Encouraging Writers

     I’ve compiled a list of activities your child will enjoy doing at home to encourage writing and reinforce lessons taught at school.  Before beginning you may consider giving your child a special gift, a writing box.  A writing box is a container filled with writing supplies that capture the interest of a first grader.  Choose a container big enough to hold a lot of goodies, but small enough for your child to carry easily. Decorate an old suitcase, briefcase, 16 qt plastic box, tackle box, or large shoe box.  The contents of the writing box might include: paper (various sizes and colors), notebook, colored pencils, markers, whiteboard & dry erase markers, stickers, blank books, envelopes, post its, list of family & friends names.

     Treat any attempt at writing as special!  Don’t worry if all words are not spelled correctly.  You will see your child’s writing improve as we learn new words and print conventions during first grade.  If necessary, use a post-it note to translate your child’s message and stick it on the back of letters to family.  Most importantly, have fun together!

Writing Activities for Home

  • Write a note to our child and put it in a place it will be seen.  Surprise them with a note under their pillow or taped to the bathroom mirror!  Ask for a written reply.
  • Write a letter to a friend or relative in a different city.  This will be especially exciting if your child receives a letter in response.
  • Hang a family message board where children will see the importance of giving and receiving messages.
  • Make birthday cards to give to friends and family.
  • Glue a 4X6 photo to an index card to make your own personal postcard.  Have your child write a caption and address of family or friend.  Send U.S. mail using the less expensive post card stamp.
  • Encourage you child to create labels for toy bins and shelves at home.
  • Check out the links on the sidebar for sites to make your own comics & post cards
  • Write thank you cards for birthday and holiday gifts.
  • Write secret messages using invisible ink.  Click the picture below to see recipes.

Student Portfolios


Throughout the year, your child will be collecting and saving samples of work in a portfolio.  This collection will reflect growth over time, and will give your child and you a deeper understanding of the learning that takes place in first grade.  It is also an opportunity, to better understand your child’s interest, needs, and progress.

The portfolio will contain a variety of work including writing (drafts and published pieces), reading documents, special projects, math problems, and photos that demonstrate your child’s learning and hard work.  The portfolio will be managed by the children to develop their organization skills and extend their responsibility and ownership in their work.  We will be selecting work that best represents each student’s growth over time.  For this reason, not all student work will be sent home.  We will share our portfolios with families during a special celebration at the end of the school year.  At that time, a few selected items will be set aside to be shared with your child’s future teacher and the remaining portfolio will be taken home for you to enjoy.  The contents of your child’s portfolio and your child’s reflections about the learning that it represents will present a richer, more complete picture of the growth your child has made this school year.

Celebrate Your First Grader

First grade is hard work!  We use every minute of our time together to challenge our minds.  It is important to take a few minutes each day to praise your child for their effort and celebrate their successes as a learner.  Below are some ideas I’ve used with my own family.  I would love to add your good ideas to the list- just leave a comment below to share!

  • Put a smile on your child’s face by hiding a note inside their lunchbox.  Surprise your pre-reader by including a simple drawing with many X’s & O’s or challenge readers with easy riddles and knock-knock jokes.
  • Celebrate progress reports and report cards with a special meal or outing.  Focus on the effort put forth, not the letter grade.  Remember, every child learns at their own pace.
  • Brag about your child!  Call a family member and tell them about your child’s progress and good deeds.  Hearing you say something positive to others will fill your child with pride!
  • Display their work!  Sure it may not be Picasso and that worksheet has eraser smudges, but it is evidence of your first grader’s success.  Designate a place to display these proud artifacts for all to enjoy.
  • Save the really special pieces.  Use a hanging file box to keep treasured work from their school years.  One file per grade filled with important class work papers and photos of oversize projects.  Glue a school picture to the front and have them write their name/age/grade on an index card to label each file.  Periodically, look through the file boxes together.  Your child will love remembering their younger school years and the files are a good reminder that with patience and hard work they can meet the challenges of the classroom.
  • 101 WAYS TO SAY YOU’RE GREAT:  Wow…Way to go…Super…You’re Special…Outstanding…Excellent…Great…Good…Neat O…Remarkable…I Knew You Could Do It…I’m Proud of You…Fantastic…Bravo…Superstar…Nice Work…You’re on Top of It…Beautiful…Now You’re Flying…You’re Catching On…Dynamite…That’s Incredible…How Extraordinary…Far Out…Outstanding Performance…I can’t get over it…Phenomenal…You’ve Got It…Superb…Cool…Your work is out of sight…Your project is first rate…You’ve outdone yourself…Thumbs Up…You’re a good friend…You came through…Terrific…You tried hard…Your help counts…You made it happen…It couldn’t be better…You’re a real trooper…Fabulous…Bravo…Exceptional..You’re unique…Awesome…Breathtaking..The time you put in really shows…You’re a great example to others…Keep up the good work…I knew you had it in you…It’s everything I hoped for…You should be proud of yourself..What an imagination…You made the difference..Well Done…You’re sensational…Very Good…A+ Work…Super Job…Take a bow…You figured it out…How artistic.. Hooray for you…You’re a joy…You are so thoughtful…You’re amazing…You’re getting there…What a great idea…You deserve a hug…Thanks for trying…You’ve made great progress…You’re a big help…You’re neat…You’ve got what it takes…You’re #1…You’re a shining star…You can be trusted…Very impressive…You’re sharp…You’re a winner…Hot Dog…Spectacular…You’re so kind…You’ve really grown up…What a great listener…Great discovery…You’ve earned my respect…You’re A-Okay…You’re a great kid…How original…You’re a champ…You’re a pleasure to know…What a genius…You’re very talented..You’re the greatest…You’re super…Right on target…You’re a keeper…I LOVE YOU! 

