Elementary Curriculum Update

October 2019

Penn Class -- 1st and 2nd Grades

The month of October was a busy one for the Penn Class, which included two exciting field trips. The first one was to the Quakertown Memorial Park/Playground where we explored the playground, analyzing the materials needed for creating such a structure and how all sections fit together. The students assessed the usefulness of each area and determined their favorites. This was a wonderful walking field trip! From the knowledge we gained, the students turned their attention to the UFS playground and determined what they like and enjoy on our playground. The students also brainstormed ideas of another piece or structure to add. The Penn Class, as well as opinions gathered from others classes through surveys, determined that a climbing area or zipline would be an excellent structure to include. They are working on their proposal together. In Discovery, the students designed their own playground structures with classroom materials and gave a short oral presentation discussing their unique creations.

The second field trip the class took was with the Fox Class to the pumpkin patch at Del Val. We went on a tractor ride and observed animals such as horses, cows, and sheep, and we even learned about the apiary there. The students explored the corn maze and brought home a pumpkin they each got to pick from the patch.


In Writer’s Workshop, the students continued to strengthen their skills by writing personal narratives. They also identified parts of speech beginning with nouns and going on a Noun Hunt. We will continue to work on the editing process and look toward mentor authors to teach us more about how to become better writers.


In Reader’s Workshop, students worked on various centers each week which included word families, making “super” sentences by focusing on sentence structure, word work, and utilizing iPads to read books that match each student’s level and interest. Students continued to work in small guided reading groups to deepen their comprehension skills.


In 1st Grade Math, ten was the magic number for October, the tenth month of the year. Students composed and decomposed the number 10, practiced instantly seeing quantities on ten-frames, and worked on “leaps of ten” on the number line. The Calendar Grid featured sets of fall pictures to inspire math stories, and during the Calendar Collector workouts, students collected and counted various pattern blocks. Students engaged in “quick look” activities intended to help them subitize, or recognize the quantity of objects in a set without having to count each individually. Students also used popsicle sticks and unifix cubes to measure various items in the classroom including book shelves, white boards, and windows.

Second grade math students successfully closed out their first unit which included use of tools such as the number rack and being able to recognize common fact combinations such as making tens, doubles facts and doubles plus/minus 1 facts. Successful computation of these facts provide a necessary foundation as we continue to work with larger numbers, explore place value and learn about unit measurement in unit 2. A common theme throughout this second unit is the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. We read a version of the tale titled, Jim and the Beanstalk by Raymond Briggs. Students loved this different take on the common story and are very engaged as we use measurement tools just like the main character in our math investigations.


We have thoroughly enjoyed our second unit of study: Communities. As a class, we have been learning more about maps, developing our own mapping skills, and identifying the differences between wants and needs. We discussed what we find in our own community and made a plan on creating our own community in our classroom. The end result was a 2-D model of our ideal community. The students designed their own building, which have inspired writing about what services each of them provide. We are making maps and writing down directions from one location to the next. Several wonderful selections of children’s literature was incorporated into our lessons to help us explore related topics such as: homes, communities, and mapping.

While participating in Partners with the Anthony Class, we wrapped up our Dream House project inspired by the read aloud by Daniel Pinkwater called The Big Orange Splot. The students drew their dream houses and wrote a small paragraph highlighting some of the unique features. We concluded the project with a gallery walk in the Big Room and sharing some of the designs that struck us the most. By popular request, we ended with another round of Walk to the Line in which we discovered more about our friends and partners.

We ended the month with a wonderful Halloween celebration. Students came to school dressed in their costumes and took part in a dance party, played games, created unique/artistic X-rays of their hands, made spooky/tasty snacks, and even toured the middle school haunted house, which was a big hit!

Fox Class -- 3rd Grade


This month, in Readers Workshop, we have been building conversations around the books we are reading. In small guided reading groups, students work at accuracy, fluency, comprehension, inference, and prediction. We are working on our comprehension skills and recognition of new vocabulary. Third graders are learning to use their schema and the context clues in the story to try to understand the vocabulary words they are not familiar with. If students are still having difficulty understanding a word, they are learning how to use a dictionary to look up the words.


