Elementary Curriculum Update

November/December 2019

Penn Class - 1st and 2nd Grades

In Reading Studio, the comprehension strategy focus was Sensory Images. Starting with visualization, students read poems and drew what they pictured. They then explored more deeply how they can use their other senses to enhance their comprehension. Building upon each strategy, the next focus was schema. Using mentor texts, the class practiced activating prior knowledge, making connections, and building/adding to their schema. The students practiced these skills during small group activities and continued to work on spelling development each day by participating in a variety of sound, pattern, and meaning activities during word study time.

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 as well as group reading. The students have been practicing picking out books that interest them and recognizing when a book is easy, just right, and/or hard. The Penn Class has reached their goal of 15 minutes of read-to-self stamina!

In Writing Workshop, students worked on personal narratives about special moments. They began by brainstorming a list of writing topics. Once they chose their first topic, they began to plan and draft a writing piece. During one-on-one conferences, students revised and edited their work, publishing a final piece and sharing their writing in Author’s Rocking Chair. Mini-lessons consisted of writing in complete sentences, using correct punctuation and capitalization, word spacing, writing in sequence using transition words, planning a beginning, middle and end, and adding detail. The students will practice these skills by writing persuasive pieces, focusing on supporting their position and differentiating between fact and opinion in informational writing pieces.

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

· Telling Time to the hour.

In 2nd Grade Math, students continue to work on creating arrays and writing the corresponding equations. We have also been extending our addition skills to include two and three digit numbers. The open number line has become a very useful tool and strategy as we combine these larger addends. Students continue to practice using skip-jumps of 10s, 5s and 1s in order to best utilize the open number line. We have just begun classifying shapes by the number of sides and vertices each shape has and have enjoyed adding new words to our mathematical vocabulary. Another recent exploration includes adding two digit numbers by grouping tens and ones together to more easily find sums.

In Discovery, we finished the physical science aspect of our Playground Study and the students continued their studies by participating in experiments to understand the force of gravity and simple machines as well as learning about Sir Isaac Newton. They worked together to create seesaws from a variety of materials as well as a catapult made of popsicle sticks and rubber bands, which lead them to understand the parts of a lever. Their final challenge was to build a Medieval catapult in teams.

While participating in Partners with the Anthony Class, we wrapped up our Animal Homes project. The partners worked together to create and build model animal homes with materials in the Maker’s Space. It was a true lesson in cooperative learning.

Our class was proud to participate in the school’s annual “Wishes for the World” tradition. The students shared their wishes for the world during an all school Meeting for Worship in early December alongside their Anthony class partners. Some of the wishes included, “...building homes for the homeless, cleaning our oceans, and taking care of all animals.” The Penn class also artistically designed their very own puzzle piece to be assembled as a beautiful display outside of the Maker’s Space to represent all of our school’s wishes for the world. Be sure to check it out!

With the holiday season upon us, the class learned about different traditions that families share. Additionally, we had the opportunity to decorate cookies and create memorable handcrafted gifts for their parents while recalling our discussion of how giving is truly better than receiving! We utilized the maker space for this endeavor. This project really got the class into a festive mood just before Winter Break!

Fox Class - 3rd Grade

Readers Workshop:

In Readers Workshop, our students put on detective hats and have been studying mystery books this month!

Good detectives wonder:

  • Is she/he a suspect?

  • Is this a clue?

  • What’s going to happen next?

  • What part of the book makes me think this?

We are reading the “Absent Author” from A-Z Mysteries series together as a class. We have been noticing clues and thinking about our suspects. We have learned that at the beginning of a mystery book there are a lot of suspects and clues. It is sometimes hard to decipher what is important. There are many setting changes and dialogue exchanges that reading a mystery book it can be confusing.

  • We are learning to reread when we get to a confusing part.

  • Jot down clues and sort them later.

  • Keep reading forward to find clues we may have missed.

  • Mark parts where we learn about our suspects.

  • Ask, “Where is this happening? When is this happening?

We have all chosen mystery books from the classroom library and our UFS library to read and work in.

Writer’s Workshop:

Congratulations to the Fox Class for hosting a wonderful Writer’s Cafe. We worked diligently on adding adjectives, dialogue, onomatopoeias, and feelings into our small moment stories. Revising and editing are the toughest parts of writing. I was very impressed that everyone in the class was open to suggestions while revising and made proper edits to their stories! Everyone did an amazing job reading loud and clear in front of our small classroom community. Thank you to everyone who helped with snacks and drinks afterward. I was so proud of everyone.

Math: In this unit, students completed an introduction to multiplication. Students practiced many forms of multiplication models including, arrays, open number lines, equal groupings, and ratio tables. Students solved story problems and games to practice and reinforce these skills. In Number Corner students practiced looking at arrays in relation to multiplication, practiced looking at fractions, measuring masses of objects and solving multiplication word problems.


