Elementary Curriculum Update

January 2017

Penn Class - 1st and 2nd Grades


In Reading Studio, the Penn Class worked on the strategy of questioning. Students practiced generating questions before, during, and after they read. Through the process of questioning, students were able to experience how asking questions before reading activates your schema. The class focused on meaningful questions that led to deeper understanding and conversation around the text. As they read and when they finished reading, they continued to generate questions.

The Penn Class was introduced to reading a new genre: biography. During crafting sessions, the class read about Martin Luther King Jr. For independent practice, each student chose a person they were interested in learning more about to read their biography.

Asking questions led the class in recognizing how they find the answers to those questions. Some questions are answered directly in the text and others are not. The students recognized that some questions they could answer, even though it was not directly written in the text. This will lead us, next month, to the strategy of drawing inferences.


In Writing Workshop, the students wrote New Year’s Resolution paragraphs. After discussion on the meaning of a resolution, they each came up with their own. Each student used that as their topic sentence. They each wrote three ways in which (s)he could achieve the resolution. Finally, they each closed their paragraph with a sentence that discussed an overall feeling related to their resolution. The students went through the writing process with their paragraphs—brainstorming, drawing, drafting, revise/edit, publish.

The students continued to write letters home in their Friday Journals, where they were encouraged to write details to further explain something they did in class. This month, after thinking about the people that we are thankful for, we decided to each write a letter to the janitor, who cleans our room every night. The students went through the writing process with their letters.


The Penn Class began a study of electricity. The students created a list of everything they know about electricity, followed by a list of questions. The first experiment was a challenge for the students to light a bulb. They were provided with a bulb, battery and a wire. Through trial and error they were able to discover how to complete a circuit. They participated in other experiments that strengthened their knowledge of how to complete a circuit. Within the experiments, students made predictions, tested, recorded their results, and drew conclusions. We kept an Electricity Journal of writings and sketches of what we learned.


First Grade

In 1st grade math, the students worked on measurement. They focused on measuring temperature with a thermometer and using a ruler to measure length and width. Through using their body parts to measure objects, they were able to discover the importance of a standard unit. The students were introduced to telling time to the quarter hour, as they continued to practice telling time to the hour and half hour. They learned how to play Base Ten Exchange. This game allowed them to practice writing their numbers correctly, while using concrete objects (base ten blocks) to understand the meaning of each number.

Second Grade

Second grade math students enjoyed playing a variety of math games to reinforce conceptual understanding. A new favorite is to take four cards from the number deck, arrange those four cards into the two two-digit numbers that will result in the highest total when added together, and prove your answer by building them in place value blocks! Winter second grade challenges have included telling time, counting back change from $1.00, adding two digit numbers with regrouping, and solving word problems. Our new unit focuses on geometry explorations such as identifying geometric attributes, parallel lines, polygons, and regular solid shapes. Geoboards, tangrams, attribute blocks, pattern blocks, and shape blocks are part of our daily math work.

Other Happenings in the Penn Class

The Penn Class listened to Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater. The children now have Reading Buddies, where they read to the preschool students. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, we made blankets. The blankets will be donated to children of the Zuni Tribe in the Southwest. The Fox and Penn Classes held a pretzel sale to raise the funds to ship the blankets. With their Middle School partners, during partner time each week, Penn Class students wrote responses to a variety of writing prompts.

Fox Class - 3rd and 4th Grades


The Fox Class read many books related to the Civil Rights Movement in order to understand why we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. We read The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles and watched a video of Ruby Bridges being interviewed as an adult as she reflected on her experiences as a child. We learned about the Children’s March and then we watched the Teaching Tolerance video. The Fox Class read The Jacket by Andrew Clements. This story helped the students understand the meaning of prejudice. The main character in the story assumed an African American boy had stolen his brother’s jacket. The main character asked himself, “Would I have made the same assumption if the boy wearing the jacket hadn’t been African American?”

The Fox Class "read aloud" this month was Eagle Song by Joseph Bruchac. The main character in the story is homesick for the Mohawk reservation his family left so that his father could take a job in New York City. This story tied in beautifully to our Native American study and the theme of prejudice.


Last month, we learned about the skill of finding what is important in fiction. This month, we used that skill to find out what is important in non-fiction. The students had individual topics to research about the Lenni Lenape. They used assigned sites on the internet and books in order to locate information, wrote bullet points for the information they decided was important, and created a poster.


We kicked off our electricity unit by trying to make a light bulb light using just a battery, bulb and wire. We kept an Electricity Journal of writings and sketches of what we learned.


3rd Grade

We have mastered regrouping in both addition and subtraction and have used base ten blocks to help with the understanding. Students built arrays to learn about multiplication, perimeter, and area. They learned about customary measurement and metric measurement and found items around the room that fit the various measurements. Every day, we sing our multiplication tables.

4th Grade

In fourth grade math, students are currently in the fifth unit, "Big Numbers, Estimation, and Computation." We are learning and practicing how to estimate sums and products and how to extend multiplication facts such as 400 x 60. A highlight of this unit is learning strategies for solving 2-digit by 2-digit and 3-digit by 2-digit multiplication problems. Students are learning about numbers up to the billions period and powers of 10. Students practice multiplication facts and solidify their understanding of place value up to the billions period through various games and puzzles. We continue to practice problem-solving strategies using Problem Solvers.

Social Studies

We spent the first few weeks preparing for our annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. We practiced a choral reading as a class. We used the poem “Standing Tall” by Jamie McKenzie. We did activities related to stereotyping and prejudice. Each student went out to a site to serve the community. They went to daycare centers, Head Start, thrift shops, nursing homes and the SPCA.

Other Happenings in the Fox Class

We are meeting with our Middle School partners each week and we completed a STEM challenge. The students are working on a K’Nex design challenge. The challenge is to build an eco-friendly amusement park ride. As an ongoing service project, students cooked soup for the Quakertown Food Pantry.