Elementary Curriculum Update

November/December 2018

Penn Class - 1st and 2nd Grades

In Writer’s Workshop, the Penn Class students learned how to create engaging narratives by stretching out small moments. We studied several “mentor texts” in order to become better writers, and focused on two widely celebrated authors: Ezra Jack Keats and Angela Johnson. We observed the way both Keats and Johnson zoomed in on small moments and stretched them out with much detail in their stories. Students also created Tiny Topics Booklets to keep in their Writer’s Workshop folders in order to jot down ideas as they went about their day.


During Reader’s Workshop, the class participated in small group activities to enhance their reading and comprehension skills. During literacy centers, students worked on various games and activities to practice short and long vowel sounds, build sight word retention, improve comprehension skills, and increase their reading stamina by engaging in independent reading. Students continued to work on spelling development each day by participating in a variety of sound, pattern, and meaning activities during word study time.


Over the last few weeks, our focus question in Science was “How can we make a new plant from an old one?” Students observed the phenomenon of new plants growing from stems of mature plants (not from seeds). We put parts of plants (stem cuttings) into water and observed them over time. Students also learned that potatoes are underground stems, and that the “eyes” of the potato are nodes where buds grow. We cut white potatoes into small pieces and planted them in soil. Students recorded their observations by drawing, writing, and participating in classroom discussions.


In 1st Grade Math, we delved into fractions and telling time. In the November calendar grid, students discovered a pattern of friendly animals chomping snacks into wholes, halves, and fourths. We practiced telling time to the hour, and students used fractions of a circle to consider whole and half on an analog clock. In December, the calendar grid featured familiar items and a growing pattern of 3D shapes such as cylinders, spheres, cubes, and rectangular prisms. We learned how the 24 hours in each day is divided into two equal parts: a.m. and p.m. Additionally, students worked on developing strategies using dice and dominoes. The skills they developed included:

· Instantly recognizing dots on dominoes or dice

· Practicing addition and subtraction strategies, like counting on, doubles, and making 10 within 12

· Using dominoes and picture cards to write a fact family of equations

· Solving and writing story problems

· Counting by 5s and 10s


Our class was proud to participate in the school’s annual “Wishes for the World” tradition, and each student stated what he or she wished for the world during an all school Meeting for Announcements in early December. Some of the wishes included, “...building a tube that goes into the core of the earth so that all the trash can go into it” and “...that all victims of the California wildfires will get free cars.”


With the holiday season upon us, the class learned about the St. Nicholas Day celebration that is held in Switzerland each year on Dec. 6th thanks to one of our parents. During this activity, we found Switzerland’s location on the globe, touched and felt some interesting items from there (a big cow bell, for instance), and shaped premade dough into bread men (Grittibaenz), which were later baked in the oven as a special treat. Additionally, we had the opportunity to make holiday tree crafts with another one of our helpful parent volunteers. We utilized the maker space for this endeavor, and used pine cones, tiny ornaments, glue, and glitter to create our trees. This project really got the class into a festive mood just before Winter Break!

Fox Class - 2nd and 3rd Grades

In Reading Workshop, we are focusing on nonfiction and have been reading many nonfiction books in our reading bins. We are investigating text features and recognizing the differences between nonfiction and fiction texts. As we read nonfiction text, we are building our knowledge by stopping to ask questions about what we have read. We use sticky notes to jot down ideas or things that surprised us and are learning how to look for information within a text and cite what page we found it on. As we are becoming experts, we have to “rev up” our minds before we read and recall background information that will help support our learning.


The Fox Class hosted a Writers’ Cafe where parents came to listen to a personal narrative story that the class wrote. Each student spent a lot of time focusing on zooming into one particular event that really happened to them. We worked on making sure that the readers could visualize our stories. Some of us even added dialogue and similes! We drew our own illustrations for our stories and discussed how the pictures are just as important as the words. This month we are just beginning our insect information reports. We have an outline we are following to gather all of our information. This nonfiction writing unit will continue into January.


In Discovery, we were investigating mealworms! We each got to build a mealworm habitat and give our mealworms fruit and veggies as a food and water source. We have an investigation book where we write notes from our research. Some questions from our investigation book are: Do mealworms prefer peanut butter or apples better? Do mealworms prefer light or shade? Do mealworms prefer wind? Do mealworms prefer warm or cold? We had mealworm races and timed our mealworms to see who would finish the fastest. We constructed a playground out of recyclables for our mealworms to play on and also looked at them under a microscope! That was a very interesting sight! We noticed that our mealworms were slowing down. We thought they were not going to make it much longer but realized that this is the very beginning of the pupa phase. Our mealworms are going through a metamorphosis - they are turning into pupas and will soon turn into darkling beetles.


In 2nd Grade Math, we are working on place value, measurement, and arrays and identifying which number holds what place value. We played a game called Race to One Hundred - ask your child how to play! The class is looking at place value blocks and noticing how many units there are in a collection as well as how to make and break different numbers using these blocks. We have been measuring pieces of paper using unifix cubes and are working on finding the length of different objects. Students have been working on finding the perimeter of an object and know that a quick way to find the answer is to double the sides. As we are beginning to learn about the basics of arrays, we know that rows go horizontally and columns go vertically. While we are continuing to work on these goals we are spending time practicing our addition and subtraction fluency through Work Places.


In 3rd Grade Math, students completed the second unit of the Bridges curriculum – Introduction to Multiplication. In this unit, students made use of a variety of multiplication models including arrays, number lines, ratio tables, and equal groups. Students also solved story problems and played various games to practice and reinforce these skills. In the Number Corner part of the curriculum, students focused on area and arrays in relation to multiplication. Students also explored fractions, measured the mass of various objects, practiced rounding numbers, and solved multiplication word problems.


