Elementary Curriculum Update

October 2018

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 Norristown Farm Park where we went on a hike to learn more about plants and animals. The guide taught us about all of the interesting plant species growing there, and the students also carried clipboards on which they took down notes on “signs of squirrels” such as their nests, nuts they eat, and holes in trees in which they live. 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 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, students picked their final pieces to publish from the various personal narratives they have been working on daily since September. Each student proudly shared their final piece with an 8th grader during Partner Time. 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, word work, making mini books, using magnetic letters to build sight words, using play dough to make words, 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 Science, students conducted various investigations of plants and animals. We began our unit by taking the trip to Norristown Farm Park and learning about native plants and taking notes on squirrels. The students also conducted an investigation of the plants and animals that are found in our school yard. Later, they worked in pairs to conduct another investigation of “life under logs” in and around our school playground. We first watched an educational video which provided tips on how to be respectful and careful when doing this, such as rolling the log towards you rather than away from you, and how to place the creatures back next to the log and not under it when the observation is complete. The students worked in pairs and were delighted to find earthworms, salamanders, pill bugs, and so much more! In order to learn more about how plants grow and develop, students are currently planting ryegrass and alfalfa seeds in small cups to observe in the classroom for a few days before they take them home.


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 each day. 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.


In 2nd Grade Math we just completed our first unit learning the number rack, making tens, and recognizing doubles facts, doubles plus and minus 1 facts. We are continuing to recognize these facts quickly and have been practicing using the number rack and bead strings to help our development and build our strategies. We completed this unit with a post check. In unit 2, we are working on estimating and measuring length. We have been learning more games and will be decomposing numbers by place value and regrouping sets of tens and ones.


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 crafts, made tasty snacks, and even toured the middle school haunted house, which was a big hit!

Fox Class - 2nd and 3rd Grades

In Readers Workshop this month we have been working on continuing to build good habits of reading. We are working on “rolling up our sleeves when words get tricky” and trying all that we know to solve words. A new strategy we have been practicing is changing the vowel sound in the word to try to figure out the word. We also got reading partners and are developing this partnership by taking turns being a coach. Partners take turns reading and when we get stuck our partner coaches us to figure out the tricky word. Students have been practicing reading in longer scoops so reading sounds more like how we speak. As we are reading we are recognizing when we see quotation marks and have been trying out reading in funny voices to help when reading dialogue. We just learned that authors have intentions, so we need to pay attention. We have been talking about why the books we are reading are powerful and what the author does to make us think this. Students have been using post-its to mark their books and their thinking.


Students in Writers Workshop are just finishing up small moment stories. We have been working very hard adding details in our pictures and our words. We have also learned how to make our stories come to life through the use of bringing the inside feelings out and adding dialogue and thinking into our stories. We have writing partners to help us when we get stuck on what to write, coach us on how to spell a word, or listen to our stories. Soon, we will be revising, editing and then publishing our stories and are planning to have a Writer’s Cafe where we will share our stories with each other and parents.


In Social Studies, the Fox Class has been looking at our UFS Community; talking about what makes our community special and why we love being here. Students have begun to interview some members of our community and find out a little more about them. We came up with what types of questions are important to ask and have been practicing asking our questions with our partners. We have been learning how to video an interview and hold the iPad still.


Fox Class Science students learned how to make our own ant farm in our work on animal communities. We watched a video on what we needed and realized that building an ant farm was more difficult than we thought. Though ants invade many spaces looking for food, trying to catch them or find them in large numbers is harder to do than we expected. We managed to capture some and will release them when our work is finished.


In 2nd Grade Math we just completed our first unit learning the number rack, making tens, and recognizing doubles facts, doubles plus and minus 1 facts. We are continuing to recognize these facts quickly and have been practicing using the number rack and bead strings to help our development and build our strategies. We completed this unit with a post check. In unit 2, we are working on estimating and measuring length. We have been learning more games and will be decomposing numbers by place value and regrouping sets of tens and ones.


In 3rd Grade Math, students completed the first unit of the Bridges curriculum – Addition and Subtraction Patterns. We have started the second unit – Introduction to Multiplication. In this unit, students are making use of a variety of multiplication models including arrays, number lines, ratio tables, and equal groups. Students will also be solving story problems and playing various games to practice and reinforce these skills. In the Number Corner part of the curriculum, students explored two-dimensional shapes and geometry concepts. Students also learned about metric units for measuring liquid volume and collected water using milliliters and liters.

Anthony Class - 4th and 5th Grades

Two of the big events that marked the month of October were Parent-Teacher-Child Conferences and Halloween. The students prepared to lead their conferences, some for the first time, by filling out self evaluations and conference planning sheets. They rehearsed how to follow the planning sheet, when to ask their teacher and their parents for input, and picked out the work they wanted to share. At the end of the conferences, all present at the table worked together to create goals for the student.


The in-school Halloween celebration was much anticipated by the Anthony Class students. They danced up a storm and were eager to show off their costumes at the annual UFS Dance Party. Afterwards, they traveled in mixed-age groups including 1st-5th graders through Halloween related activities. They were really looking forward to the first Haunted Middle School and they always enjoy making snacks. This year’s snacks included Oreo Spiders and Scary Apple Mouths.


