Elementary Curriculum Update

January/February 2019

Penn Class - 1st and 2nd Grades

During Writer’s Workshop in January, the Penn Class began to work on editing their writing pieces using special blue colored pencils. The class also learned that they can “subtract” extra information that doesn’t add to the main idea of the story. Children were thrilled to be able to use tape and extra paper to add to their writing during the editing process as well. Later in February, we began to use special black pens to really focus on our writing. The emphasis was on adding more details to the words and drawing simple sketches to add depth to the stories. Finally, students entered the world of nonfiction writing and began several “How To” pieces. The class came up with a variety of topics including, “How to do a Cartwheel,” “How to Draw a Cat,” and “How to Walk Your Dog.”


During Reader’s Workshop, students continued to pick “just right” books at the beginning of each week in order to have books of their choice to use throughout the week for independent reading and practice. We practiced several reading strategies each week in order to become better readers. These strategies included Fluency, Monitoring for Meaning, and Questioning. We also practiced looking for the Main Idea in our stories, first with a mentor text and then in our individual books. Additionally, we worked on building our reading stamina by challenging ourselves to read more and more each day!


In Science, the focus was on the Rainforests of the World. We learned that the preservation of the earth’s rainforests is critical to the good health and wellbeing of our planet and its inhabitants. We learned about the four layers of the rainforests and all of the incredible animal and plant species that are found in each of these layers. The children worked with a partner to research a rainforest animal and report their findings using a graphic organizer to depict information such as the animal’s habitat, physical characteristics, and food.


In Social Studies, the focus over the last two months was India. We learned where India is located on the map, and read various stories that taught us about its complex culture and people. Each student was also partnered up with a pen pal from St. Michael’s School in Bangalore, India. The idea behind this letter writing exchange was for students to make connections with peers from another part of the world. Connections like these increase empathy in children, so that they are more tolerant and accepting of different people and cultures in our increasingly global society.


In First Grade Math, the class was busy adding, subtracting, counting and comparing numbers and quantities each day. We focused on practicing efficient math strategies to add and subtract within 10 and 20, building an understanding of place value with tens and ones, and solving addition and subtraction story problems with pictures, numbers, and words. The number rack was used to practice doubles facts, figuring out the answers to subtraction problems, and for instantly recognizing numbers that make ten (example, 3 + 7 =10). Ten frames were also utilized to help students visualize Add Ten facts. We also worked with unifix cubes to compare two stacks of cubes, or “towers,” and find the difference between two numbers.


In Second Grade Math, students have been learning how to conduct surveys and make a graph. Students learned the difference between a bar graph and a picture graph and then chose their own topics and surveyed the class. The second graders had a really great time asking each other questions. We then took pictures with a mustache and called our surveys "I “MUSTache” You a Question.” For the past month, students have been learning how to add and subtract double digit numbers. One strategy we are using is an open number line. This was tricky when we began but now we all have a better understanding of how to do this more efficiently. Another way we have been learning to add double digit numbers is by using a base ten model. Using this strategy teaches students to make and break apart numbers. Students are given the opportunity to choose which strategy they like best to solve for their answer.


During Partner Time, the Penn Class students worked with their Anthony Class partners to make their “Not a Tube” projects. First, as a whole group, we read two books by Antoinette Portis: Not a Box and Not a Stick. The students were then given cardboard tubes and asked to make their own “Not a Tube,” using their tube and a number of craft items and accessories from the Maker Space and classrooms. The student pairs came up with interesting ideas and the results were very creative. The final projects included a snake, a horse, a snowman, a minion, and a gumball machine, just to name a few!


On February 28th, the Penn Class took a field trip to experience the “Maple Sugar Magic” event at Green Lane Park. The staff at Green Lane demonstrated the centuries-old process which includes tree tapping, boiling of sap on the evaporator, and the tradition of “sugaring off.” We participated in a blind taste test to compare their freshly made maple syrup with the commercial “pancake syrup.” The children especially enjoyed this taste testing experience, and almost all of them correctly guessed which syrup was the “real deal!”

Fox Class - 2nd and 3rd Grades

Throughout January and February, the Fox Class combined Readers Workshop with Social Studies. We read books about Martin Luther King Jr, Ruby Bridges, Josephine Baker, and other civil rights activists. We read other books like The Daring Escape of Ellen Craft and Young Black and Gifted. Students have learned a lot more about these amazing historical figures through their actions and words and were able to capture their strength and willpower.

In discussing character traits, we talked about our identities and what makes us who we are. Students discussed why it is important to support and love each other. This is an important topic that we have been discussing all year long. The Fox Class used many mentor texts to discuss our identities. Some of the book titles we read were, I am Jazz, My Princess Boy, and Tango Makes Three. Students completed a graphic organizer to help them organize their ideas about the character traits that make up their identity. They discussed what people can see on our outside, such as eye color, hair color, skin tone, freckles etc. Later we wrote down the parts of our identity that people cannot see, such as where we were born, what our religion is, what our nationality is, what hobbies we have, and who we live with, etc. Students then made silhouettes. On the outside, we wrote our outside traits. On the silhouettes, students wrote down the part of their identity that people cannot see. As students were working they continued to think of more characteristics to add to their silhouette. This was an impactful project and helped the students visualize what makes them who they are.


During Writers Workshop students have been working diligently on their non-fiction writing. They chose an insect to study and used an outline to organize research they collected from books and internet sources. Prior to writing, students studied the features of non-fiction texts. In their own reports, they created a table of contents, headings, pictures, diagrams, captions, fun facts and a glossary. With the art teacher's help, students created beautiful covers for their reports. When finished, we will practice reading them to each other and then will read them to the Rustin Class (kindergarten) in the coming weeks. The students are very proud of themselves and they are now experts on their insect!


