Elementary Curriculum Update

November/December 2017

Penn Class - 1st Grade

First graders have practiced a variety of math skills throughout various curricular areas, including measuring, calculating the value of money, and collecting/reading data. In addition, the children have continued to deepen their understanding of our base ten system through activities with digits, numbers, and place value. They have practiced adding numbers, using coins to calculate a given value, and telling time.


The students in the Penn Class took the lead on collecting the donations for the Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief efforts. They practiced a variety of math skills including tallying and totaling the items collected, and drawing conclusions from the tally chart using most, least, more, and less statements. To raise funds for shipment, the school held pretzel sales and breakfasts. Once the money was collected, the students discussed and agreed on the best way to count it—making groups of five dollars with the ones, allowing them to then count by fives for a total. With the larger bills, students were able to share their strategies, using knowledge of place value, to add to our total.


Each student brought in a collection of “treasures” to share with the class. The treasures were used to practice various math and science skills which included making observations, sorting/classifying, and comparing and contrasting. They learned The Attribute Train Game, which allowed them to apply each skill.


In Reading Studio, the Penn Class has reached their goal of 20 minutes of read-to-self stamina! The student have been practicing picking out books that interest them and recognizing when a book is easy, just right, and/or hard. The comprehension strategy focus was Sensory Images. Starting with visualization, students read poems and drew what they pictured. They then explored more deeply how they can use their other senses to enhance their comprehension. Fireflies by Julie Brinkloe and The Cloud Book by Tomie DePoala were used as mentor texts.


In Writing Studio, the class worked on revising and editing their personal narratives in a one-on-one conference with the teacher. The students set goals for writing, which they refer to daily. They wrote multiple narratives and chose one to publish.


To bring our study of recycling to a close, the students conducted online research with the guiding question: “What does the number in the recycling sign mean?” They were able to conclude that the number is called a Resin ID Code and is placed on all plastic products to indicate the type of plastic used. They learned the reasoning behind why certain plastics are safer than others and which should be reused vs. recycled.


The Penn Class culminated their study on community with building Little Free Libraries. In three teams, the students planned and carried out the construction/design of the libraries. They used tools to measure, cut, and nail wood together, following the blueprint provided. They painted the exterior with a design their team agreed upon. The students are excited for the next steps, which will include stocking the libraries with books, placing two outside of the school and informing members of our community on how to use it.


“What is a cloud?” This was the guiding question as the students took part in an experiment which allowed them to gain an understanding of clouds and their role in the water cycle. Students observed and read books learning the scientific name for the types of clouds and what each tells us about the weather.

Fox Class - 2nd and 3rd Grades

During Reading Studio, we continued discussing the images that we visualized while reading Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick. Visualizing parts of the story helped the students understand it and feel like they were in New Orleans with the main character. We learned how to write a summary after we finished the book. We also read the picture books, The Widow’s Broom by Chris Van Allsburg and Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back by Joseph Bruchac and Jonathan London. Using Visualizing and Verbalizing by Nanci Bell as a resource, we completed exercises like having students share what they pictured about individual sentences. The teacher modeled predicting by reading The Snow Princess by Ruth Sanderson and Santa’s Snow Cat by Sue Stainton. The students practiced this skill when reading their individual books.


During Writing Studio, the students have written thank you letters to people who have helped our classroom learn. They continue to use the writing process to bring their individual stories to publication. They have begun using Google Docs to publish their stories. While researching biomes, the students learned how to “trash and treasure.” They used bullet points to decide which facts were important.


