Math Workshop

Themes & Holidays

My Classroom

First Grade Fall Fun!

I blinked and it was two months into the school year! I can't even believe how much my firsties have grown in a few short weeks and all the fall FUN that we have been having. There is something magical about the seasons changing as the school year begins.  If you're anything like me, you love all the sweet things fall has to offer... apple cider, apple fritters, caramel apples. Need I say more? :) We kicked off the school year with an apple unit! We activated our schema with what we already knew about apples and guided our learning by asking questions about things we wanted to learn. 

We spent time exploring the life cycle of an apple, labeling the different parts and discussing how apple trees change throughout each season. A Busy Year by Leo Lionni is the perfect read aloud to integrate apples and seasons. 

An apple unit isn't complete without some apple window decor! This craft is simple and effective for your primary learners to get some fine motor practice in. We had learned that apples can be red, green, yellow or orange so I had the "skin" already prepped as a precut piece of construction paper. I also precut yellow, orange, red and green squares of tissues paper, as well as a brown stem. The kiddos chose their apple color and placed it on a square of contact paper. The contact paper was facing up in order for the squares of tissue paper to fit. Once the apple is completed, another piece of contact paper can be place on top to protect the tissue. I only had one side of contact paper and it help up nicely. The kiddos then cut the excess contact paper around the edges.

All this talking about apples sure had my little's tummies growling. :) As a way to engage families, each member of our class submitted a family favorite apple recipe. I gathered them all to make a class apple recipe book. This is something I think my kiddos will enjoy when they grow up as a special keepsake.  Recipe books are also a great procedural ("how-to") text, which is also important to give them exposure to. Plus, who can get enough apple treats into their life?! Ha! You can find the recipe book cover, recipe template and family letter in my TPT store here

We used differentiated mini-book readers, articles and various graphic organizers by Lindsey from A Year of Many First's apple unit during our shared literacy block. Her units effectively integrate Common Core informational literature standards with shared literacy, science and social studies. They are a true dream come true! 
After our apple unit, we moved into exploring the science of leaves!  This was a great way to introduce properties, which we will revisit in math later in the year. Science integrated sorting objects by size, color and shape. This is great descriptive vocabulary and addresses many misconceptions with weight/height in measurement. I remember the first time I learned that a leaf's true color was not green- my kiddos certainly had the same reaction!  

I was fortunate enough to have gone to college around the time the Common Core standards were being adapted by most states. We spent time researching and exploring the standards before having to actually teach it. Thus, I only know of teaching with it (not to it ;)). I whole heartily believe that you can have high expectations and still make learning FUN. With that being said, I integrate art projects and thematic units that align with the standards. I use themes as an opportunity to engage my learners and teach into the standards.

I'm not sure about you but I think one of the most challenging skills for my kiddos in the standards is asking and answering questions. Even as an adult, it is a challenge to think of a question and formulate an answer that you don't know. With that being said, I find ways to create opportunities to practice this skill.  And thus, my Common Core pumpkin patch is born! :) Before we read, as we read and after we read nonfiction texts about pumpkins, we formulate questions and practice answering them together. 

Our pumpkin unit lasts about two weeks. Week one we spent time learning about pumpkins and week 2 we explore them hands on. Math and science are two of my favorite subjects. I think it is so important to show students how important it is to integrate these skills. 

I asked parent volunteers to lead our pumpkin centers on Pumpkin Day (note all the orange attire ha!). Each parent lead a particular skill at a center. One center focused on weighing the pumpkin, encompassing the conceptual understanding of weight and unit labels. Students even compared the pumpkins weight to themselves (more than, less than). At this center, students also estimated and then counted the number of lines on the pumpkin.

Another center was focused on measurement, in which students used unifix cubes to measure the height and width. You can even tie pattern making into it as well. 

Another center, my personal favorite, is to answer the million dollar question, do pumpkins sink or float?  This will always remind me of the time I did this lesson with my firsties back during my students teaching. We made and graphed our predictions and then complete the experiment. Of course, as expected, most of my kiddos felt the weight of a pumpkin and immediately thought it would sink. They were so heart broken when it floated that I had tears! AH!!!! Bless their hearts, I felt horrible! It did however turn into a teachable moment that scientists learn from their prediction.

