Mrs. Darden

SPES First Grade

What does "STEM" look like?

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. On Wednesday students were given a problem/challenge and had to work together to come up with a plan to solve the problem by engineering a package, using a set of criteria and select materials/tools. Here is a link to the challenge. One of the biggest challenges students face in these tasks is learning to work together as a team. It is hard to listen to others' ideas and adapt your own for the greater good and to stay focused to get the job done. At the conclusion of the activity, we had some honest conversation about what makes a good team member. Talk to your child about their experience and if they were a "R.O.C.K." for their team.

Reading Quick Check

I was reading with my son tonight the book, Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman and had an epiphany! This is the perfect "ready for first grade" reading book that I could recommend to you. I realized how much I love this book for a very selective purpose. Sight Words! The book is not rich in vocabulary or complex comprehension but it is fantastic for sight word practice. Along with sight words, it includes number words, color words, and opposites. If you don't have this book in your home collection, it is worth the purchase. Of course, a trip to your public library is always a great option too. If your child is ready to read this book, then they are well on their way for a successful reading year.

Learning to Adapt

On Thursday, the students learned another way that some animals are affected by the seasonal change to autumn. In an effort to make their learning more authentic, we went outside to become squirrels. The students had just a few minutes to gather as many acorns as they could to prepare for the winter months ahead. Inside we connected our learning to writing, as students thought about what type of food they would store if they too were preparing for winter. See if you can observe squirrels preparing near your home.

Thank You for Stocking our Classroom Library

Check out all the books we received for free today, as a result of your order to Scholastic last month. We are excited to add these books to our classroom library. I wonder which ones will be a "good fit"?

Helping Hands

Hello to the parents/guardians of Mrs. Darden’s first grade class. My name is Katherine Knutsen and I am a student at Virginia Commonwealth University working towards a master’s degree in elementary education. I will be working with your children alongside Mrs. Darden every Tuesday and Thursday through December. My concentration this semester is on effective ways of teaching literacy and my few visits so far have shown me just how talented your children are. These students will help me to become a more effective teacher in my own classroom. A little about me:

I currently live on a farm on the far western end of Goochland. I love animals and own many horses, goats, dogs, cats, chickens and a pig. I have a seven-year-old daughter in the second grade at a Goochland county elementary school. I originally worked as a veterinary technician in the Richmond area for 15 years. After having my daughter and spending the first three years as a stay-at-home mom, I returned to school to become a teacher. My daughter helped me realize how much I love working with children and helping them to reach their highest potential.

I am so excited to have the opportunity to observe and work with your children.

Contributing to Our Community

This past week we learned about the importance of making contributions to our community. This includes small communities like our school and larger communities like Henrico County or Virginia. Wherever you decide to contribute, you are making your community a better place. We learned about the different contributions our school workers make and compiled a book. We also wrote letters of appreciation for the first responders of our community and "donated" a snack to send to them. Then, we took a walk over to Short Pump Park and saw how citizens of our community decided to contribute to the park by adding a garden and a "Little Free Library." The next time you go to the park, consider bringing a book to drop off at the Little Free Library.

Embracing our Diversity

We have had a great week exploring the terms "Diverse" and "United". On Wednesday, David's parents came in to talk about Ecuador. We learned about the flag, Mount Chimborazo, native animals, the Amazon, and more! It was fun hearing them talk in Spanish too. Today, the children partnered up to complete a venn diagram of how they were alike and different from their friend. It was neat seeing how we are more alike than different. You might enjoy adding some of these books to your own collection or checking them out at the public library. We look forward to learning about Korea tomorrow from Kaylee's dad.

Here is a picture to help you start a conversation with your learner about their hard work over the last couple of weeks. Ask your child about our reading stamina.

Our 1st Grade Team

From Left to Right: Mrs. Hofferbert, Mrs. Darden, Mrs. Bookbinder, Mrs. Golding, Mrs. Moore


I can't wait to see the students tomorrow morning and have a great day of learning.

Here are some reminder tips:

  • Any changes to transportation need to come to school in a written note. Changes will not be accepted over the phone or by email.
  • Send in a snack and water. Please do not send snacks with nut/peanuts.
  • Send a lunch or provide your child with money or add money to their account to purchase lunch.
  • Discuss with your child, your expectations of them for the day. Together we can encourage them to be successful.


Hi and welcome to first grade in Room 206! My name is Christina Darden and I am so happy to be your child's first grade teacher this year. It is going to be a busy year full of engaging learning and exploration in literacy, math, science, and social studies. I can’t wait to learn more about your child and all they have to offer our classroom community.

Since you are going to share your child and your family with me, I think it is only fair you learn a little about me too. I had a great start in life with my parents (both educators) and my older brother. We spent my childhood first in Charlottesville and then went a little further north to Winchester, VA. I graduated from James Madison University in 2003 with a B.S. in Social Science and Early Childhood Education. Upon graduation, I moved to Richmond where I student taught with Mrs. Chisholm and then in first grade with Ms. Pitts. How lucky I was to be mentored by two great former SPES teachers!

In the fall of 2004, I taught my first kindergarten class, where we all adjusted to the change to full-day kindergarten in Henrico County. It was a great year and continued to be an amazing experience for six years. Then for two years I was given the opportunity to pursue a new path in education as the Math Teacher in Residence at SPES. The program was provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and gave K-5 teachers an in-house support teacher (coach) to help with deepening and enriching their mathematics instruction. I am so thankful for the chance to enrich my own knowledge of best practices in mathematics instruction through supporting other teachers. I enjoyed implementing these strategies as I reentered the kindergarten classroom for the 2012-2013 school year. In 2013, I experienced my biggest accomplishment in teaching when I achieved National Board Certification as an Early Childhood Generalist. The 2015-2016 school year gave me another new experience, when I was given the opportunity to take on new challenges and adventures in my teaching as I made my way upstairs to first grade. I am excited to be part of such a great team. Educating young children is my passion and it is important that I remain a lifelong learner in my field.

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my husband Brad and our 2 children, Sumner and Rosslyn. I also love traveling, art, VCU basketball, reading, running, and spending time at the river with my family.

This is going to be an amazing year and please remember that I am here for you and your child as we make their school experience a huge success!