Weekly Newsletter


Monday, December 8, 2014

The school has not yet secured a new contract with an after school care provider.  Beginning in January, there will be no care available and all students must be picked up by 3:15.   


Noell Brickell
Instructor, First Grade
ETSU University School
Box 70632
Johnson City, TN 37614


Monday, December 1, 2014

Penny Wars for the Animal Shelter

First grade is competing to win a whole hour of recess.  Help us earn this much deserved treat by sending in change for the penny jar.  Pennies are worth 1 point, nickels 5 points, dimes 10 points, etc.  Paper money is welcome, too.  All funds collected will go directly to the Washington County Animal Shelter.  This is a community service project initiated by the 5th and 6th graders.  A dear veterinarian friend of mine was recently involved in a horrifying kitten torture case in Cleveland, TN.  My kids knew about it and wanted to help, but unfortunately the kitten did not survive.  Thanks to the internet, Katniss the kitten became an international face of animal abuse and a good Samaritan fund was established in her memory at my friend’s clinic  to help other strays in need of vet care.  Probably as a result of my kids’ passionate over-sharing and lobbying, the 5th and the 6th graders now have an increased awareness of the plight of stray animals and a strong desire to help.  So, their little 5th and 6th grade SGA decided to direct that energy into support for the local shelter in the form of a Penny War.  So, it’s a very good cause in honor of a tiny stray kitten who was not fortunate enough to end up in a shelter.   Send in all that change under your car seat!  We want to help the animals and we want extra recess!! 


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

When I was growing up in the mountains of West Virginia, one of the higher class neighbor kids had a French poodle named Noelle.  It was older than me and not in any way named to honor me.  I was far less refined than that fancy poodle, but I still felt rich and special to share a name with such a fine animal. 


In our class, Blake just got a new puppy and he did name her after not one, but two of our classmates.  Parents, I am pleased to introduce you to Luli Annalee the Malti-Poo… And, really, how many first graders can claim to have a dog named after them?  This is a first of my 10+ years as a first grade teacher!

And, I don’t even know how to begin to thank Jocelyn Mathewes for the amazing job she did sewing curtains for our classroom.  Her artistic vision was just what we needed to brighten things up and soften the glare without completely giving up our natural sunlight.  Wow!  They are beyond fabulous and the compliments (and envy of colleagues) have been overwhelming.  I think she has a side career in classroom design if she wants it!

Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels!   

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

We are making poppies for Veterans Day.  They are coming home today, please share with your favorite veteran. 

picture picture

Thank you for your service veterans. 


Friday, November 7, 2014

They say you should learn something new every day.  Today, I learned the correct way to print STAR reports to reflect the most current information.  They are coming home in a sealed envelope in the folder today.  There is a 4 page report showing the class data (without names) and your child’s individual growth.  The growth reports are my favorite part because they really give you an idea of how much progress your child has made since last quarter.  They should be celebratory as we have worked hard and can see some big gains.  I really don’t care at all about the numbers.  If the graphs keep going up each quarter, then it shows that your child is learning and making steady progress and that is all that matters.  Happy weekend! 


Noell Brickell

Instructor, First Grade

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Disclaimer:  I am not a fan of giving a standardized test to first graders.  I believe it overemphasizes certain skills and completely ignores others.  I won’t get on my soapbox except to say that I don’t make the testing rules, I just have to play by them. 

We took our second quarter STAR assessment today and I am working frantically to get the results sent home to you today.  Students were tested in math and early literacy and were leveled their by scores as:  Green if they score at benchmark levels as in green light, go.  Score is blue if student is above benchmark.  Score is yellow, as in caution, if they are slightly below.  And pink if they need intervention in the particular subject area.  These scores are used to monitor student progress across the year and to identify students who might need additional support through the school’s RTI intervention program. 

The papers I am sending home highlight your child’s achievement today in relation to the class.  Please, please, please look at this as simply a piece of data.  It is not a judgment of your child nor necessarily an accurate analysis of what they know.  It is how they did on the test today.  For most kids, their scores are a pretty decent indicator of their skills.  For others, they are a reminder of the need to listen and follow directions…for better test taking experiences.  If you have questions or would like to come in for a conference, please call the front office to schedule a meeting.  I am more than happy to go over it in more detail with you and to give you my observational feedback about your child’s testing experience.  For instance, there are some first graders who can read the encyclopedia backwards in Russian, but they scored average in early literacy because they were in a rush to finish first.  I’m more than happy to email or talk face to face if you have concerns or worries at all.