The Fox Class has been working with the Anthony Class during Partner Time and doing many STEAM activities. These projects involve a lot of communication with our partner and collaborative work. Partners discuss a plan and then, using the materials provided, construct a model. After the design process, we test our ideas. We then go back and rethink and rebuild to make it better. Partners also made posters to support our donation jars for the California wildfires. Last week we celebrated Hanukkah together and learned a song called "The Mighty Maccabees" that tells the story of Hanukkah. We also celebrated by making and eating sufganiyot which are jelly donuts traditionally eaten during Hanukkah.

Anthony Class - 4th and 5th Grades

During Meeting for Worship in the Anthony classroom, we have continued to use selections from the book I Can Make a Difference compiled by Marian Wright Edelman as the jumping off point for the query we considered. The titles of this month’s selections included “I can make a difference by being determined and resourceful," "I can make a difference by being grateful for the gift and wonders of life," and "I can make a difference by being compassionate and kind.” One of the queries the students considered was “What are you grateful for?” There is a poster in the room each week that we take time to reflect upon during some Morning Meetings. The recent posters have included “Dare to Dream," "Not All Birds Are Meant to Fly: Be Yourself," and "A Day Without Laughter is a Day Wasted.”


The first week of December marked the celebration of the Hanukkah holiday. The Anthony and Fox Classes learned the song “The Mighty Maccabees ” which tells the story of Hanukkah and sang it at Meeting for Worship on December 5th. Together, the two classes also played Dreidel and made sufganiyot or jelly-filled doughnuts to mark this holiday. In addition, the students in the Anthony Class made and enjoyed potato latkes that week.


The all school December service project is to raise money for three different organizations that are assisting the victims and first responders in the California wildfires. The Anthony and Fox Classes learned about the work of one of those organizations, created posters about them, and hung the posters around the school.


Our class celebrated three student birthdays in the time period leading up to the winter holiday, baked holiday gifts for our families, and read our Wishes For The World at Meeting for Worship.


The current D.E.A.L. (Drop Everything and Listen) chapter book is Every Living Thing by Cynthia Rylant. These are short stories that capture the moment when an animal changes a human being’s life. During this past month the class finished Wish by Barbara O’Connor and The Tiger is Rising by Kate DiCamillo.


The Anthony Class is into its second round of Literature Circle books. This time, students took a silent book walk checking out the five possible books before writing their first, second, and third choices on an index card which the teacher used to create the groups. The new books we are reading are The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, When You reach Me by Rebecca Stead, and The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl. With these texts the students are looking for examples of and analyzing how authors use descriptive language to engage the reader.


Everyone has published a scary story and a piece of realistic fiction. During the publishing process they practiced self-editing; specifically paying attention to capitalization, periods, commas, and apostrophes. We are at the start of a new unit on persuasive writing.


In November, we went on a hike in Nockamixon State Park. The students made sketch bags before the outing. On the walk, students stopped to turn over logs and draw and label what they found. Before going on the trip, the class watched a video made by a science teacher showing the safest way to roll over logs. The next day the class created posters showing “Life Under a Log” and wrote reflections on the trip.


After that trip we moved from ecosystems to animal behavior. Our first observation of the classroom rabbit and the kindergarten class’s guinea pig led to a discussion about anthropomorphism. The class then realized that the majority of the things they had recorded as behaviors were actually assumptions based upon how they would feel in a confined space with a lot of people staring at them. Next, the students observed the same animals responses to stimuli, recorded their observations, and formulated hypotheses about why animals act the way they do based upon what they saw.


“What can walls tell us about history, culture, people, and community?” has been our continuing social studies theme. The culmination of our study of the Great Wall of China was a building challenge that we executed in the Maker Space. Students worked in self-selected small groups or individually to create a free standing wall that was at least 6 inches high, 15 inches long, contained one beacon, and would hold a 2 lb. bag of rice for 60 seconds. They had one pair of scissors, one ruler, a role of masking tape, half of a pizza box, newspaper, copy paper, and five toilet paper rolls. A pair of chopsticks also needed to be included in the structure of the wall. The students had 15 minutes to plan their wall and 30 minutes to execute their designs. At the end of the allotted time, groups explained their construction strategies and we tested the walls. Four of the six were successful.


The 5th Grade mathematicians just completed a unit on adding and subtracting fractions and mixed numbers. Students have learned several different strategies for approaching these types of problems including: double number lines, money, clocks, and ratio tables. They have also practiced different methods for figuring out the common denominator and simplifying fractions. The November calendar pieces had the students identifying what x and y axis the vertices of different triangles were on, the name of the triangle, and the type of angles. The theme of the December calendar pieces is quadrilaterals. Students also measured their heights and the lengths of their feet and are plotting those points on a graph to see if there is a relationship between those two things. The new 5th Grade Mathematics unit is on place value and decimals.


4th and 5th Grade students also had the opportunity to work together in small groups on a math problem called The Painted Cube. They were asked to imagine that a 4 x 4 x 4 cube made up of individual unit cubes was painted blue on every side. Then, they had to answer the following questions-

  • How many of the small cubes have 3 blue faces?

  • How many have 2 blue faces?

  • How many have 1 blue face?

  • How many have not been painted at all?

After doing that, the groups were given manipulatives to use to answer the same questions. The class then explored other size cubes until they were able to make a chart that answered the question, “How many faces would be painted on a cube of any size?”