Elementary Curriculum Update

September 2017

Penn Class - 1st Grade

The Penn Class has had a great start to the school year, as students have taken part in a variety of activities to help build our classroom community. The students enjoyed listening to many read-alouds, focused on themes including friendship, kindness, perseverance and the Quaker testimonies. The class enjoyed listening to The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me by Roald Dahl.


Class meetings have been centered on ways in which we can be supportive in creating a safe and comfortable learning environment. After reading How Full is Your Bucket by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton, a class meeting was held to discuss ways in which we “fill” each other’s buckets, through encouraging actions and words. Students learned about the three zones—comfort, stretch, and panic, through reflecting and mapping their own

thoughts/feelings about various scenarios. Through the visual created, they made conclusions about differences in learning and growth opportunities.


During Writing Studio, students set goals for how they want to grow this year. The class then created a list of boundaries, so that everyone could feel safe to make mistakes as they work towards accomplishing that goal.


In Reading Studio, the students worked on book selection, as well as practicing the routine itself. As our first month comes to an end, the students have accomplished 10 minutes of read-to-self stamina. The students began organizing their classroom library. As they look through books, they sort them into categories, allowing them to take ownership of the class library.


The Penn Class explored the maker area of our classroom with their first STEM challenge of the year—Make a hat that can hold an apple. The students then participated in a relay race with them.


Students began guided math, in which they practiced working independently, with a partner, and with a group. The class focused on learning the routine for work time and transition time, and how to use materials appropriately.


We began a study of community. Students listed what they already know about a community and compiled a list of questions to help guide our investigation. The class walked through Quakertown, taking photographs and generating more questions.

Fox Class - 2nd and 3rd Grades

The first read-aloud of the school year was a story called, Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick. We talked about the characters, setting, and main ideas. Children have settled into “just right” books for independent reading and are happily reading. They have chosen a variety of books to explore and have access to iPads to listen to stories if they like. We read current event articles from Newsela, an online children’s news site. The teacher read the story Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner, a true story about a humble and heroic trash man, who made a difference in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.


In Writing Workshop, we started the year by learning about the 5 W’s in a story. (Who, what, where, when and why.) Each student wrote about their summer share while thinking about the 5 W’s. We reviewed the brainstorming step of the writing process and brainstormed where ideas come from in order to write stories. The students started their spelling groups. Each child sorted their list of words according to the weekly pattern and recorded the words in their journal. They practiced their words for homework in various ways.


The second grade math class has completed a unit that addresses the fundamental concepts of numbers and quantity, including the study of number lines and number grids. They have made frequent use of various 3-dimensional math tools, such as base-10 blocks and coins, and applied them to basic addition and subtraction operations. One of our recent objectives is to develop counting by a specific number, for example, counting by 2’s (2, 4, 6, …, or 1, 3, 5, 7, …), by 5’s, and by 10’s at a basic level, and by 25’s, 50’s, 100’s, and so on as students progress. This has practical applications such as reading thermometers, making linear measurements, telling time from a clockface, and calendar scheduling. At a higher level, it will also improve students’ overall number sense as well as their ability to make connections with multiplication, an operation which we will explore further this year. Assessments are conducted using dry-erase slates and spoken short answer questions. Students have done a great job with math homework, which is periodically assigned in the student workbook, and have become more familiar with various card games that require computation. Our next unit will include an extension of topics from first-grade and a look at higher level addition calculations with single and double-digit numbers.


The third grade math class began the year by talking about how valuable mistakes are. Making mistakes helps all of us learn, and our brains grow as a result. Using the Everyday Math curriculum, we begin each morning with a whiteboard activity. In our math class, we share our math thinking. Looking carefully at patterns, a student may share how they were able to add 10 to a number so quickly by stating, “I do not change the ones place value. I know that only the tens place value changes if I am adding 10 to a number.” Inspired by one of our students who happened to be reading a book called, Math on the Playground, we mapped out the playground and then counted how many steps between the equipment. We recorded data and reviewed the meanings of math vocabulary like maximum, minimum, median, mode, and range. Students were introduced to the math reference book.


