailey regarding class placement letters for the 2017-2018 school year:

April 2017 

 Dear Lower School Parents: 

Each year, I invite parents to provide input into the class placement process for their children. If you wish to share your thoughts with me, please send me a letter or an email by Thursday, April 20. The timeliness of this information is very important, as we will begin this process the following week. Therefore, letters received after this date will not be considered for the upcoming school year. A few important things to remember: 

  • Please write your child's full name and grade next year at the top of the letter. *If writing about more than one child, please send a separate letter for each student. 
  • Share your insights about friendships to foster or separate, your child’s learning dispositions and/or temperament, and the type of environment you feel your child thrives in. (You may want to share feedback on what has made this year particularly successful for your child, or if this has been a challenging year, what you believe may have contributed to this.) 
  • Requests for specific teachers will not be considered. Several factors are taken into consideration as teachers and the administrative team place students into next year’s classes. Summer moves and other changes impact class assignments. 

 Thank you, in advance, for respecting and trusting our decisions. 
 Best regards, 
 Peg Bailey

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


During break, you should have received an email regarding Baccalaureate (a link to the letter is also posted below). Baccalaureate is a special ceremony that takes place at Breck to honor the Seniors on Sunday, June 4th. It is optional to attend, but if possible, I highly encourage you to arrange for your child to be there because they develop very special relationships with their senior buddies. Most first graders do attend. We will be sending more communication about Baccalaureate in May and asking for an RSVP at that time. We wanted to give you a heads up so you can keep this in mind as you make summer plans.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Islands Adventure Sneak Peek

What a memorable day of islands traveling. We are sorting through HUNDREDS of photos and videos of our Islands Adventure but here's a little preview with more to come soon!!

Also, be sure to continue watching the Breck School Zenfolio for more...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Explore the Galapagos Islands in Google Maps

Did you know that a team from Google mapped several places in the Galapagos Islands and it's available in "street view" from Google Maps? The class has been so excited about exploring the islands virtually using this tool. Check out the YouTube videos below to learn more and you can explore together from home!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Used Book Drive & Sale

Upper School students are collecting kids picture books, chapter books, YA books, adult novels, non-fiction - everything! Books will then be sold in the Middle School entrance over the two days of conferences on March 3 and 4. Every book will cost $1 and the proceeds will be used to support Reading Partners, a literacy tutoring organization.

Please bring in gently used books for the book sale. There will be donation boxes in every division through March 2. Then come shop the sale! Pick up some books to read over spring break!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Valentine's Day in Room 26

We had a "love-ly" day in room 26 celebrating Valentine's Day. We played BINGO, raced in Valentine's Day Minute-To-Win-It games, crafted kissing fish, and colored. We enjoyed a "red" themed snack of strawberry Italian Ice and fruit punch before the grand finale...valentine opening!!

February Update

February has been a busy month in first grade.  We've passed the mid-point of the school year which means we are diving into the deepest parts of our learning. This is both exciting and challenging. We've had to spend a bit of time re-building our class as a team to get ready to solve problems together and rise to our best selves as learners. You can continue to support your student outside of school by making sure they get a lot of sleep, good nutrition, and time for play and relaxation! 


Reading instruction continues to challenge the children to broaden and improve their skills in reading and comprehension. Children are refining their abilities make meaning of unknown words, monitor understanding, and improve fluency and expression. We are also beginning to look more closely at informational texts (non-fiction) noting features like table of contents, headings, labels, and glossaries. At the end of the week, we'll begin non-fiction book clubs during our reading times. Be on the look out for new March reading logs that will encourage our readers to set goals and push their reading stamina by reading longer and stronger. We will also have a special spring break reading challenge!

Readers work with long and short vowels in word work. 

Writer's Workshop 

In writer's workshop, we wrapped up our opinion writing unit and we've created a book of reviews that could rival the wisdom of Yelp! We have a chapter that reviews "Places to Go" like Florida and Mexico, a chapter that reviews "Stores" like PetSmart and Cub Foods, a chapter that critiques restaurants Yogurt Lab and Yum, and a chapter titled "Popular Things" that offers reviews of Pokemon Go and dogs! Now, we are beginning to write non-fiction chapter books related to our study of the ocean. Thank you for helping your child to generate ideas in his/her Tiny Topics journal!

Editing our reviews using a checklist. 
Edited and ready for publishing!!


In math, we have really gotten into the core grade 1 concepts of addition and subtraction, with and without regrouping. Children have learned to use a variety of strategies to solve and explain their mathematical thinking behind multi-digit problems. It has been important to strengthen their understanding of place value and basic math facts in order to help them see patterns in the mathematical operations of addition and subtraction. Our next math unit will focus on strategies for improving mental math.