In recent weeks, the second grade math students have performed very well using various approaches to math concepts. New topics of focus include shortcuts to addition, skip-counting, and place-value from the ones’ to the thousands’ place. We've implemented a new workbook that focuses almost exclusively on place value and students have been responding enthusiastically to this new resource. The new workbook also introduces a kind of algebraic model in which students solve for an unknown quantity in a single-digit addition or subtraction problem. The concept of multiplication is central to our everyday learning and we regularly discuss the related concept of grouping in order to further student understanding of multiplication. Students have recently done a number of visual projects, for example, multiplication tables using various symbols and the well-known Spirograph art set, number stories with visual depictions, and other activities that correlate the concept of numbers to a visual representation. Though solving math problems in writing is highly important, we continue to explore numerical card games, math computer games, and manipulatives such as base-10 blocks, all of which the students have a very positive response to.


The past two months we have covered the following topics in third grade math: Addition and subtraction of whole numbers with emphasis on basic math facts and their extensions, solution strategies for addition and subtraction number stories, and addition and subtraction computation with multi-digit numbers. We have spent time talking about the various ways we solve problems and demonstrated our thinking. Students have practiced the method of counting on and partial sums addition. They have also used various diagrams to help with solving number stories. They reviewed making ballpark estimates and counting-up and are using manipulatives to learn the trade first method of subtraction.


The Fox Class took a field trip to Norristown Farm Park to continue our study of wetlands and watersheds. We played games related to habitats, added various pollutants to a jar of water, and made a model of a watershed. We learned about biomes at Nockamixon State Park. Students chose a biome to study and are researching characteristics of their biome. They are also researching how plants, animals, and insects adapt to their environment. They are applying what they learned about adaptations by designing and creating a plant, animal, or insect that could adapt to live in their specific biome.

We walked to the Quakertown food Pantry for a tour. We read the book Poverty and Hunger by Louise Spilsbury in order for the children to gain an understanding of causes of poverty and hunger in the world. This also connected to the Quaker testimony of stewardship. Students made a Wish for the World at Meeting for Worship to make our world a safer, healthier, and happier place to live.


The Fox Class visited Blooming Glen Farms to learn about migrant workers. In preparation for the trip, we read Refugees and Migrants by Ceri Roberts. We discussed the difference between a migrant and a refugee. The students developed a list of questions, practiced asking the questions in Spanish, and then asked their questions when they met the migrant workers. The students wanted to know why they came to the U.S. to work, what type of work they do on the farm, what they miss about Mexico, etc. We read the story Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat and discussed what it means to need “papers” to live in the United States.


The teacher introduced the Bug Box to the students. This is a way that students can help each other solve conflicts. We role play and discuss possible solutions to problems that arise in the classroom, at recess, or after school.

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Anthony Class - 4th and 5th Grades

Right before the Thanksgiving Break we cooked the last apple from our October trip to Solebury Orchard. Amongst the things we made were apple kugel, apple pies, apple turnovers, and apple dumplings. The students took home apple cookbooks containing all of the recipes we used. We’ve also been cooking regularly in Workshop on Fridays and will bake winter gifts for our families. On the last day of school in December we’ll be making Gingerbread Houses with the Penn Class.


Early in November the Anthony Class went to Nockamixon State Park for the day. Everyone had a sketchbook and pencils for drawing and a photograph of something along our hiking path to find. They were successful in identifying all the pictures. Everyone came back to school with sketches that they brought to Art the next day. Stacie had them watercolor their sketches and those pieces of art are hanging in the hall outside our room.


In read-aloud we finished The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and will be done The Thief of Always by Clive Barker before winter break.


Recently, we launched a new set of literature circles. This time, the students were able to select a book from a group of six that they were interested in reading. The books being read are Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, The Transall Saga by Gary Paulsen, Iggie’s House by Judy Blume, and The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson. At the end of November, the teacher had writing conferences with the students. In each conference, we looked at individual reading logs and made a plan for a book that that student would focus on for the next 3 weeks of school. We’ve met again and chosen a second or even third book.