Remote Learning 2021-2022

Enrollment Deadline Approaching for CPS Virtual Academy
The vast majority of CPS students will return to school five days a week this fall. However, we anticipate that a small percentage of children will need to continue learning remotely due to verified medical needs. To ensure these students receive the high-quality education they deserve, CPS is launching a Virtual Academy to provide a central model of instruction. To be eligible for the Virtual Academy, students must meet specific medical criteria that are documented by a healthcare provider.The window to enroll in the CPS Virtual Academy is June 18 – July 23. Families whose children meet the medical criteria for the Virtual Academy can provide the COVID-19 Health Eligibility Form to a licensed medical provider, who must submit the form via virtualenrollment@cps.edu, or fax it to (773) 553-6563, Attn: Virtual Enrollment.All applications will be approved through the Office of Student Health & Wellness. 

Follow the Yellow Brick Road…..


  • Take time to talk about school and everyday events with your child.  Ask your child to tell you their “high/low” (best and worst part) of the school day.
  • Get to know your child’s friends.  Ask about who they played with at recess or sat with at lunch.  Arrange for play time with classmates at your home or meet at the playground.
  • Check assignments nightly.  Show genuine interest in the homework.  This sends the message that education is important and encourages your child to do well.
  • Provide a quiet study area with needed supplies.  (pencils, glue sticks, markers, scissors, pencil sharpener)
  • Set a routine for completing homework in the early evening.
  • Provide learning experiences outside of school.  Visit nature preserves, museums, libraries, zoos, and theaters.  Check out the links on the sidebar for activities happening around Chicago this month.
  • Monitor the TV programs your child watches.  TV can be educational and relaxing in the right amounts and at the right time.  Turn off the TV at meal times to facilitate conversations and healthy eating.
  • Help your child obtain a library card and visit the library often.  Listen to your child read and read to your child.
  • Encourage your child to write letters or send emails to friends and family.
  • Play board games together.  Games teach your child how to take turns, listen to others, be a good sport, and encourage critical thinking skills.
  • Be a good role model.  Let your child see you reading a variety of materials for different purposes.  Point out the many reasons you write in daily life.  Demonstrate friendship skills such as cooperation, sharing, listening to others, and talking about a problem.  When playing games be a gracious winner and a courteous loser.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if your child is unhappy at school.  I want everyone to love coming to first grade as much as I do and will try my best to help solve any problems that arise. 


It is that time of year again!  Back to school shopping ads fill our mailboxes and we begin to think about the upcoming school year.  Here are some tips to help your child have a great start to first grade!

  • Bring back your family’s bedtime routine.  Experts recommend first graders have 10-11 hours of sleep each night.
  • Schedule medical appointments and complete necessary forms.  If your child is new to the district you must provide documentation of a physical examination and required vaccines.  Click the picture below to see 2012-2013 CPS requirements and to download medical forms.  Be sure to visit your child’s eye doctor and dentist too!
  • If your child’s kindergarten did not include lunch begin to time your summer lunches.  The children will have less than 30 minutes to eat their meal in our cafeteria.  Encourage your child to eat their sandwich first to fill their tummy for the long afternoon.
  • Practice your home address and emergency phone numbers.
  • Review kindergarten skills: write first and last names neatly, play alphabet games to practice letter names and sounds, write numbers 1-30, and count numbers 1-100.
  • Practice shoe tying and zippering.
  • Purchase school supplies. Our first-grade supply list is posted on this website.

  • Label everything!  It is amazing how many sweatshirts, hats, lunchboxes, water bottles, and more go unclaimed at the end of our school day.
  • READ, READ, READ!  Your library is sponsoring a fun summer reading program-Check it out! Also, did you know that many nearby suburban libraries offer reciprocal borrowing to Chicago Public Library members.  Go on an adventure to see what other libraries offer.  You may be surprised to find that they offer dvd rentals, large music selections, and even video games for check out!  Click the picture below to view the list of participating suburban libraries.
  • Talk about the new school year together.  Is there anything that your child is feeling nervous about?  Let them know that everyone is a little nervous to try something new, but that you and I will be there to help them.  Feel free to email me with specific questions!

I look forward to seeing you all on the first day of school!

Have a GREAT summer vacation!

Aspen Parent Portal

Aspen is the primary tool to monitor your child’s academic progress. If you have not already registered, please contact Disney for you child’s PIN number. 

Registration Procedures Video
How to use Aspen Parent Portal site.

Helping Your Reader

  Help your child unlock the mystery of reading with these helpful tips:

  • Select reading material that is of interest to your child.  A book about a favorite hobby will not only be good reading practice but be entertaining as well.
  • Choose a book where most of the words are known.  Many publishers print leveled reading books in a wide variety of popular interests.  A librarian can also help you select appropriate materials.


  • Say, “Good for you.  I like the way you tried to work that out.”
  • Say, “That was a good try.  Yes, that word makes sense there.”
  • Say, “I like the way you looked at the letters to help yourself.”
  • Say, “I like the way you went back to the beginning of the sentence and tried that again.  That’s what good readers do.”
  • Say, “You are becoming a good reader!  I’m proud of you.”


  • Wait and see if they work it out.
  • Say, “Look at the letters. Try the sounds. “
  • Say, “Try that again.”
  • Read the sentence again and start the tricky word.
  • After 5 seconds tell the word.


  • If the mistakes make sense, don’t worry about it for now.
  • If the mistake does not make sense, wait and see if your child will fix it.
  • Say, “Try that again”
  • Say, “Did that make sense?”
  • Say, ” Did what you read look right and sound right?”
  • Tell the correct response.