In Second Grade Math, students have been learning how to conduct surveys and make a graph. Students learned the difference between a bar graph and a picture graph and then chose their own topics and surveyed the class. The second graders had a really great time asking each other questions. We then took pictures with a mustache and called our surveys "I “MUSTache” You a Question.” For the past month, students have been learning how to add and subtract double digit numbers. One strategy we are using is an open number line. This was tricky when we began but now we all have a better understanding of how to do this more efficiently. Another way we have been learning to add double digit numbers is by using a base ten model. Using this strategy teaches students to make and break apart numbers. Students are given the opportunity to choose which strategy they like best to solve for their answer.


In Third Grade Math, students completed the third unit of the Bridges curriculum – Multi-Digit Addition and Subtraction. In this unit, students learned to round numbers to the nearest ten and hundred and also reviewed and learned various strategies for adding and subtracting multi-digit numbers including the standard algorithm. They played various games to practice and reinforce these skills. We are now in the fourth unit - Measurement and Fractions. In this unit, students will learn to tell time to the minute and solve elapsed time problems. Students will also explore mass, volume and fractions. In the Number Corner part of the curriculum, students have focused on fractions, time, area and perimeter. In addition, students explored strategies for multiplying by 5, 10, 3, 4 and 8.

Anthony Class - 4th and 5th Grades

During January and February, the Anthony Class has been reading picture books as the jumping off point for our Meetings for Worship in the classroom. Amongst the books we have read are Dear Dr. King: Letters From Today’s Children to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr; Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton, SIT-IN: How Four Friends Stood up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Boycott Blues by Andrea Davis Pinkney, and Wings by Christopher Myers. The first of those books inspired the class to write their own letters to Dr. King which they shared at the all-school Meeting for Worship on the school’s Day of Service in honor of Dr. King.


Many of the morning messages awaiting the students each day have included “Who Am I?” pictures of notable black Americans. The class read short biographical pieces about each of these people. Amongst the individuals highlighted were Henry Boyd, Bessie Coleman, Andrew Young, Harriet Forten Purvis, W.E.B. Dubois, Mae Jemison, Jesse Jackson, Sojourner Truth, Bayard Rustin, and Madam C.J. Walker.


The focus of this February's Ally Week was Intersectionality. The activities during this week built upon work done throughout the year. The Anthony Class focused on Identity. After watching a short video of a story called “The Bear That Wasn’t” the students brainstormed a list of the things they thought made up their identities. After that, each student created an identity map. When those were completed the class took an “Identity Portrait Gallery Walk” leaving comments for each other on sticky notes on the portraits. They could write affirmations or appreciations, questions, or things that surprised them. They also created posters with their definitions of intersectionality and we spent class time investigating class and furthering our conversations about race.


The current D.E.A.L. (Drop Everything and Listen) chapter book is Guts and Glory: The American Revolution by Ben Thompson. This choice fits in with the thematic unit on the American Revolution that the Anthony Class is embarking upon. In January we read Pax by Sara Pennypacker.


The Anthony Class is into its third round of Literature Circle books. The group who read Belle Prater’s Boy by Ruth White in the fall was given the chance to read the sequel, The Search for Belle Prater. All elected to do that. The other Lit Circles are Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Wringer by Jerry Spinelli, and Chocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith.


On February 27th the Anthony Class hosted a writing celebration where parents were invited to hear their children's writing. Everyone shared their realistic fiction piece and had a choice of two other pieces. They could choose from their scary stories, personal or persuasive essays, winter break summaries, and fictional stories created from one of several story starters. The students baked snacks for their guests to enjoy after the reading.


During these months the Anthony Class has been wrapping up units of study and starting new ones. We concluded our study of Animal Behavior by experimenting with varied stimuli and how it affected the behavior of our classroom bunny. The final part of our examination of walls and what they tell us about history and culture was to closely read an article by Simon Worral from National Geographic. This piece was an interview with David Frye who wrote a book entitled, Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick. The class read the article together, stopping to take a closer look at the walls mentioned and maps of the regions of the world where the walls were found. The walls highlighted in the article spanned 12,00 years of history. The students were able to make connections between history and the present and spontaneously debated reasons for building walls. They practiced looking for key information and highlighting it as well as answering questions in writing about what they read. They also used some of the essay writing skills they have been practicing in Writing Workshop to share their opinions about whether or not there are reasons for building walls.


At the end of February, the class began a unit called Reading History: The American Revolution. The first step for them was to learn how to be researchers. They gathered sources to preview their topic, looked through those books and generated lists of subtopics that appeared frequently, and chose an accessible book to read with their research partner for an overview.


During the beginning of February, the 5th Grade Mathematicians completed a unit on “Place Value and Decimals.” Students have learned several different strategies for approaching these types of problems including double number lines, money, clocks, and ratio tables. They examined whole number and decimal place value using the “Great Wall of Base Ten;” charted fraction and decimal equivalencies and practiced rounding numbers to the nearest 1, nearest tenth, and nearest hundredth; practiced placing decimals on a number line; worked with patterns in the placement of the decimal point when multiplying or dividing by the powers of 10; were introduced to exponential notation; practiced the “Give and Take” and “Constant Difference” strategies for the addition and subtraction of decimals; and completed activities around converting metric units of measure. Fifth Graders are now working on “Multiplying and Dividing Whole Numbers and Decimals.”