Weekly Newsletter



 Monday, April 13, 2015

We will have class pictures taken on Wednesday.  This is our group photo together.  These are pre-ordered at a cost of $14 per print and only available as a pre-order.  Forms are coming home today.  If for some reason your form gets lost in transit from backpack to home, it’s fine to send cash or a check made to Lifetouch in an envelope with your child’s name on it.  We will make sure it gets turned it to the right place. 


Noell Brickell

Instructor, First Grade



1st graders making the news!  Look who's in this month's edition of VIP Seen! His name is wrong, but it's him.


Monday, March 2, 2015

We were able to get a bus and will be heading to the Empire Buffet for our belated Chinese New Year celebration from 10:40 – 12:30 on Friday.  I am sending out copies of the original permission slip as we are missing a few.  We will also need as many parents and adult volunteers as possible to help us through the buffet line and to sit with small groups of students at the restaurant.

Also, tomorrow is the last day for Box Top collection.  The money we get for Box Tops comes directly to the first grade classroom, so please send those in if you have been saving them for us.  They fund our classroom pet supplies, extra art activities, and some of our special projects.  Thank you! 

Noell Brickell
Instructor, First Grade


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hi Everyone!

A couple of announcements and reminders:

  • Friday is Jump for Heart. 
  • Friday will close with our class Valentine Party.  Please send cards with names on them and ready to be passed out.
  • K-1-2 will travel to the Empire Buffet to celebrate Chinese New Year on February 19 from 10:40 – 12:30.  Ms. Chun is helping us practice ordering our drinks using our best Mandarin.  A permission form is coming home.  Cost is $6.25.  We will need as many parents as are able and willing to meet us there and help supervise tables and assist with the buffet.  Parents who want to eat can pay at the restaurant that day.  Thanks! 


Noell Brickell
Instructor, First Grade


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Quite a few of us have taken our headphones home and not returned them.  Not everyone who has a set of headphones at school is willing to share them with a friend and that’s okay, too.  We do not make anyone share.  We have a couple of extra sets, but they are less popular and are often met with grumbling and frowns.   If your child took headphones home, please send them back.  We do Click N Kids daily and we have 100 lessons to complete before the end of the year.  We are going to the computer lab every Monday to help us catch up on those.  We are already behind due to only having one classroom computer in working order.  We really need everyone to be ready to go when their turn comes up!  Thanks!

And one other thing, we are over the halfway hump and we are starting to think about the things we need to have mastered by 2nd grade.  There is not a full time Ms.Myra or Ms.Cindy in 2nd grade and students should be able to manage their own snacks and belongings.  We are working hard to encourage independence in these areas in first grade and we would appreciate your help, too.  We are practicing opening our own containers, knowing which containers to throw away and which ones go back into our lunch boxes and being responsible for packing and unpacking our own backpacks.  These essential steps toward independence will help your child have a more positive school experience.  Thank you for your help and support.


Noell Brickell
Instructor, First Grade

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Today, we applied our knowledge of solids and liquids, the freezing point of water, and the properties of ice in a spirited competition.  Each student was given an ice cube with a pom pom frozen in the center.  The ice cube was placed in a sealed baggie and the students could use any available means to melt the ice but they could not leave the classroom, break the ice, or open the bag.  The race was on to melt the ice cube and free the pom pom.  We elected a fair and impartial judge and equipped him with a pen and a clipboard for recording the results.  Conversations were rich with theories and ideas.  Students could be seen sitting on their ice cubes, tucking them into boots, wrapping them in tissues, rubbing them between hands, etc.  Everyone had a “secret strategy” and was careful to guard their secret until we had a few early winners and strategy sharing started to break out.  It was a blast!  Congratulations to our top 3 ice melters… Emma Grace, Peyton, and Avian and to everyone who followed the rules and explored the effects of heat on an ice cube.  It was a fun activity! 


Noell Brickell

Instructor, First Grade

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

We will have our class Valentine Party on Friday, February 13th from 2:00 – 3:00.  Students will participate in Jump for Heart that morning and we will end the day with our special Valentine celebration.  We will be making mailboxes for Valentine deliveries.  Please send your child with Valentines for everyone in the class.  They can be either homemade or store bought.  See below for a list of names:


  • Aidan
  • Annalee
  • Anthony
  • Avian
  • Blake
  • Carmen
  • Christian
  • Emily
  • Emma
  • Felix
  • Hiba
  • Julian
  • Luli
  • Max
  • Olivia
  • Peter
  • Peyton
  • Ruth
  • Tucker



Friday, January 23, 2015

Happy Friday everyone!  Here is what’s on tap for next week in first grade.