Our two final centers were listing adjectives about various gourds and a pumpkin Scholastic News reader.

After some informational learning and exploring with pumpkins, we moved into some pumpkin fiction texts. It wouldn't be October without a reading of The Littlest Pumpkin. This is a heart warming story of a pumpkin who is not accepted. It brings me to tears... every ...time. This leads into a great discussion about the author's message.  We practiced making text-to-self connections. I got this idea from Cara over at the fabulous The First Grade Parade

I recently got this little number with my Scholastic bonus points and I couldn't be more thrilled. Little Boo is one of my new fall favorites!!! It encompasses our nonfiction pumpkin life cycle knowledge with a fictional character. In our October reader's workshop unit, not only did we learn about the author's message, but we learned to use major events to retell the story and better understand the author's message.

 I find that I have moved away from the 5 finger retell strategy because it seems to result in a choppy version of just the story elements. I now teach kiddos to use the "somebody, wanted, but, so, then" strategy, as it is more fluid and yet includes all story elements. We practiced doing it whole group during shared literacy. I do my best to provide my students with as many opporunities with the correct language (i.e. major events, character, author's message, setting, etc.). I then encouraged students to put it in their own words (or copy for those littles who may need the support) on their own printable. You can find that here. I collected these from the students to turn it into a class book. 

After our pumpkin unit, we switched from science to social studies! I can assure you, I have never seen all 38 eye balls on me for longer than I had when I pulled out the globe and shared the story of Christopher Columbus. You could hear crickets! I was thrilled to hear my kiddos had already heard the "true" story in kindergarten that although he didn't discover America, he was courageous in his exploring efforts. This also sparked interest in travel and navigation. I tend to focus more on the tools explorers used for their voyages as many of my littles were shocked to hear Christopher Columbus didn't have GPS. (Inserting laughing/crying emoji here). Ha!

We listed facts we had learned on our Columbus anchor chart and used them to help us do a little informational writing on Columbus. How darling is this craftivity?! I don't think I will even be able to take it down. You can find it in Kim Adsit's store here

As we move closer to Halloween, we start our bat and spider themed units. Stellaluna and Nightsong totally stole the show in room A-14! They are such strong characters and classic stories that they are perfect for a "character chat." We discussed how Stellaluna's character changed throughout the story. They are also great books to compare and contrast fiction and nonfiction texts. After reading these stories, we graphed our feelings about bats. I think they had a significant impact on the results.. ha! You can find this gem from yet again the infamous Cara at The First Grade Parade here
After we did a little fiction bats, we moved into some nonfiction reading and writing. We explored what the "main topic" was and listed "key details." You can find differentiated mini books, vocabulary cards, and graphic organizers in the bat unit by Lindsey from A Year of Many Firsts. The bat craft is a freebie from A Cupcake for the Teacher. You can find it in her TPT store here.

This past week we mixed a little of the right brain with the left and did a math craft. My kiddos could always use a review of math literacy in which they have to explain their thinking in words. We have been exploring addition strategies, one being counting up on the number line. Each time around this time of year the Frankenline comes out to play! :) I used a blank number line and double dice for some friends who might be ready to stretch their thinking. 

I snagged this most clever and creative idea from Cara at The First Grade Parade. I adapted it for personal use only to meet my kiddos needs. Therefore I will not be selling or sharing it. However, you can find it in her store here

We are gearing up for a week of conferences and Halloween in room A-14!
Happy teaching and learning! 


  1. Hi! My name is Mindy and I just found your blog today! I've been going through your post and it gets me so excited about going into teaching myself. It's nice to see what it's really like as a teacher and I'm glad that you are enjoying it. From your post, it sounds like a lot of fun and a great way to make a difference for these children.
    I read that you are a graduate of UCONN and I am currently going there as a sophomore. I'm about to apply into NEAG soon, but I found myself having second thoughts lately and was wondering if you would be able to help answer a few question about being a teacher?
    Thank You! =)

    1. Hi Mindy! I am so glad you wrote to me and enjoy reading my blog. Email me any questions you have! I am happy to help!