Specials Curriculum Update

November/December 2019

Library/Information and Technology Literacy

Mott and Rustin – Preschool and Kindergarten

In November, we read several books that the school received from the Fall book fair including The Shy Dinosaur by Cirocco Dunlap and Alma and the Beast by Esme Shapiro. We have been discussing the roles of authors and illustrators using these books. We also read several books about Thanksgiving. In December, we read books by the author-illustrator Jan Brett including The Hat and The Three Snow Bears. We discussed how many of her books are similar and how her pictures often provide clues about what will happen next in the story. We ended the month with reading several holiday stories. Students continued to practice selecting books, checking them out, and reading quietly on the rug.

Penn – 1st and 2nd Grades

In early November, The Penn Class read The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson and discussed Native American Heritage Month. The book describes the life of Josephine Mandamin, a Native American woman who walked around the Great Lakes to raise awareness about protecting and preserving water. The class also explored books by Jan Brett, specifically The Three Snow Bears and Town Mouse, Country Mouse. Students compared her version of the stories to the traditional versions. We also read books celebrating the winter holidays. Recently, students have been learning and practicing computer and keyboarding skills using the website learning.com.

Fox – 3rd Grade

The Fox class spent several weeks exploring Britannica School, the online encyclopedia, they will use in future research projects. In early November, we read The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson and discussed Native American Heritage Month. The book describes the life of Josephine Mandamin, a Native American woman who walked around the Great Lakes to raise awareness about protecting and preserving water. The class also read The Mystery of King Karfu by Doug Cushman in connection to the class’ study about the mystery genre. Students have created a mystery and have been working on creating secret codes messages for others to solve. We also read books celebrating the winter holidays.

Anthony – 4th and 5th Grades

The Anthony Class spent several weeks exploring Britannica School, the online encyclopedia, to help them in future research projects. The class has also read several winter holiday books. Most recently, students have been planning short movies and learning how to use the application iMovie.

Helman-Osborn – 6th-8th Grades

In ITL Class, students continued to work on selecting songs that reflect their book’s characters, setting, mood, and theme for their playlist project. They recently finished their projects and shared their playlists with their classmates. During robotics class, students discussed and began designing solar cars. Students collected materials from the maker space for their cars. This project will continue after winter break.


Mott, Rustin and Penn Classes are doing a wonderful job with their body awareness in music classes. During movement activities, it can be very challenging to move our bodies freely without invading other people’s space. We are having more success in sensing this during these activities and, in doing so, are able to be more creative with choices of how we move and express the music kinesthetically. These classes have also explored instruments such as jingle bells and various classroom drums as we continue to track simple rhythm patterns. We have also been enjoying listening to familiar excerpts of The Nutcracker, paying special attention to how the music tells the story instead of words.

Fox and Anthony Classes have enjoyed adding sixteenth notes to their rhythmic vocabulary. Another rhythmic element has boosted our creativity as we compose and perform our rhythmic creations. Students have been practicing reading melodies by playing various winter tunes on Boomwhackers and resonator bells. We also introduced a dice game to our music center rotations which focuses on quick recognition of note values. Our composer focus has been on Peter Tchaikovsky as we study the Nutcracker Suite.

Helman-Osborn students have been researching and completing their Book-Playlist project which was introduced in ITL. In music, students have had the freedom to explore the musical collections available in the classroom and discuss their song choices more in depth. As students move forward in music, we will return to studying specific pieces of programmatic music and delve into music history.

Instrumental music students are making great strides with their instruments. More than half of the program has earned an achievement belt and the rest are on the cusp of doing so. Consistent practice at home, even short 10 minute sessions, makes a huge difference in the level of student playing. Please continue to praise your student when they remember to do so or request a mini-performance from them to inspire them to get their instrument out and play. Please note that I encourage students to send short video clips of their completed exercises to my UFS email address in order to maximize our instructional time instead of doing “belt testing.” The tested exercises are listed in columns in their achievement charts which are located in their method books. Students should be focusing on practicing Jingle Bells for the winter concert which is quickly approaching. Please be sure to mark our 6:00 PM concert on January 14th on your calendars!

The vocal ensemble is steadily preparing music for a winter concert. The choir is very excited to share songs of different cultures this winter season and looks forward to performing these beautiful melodies for you at 6:00 PM on January 14th. We continue to expand our vocal range while maintaining proper vocal technique and are extending our repertoire from unison to two and three part harmonies.

Physical Education

We have had so much fun the last few weeks in P.E. classes. Our Mott and Rustin Classes have been using their imagination while exercising. They pretended to build a snowman while moving, jumping, and stretching with playground balls. We had lots of fun pretending to have a snowball fight and completed a snow obstacle course with running, jumping, zig-zagging, and crawling. It's always so much fun exercising with all our friends in the Mott and Rustin Class. Our Penn, Fox, Anthony, and HO students finished their first of the year fitness assessments. They completed push ups, planks, the pacer endurance and flexibility assessments. These assessments help us measure each student's fitness level and skill. We will do another set of fitness assessments in April to demonstrate how they have improved their fitness after a year of learning new exercises and stretches. We ended the month of December with fun tag games and cooperative games. The students at UFS are always so fun to teach. It's a pleasure working with each one of them!


Early Childhood continued to reinforce vocabulary for family members and more colors. With the winter holiday season, students also learned about light and good wishes for the world, such as “paz y libertad” (from a song by José-Luis Orozco). Students listened to a story about family member roles and compared the roles of people in their own families. They also identified their family members from pictures and colors from their clothes or items around the classroom. In our “light unit”, students also enjoyed finding lights and learning “Esta Pequeña Luz” (“This Little Light of Mine”).

Elementary students finished their altares for Day of the Dead, practicing vocabulary for the family members they drew to remember and honor them. Anthony students were able to ask and answer what they like to do by acting, writing, and speaking the given Spanish words. Anthony students are also in the routine of playing “snowman”, where students guess letters in Spanish to create a word or else a snowman. Fox class listened to and understood “Rodolfo el Reno” for several classes but also discovered that Noemí wants to learn Arabic. The conversation led to a bigger conversation about the Syrian War; students learned basic facts (when, why, who, and the effects) in Spanish.

Coming off of Día de los Muertos, Middle School discovered more of the history of the merging cultures behind the holiday. To begin, students watched Coco answering a movie guide in Spanish. To continue, they discussed different views of the afterlife and tried to discover, through infographics and commercials representing Aztec and Mayan views of the afterlife, the views of people celebrating Day of the Dead. They also delved into some current events in Bolivia, where the president was illegally re-elected and then investigated by the Organization of American States. For the holiday season, students learned about different Latin American traditions, including different names for Santa Claus, the alternative to frying latkes for some Latin@ Jews, and the different bringers of gifts. The Helman-Osborne class also practiced some basic getting-to-know-you questions and answers as they prepared letters for Latin American pen pals.