First Grade Information

Hello! Welcome to the exciting world of First Grade! My name is Mrs. De Castro, and I will be your child’s teacher this school year. I have many creative and fun ideas planned! With your help, this year will be a very enjoyable and beneficial one for your child. This newsletter contains some important information about my expectations, as well as some of the topics and goals we will work on this school year.

Help At Home To enhance your child’s learning, I urge you to take an active role at home. You can show this interest in simple ways, from asking your child what happened at school that day, encouraging the completion of any homework, providing positive feedback for a job well done, and attending school events.

Expectations and Consequences We will discuss ways that we can WHIRLL this year (Work, Help, Invite, Respect, Learn and Love). The students will help create our classroom expectations, the sign our written expectations to show their commitment to uphold them. Students who choose to meet our expectations will have an easier time learning new concepts and will possibly earn some rewards, too! I am always on the lookout for those upholding our WHIRLL ideals!

On the other hand, students who choose to not meet our classroom expectations will face consequences. These consequences range from sitting away from the rest of the class, losing some recess, or receiving a note, email, or phone call home from me. If necessary, a student may need to visit with Mr. Lungaro. If problematic behavior continues, I will arrange for a parent/teacher conference.

I will use a behavior chart in the classroom so that the students can see the choices they are making. A student’s clip can move up or down the chart according to behavior choices. Students will make the connection that a poor choice can become a better choice based on their decisions.

Snack Time We will have a brief snack time every day, around 10:00am. The students will have lunch at 11:10am, so this snack should be just that, a snack. Please make sure your child brings a healthy snack to school. Some suggestions are fruit, veggies, graham crackers, cheese, and applesauce. Please do not allow your child to bring a sugary snack. Many fruit snacks contain more sugar than fruit, so be careful. In addition, students are not to bring a drink for snack time. If I feel there is a problem with the types of snacks your child is bringing, I will notify you of my concern. If your child has a food allergy of any kind, please inform me ASAP so that we can keep your child safe. Thank you for your cooperation!

PLEASE NOTE: At least one of our students is allergic to nuts and nut products. For snack time and birthday treats, please avoid sending your child with items that contain peanuts, peanut butter, or tree nuts. Food items that could prove problematic include trail mix, certain cereals, and granola bars. If your child’s breakfast includes a food containing peanuts or tree nuts, please make sure your child thoroughly washes her/his hands with soap and water after eating. Please help keep our room nut free. Thank you! (As information, sunflower spread is a yummy alternative to peanut butter! J )

Communication This letter will be one of many sent home this school year. This form of communication is an important source of information. I will also post information on my webpage: This website has other useful information, so please check it on a regular basis. This website address may change, so I will keep you posted if it does.

If you have any questions or concerns, you may reach me at St. Agnes Catholic School (708-756-2333). If I am unavailable, please leave a message, and I will return your call as soon as possible. You may also write me a note and I will respond to it as soon as I am able. My email address is I will do my best to check and respond to any emails daily, but that may not always be the case. Please be aware that I will not respond to emails sent to me over the weekend.

If you didn’t do so tonight, please either send me a note with your printed email address, or email me this information so that I can access it when I may need it. (“Hello, Mrs. De Castro. My name is Mrs. Smith and I am Johnny’s mother. My email is Thank you!”)

Folders The students will use their blue, red, and fun folders on a regular basis. Please remind your child to check her/his blue Mail Folder each day for any notes, newsletters, in-class work, graded work, etc. that you need to see. If you need to return an item to school, place it in the Mail Folder and your child will put any mail in the blue Mail Tray upon arrival in the classroom. Any homework (more on this topic shortly) will travel to and from school in your child’s red Homework Folder. You child will learn how to return completed homework to the red Homework Tray. Your child’s fun folder will become her/his Desk Folder. This folder stays at school and is used for some ongoing activities. This folder will only be sent home if your child is absent and I need to use it to send home any homework or mail.

Also, beginning soon, on most Fridays I will send home a yellow Friday Folder. It will include some graded work from that week as well as another sheet. This sheet will have some brief notes about events taking place in the classroom. It will also include a list of missing work (if any) from that week. The Friday Folder will always include this “weekly update” sheet. I ask that you look through the Friday Folder carefully, sign the folder next to that Friday’s date (on the inside of the folder), and return it with your child the following Monday (or Tuesday, as the case may be). If for some reason I will not be sending this folder home that week, you will receive a dated note saying so.

Homework First grade is a BIG year! With your help, some of the transitions that will take place can occur smoothly. As you know, first graders receive homework. Initially, I will provide an assignment sheet listing the assignments. Eventually, the students will copy the assignments into his/her assignment notebook. Your child will receive this notebook sometime in January.