In writing, each student has published at least one narrative piece and a scary story. Some of the scary stories were written collaboratively. We have been reading through my collection of “Gingerbread Man” stories as whole group read alouds, as partner reads, and individually. One book in the collection is called The Cajun Cornbread Boy and this book inspired us to make cornbread one morning. Everyone has begun an original “Gingerbread Man” story. In writing conferences, and as a whole group, we’ve looked at paragraphing and how to write dialogue. The Gingerbread Man book study and writing project has had us talking a lot about character, plot development, and how the setting can influence the choice of characters and the storyline.


In fourth grade math, students have completed the third unit, Multiplication and Division, Number Sentences, and Algebra. Students reviewed multiplication and division facts to 100 and played various games to practice math facts. They also learned strategies to solve number stories. At the end of the unit, students were introduced to some basic algebra concepts and learned how to solve open sentences (n – 232 = 134). We are now in the fourth unit, Decimals and Their Uses, where students are learning about decimal place value, comparing and ordering decimals, and addition and subtraction of decimals. Students will also be learning about metric units of length (mm, cm, dm, m) in this unit. Students continue to practice problem-solving strategies using Problem Solvers.


Before the Thanksgiving break the 5th grade mathematicians finished up an Everyday Math unit reviewing strategies for addition, subtraction, and multiplication of whole numbers and decimals; estimation and probability; rounding numbers; and measurement. After the holiday, we tackled another Youcubed activity called “Painted Cube.” The students built 3x3x3, 4x4x4, and 5x5x5 cubes using sugar cubes. They had to imagine that the cubes were coated in paint and figure out how many sides of the individual sugar cubes would be colored on: 0, 1, 2, or 3 sides. Working in pairs, students colored the cubes with markers, using different coloring strategies, and recorded their findings in a class chart. We examined the chart for patterns. It was fascinating to watch the students go from total silence to “oh wait, look at that….” Students found all of the patterns I was hoping they would, including the two rows that involved multiples. It reinforced the work we did earlier in the year on that concept. Sparks were firing during this class!


At the moment, we are in the middle of an Everyday Math unit on Geometry. We’ve been exploring angle measures; practicing using protractors and compasses; reviewing terms such as diameter, radius, line, line segment, ray, vertical angle, adjacent angle, intersecting, perpendicular, and congruent; and investigating triangles and polygons.

The Anthony Class is finishing up Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate about the experience of one of the “Lost Boys of the Sudan” as he comes to live in Minnesota. We read a first hand account of a boy leaving the Sudan from a book about refugee children called One Day We Had To Run! As part of our research into the civil war in the Sudan and life in the country during and after the war, everyone is reading a book called Hoping for Peace in Sudan. Students are practicing reading for information, answering questions about their reading, and summarizing as well as participating in small and large group discussions about the material.


In Science, students acted as engineers trying to save the imaginary town of Uwaria from natural disasters by strategically placing different devices to help predict, prevent, or lessen the effect of those disasters. In so doing, we learned about how those devices function. Through an activity called “Snack Tectonics” the students are using food to demonstrate the different ways the tectonic plates move and what happens when they collide. We are learning terms such as convergent plates, divergent plates, and subduction and how mountains, earthquakes and volcanoes are formed. The best part, of course, is that the experiment can be eaten at the end. As they move through the experiments, the students are writing about and drawing what is happening. We also created a human model of the layers of the earth and acted out the different movements of the oceanic and continental crusts.


Currently, we have partner time with the Fox Class. In November, the partners used the monsters they made in October and created short skits which they performed for each other. We also had a cooperative game afternoon and an afternoon where the Anthony Class shared “Gingerbread Man” stories with the Fox class. Our council time in November focused on thankfulness and, in December, on stewardship and wishes and dreams. We read two books that related to the testimony of Stewardship, Miss Rumphius and Just a Dream. We are writing our “Wishes for the World” and sharing them in Meeting for Worship. In conjunction with this, the Anthony class is learning a song called “This Is My Wish.” During the week of the 12th we’ll celebrate Hanukkah through stories, songs, games, and cooking.