The Fox Class learned that corn originated in Mexico over 7,000 years ago. There are four different kinds of corn, Flint, Dent, Sweet, and popcorn! We finished up our corn discovery with cooking corn chowder and baking polenta cake. It was a wonderful experience and our parent chef taught us a french word, mirepoix!

The Fox Class also began talking about traditions and reading the book The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Pollacco. In the book, a young girl travels from Russia to America with her family. She outgrows her favorite childhood dress and her babushka. ( Usually, a triangularly folded kerchief for the head, when the pronunciation is on the “u”. When used with the pronunciation on the first “a” it means grandmother) We discussed why family heirlooms are important, how telling stories and asking questions to learn about the people we love helps keep the memories of our loved ones alive. We are working on interviewing a family member and beginning to open a conversation. We will continue talking about these when we come back from winter break.

Anthony Class - 4th and 5th Grades


During Meeting for Worship, we have used selections from the book I Can Make a Difference compiled by Marian Wright Edelman as the jumping-off point for some queries. The theme of one selection was gratitude and another was kindness. The posters we have taken time to reflect upon during Morning Meetings were A Day Without Laughter is a Day Wasted and If you can dream it, you can do it. As we moved into our new Literature Circle books in December we took some of our worship time to read about Malala Yousafzai and The Lost Boys of the Sudan as they were featured in two of the three Lit Circle selections.

The Anthony and Penn Classes worked together during Partner Time on creating animal homes. They used materials found in nature and the Maker Space to build their habitats.

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

On the last day of school in December, we cooked and shared a meal. We also continued to work our way through the alphabet baking bread. Recently we made English Muffin Batter Bread, Focaccia, and Gingerbread.


The current D.E.A.L. (Drop Everything and Listen) chapter book is Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly. This book is about 4 Middle Schoolers who are not friends but attend the same school and whose paths cross in a very unexpected way. Each character is misunderstood and feels different in some way. In November we finished Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan.

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. From this, the groups were created. The new books we are reading are Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate, Hero by Jennifer Li Shotz, and I Am Malala/ Malala: My Story of Standing Up for Girls’ Rights by Malala Yousafzai. All of these texts contain heroes. We have placed markers on a map to show where Malala and Kek (Home of the Brave) are from and where the dog “hero” lives. We are also spending time learning background information relevant to each book. A new role has been added to the list of roles the children take on as members of a Literature Circle and that is Researcher.

Everyone completed the Hero project and we have moved on to creating Superheroes. Everyone has identified the traits and powers of their superheroes and they have created several possible plot lines to develop before choosing one for their story.


In November we went on a hike in Nockamixon. The students made sketch bags before the outing. It was a cold day so we kept moving, stopping just briefly to sketch a few times. There was also a scavenger hunt to complete. When we arrived at our lunch spot the challenge before eating was to work in groups to create a Nature Sculpture.

In school, we have continued to explore energy. The focus of our experiments has been to hypothesize and draw conclusions about speed and energy and the collision of objects. Anthony Class students completed a science lab called the Balloon Rocket Experiment in which they tested different variables with the goal being to get your balloon rocket to travel as far as possible. They also sought to discover what happens to energy when two things collide. They used marbles of the same and different sizes and constructed ramps of various heights while measuring and recording how far marbles traveled under different circumstances.

In December the Anthony class visited the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem. During the tour of the museum, they learned to differentiate between the “Three I’s,” Invention, Iteration, and Innovation. After lunch, students participated in one of three design challenges. One challenge was to construct a bridge with K’Nex that would hold an anvil, another was to create a marble run where the marble would land in a designated target 5 times in a row, and the third was to design a roller coaster.

Students are close to finishing their Ancient Greece projects. They will present these projects at a Symposium in January. They completed the Greek God/Goddess trading cards and those have been printed. Everyone has a set. Everyone has designed a temple for their god or goddess and all are looking forward to building them in the Maker space.


Fourth Grade Math

In Fourth Grade math, students have finished the second unit of the Bridges curriculum – Multi-Digit Multiplication and Early Division. Students solved single and double-digit multiplication problems using various strategies. We have begun the third unit – Fractions and Decimals. In this unit, students will explore equivalent fractions, compare fractions and mixed numbers, learn about decimals to the thousandths place, and understand the relationship between fractions and decimals.

In the November Number Corner curriculum, students reviewed telling time on an analog clock, calculated elapsed time, practiced measuring cups, quarts, and gallons, and reviewed multi-digit addition strategies. In December, students have been working on geometry concepts such as parallel and perpendicular lines, symmetry, and area and perimeter of various shapes. Students also continued to review multi-digit addition and subtraction strategies.

Fifth Grade Math

At the end of November, the fifth-grade mathematicians 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 students are about halfway through a unit on place value and decimals. They are learning to write decimals using expanded notation, to round decimals to the nearest tenth, hundredth, or thousandth, to add and subtract decimals, and to compare decimals and place them on number lines.