Noell Brickell

Instructor, First Grade

Monday, November 3, 2014

Wow!  Skating was so much fun, but I am kind of glad to be back on our regular schedule.  Here is what’s happening in first grade:


  • We are writing down something we are thankful for each day in November.  They are feathers on our Thanksgiving turkeys and will come home to you before the holiday break. 
  • Our poem this week is “Something Told the Wild Geese” by Rachel Field.  We are looking closely at the language of poetry and this one is a higher level than the others we have studied.  
  • In math, we are studying Geometry.  We are naming, describing, moving, and decomposing shapes this week.  We will venture into symmetry and congruence next week.
  • Our science question is:  What makes the seasons on Earth?  We are learning about the Earth’s axis, rotation, and orbit in addition to the weather and changes associated with each season in our area. 
  • We read aloud Cynthia Rylant’s In November and we will be reading other books about the seasons of the year. 
  • In reading, we are beginning to work on the critical skill of making inferences.  This involves picking up on subtle clues in the story to draw your own conclusions about what is happening.  It requires thinking beyond the text and is a hard (and much tested) skill throughout elementary.  We will be giving it a lot of time and attention.

Noell Brickell
Instructor, First Grade
ETSU University School

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tomorrow’s homework will include a coloring sheet from TN Stars College Savings 529 program.  If a parent fills out the information section of the coloring sheet and signs it, we will send it in to be entered in a drawing to win $5,290 toward your child’s education.  This is a program of the TN Treasury Department.  The only thing I would love more than one of my own two children “winning” the grades 3-8 drawing would be for one of you to win!  BOLO for this important paper coming home tomorrow.

Ms. Brickell


Monday, October 13, 2014 picture

First grade card sharks are playing Flip 10.  In this game, we look for cards that add up to 10.  It helps us learn our math facts and get even friendlier with our friendly number 10.    Soon we will graduate to actual Blackjack.  It provides fantastic math skill practice.  Consider including your first grader if you  play cards on your next family game night. 

Don’t forget socks and rain gear.  Tomorrow we skate.  We will also skate Thursday and Friday.


In other news:

We have a new poem, Pumpkin Picking, by Sandra Liatsos.  We are looking at similes, although we won’t use that vocabulary much.  We’ll just talk about the way the poet describes the pumpkin patch and the individual pumpkins.

We are learning strategies to memorize our addition facts to 12.

Our science question is:  What do we see in the sky at night?  We are learning about the moon, stars, and planets.  We learned today that our sun is a star.

We are focusing on story elements in stories about Autumn.  We will notice characters, setting, problem, and resolution in seasonal tales.  We will continue 5 minute silent reading and Guided Reading and begin using our poetry notebooks. 

We are still working on our personal narratives. 

Have a great week!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

It’s that time of year again!  All University School students in grades K-6 will be learning to roller skate.  This is a part of our PE curriculum and it is taught by Ms.Cradic.  It is great fun, but it requires some tweaking of our schedules.  Instead of our regular daily gym class, first grade will go to Brooks Gym for skating lessons on the following days and times:

9:05 – 9:55
Tuesday 10/14 and 10/21
Thursday 10/16 and 10/23
Friday 10/17 and 10/24

On Thursday, October 30th, we will take a field trip to the skating rink to celebrate our success. 

Skating will alter our daily schedule for two weeks.    Students will need to be sure to wear good tall socks to school on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday of both weeks and dress to walk across campus in the weather.  We trek over to Brooks rain or shine, so send raingear if it’s raining.  If there is lightning or dangerous conditions, of course, we would stay put, but we have been known to brave some heavy downpours to make our skating appointments.  Students from a high school PE class are on hand to assist with the first grade skaters, so each first grader will have at least one big kid hand to hold in the learning process.  Sweet friendships inevitably form during these two weeks and students often remember their skating buddies for years to come.   We will make thank you notes and treats for them to take on our last skating day together.

The excitement is building!  Mark your calendars and don’t forget your socks! 

Skating Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday for 2 weeks.  Wear tall socks those days! 

Ms. Brickell


Monday, October 6, 2014

Hi Everyone!  I hope you had a wonderful and relaxing break.  I certainly did, up until the last week when I caught my second case of systemic poison ivy for the year.   Hopefully all of the injections and medications are over.  I am blaming the Cookie Dough Prize mix up on the Rx antihistamines last week.  Thank you for your understanding and thanks to the Russell-Berry family for not saying, Prizes?  What prizes?  We got nothing. 

So, here is a glimpse at what’s happening this week in first grade:

  • We are studying the poem “Autumn Leaves” by Leland B. Jacobs.  We will notice the way the poet uses describing words to paint a word picture of an autumn tree. 
  • We are learning to use 5 and 10 as “friendly numbers” to have in our heads. 
  • We are exploring the question:  What causes day and night?  We are using a globe, flashlight, and selection of non-fiction books.
  • We are reading fiction books about the Sun, Moon, and Space.
  • We are reading silently for 5 minutes a day.
  • It’s Reader’s Theatre week, again.  We are studying and performing “Baa Baa Black Sheep Sells her Wool.”  Reading fluently and with expression, using punctuation as a guide is our learning objective.   
  • We are learning the difference between journal writing and personal narrative. 

