Elementary Curriculum Update
Penn Class - 1st and 2nd Grades
Students in the Penn Class began the year by participating in various community building activities. We read How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer, and we discussed and illustrated different ways in which we can fill another person’s bucket. The class participated in a “Jackdaw” project, where each child was asked to bring in a collection of things that represented him/her, in order for us to get to know each other better. The children brought in a variety of treasures, including family pictures, their favorite books, and sports related items such as baseballs and medals.
In Reader’s Workshop, the students are beginning to get the hang of choosing their “just right” books for independent reading time. They are also beginning to track all of the books they read in a reading log. During literacy centers, they have the opportunity to work in small groups on phonics and word work, read independently on iPads, and participate in a guided reading group.
In Writer’s Workshop, students are in the throes of writing personal narratives and learning how to zoom into a small moment and stretch it out. The class is getting ready to choose one piece to edit and publish before moving on to the next unit.
As part of our Social Studies unit, we are preparing to participate in a “Kid Town” simulation, where we will set up stores and services in pairs and small groups. We are going to invite another class to come and “shop” at our supermarket, restaurants, TV store, and more!
In Science, we will utilize a FOSS (Full Option Science System) kit on plants and animals. The class will kick off this exploration with a trip to Norristown Farm Park in mid-October to learn more about native plants and animals and take part in a hike there. During this study, the driving question will be, “How do young plants and animals survive in their habitat?”
In 1st Grade Math, students have been busy working through Unit 1 “Numbers All Around Us”. In this unit, students are able to:
· Recognize how many objects are in a collection (up to 10), without having to count from 1
· Identify 1 more and 1 less than a given number
· Explore number combinations that add up to 5 and 10
· Count by 1s, 2s, 5s and 10s
· Make and read simple graphs using pictures and tally marks
Each day, students begin math class in the “Number Corner” area which involves updating the calendar grid, the number of days in school, the daily collection activity (in September we collected nickels and pennies, in October we are collecting pattern blocks), and participating in a variety of activities utilizing an interactive number line.
Fox Class - 2nd and 3rd Grades
This September in Social Studies, the Fox Class has been focusing on our classroom community. Students have been practicing and learning classroom procedures and routines. We each created beautiful self-portraits that are hanging in our classroom and began a discussion on what is our identity and what makes us special? We read All the Colors of Us by Karen Katz. We each got a mirror and used it to help us draw our portraits and all the things that make us unique. We wrote Acrostics and Bio-Poems and are learning that each one of us has a voice and is an important part in our classroom.
In Science, we are learning that some insects live in communities. We have read In The Life and Times of the ANT by Charles Micucci and learned that ants live in colonies. Students learned that, like ants, we all have a job and are an important part in our community. We are continuing this study by visiting the Norristown Farm Park and learning about insect habitats and how we can classify insects.
In Second Grade Math, students have been getting to know the math routine and have been introduced to many new and exciting ways to have fun in math. Math class begins with a quick fluency practice, then we move on to Number Corner. In Number Corner we review the calendar, make observations and record our findings. Every month we have a collection where we gather data. This month we collected 60 minutes a day. Second grade math has been introduced to the number rack and how it can help us solve math problems. We are working on recognizing odd and even numbers, comparing and contrasting numbers, and understanding word problems. We are learning different strategies to help us solve problems and have been introducing work (game) stations and enjoying playing them with partners.
In Third Grade Math, students are working in the first unit of the Bridges curriculum – Addition and Subtraction Patterns. Students reviewed strategies for addition and subtraction fact fluency and also learned about various strategies for solving double-digit addition and subtraction problems. We have played many games to practice these skills. In the Number Corner part of the curriculum, students were introduced to various methods of data collection and various multiplication models.
In Writers Workshop, the Fox Class learned that we are all storytellers. We all took turns telling true stories and are writing them down like real authors. We are learning to zoom in on one particular topic and add lots of details and feeling. These stories we are writing are Small Moment stories we describe as seed stories. A family vacation to the beach would be our watermelon. All the little things that you do at the beach would be the seeds. We will pluck one seed and really focus on that idea and zoom in on every detail. We are so excited to keep working on our Small Moment stories.
In Readers Workshop we learned that books are “gifts” that can take us anywhere we want to go. Books can inspire us, we can learn new information from books and they can create all different types of emotions. Finding a “just right” book is like finding the perfect pair of shoes; if they are too big or too small, they are not comfortable. We tried on different shoes and walked around the room to experience the "just right" feeling. While we are building good reading habits and working on new strategies to understand and comprehend our books better, we want to be practicing in a text that is appropriate. Students learned a song called “I Pick” and got to choose their own books. They learned that readers choose books for a reason; thinking about what interests them, why they want to read the book, can they comprehend the story, and do they know the words? Readers are bringing home their “just right” books and practicing reading at home.