I assign homework not as busy work, but as a chance for your child to practice or review the lessons of that day. I want your child to complete this work as independently as possible. Please go over the directions with your child. Your child should accomplish the work. You may help your child only as needed. Please support your child by providing a regular homework time and space, and check to see that s/he is completing all assignments. Your child should place finished homework back in the Homework Folder and bring it to school. Sometimes, with my guidance, your child will check his/her own homework as one of our activities. I also look over these assignments to see if I need to review or re-teach any information.

Specials Specials begin soon! Our Specials schedule is as follows: Every other Monday, the students will attend 3-C with Mrs. Eberlin. They will have Religion class every Monday with Sr. Santina. On Tuesdays, the students will have Music with Mr. Opat. They will also visit our school Library with Sr. Janice. On Wednesdays, the students will have Art class with Mrs. Eberlin. We will attend Mass on Thursday mornings at 8:15am. Friday is our Gym day, also with Mrs. Eberlin. Please make sure your child wears his/her P.E. uniform and gym shoes on this day. Thank you! We are still finalizing the schedule for our Tech Time, when we will work in the computer lab. I will update you with this information soon. A list of this schedule will be posted on my Teacher Web page.

Punctuality Please note: It is vital that your child arrives at school on time, by 7:55am, every day. Students who arrive late will miss morning announcements as well as valuable education time. They also disrupt those who are already working. Thank you for your cooperation!

Helping Hands There is a “Helping Hands” chart in our classroom. Each student has a classroom job. I change these job assignments every two weeks. I feel that these jobs teach responsibility. They also make my job easier! J Be sure to ask your child what his/her job is for this week and in the weeks to come.

Everyday Values Throughout the year, we will learn our Everyday Values, also known as Good Citizenship Values. These values are cooperation, kindness, honesty, patience, responsibility, generosity, respect, and trustworthiness. We will discuss these values as they are demonstrated in stories that we read this year. I encourage you to discuss these important values at home.

Bucket Fillers! We are a Bucket Filling Classroom! Bucket Fillers show kindness and respect to one another. Bucket Dippers are purposely mean to others. We will explore different ways to be Bucket Fillers this year. We also have a classroom bucket that I fill with “warm fuzzies” when I see/hear good examples of bucket filling. Please ask your child how s/he is a Bucket Filler!

Classroom Library We have a well-stocked classroom library! The students may check out books from this library. I will explain the following checkout rules to them: A student must bring the book to me. I will fill out the card inside the book s/he wants to borrow. A student may only borrow one book at a time. No student may check out a new book until the previous one has been returned. S/he needs to remember to take care of the book and return it in good condition.

Please note: The books in our classroom library have either “Marzullo” or “De Castro” written somewhere in them, usually on the inside back cover. Please help your child develop responsibility for any books s/he brings home and to return them in a timely manner. (It seems every year I have a few that go missing. L) Thank you for reminding your child to be responsible!

Read, Read, Read! A wonderful way to help your child this school year is by fostering a love of reading. We will have DEAR Time (Drop Everything And Read), usually a ten to fifteen minute period devoted to silent reading. Sometimes, we’ll have DEAR time as a whole class, and sometimes as small groups during Centers. The students will also read with partners. Your child has a book box in her/his locker. S/he may bring in books or other reading materials from home to keep in this book box for this special reading time. Even if your child is just beginning to read, many books that use sight words or repetition can help make this independent reading time more enjoyable.

Reading to your child also strengthens this love of reading, as does listening to him/her read to you. Set aside some reading time every day. You can make this reading time special by taking turns reading to each other, especially as your child’s reading skills improve throughout the school year. Your child should also see you reading on a regular basis. Your child can read to you, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, pets, stuffed animals, etc. J The more your child reads, the better and more confident a reader s/he will become.

Further, ask about the books and stories your child is reading or listening to at school. All of these modeling techniques will help motivate your child to want to read more. Therefore, his/her phonics skills, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension skills will improve. Your child will participate in some very special reading activities this year!

Math We have a new Math textbook series this year: Eureka Math! You will find more information about Eureka in your welcome packet. Eureka will help your child understand the problem-solving process as well as develop their math fluency. We will use the Eureka Math series as well as flashcards, games, and written drills this school year. Please help your child practice at home. Thank you!  You received information  to help you set up your online account at Back to School Night.

Spelling and Phonics We will work throughout the year on the consonant and vowel letters and their sounds. We will also work on spelling lists, complete with spelling tests. These spelling words directly coincide with some of the stories your child will read in class.

Handwriting We will review and practice how to form the letters correctly. I tend to be particular when it comes to letters that, when poorly written, look like other letters. For example, if an “r” looks like a “v” or an “a” looks like a “u,” I will point out this mistake. On written work, if you see a wavy line under a letter, that means it could be written neater or is being formed incorrectly and I am watching for an improvement. Capital letters should only be used as the rules of capitalization dictate, and not just randomly. The same handwriting standards apply for numbers as well. If a “4” looks like a “9” or a “0” looks like a “6,” I have a hard time telling the difference and I may mark it as incorrect. Please help your child take pride in his/her work, not to rush through it, and to take the extra time to proofread and make sure it is legible. Thank you!!!