In Writers Workshop this month, we have been working on expanding our small moment stories to add adjectives, use dialogue and include an onomatopoeia! While we are doing this we are also trying to keep our stories concise. Our stories are supposed to be told about a very short experience that we will elaborate on. We are in our revising and editing stage. We have circled all of our punctuation and then circled the first letter in the next word to make sure that we are remembering to use capital letters. We are choosing one sentence and trying to add as many adjectives as we can to have the reader visualize our story. We are calling this, “showing, not telling.” When we are finished writing our story and illustrating a picture, we will be typing our stories on the laptops to publish them! We will be having a Writer’s Cafe before Thanksgiving break!


In Fox Class math, we have started an introduction to multiplication. We have been working to solve multiplication story problems, representing problems using skip counting, number lines, and arrays. We are working to develop efficient strategies for remembering multiplication facts through 10 × 10 by creating arrays as a strategy for solving multiplication problems. The array model invites students to skip-count and recognize equal groups. We have learned games and practiced multiplication bump at home and at school. We also had a multiplication array bakery in the classroom. We had the opportunity to practice using cereal pieces (doughnuts, cookies and honey bun) to create multiplication problems and build these arrays on cookie trays.


In the Fox Class, we have been investigating Harvest Corn. This is something the class saw as a decoration but we had many questions.

Some of our thoughts were:

It’s bumpy and smooth. It feels fake. It’s different colors.

Is it real or fake? How old is it? What will happen if we heat it? What will happen if we plant it? What will happen if we put it in water? What will happen if we plant a corn seed from a seed package? Why does it smell bad? How long has it been wet for? Is it edible? Where was it grown? Why does it have a woody stem?

We have created four experiments.

1. What happens if we put the whole harvest corn cob in water?

2. What happens if we just put the kernels in water?

3. What happens if we plant the harvest corn kernels?

4. What happens if we plant corn seeds from a package?

We chose to do two experiments for each. One in the sun and one away from the sun.

We made some great discoveries! The wet harvest corn changed! We figured out that the harvest corn is real! It began to sprout and the kernels began to pull away from the cob! We know that only things that are living begin to grow. The corn also began to begin to grow fuzzy and get moldy. Both the harvest corn and corn seeds we planted in soil began to grow. The kernels in the water did not do much. They did not sprout, but did begin to grow some mold too. We began to have some new wonderings. Why didn’t the kernels in water sprout? What will happen if we put the corn kernels that are growing in a dark space like a cabinet? What do plants need to survive? Why did the corn grow mold? We are going to be continuing this investigation and trying some more experiments with corn in the next couple weeks!

Anthony Class -- 4th and 5th Grades


Every Friday we have an Appreciations and Gratitudes Meeting for Worship in the classroom. The Anthony class students have also been reflecting upon what a hero is. All the children are creating their own definitions of a hero and, through these, we are coming up with a classroom definition as well. We have been reading from a book called Heroes and Sheroes and identifying the character traits of the people in the book.

During Partner Time the Anthony and Penn Classes have worked together to create the houses of their dreams. The jumping-off point for this activity was the book The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater. “My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.” We are just beginning a new project in which partner pairs will build models of animal homes.


In keeping with the Anthony Class theme of the first half of this year, “Heroes and Ancient Greece,” we have been reading Greek Mythology from various sources including Adventures of the Greek Heroes, The Macmillan Book of Greek Gods and Heroes, The National Geographic Treasury of Greek Mythology, and The Usborne Book of Greek Myths. During the last week of October, we began Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan as our read-aloud book.

Our first Literature Circles of the year are in full swing. All of the books are fantasies based upon mythology. Two of the books are The Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan and The Curse of Hera by P. J. Hoover. The third group recently finished Zeus and the Thunderbolt of Doom by Joan Halub and Suzanne Wiliams and have moved on to the next book in the series, Poseidon and the Sea of Fury. The different roles the students play in the Literature Circles are the Discussion Director, Passage Predictor, Creative Connector, Super Summarizer, Word Wizard, Artistic Artist, and Researcher. As a class, we are exploring character traits, the elements of fantasy, and how to formulate “thick” questions for discussion.