Our science focus for the beginning of the year was hurricanes. We built a hurricane in a bowl and water cycles in a bag and made daily observations. Students learned about the water cycle and choreographed a dance to accompany the song.


In Social Studies, we talked about the Quaker testimony for the year, Stewardship. We read about The Red Cross and how volunteers can help after a disaster.

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Anthony Class - 4th and 5th Grades

We began the year building community through Council, group read-aloud experiences, cooking, and sharing objects that symbolize the stories of our families. In our classroom we have incorporated Council into our Meeting time. Council is a way of sharing our thoughts around a specific question. This question could be philosophical in nature, stem from a book we are reading, or come as a direct outcome of an inter-group problem. An object is passed around the circle and you only speak when you are holding the object. When you are not speaking, your role is that of active listener. If you do not want to share, you simply pass the object. Council begins and ends with a centering sound, some silence, and some words spoken by the group in unison. Our Council focal points have included “What are your dreams, goals, and fears about the new school year?, Is it okay to put animals in cages?,” and sharing gratitudes every Friday.


The question about caging animals came from our first chapter book read-aloud, The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. We are currently reading Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley.


The class worked in small groups to make two different types of muffins, banana and blueberry, and chocolate chip bread. We all learned a valuable lesson when one group put ½ cup of baking soda in one of the batters instead of a ½ tsp. One of the math classes also made pizza and vegetable kabobs for the whole class to enjoy.


After setting goals for our personal reading for the year and brainstorming suggestions for making this “as powerful a year of reading as possible,” everyone was ready to choose personal reading books. Each student is keeping track of their reading in a Reading Log and “taking charge of their reading life.” I am getting to know the interests of the children and helping to guide them towards books they might enjoy. During our first reading unit, the mini lessons have focused on strategies for “writing well about reading.”


Our first writing unit is on the craft of narrative writing. Currently, we are exploring strategies for generating personal narratives such as thinking of small moments involving an important person in our life, using turning points (first times, last times, or times you realized something important), thinking of places that matter, or of times we felt strong feelings.


In fourth grade math, students are working in the first unit of the Everyday Math curriculum – Naming and Constructing Geometric Figures. Students are learning about polygons, angles, and how to use a compass to draw circles. We have also started learning and practicing problem solving strategies using Problem Solvers and we have played many math games including Polygon Pair-up and Knockout.


The fifth grade mathematicians began the year with the “Week of Inspirational Math” from the Youcubed website authored by Jo Boaler. This resource is from the book Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler which the teachers read over the summer. One example is an activity called 4 Fours where the students had to come up with equations for the numbers from 1-20 using any mathematical operation and 4 fours. We have now launched into Everyday Math and are currently exploring factors and multiples and prime and composite numbers as well as reviewing our multiplication facts.


Our start with Discovery has had three components. First, everyone was asked to bring in an object that was symbolic of the story of their family. After sharing these objects and setting up a museum of them, we wrote I Am From poems. Those are on display in the hall outside of our room. Second, we have another read-aloud book, Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate, that is serving both as the mentor text for Reading Workshop and as an introduction to the experience of the “Lost Boys of the Sudan.” This week, the students are working in small groups researching the Sudan and South Sudan. Lastly, we have been following the hurricane and earthquake activity that is a part of current news.


The Anthony Class is learning about our class namesake, Susan B. Anthony. We began by making a list of things we thought we knew about her and questions we had about her. We have read a series of picture books about Susan B. Anthony’s life including Susan B. Anthony by Alexandra Wallner, Marching with Aunt Susan by Claire Murphy, and Heart on Fire by Ann Malaspina. We are gathering information. Today’s book inspired a conversation about what civil disobedience is with more current examples being shared.