Welcome to Later Elementary, 2013-2014! As the new year is beginning, we are working on getting our website up-to-date. We will send out an e-mail when the website is set, but you may feel free to check at any time. On the website, we have included a link for classroom wish lists. At this point, you should have received an e-mail from our room parents about fruit bowl sign ups. If you haven’t had any e-mails come through, let us know and we will check that your e-mail is on the classroom lists. A huge thanks to our room parents for all the time and effort they have already put into helping us make this year extra special for your children!
Later Elementary News
Later elementary had a great time at curriculum celebration–thanks to all who made it out to check out our work!
Academic work is coming to a close, but this time of year is important for wrapping up all of the pieces, both academic and social. We are going to be going to downtown Ann Arbor for our final field trip. This will be Wednesday, June 5. We will depart Honey Creek at 9:30 a.m. and then begin our photo scavenger hunt! This will wrap up around 11:30, when we will meet on the Diag for an outdoor sack lunch. After that, we will take a walk to Ben & Jerry’s for an ice cream cone! If you haven’t already, please send your student with $3 by Monday, June 3 and don’t forget to send a packed lunch on the day of the field trip! This trip is a great way to celebrate all of our hard work and continue to encourage teamwork in all we do.
It’s spring, and in our voyage through this year, spring brings us to the long journey of writing. In language arts, each class has gathered research for individual student biography projects. Students are now busy turning this information into polished biographies and planning how to “be” their figure for our wax museum showcase on May 17 (be on the lookout for more information!). This writing process, as well as the one students are going through writing their literary analysis of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, has really pushed students to identify ways to strengthen their writing.
For literature, students are also working on science fiction book projects at home. There will be some amazing work at this month’s curriculum celebration! In class, everyone is preparing to read another science fiction book with a smaller literature circle.
In science student are continuing the journey through the Human Body! We’ve been learning about the digestive system, nervous system, respiratory system and its close relationship with the circulatory system. We’ve had some experiments as well as some non-fiction reading, but the best part has been the awesome guest speakers who have been willing to give up a whole morning to speak to each class about their area of expertise! The experiments we will be running connect science to mathematics through use of graphing, averaging, measuring and finding proportions. We’re also connecting language arts through non-fiction reading about different aspects of the human body, and special topics related to the system we are studying. Through it all, we talk about our body at the cellular level – seeing it as a group of systems that work together to create a larger system, and relating that to our other science studies this year!
The Math III focus has really been a journey of “why.” Why can you work this operation and why does it work? We’ve just completed a thorough, albeit long journey through fractions and algebra through inequalities and one step problems. We are moving onto a quick study of ordered pairs and how to use them to graph a simple equation. We’ll move into a study of measurement and geometry to round out the year.
Social Studies classes have been working in three large groups (spanning the base classes,) to continue their understanding of the three cultures which influenced the growth of the early Americas. Students have been creating large maps of the different continents and making connections in respect to the fundamental building blocks of culture: geography, resources, and belief systems. They have planned various ways of showcasing those connections, as well as some of their more in-depth research into those cultures, for the Curriculum Celebration in mid-May. When all is finished, it will be a project of truly global proportions.
We can’t wait to see everyone on May 18!
As we return, all students have been informed that work expectations increase at this point in the year. In the words of Cheryl Quinn–we no longer have fourth and fifth graders–we have rising fifth and sixth graders! All classes are focusing on grammar and language expectations and we are beginning an in depth biography project that will extend through April. Students will be choosing their influential figure to research by March 8. Look for more details coming soon!
Later elementary has been busy! With January being a short month because of winter break and MLK day, and February being short because of mid-winter break, we’re cramming in all we can! February 6 will be a great field trip to downtown Ann Arbor that will cover much of the 4/5 curriculum from science, social studies, art and math! We’re really looking forward to it!
In Later Elementary Science, we have been rocking right through the Earth’s systems, and now into fossils and geologic time. The kids are fascinated with rocks and minerals, I have loved seeing so many parts of collections come in. We have had three speakers, Dr. Van Der Voo, a geophysicist, from the University of Michigan, Mr. John Krispin and Mr. Peter Collins from Barrett Paving and Dr. Serena Poli, a micropaleontologist at Eastern Michigan University. We have started talking about the types of fossils that form and what can become a fossil. We’ll be moving to learning what those fossils can tell us through the clues they leave behind about the past. This will weave into the concept of geological time, which we have been talking about all along. The only constant thing about the Earth is change!