Anthony Class - 4th and 5th Grades
Many of our activities in the Anthony Class this month have been centered around building community. On the first day of school we had “council” where the students sit in a circle with a candle in the center. After some silence a question is posed and a talking object, in our case a rock, is passed around the circle. Everyone who wants to can speak when holding the rock. When you are not holding the rock your role is that of active listener. At the end. there is a poem we recite together, the chime is rung, and the candle blown out. The question at our first council was: what adjectives describe you? What adjectives describe your friends? Later in the day the students worked in small groups to create paintings including those descriptive words.
Our next group project was based upon the work of an artist named Judy Gelles who photographed children around the United states and in three other countries. She asked the children three questions- Who do you live with? What do you wish for? and What do you worry about? After looking at this artist’s work and discussing the photographs she took. The Anthony Class students answered the same questions, had their photographs taken, and created posters about themselves.
We have Meeting for Worship in the classroom several times a week. Once a week during Meeting the teacher has been reading selections from the book I Can Make a Difference compiled by Marian Wright Edelman and posing queries based upon those readings. Each section of the book has a theme. One was entitled “I can make a difference by being courageous.” The query was, “In what ways have you been courageous and how did you feel before and after?”
During our Morning Meeting times we have continued to read picture books about our classroom namesake Susan B. Anthony and discuss the Quaker testimonies or SPICES. The students worked in small groups to create posters representing each of the SPICES that will hang in the classroom.The testimony the school is focusing on this year is Equality. Recently, we read and began discussing the book Let's Talk About Race by Julius Lester.
Our D.E.A.L. (Drop Everything and Listen) chapter book is Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. This story is told from the perspective of the tree. The conflict in the story is around a new family in the neighborhood and discrimination against them based upon their religion. The students draw and/or write in their personal journals while the teacher reads aloud.
Each student has a reading bag with a personal reading book, reader’s notebook, and reading log. Our first Reader’s Workshop unit is on “Interpreting Characters.” The mentor text we are using is The Tiger is Rising by Kate Di Camillo. We also started our first Literature Circles of the year. All of the books were chosen keeping in mind the Reading Workshop theme, and everyone will be examining the characters deeply. The books are My Side of the Mountain, Because of Winn-Dixie, The Gadget War, and Belle Prater’s Boy. In Writing Workshop, we are beginning a unit on writing realistic fiction. Each student also has a one or two free write pieces already finished or in progress.
Our first Science Unit is about Schoolyard Ecology. Students worked in teams or trios to investigate specific parts of the schoolyard. They were assigned environmental factors to look for and asked to use their senses to make observations. Afterwards, we sat and discussed and hypothesized. After that they returned to the schoolyard in search of spiders. They made animal ID cards of the spiders they found and had a follow up discussion about where in the schoolyard they found the most spiders and why.
The Anthony Class took a trip to Norristown Farm Park to do an activity on Forest Ecosystems. Students worked in teams to identify trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants, learned the 5 layers of the forest, and looked for evidence of specific animals on a forest hike. After returning, everyone wrote reflections on the trip.
The theme of our first Social Studies unit is “What can walls tell us about history, culture, people, and community? The first wall we are looking at is the Great Wall of China. After having a conversation about what stories the walls of our homes might tell we began reading a chapter book about the Great Wall and watched a short video introducing the history of the wall.
In the first unit of the 4th Grade Math program, students studied various approaches to multiplication and multiplicative thinking. There are several visual models we referred to extensively including number lines, arrays, and a ratio table which is basically an abridged, two-column multiplication table. Mathematical vocabulary included the terms prime, composite, array, factor, product, dividend, divisor, quotient, and other relevant concepts we will use throughout the year. In class, students are developing the habit of converting the calculation in their minds to a written equation on paper, an absolutely essential step in developing accurate mathematical skills. Students also use various physical models - geometric shapes, snap-cubes, base-10 blocks - to aid in visualizing their problem-solving. Unit 2 will be significantly more challenging as we begin multi-digit multiplication and early division.
The first 5th grade math unit is called “Expressions, Equations, and Volume.” The 5th grade mathematicians have spent a good part of the month tackling different problems about how many different ways you could package 24 baseballs if the packages have to be rectangular prisms made of cubic units and how many square units of cardboard the different boxes would use. They have also practiced representing multiplication using area models and looked at doubling and halving and partial products strategies. We have defined factor, multiple, prime, and composite, and used number lines and ratio tables to help solve multiplication problems.
The Anthony Class bunny, Bentley, is having regular weekend sleepovers at his classmates’ homes! September 26th was National Pancake Day so, naturally, we made and ate pancakes.