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Early Elementary News: November 2013

Our thematic learning is now well underway. To establish our year-long theme of “How Things Work” we introduced the concept of systems. We read the book “The Crayon Box that Talked” which is a book about a box of crayons that were not working together as a system. We compared the crayon box to our classroom. Each person is like a different color crayon in the crayon box that is our classroom, and when we all work together and cooperate, our classroom can be at its best. We then gave each table group one box of crayons and one piece of paper and asked them to work together as a system to create a picture. We discussed when the system was working and when it was breaking down. Similarly, when we assigned children to tables to function as cooperative learning groups, they had to work together as a system to agree upon a machine to name their table after, and they had to work together to create a table group picture representing their machine. Another introductory systems activity involved the creation of a spiderweb made out of yarn. Each child had to contribute and coordinate like the parts in a system for the spiderweb to be constructed and remain intact.

We have been applying this understanding of systems to our first thematic unit, “How I Work.” By the end of the unit, we want children to understand that they are a system, and that they are part of many interconnected systems such as family, culture, time, etc., when something happens in one part of their system it affects other parts of their system, and improving one part of their system can improve the dynamics of the whole system. To put this in language more accessible to young children, we put these understandings into songs that we chorally read and sing. It is roughly sung to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”:

How I Work

Learning how I work is fun
I get to know myself and everyone
I’m a part of many systems:
My family, my classroom, and my group of friends
When I make a choice to cooperate
Each system will work really great!

The children have been engaging in activities, readings, and projects to reinforce these understandings. These understandings give a context to the state required social studies and science content goals such as needs of living things, differences between living and non-living things, exploring events from their own lives chronologically, distinguishing among past, present, and future, using components of culture to describe family life, describing ways people learn about the past, retelling details from family stories, using historical records and artifacts to draw possible conclusions about family life in the past, and comparing life today with life in the past.

Early Elementary News: October 2013

Early Elementary classrooms are off to a great start. This year, our theme is “How Things Work”.  We will use this theme to help our students develop an understanding of what systems are, how they work, and how one part of a system affects the rest of the system. We call this “teaching for understanding” and use the theme to develop our students’ broad understanding of concepts that they can then apply to all areas of their learning, rather than teaching them facts in isolation.

We began the year learning about “How I Work”. Students are learning about themselves and each other, and sharing what is special about their families. In the beginning of the year we also spend a lot of time on community-building activities and learning how to get along and work out differences using “I Statements” and “S-O-S” (Story-Options-Solution) conflict resolution.

Next we will move into a unit called “How My School Works”, in which we will explore our school community, discuss rules, democracy, and fairness. In “How My Community Works” we will learn about food systems—how food is produced, prepared, and distributed. In preparation for this we will be going on a field trip to Tantré Organic Farm, owned by Honey Creek parents Richard Andres and Deb Lentz. After examining food issues at school, our students will develop an Academic Service-Learning (AS-L) project related to healthy food at Honey Creek.

The year will end with “How the World Works”, in which we will delve into the science of how the physical world works, concluding with a unit on inventors and a field trip to Greenfield Village. We are looking forward to an exciting year!

Early Elementary News: June 2013

Early Elementary News
To complete our final theme unit of the year, My Journey Through the World, students worked together in groups to create weather reports about different severe weather events.  To reinforce the content from this unit, K-1went to the Peter F. Hurst Planetarium in Jackson, MI for the final field trip of the year. The focus for this field trip was weather in general, and the children saw a program produced by the Michigan Science Center. The program utilizes the WDIV TV Weather Team to explain atmospheric phenomena from lightning strikes to tornadoes and includes information about the water cycle, lightning safety, and how the sun influences the realm between the ground and the stars.
In the language arts curriculum, we are focusing on poetry in writing workshop and retelling nonfiction text elements in reading workshop. In math, we’re wrapping up our final unit of the year: Problem Solving and Fluency. Students are reviewing and reinforcing various addition and subtraction strategies to improve their fluency in solving problems.

Early Elementary News: May 2013

This month Early Elementary students are working on preparing their weather reports, which they will share at the Curriculum Celebration. They are working in groups to create a weather report that will include a “live on the scene report” (complete with a background they painted to portray their severe weather event), a five-day forecast, safety precautions, and seasonal activities for viewers once the storms have passed.