Every day Anthony Class students complete exercises in their Daily Language Review books. Through this work, they are gaining proficiency in identifying parts of speech and using commas. After working in small groups coming up with definitions of the word “hero” and character traits of a hero, everyone has chosen someone they consider to be a hero to write about. The Anthony Class students are busy writing brief biographies of those people and essays about why they are heroes.


The questions we have explored in Science this month are How can energy be used to create motion? How can energy be transferred through collision? How are energy and speed related? (or How does energy affect speed?) and What is Conservation of Energy? The students have performed several experiments in order to answer these questions. Each time they diagramed their experiments in their science journals and recorded their data. The experiments included the Golf Ball/Ping Pong Ball Experiment, the Dropper Popper experiment, and “Let’s build a Balloon Rocket.” With the latter experiment, the students had a chart in which they recorded their data. They used that data to create a line graph of their results and answered questions that asked them to draw conclusions about the relationship between energy and speed and to create another question about energy they could answer using the balloon rockets. We have also been reading books about energy.

This month the Anthony class visited the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The class learned the definition of an artifact, examined artifacts looking for images from the myths they have read, searched for artifacts with depictions of the god or goddess they have become an expert on, and sketched artifacts. At the Art Museum, we searched for examples of the different orders of Greek columns. After the trip, everyone wrote a reflection on the trip and what they learned. In Art class, the students have made Amphoras and done sketches of each other in togas. After researching one god or goddess, the Anthony Class has been busy creating Trading Cards in ITL. The final step will be to scan their drawings. The class is working on generating ideas for creating a game with these cards.

After brainstorming a list of topics that interested them under the umbrella of Ancient Greece, the Anthony class students have chosen one to design a project around. Some of the children are working alone and some in pairs. The first step in this process after choosing a topic was to create a project plan. Included in that plan needed to be essential questions, a proposal for how they were going to share information in writing, and an idea for a visual piece. Amongst the topics that are being explored are medicine in Ancient Greece, weapons, the origins of the Olympic Games, foods of Ancient Greece and how they differed depending upon one’s economic status, clothing and jewelry and how those were similar or different depending upon your gender and social status, the Labors of Heracles, and sculpture.


Fourth Grade Math

In Fourth Grade math, students are working in the second unit of the Bridges

curriculum – Multi-Digit Multiplication and Early Division. Students used base ten

area pieces to create arrays to solve single and double digit multiplication problems.

Students then moved from building arrays to quickly sketching them. Recently,

students learned how to break apart a double digit number into a multiple of ten

and a single digit to help simplify a multiplication problem. Many problems we

worked on include understanding what is being asked in a word problem. We have

played many games to practice these skills. In the Number Corner curriculum,

students reviewed the relationships of basic fractions, money, and decimals.

Students also learned about place value up to the millions place and reviewed the

multiples of 4 and 8.

In October, the 5th-grade mathematicians completed the first unit, “Expressions, Equations, and Volume,” and have moved on to the second, “Adding and Subtracting Fractions.” So far we have defined fraction, equivalent fraction, improper fraction, mixed number, numerator, and denominator. In the first part of this unit, students are working with money and clocks to add fractions and mixed numbers with different denominators. In the second part, they will learn the terms least common multiple and greatest common factor and how to simplify fractions. Currently, the students are working on a project called the River Trail. They have to create a map of a 30km trail with parks, campsites, shuttle bus stops, picnic areas, water and bathroom rest areas, inner tube rental areas, and kilometer markers at specific fractional portions of the trail. Their maps must have keys with symbols and must be to scale. There are also several questions related to people using the trail that they have to answer using their maps.

Bentley is having regular weekend sleepovers at his classmates’ homes! So far we have baked Arepas, Buttermilk Biscuits, Cornbread, and Challah in our quest to bake at least one bread for every letter of the alphabet.