Our new poem will be “Dear Friend in the Desert.”  We will discuss missing someone who is far away wondering what it is like where they are.  These conversations will culminate with a Skype conversation with our friend, Harry.  Details to follow once the particulars are worked out!

We will continue working with place value in math. 

Our guiding inquiry for science will be “Why does ice melt?”

In reading, we will hone the skill of making predictions before we read and continue individualized Guided Reading Plans with Ms.Kelsi picking up some “bonus” guided reading sessions each day.  She has gotten really good at this.  Be sure to ask your student what they have been reading and learning with Ms.Kelsi.

We have spent this week working on writing craft.  Next week, we will focus on the technical skill of sorting words by word families. 

Please remember there is no school for students on Friday!  Have a great weekend!

Noell Brickell
Instructor, First Grade


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hi Everyone!  Here is what’s up in first grade.

We are studying place value in math.  We are exploring multiple modes of building an understanding of two digit numbers as tens and ones.  Much of what we do is hands on but we are also using a 100 chart as a tool for discovering patterns in the base 10 system. 

In Science, we are exploring states of matter.  We have conducted experiments with solids and liquids and this week we will focus on gas.  Our experiment today will be to predict which of two balloons has the greater mass – one filled with air vs one filled with water.  We will predict, test our hypothesis and report on our findings.  Yes, we are playing with water balloons in first grade..in the name of science. 

In Reading, it is reader’s theatre week and we are building fluency with an adaptation of Hickory Dickory Dock.

Our poem this week is “ Happy Toes” by Pat Mora.  We are exploring the idea of personification and composed an original poem about thunder  inspired by “Happy Toes.”  We then recorded our poem in our journals.  If your child brought a copy of the poem home last night, it was because they didn’t get it all written and needed to finish at home.  I photocopied a particularly legible model for them to copy.  Today, we will take on a new subject and personify it in poetry.  We also used our poetry writing to introduce the use of quotation marks and review correct use of uppercase and lowercase, spacing between words, and writing from left to right and top to bottom on a page. 

Happy Wednesday! 

Noell Brickell
Instructor, First Grade


Friday, January 16, 2015

Our K-6th grade classes have been invited to join the ETSU Women’s basketball team for Education Day on February 2 from 10:30 – 1:00.  We will watch the Lady Bucs play a game against Chattanooga and learn about college athletics.  It promises to be a fun and exciting day.  Since this is during our lunch time, students will need to bring a lunch from home that can be eaten from their laps while watching the game in a crowd.  It will be a true “take me out to the (basket)ball-game” experience and we will not have microwaves or tables.  Cindy and I suggest that you consider sending lunch in a brown bag and baggies that can be thrown away since the odds of losing a lunchbox or Tupperware container are very high under those conditions.  Also, we want you to know that there will be a concession stand open for the public, but our students will not be allowed to purchase items from the concession stand.  Please pack enough lunch and ballgame snacks from home to keep them full and happy.   We would love to have parents join us if you are able.  The student tickets are free of charge, but parents will need to buy a $5 ticket at the door to get in.  An informational letter will be coming home in the folder on Tuesday.  This is a free event and since we will not be leaving campus, there is no permission form either.


Noell Brickell
Instructor, First Grade

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

As you are aware, the school cafeteria is under new management and a few of the rules have changed.  It was announced yesterday that ice cream will be sold to elementary students every day instead of only on Fridays.  Students are not allowed to charge and will have to have money in their accounts to cover any ice cream purchases.  The first grade room is in a buzz about this wonderful new world of daily ice cream availability.  I don’t know about you, but I feel my own wallet shrinking already.  I’ve already placed an ice cream budget on my 5th and 6th graders.  Please talk this new policy over at home and communicate your own expectations for ice cream purchases and consumption and consider adding funds to your child’s account to cover the additional cost of this allowance. 

Noell Brickell
Instructor, First Grade

Monday, January 5, 2015

Hi First Grade Families!   I wanted to let you know that I will be out of town for a funeral tomorrow.  Ms.Cindy, the newly “Mrs.” Kelsi, and Ms. Venturella will be here to welcome back the first graders. 

Due to the outbreak and severity of flu cases in the area, we will be taking a lot of extra hygiene and flu prevention precautions for the next few days or weeks as needed and erring on the side of caution with sending kids to be checked by the nurse when they have symptoms.  Right now, we have plenty, but I may send out a request later for disinfecting wipes and tissues since we will be using more than usual. 

I also need to let you know that there is no after school care in place and children must be picked up from school no later than 3:15.

I hope everyone is well rested and healthy and I look forward to seeing everyone on Wednesday!


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


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


newsletter newsletter


direct edit