During Meeting for Worship in our 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 consider. The titles of this month’s selections included “I can make a difference by caring and serving," "I can make a difference by being honest and telling the truth," and "I can make a difference by persevering and not giving up.” We also have a poster up in the room each week which we take time to reflect upon during some of our Morning Meeting times.This month’s posters have included “If you think you can-you can," "Acceptance is seeing with your heart, not your eyes," and "Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”


During one classroom meeting we listened to a song called "Don’t Laugh at Me” by Peter, Paul, and Mary. The students heard this song again at an all school meeting this month and had a second opportunity to reflect upon the query, "What do we do to be fair to the people we meet?" and "What can we do when we see people being treated unkindly?”


On the Tuesday morning after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting the teacher began Morning Meeting by reading As Good As Anybody. This is a picture book about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. The similarities of their early lives were shown in parallel including the facts that both of their fathers were members of the clergy and that their childhoods were both marked by signs excluding them. Abraham Heschel came to this country from Warsaw, Poland just before Germany invaded. Several members of his immediate family were killed in the Holocaust. In his new homeland, Rabbi Heschel was committed to "speaking out for peace and equal rights." The end of the book shows him marching with Dr. King in 1965 in Selma, Alabama just a few months before the Voting Rights act was signed. Rabbi Heschel spoke at Dr.King's funeral. After she finished the book, the teacher asked the class why she might have chosen to read this book. Together, two students explained what had happened in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh that past Saturday. One thing that was said was striking. A child said, "This happened while I was sitting in a synagogue. That's just creepy." Many of the students who were in the Anthony Class last year brought up things they had learned last year about the Holocaust and they remembered some of the names and stories of people who worked to save Jews during WWII. We also spoke about the police officers who entered the synagogue in Pittsburgh. The query posed for that day’s Meeting was, 'What is tolerance? What does it sound like and feel like and look like?" The Anthony Class students were very thoughtful in their reflections.


Our current D.E.A.L. (Drop Everything and Listen) chapter book is Wish by Barbara O’Connor. We are still waiting to find out if our predictions about what the main character wishes for each day are correct.


As October turns into November we are wrapping up our unit on interpreting characters and the first set of Literature Circle books. The students have done good work growing ideas about the characters in their respective books. They have practiced looking for patterns in the characters’ behavior and analyzing whether the characters continue to act in ways that fit the patterns or change and why or why not. Those new to Literature Circles are becoming comfortable with the different roles and the flow of the discussions. They are getting a lot of practice summarizing, drawing images of what they read, predicting, defining unknown words, connecting with what they read, and creating “thick” discussion questions. The Anthony Class students are looking forward to the next Literature Circles when they will have the opportunity to choose from a small selection of books to determine the circle they are in.


Anthony Class writers have been writing up a storm of realistic fiction pieces. Some, but not all, have gotten to the step of choosing one piece to publish. During the week of Halloween, the class took a break from realistic fiction to write scary stories. Students were put into small groups and each group was given the first line of a story. The groups had to use that line and build a story from it. As they worked, the class compiled a list of scary, spooky words.


This month we finished up our Schoolyard Ecology Unit with an examination of the different habitats in the school yard. The partnerships chose different spots within our study area to investigate. The class ended up with a catalogue of creature identification cards. After that, they worked in groups to classify the cards in various ways. As a class we discussed what they found and looked at how our hypotheses about the schoolyard habitat matched our findings.


As the introduction to our Animal Behavior Unit, we went to Peace Valley Park. Teachers from the Nature Center led the Anthony Class through a lesson called “Animal Real Estate.” All animals have specific needs which include food, water, shelter & space. The students searched near the stream and lake and in the woods, thickets and fields for signs of specific animals and discussed their relationship and interdependence to the environment.


“What can walls tell us about history, culture, people, and community?" is our continuing social studies theme. The first wall we are looking at is the Great Wall of China. The Anthony Class has been busy researching facts about the Great Wall and are reading a chapter book about the wall. Recently, they worked in pairs to complete a scavenger hunt about the wall and wrote about what they learned. The students are collecting materials for a building project.


4th Grade Math students have completed the second unit of Bridges 4, which expanded on the various approaches to multiplication learned in the first unit. Students further explored ratio tables, number lines, and arrays and applied them to calculations of greater numbers. To help students become more comfortable with dealing with larger numbers, they were introduced to several strategies for handling larger numbers into the ten-thousands. This second unit was also pivotal in making the transition from multiplication to division. Students saw multiplication problems solved alongside division problems, which allows them to apply math facts in the context of either multiplication or division. In the Math Mammoth component of Math 4, students looked at various ways of applying division including fractions, grouping, and basic long-division. This was further supplemented with complementary multiplication and division problems that utilized the same math facts. Various formats were explored including word problems, vertical and horizontal multiplication and division problems, and solving for an unknown.


This month the 5th grade mathematicians finished up their first math unit called “Expressions, Equations, and Volume.” The unit ended with an exploration of division with remainders. The October calendar pieces showed different views (top, side, and bottom) of buildings made from cubes. Every 4th day the students had to use those views to determine which of four possibilities was the correct building. At the beginning of the month we weighed two carrots and predicted what would happen to them as they sat exposed to air for the month. Each day one student weighed and recorded the weight of the carrots. We graphed the results several times during the month on line graphs. Later in the month the 5th graders began a new unit on Adding and Subtracting Fractions. This unit began with an investigation of how money and clocks can be used to add and subtract fractions. We defined fraction, improper fraction, mixed number, and equivalent fraction. The students are learning how to find equivalent fractions and convert improper fractions to mixed numbers and vice-versa.