In writing, we are preparing to begin our final unit of the year. In this unit we introduce the students to poetry and help them to “see things through a poet’s eyes”, and to use details, descriptive language, and line breaks to create rhythm and imagery through their poems. They will begin the unit by bringing in special objects from home to practice seeing things in new ways.

In math, we are practicing strategies for problem-solving, including knowing our doubles and being able to solve our “doubles plus one”, counting up to add, counting down to subtract, and adding or subtracting a ten. We are also working on fluency, the ability to solve problems quickly and easily by learning math facts and applying the strategies we’ve learned.
Service Learning News: Read to Feed
Congratulations to our great readers! As they push themselves to read more and to advance to higher reading levels, our students found a way to challenge themselves while helping others. They raised money for Heifer Project International by participating in their Read to Feed program. Students gathered pledges from sponsors for each book or amount of time they read. They learned about how Heifer Project helps families around the world become self-sufficient by providing livestock and training so families can improve their own nutrition and sell products to help the family afford basic needs, including housing, healthcare, and school fees.
At the end they collected and pooled their pledges with their class and voted on what kinds of animals to purchase through Heifer Project. They were especially excited about the fact that their gift continues giving. Each family that receives an animal must then pass on the gift (offspring from their animal) and training on to another family, who then passes the gift on to another family, and so on.
Honey Creek students raised over $1000 for Heifer Project and used the donations to purchase water buffalos, chicks, rabbits, llamas, and other animals for families in need. If you are interested in participating in this program with your child outside of school, the information is available on their website: www.heifer.org.

Early Elementary News: April 2013

K-1 has begun our last thematic unit of the school year, “My Journey through the World.” The focus of this unit is weather and its role in our world. The children will complete activities and a project to facilitate the following understandings: Learning about the world’s weather helps me to see patterns in the weather, I can make observations to discover weather patterns, and when I see a weather pattern, I can make informed choices.

We began the unit by showing the children a weather report from a local news station. We discussed its features and shared our idea for the final project: making a television weather report. Children were put into table groups at the beginning of the school year and were asked to name themselves after a severe weather event for the purpose of this project. Each table group will now work together to feature their severe weather event in their weather report. Other requirements of the report are to describe the severe weather event, identify some safety precautions for the severe weather, give a five day forecast, and describe weather and activities associated with a particular season.

Each group will be responsible for creating the content and props used in their weather report. To prepare, the children will read books, watch movies, record weather observations, and engage in group discussions. We will film the children and use our i-Movie application for editing to produce weather reports that will debut at the Curriculum Celebration in May.

Speaking of weather, we are finishing our nonfiction writing with a focus on written conventions and will be moving onto a poetry unit in the next weeks with spring weather as our inspiration. In reading workshop, children are learning to retell nonfiction books in preparation for end of the year book projects. Nonfiction retelling includes things like title, author, main topic, facts or details, text features, and word meanings.

In math we are wrapping up a math unit on geometry, graphing, and time, and will be beginning a new unit on problem-solving and fluency. Children continue to work on math fact fluency with a variety of games and strategies. Technology in the form of computer programs and i-Pad applications are supporting the development of these math skills as well.

With the arrival of spring, children will also begin working on AS-L projects identified earlier in the year to improve our school community. Planting in the edible garden, working on the wooded trails, and other class initiatives for reducing resource use will be underway soon!

Early Elementary News: March 2013

K-1 is working to in our Resource Use unit and focusing on patterns: where resources come from, how people use resources, and what effect that has on the environment. We’re learning the environmental Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and renew. We have had garbage-free snack in an effort to reduce the amount of garbage we produce and have decorated snack bags that we can reuse again and again, we will be recycling newspaper, and will renew by helping to plant the school garden in the spring.
We have begun our third writing workshop unit: Nonfiction Writing. During this unit students will choose a topic  and share their expertise by writing an “All About” book to teach others what they know.

K-1 is going on a field trip!  We will be going to the Leslie Science and Nature Center on Thursday, March 14th for a field trip to wrap up our Resource Use unit. We will be leaving school at 9:00 am and returning around 12:00. Please dress your child for the weather (we will be outside) and send a lunch from home. We will return from the trip after the cafeteria has closed. Sign up sheets for parent volunteers are posted outside the classrooms.

Early Elementary News: February 2013

K-1 is finishing up the Fairness Unit in our current thematic unit “My Journey through the Community.” This portion of the larger unit provided a deeper context for the meaning and celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The children will next explore “Resource Use”, in which they learn how people get what they need to live from the environment and how our actions affect the environment and our community.