Playing a subtraction game: Race to 0!

Here are some ways you can help at home:

  • Encourage your child to teach you the strategies of the program. Learn to see math in new ways and avoid teaching "the way you learned" (in fact, grade 1 students are intentionally not introduced to the vertical algorithm because the horizontal equation strengthens their mental math skills). 
  • Continue practicing and strengthening basic addition and subtraction facts up to 20
  • Play games with math!

Demonstration of "Terrific 10s and 1s" Strategy


In science, we have begun our study of the ocean. We had a thoughtful debate about how many oceans there are (our class is quite divided between 5 identifiable oceans, 4 named oceans, 1 world ocean). We are also exploring the depths of the ocean beginning with the coral reef and the sunlit zone. At the Minnesota zoo, we experienced many tropical ocean dwellers. We observed the creatures of the coral reef and asked questions to the zoo aquarists. We also visited the sharks, stingrays, and Hawaiian monk seals. Next, we will be exploring other ocean zones including the mysterious abyssal zone.

Social Studies and CARE

This month, our CARE theme is STEWARDSHIP. We have been discussing ways we can care for ourselves, others, our school, community, and world. We are also learning more about US Presidents and discussing qualities of a good leader. 

Learning and Mindset

As busy as the first graders are, this time of year can often cause learners to fall into a “slump.” Children may rush to just get work done and not show the typical enjoyment for school that they usually do. In the classroom, we talk a lot about the idea of "mindset" and effort. Now we are helping first graders to develop a deeper understanding of the learning process by discussing the concept of the "learning pit:"

Originally created by James Nottingham/Adapted by Ms. Bennett

Important Upcoming Dates:

February 24- Skating Ends
March 2-3: Parent Teacher Conferences/No School
March 6-10: Lower School Book Fair (we will shop on Thurs., March 9)
March 13: Grade 1 Islands Adventure (More info coming soon!)
March 17: Spring Break begins at 3:15 PM

Enjoy the spring-like weather!
Ms. Bennett and Ms. Madden

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Parent Opportunity from the Author of 'Quiet'

Parent Quiet Kids - Complimentary online course for parents of 3 to 9 year olds offered exclusively to Breck Schools community:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Notes from Math Boot Camp

This week, we have spent the last two days in meetings with our math consultant, Cassy Turner. She met with grade level teams to talk about our successes with our new program, Math In Focus - and to help us look ahead as we plan our continued implementation. It was good to hear her affirm how we're teaching math in our classrooms, and how engaged our students are with new vocabulary and problem-solving strategies. One thing we heard loud & clear was to make sure our students are 'fluent' with their math facts. So, continue to practice these at home. Last night, approximately 35 parents attend "boot camp". As one parent commented, "I need to be in school again to learn math this way." Much of last night's session was "hands-on" for parents . . . here are notes taken by Peg Bailey from Cassy's presentation.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Ocean Life Field Trip to the MN Zoo

We had an amazing field trip to the Minnesota Zoo to study ocean life. It felt like a tropical get-away! The dive show was an excellent introduction to the coral reef habitat. Next, we visited the penguins then it was off to Discovery Bay for the shark feeding! We even saw the stingrays, sea turtles, and eels feed! We ended our morning with a visit to the Hawaiian Monk seals. Our first grade scientists asked many thoughtful questions and the zoo staff was impressed by their knowledge, observation skills, and motivation to learn about the ocean. After a "picnic" lunch, the class split into small groups for an iPad scavenger hunt. It was an exciting day of exploration at the zoo!

*We do not endorse/reccommend any of the suggested videos following playback. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Math Bootcamp

Math Boot Camp for Lower School Parents (MS Library and MS Dining Room). 
Monday, February 6th
6:30-8:00 PM 

Join us as Cassy Turner, Singapore Math Consultant, leads a math boot camp for parents with students in kindergarten to grade 4. RSVP to Kris Simonson. NOTE: Childcare has been added for this event, which requires a separate RSVP ... childcare RSVP here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Look at this AWESOME class!

We are now a team of 17 in Room 26 so we thought it was time for a new class picture...

And of course they had to dab! :)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Service Learning

Service learning is an important part of the Breck mission. For our service learning experience, First graders visit residents at Sunrise Senior Living in Golden Valley. We serve the seniors by reading and talking with them. It is certainly a reciprocal relationship because the first graders feel positively about their experiences and say they hope to continue to bring them cheer by sending cards, notes, and artwork. After our visits we reflected what we learned from participating in service. The first graders shared that they felt uncertain at first but now feel more confident and happy about their ability to serve others.