Religion We will learn more about how much Jesus loves us! We will also learn about His family, special liturgical celebrations, the parts of the Mass, and the sacraments. We will attend Mass on Thursday mornings and work on how to participate more fully in the Mass. Please remind your child about appropriate Mass behavior—listening, singing, and responding. Our eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Long, and some eighth graders will sit with the class during Mass. I will also keep a careful watch on my students while I cantor. Please help your child review her/his prayers and make attending Mass a regular part of your weekend. Thanks!

Language Arts The students will do a lot of writing this year! They will journal almost daily. They will receive their special Writing Folders to help keep their work organized. As the students write more, they will learn more about nouns, verbs, and adjectives to help make their sentences strong. The students will practice their proofreading skills when they do Daily Oral Language (DOL). The students will also work on some other special writing projects throughout the year during Writers Workshop!

Social Studies and Science Planned Social Studies topics this year include communities, community helpers, map skills, Pilgrim and early Colonial life, and famous Americans. In Science, topics the students will explore include living and nonliving things, habitats, animal adaptations, and protecting our natural resources. I also have some STEM activities planned for this year. Both our Social Studies and Science texts are available online. I will give you that information in an upcoming Friday Folder. That way, you can help your child review the material at home without having him/her take the book home. (Both books are kind of heavy.)

Centers We will use Centers this school year. Centers are five activities happening in the room at the same time. They allow me to work with smaller groups of students on different skills. Centers allow the students to work in cooperative groups. The students learn how to help one another and use teamwork. At least one Center is always devoted to either silent reading, partner reading, or listening to books on tape. Other activities during Centers may include Math and Phonics games, Handwriting practice, Language Arts writing activities, Science and Social Studies discussions and activities, STEM projects, art projects, and time on our classroom computers and tablets. Please note: The students will participate at each Center for about 10-15 minutes. If your child does not complete a written activity during this time, it may need to be finished as homework. Please check your child’s book bag or Homework Folder carefully, as these items will not be listed on the assignment sheet or in the assignment notebook. Thank you!

Water Bottles Students may bring water bottles to school and keep them in their lockers. They need to ask me permission to get a drink. Students may also bring water bottles Gym days. Please make sure your child can correctly close or seal the water bottle. We want to keep our lockers and locker items dry. Thanks!

Birthday Celebrations A child may bring in birthday treats if s/he would like. Birthday students will pass out their treats at the end of the day. Birthday treats need to be individually wrapped. Students will bring these treats home instead of eating them in the classroom. As of this writing, we have 16 students in our class this year. Please remember our food allergy situation. Items made in facilities that may have also processed peanuts or tree nuts are also not allowed. Treats that are brought that do not meet these guidelines will not be passed out. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Please remember: the treats do not have to be edible. Stickers, erasers, pencils, or small toys make great birthday treats, too! J

Another suggestion would be to add to our classroom library by having your child bring in a favorite book to donate. Inscribe your child’s name and birth date in the book. The birthday boy or girl will share with the class a little bit about the book and perhaps read a page or two from it.

As a reminder, if your child has a birthday in June, July, or August, we will celebrate it as a half-birthday in December, January, or February. If you have any questions regarding birthdays, please ask. Thank you!

Dismissal Procedures If your child has an older brother, sister, or cousin in second grade or higher, s/he will dismiss at the parking lot. Otherwise, your child will dismiss at 15th Street. If your child will attend After Care at dismissal on a regular basis, please send me a note telling me so. Also, if your child will go to After Care on an occasional basis, or if someone other than yourself will pick up your child, please send me a note on those days so that I am aware of any changes in normal dismissal procedures. (I may not check emails until after dismissal, so a note is best.) Thanks!

Uniforms When your child wears the regular (non-P.E.) shorts or pants, a belt is part of the uniform. Please help your child practice tucking his/her shirt into the shorts/pants. Also, please help your child practice tying his/her shoes. In addition, sport socks (aka “footies”) are not part of the uniform. Thank you for your cooperation!

VIRTUS Would you like to assist with special school activities, field trips, and the like? PLEASE make sure you have fulfilled all of your requirements: an online criminal background check, a CANTS form, a Code of Conduct form, and a VIRTUS training. As a reminder, there will be a VIRTUS workshop here at St. Agnes on Thursday, September 14 from 6-9pm in the third floor Science room. You must register online beforehand at I will only contact parents who have completed all requirements to assist with class activities. Thank you for your understanding in this important matter.

Here We Go! I am looking forward to wonderful, productive, and amazing school year! Together, we can make it a very successful year for your child! May God Bless You!


Mrs. De Castro :)