Additionally, we are continuing with work we began in our last unit “My Journey Through School.” Children made their way through the school, made observations about what they saw, and proposed some potential service projects they could carry out this year to improve their school community. The children discussed the merits of their ideas and choose several projects they will carry out with their class. Planting more in the Edible Garden, improving our wooded trails, and improving the appearance of our hallways are a few of the projects we are planning.

In math we are finishing up a unit on problem-solving strategies, and we will next begin a unit on place value and measurement. Additionally, both kindergarteners and first graders are developing fluency with math facts.

In language arts we continue to use structures such as writing workshop, reading workshop, word study, read aloud, and handwriting during our literacy blocks to introduce and reinforce skills.

The children just finished presenting book projects where they were required to identify fictional story elements and retell key details of a fictional text. Nonfiction retelling will be the focus of our next book projects. In writing workshop, the children will begin writing nonfiction in the form of “How to” and “All About” books as well.

New to our curriculum this year due to the change to the Common Core Standards is a focus on language in terms of spoken and written conventions. We will begin introducing mini-lessons twice a week during the word study portion of our literacy blocks to address these new goals. Children will be documenting their work and progress with these goals in a language notebook that will be sent home at the end of the year.

Early Elementary News: January 2013

In Early Elementary we are finishing up our thematic unit, “My Journey through School” by learning about how germs journey through school and conducting an experiment to help us to understand where germs can be found and how to prevent their spread.

We will then begin our third thematic unit of the year, “My Journey through the Community”. In this unit, children work toward developing the following understandings: Learning about myself and my community helps me to see the patterns in our community and my role within it; I can make observations to discover patterns and when I see community patterns I can make informed choices. Learning about historical patterns of unfairness and patterns of how people worked together to work for justice helps me make informed choices about how to treat others. Learning about resource use and conservation helps me see patterns in how we take care of the environment that can help me make informed choices.

We begin with a Fairness Unit, in which we read age-appropriate books about different forms of discrimination (patterns of unfairness) and the children learn how people throughout history have stood up to unfairness and gotten laws changed to make things fair for different groups of people (women, people with disabilities, people with different religious beliefs, and African Americans). The children then make the connection to how they can make sure things are fair in our own community, by using I Statements and SOS to resolve differences, and how they can stand up for justice (fairness) when they see something that is not fair. This unit provides a deeper context for the meaning and celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This unit will be followed by a unit on Resource Use, in which the children learn how people get what they need to live from the environment and how our actions affect the environment.

Early Elementary News: December 2012

Early Elementary students have finished up our first theme unit: “My Journey” and are working on finishing our family history projects and life cycle projects. The second unit in our theme is called “My Journey Through School.” The second stanza for our Journeys song explains a bit about this unit:

My second journey is through school

I’ll make maps and learn to help because it’s cool

There are patterns I’ll see if I know Honey Creek

My second journey is through school (“Honey Creek!”)

In this unit students will be learning about how maps can show us where things are in our classrooms and school, how people use maps on their journeys, how we can make observations about what goes on in our school and try to make things more fair and sustainable by doing Academic Service-Learning projects, how germs journey from one person to another to make them sick, and how we can stop them. We will discuss how learning about and observing patterns at school can help us make good choices. We will choose AS-L projects based on our observations of patterns that are not so good for the people in our building and will work together as a level to complete them.

 

Early Elementary News: November 2012

Early Elementary classes continue with our theme, “My Journey”. After learning about ourselves and each other, we learned about different families and each child made a family tree that is currently on display. As we learned about family histories, many children brought artifacts from home to share their family histories, helping them understand the differences between how we live today and how people lived in the past, and allowing them to experience how historians use artifacts to learn about history. We then moved on to an author study of Patricia Polacco who writes many books about her family’s history. The children will be working in groups to represent one of the stories in a diorama, retell the story, and answer a series of questions demonstrating their understandings of how discovering and understanding patterns in family histories can help people make good choices. These will be displayed at the winter Curriculum Celebration.
In the science portion of “My Journey”, the children have been learning about the life cycles of living things. They have been making observations of the life cycles of Painted Lady butterflies in the classroom, and have planted garlic in the school garden to observe its life  cycle throughout the school year. The children will work in groups to construct a visual model of a life cycle for the Curriculum Celebration.

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