 Welcome back!

Noell Brickell
Instructor, First Grade
ETSU University School
Box 70632
Johnson City, TN 37614

Ms. Brickell



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Our bowling schedule has changed.  We will now be bowling from 11:20 – 12:20 and should be back at school by 12:45.   There was an issue with the busses and we had to adjust.  Sorry!  L 


Friday, September 5, 2014

Next Friday is Parent-Teacher Conference Day.   Conferences are at your discretion.  If I have not called you or contacted you, then it is not required.  However, I am more than happy to meet with anyone who just wants to touch base and discuss your child’s progress so far.  Please call Mrs. Rea in the office to schedule a conference if you would like one. 


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hi Everyone!  The times had to be switched on our Thursday field trip and we will now be gone from 10:15 – 1:30.  That leaves us missing all available lunch times at school.  My plan is for the kids to have a snack before we leave school and eat lunch when we get back.  Since the cafeteria will be closed when we get back, everyone will need to pack a lunch from home that day.  I would also encourage sending a larger than usual snack since our tummies are in the habit of eating at 10:30.  Thanks and I hope some of you can come along and join us at the farm. 


Friday, August 29, 2014

Hi everyone!  This is Ms.Noell writing to you from my front porch.  I am home today with a sick child but I wanted to let everyone know to check backpacks for folders tonight.  No, I'm not mean enough to give homework over the long break, but there is a permission form for our field trip to Emma's family farm and I let the time slip up on me to get those out.  Please be on the lookout for those and I will see you on Tuesday.  Ms.Cindy and Ms.Venturella are taking great care of the first graders today! 


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tonight is Social Studies Weekly night.  There is not a reading book because we are reading Social Studies Weekly and completing the activities on the back instead of reading and reading journals. 


It is Readers Theatre week again and we are working on Old Mother Hubbard’s Hungry Family.


We are exploring folktales, myths, and legends from other cultures in our Social Studies Block.  Apparently, a rumor is buzzing around upper grades (who recently studied the Holocaust) that first grade is reading about Nazi spiders.  I thought I should clarify that we are reading Ashanti tales about Anansi the Spider.  Perhaps a combination of missing front teeth, southern accents, and speed talking have aided the confusion.  I do not teach the Holocaust or WW2 in first grade.


Happy Tuesday! 


Monday, August 11, 2014

First Grade Announcements


  • Math:  We are working on representing numbers with spatial patterns .  Later this week we will begin Topic 2:  Comparing and Ordering Numbers.

  • Social Studies:  We finished up our Science unit on Living Things and their Needs.  Now we are venturing into Social Studies with our first topic, Culture.  We are learning that people from all cultures need food, clean water, and shelter.  Today we brainstormed how our families get clean water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.  We all have relatively easy access to the water we need.  But, in some places, water is a precious luxury and people must collect it and carry it to their homes.  We read A Cool Drink of Water  from National Geographic and the first graders had a chance to see how this basic human need is met in different communities across the globe.  As we continue, we will learn about dance, art, and stories from cultures around the world.  Culture is not a topic we ever really leave.  We will move our instructional focus to other topics, but throughout the year and across the subjects, we will be honoring and celebrating world culture.  We welcome family input anytime you would like to share customs, traditions, artifacts, or stories from your family’s cultural heritage. 

  • Social Studies Weekly:  Beginning tomorrow, your child will bring home a Social Studies Weekly newspaper once per week.  The information and activities they contain are correlated with the new TN Social Studies curriculum and will help us update our existing programs until new materials are published and available.   They are sequenced for a traditional school calendar, so they will always be a little “off” from what we are covering in class but they will always serve as an important review or preview of our classwork. 

  • We are reading and studying The Three Billy Goats Gruff this week.  We will be story mapping, reflecting on our favorite parts, and composing a written character analysis of the troll.  If you have a chance to peek on our reading board at the back of the room, we created posters of the characters and they are excellent collaborative works of art. 

  • We work on sight words in a variety of ways throughout the year.  Sight word recognition is a cornerstone of reading fluency and practicing them at home or in the car is a great way to help your blossoming reader at home.  For this purpose, I am sending home a master list of sight words we will work on throughout the year.  It is yours to use however you wish, but some ideas that have helped first graders in the past are:  index card matching games, post it notes with sight words around the house, magnetic letters on the fridge, and stringing letter beads on string.  It is also helpful to review the sight word books that come home in the folder at home each night.  You might be surprised at how often it happens that a new reader comes across the very word we practiced over and over and does not recognize it in the context of a story.    Repeated exposure and practice leads to automatic recognition and that is our ultimate goal. 


Our week is off to a  great start!  I will see you tomorrow!




Noell Brickell

Instructor, First Grade

ETSU University School

Box 70632

Johnson City, TN 37614

Ms. Brickell


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