As soon as we complete these topics, we’ll be starting our Human Body unit. If you have offered to speak, look for an e-mail soon, looking to book a date. If you would like to work with our children in this unit, I’d love to hear from you! I’m looking forward to starting this new Journey into our human being!
In literature students are continuing to read Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Students are asking great questions and have already gotten a lot from the first three chapters of the book. Look for weekly homework assignments that ask students to reflect on the reading and/or find specific quotes or examples from the text. This helps students develop necessary comprehension, inference-finding and skimming skills that will help them a great deal as they continue their school experiences.
Social Studies classes are delving deep, (and we mean deep,) into history: back 28,000 years B.C. to the migration of our first Native Americans across North America. 19,000 years in the making, we are studying their cultures and their abilities to adapt to the Colombian Exchange. This unit also covers the basics of European culture and explores reason why, in the 15th century, there was an explosion of activity in global social and economic expansion. Finally, we bridge two cultures of this ‘New World’ by learning about the cultures of West Africa, and how the influence of the slave trade shaped our nation.
Across the curriculum- from Language Arts to Science, Social Studies to Math- 4/5 is the grade level where the expectations, and indeed the amount of material covered, makes an enormous leap. While it is a big step up, we have noticed that our students have really tried their best in these academic and social growth challenges. We do hope you have noticed the growth as much as we have! We also hope that you share our belief that even though there are at times growing pains involved with transition and change, that they are learning… learning to try new things, learning to push themselves more, learning from mistakes, and reveling in triumphs…
We look forward to sharing some of these learning experiences with you at conferences in early March.
Later elementary has a lot to look forward to as the new year begins! January will begin by wrapping up our many curriculum celebration projects. We will also be spending some time preparing for our upcoming field trip to both the University of Michigan Museum of Art and the Natural History Museum in Ann Arbor on Wednesday, February 6. This trip is, in part, sponsored by the Fine Arts Committee and will collaborate with Lindsay to supplement her teaching of our students’ art standards. Many thanks to this committee for their support and planning! The other half of our trip will extend students’ knowledge of the geography and geology standards they have been learning in science and social studies. The field trip will culminate with lunch at the University of Michigan Union. Students will have the choice to bring their own lunch or buy from one of the many vendors there. Look for more information coming home mid January.
In literature, we are finishing our Hatchet portfolios and taking some time to read and reflect on non-fiction articles. We’re also revisiting figurative language. Look for some amazing projects, both from school and home, at the curriculum celebration January 18. After that, we are looking forward to beginning Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
January and February are going to be a whirlwind! In Science, we are studying geologic processes. We have covered Earth’s layers, Plate Tectonics, minerals and their relationship to rocks. We’ll be moving onto fossils in particular, and their part as evidence of geologic time. We have had the opportunity to view minerals up close and personal, and learn to identify them using the (ancient but very thorough) “Murphy’s Minerals” game. My Minecrafting crowd loved the ancient graphics and mining of minerals! “Murphy’s Minerals” is a free download, just search the internet and you’ll find it. We’ll be running through a rock cycle lab using crayons as the rock material. We’ll be visiting the Exhibit Museum at U of M, as walk-through guests where a scavenger hunt of geologic proportions is planned! Guest speakers will be rounding out the excitement, we have Dr. Rob Van Der Voo joining us to speak about volcanoes and plate tectonics, John Krispin from Barrett Paving and a geologist friend of his to speak about Michigan Geology, glaciation in particular, and the resources Michigan has. Our own Dr. Serena Poli will be bringing micropaleontology our student’s way – and possibly a visit from yet another parent whom I just learned was also a geologist! What a wonderful human resource we have here at Honey Creek! My thanks to all of you for all you offer to our kids. It makes their education exceptional!
Following all of this rock – we’ll roll into a study of the Human Body. Be on the lookout for an e-mail asking for volunteers to speak to the kids about aspects of the body systems. Teresa did this unit two years ago and many of you stepped up to teach the kids about your area of expertise. The children loved that unit and really learned the material more thoroughly, so we’ll try again to make it happen for our current batch of 4/5’s!
In Social Studies, the children are learning about Michigan and are creating Pure Michigan ads in conjunction with Bill’s technology classes. They are continuing to use their mapping skills and land form knowledge, now applying it to our great state.
Fourth and Fifth Grade Science is really getting rocky! Literally, as we are moving into a unit on Geology! The kids are really fired up about getting this unit off the ground, we are looking forward to learning about the earth’s make up, the systems of plate tectonics and how volcanoes and earthquakes play into this system. Water’s place in the system, and the materials that make up the earth are all to come, as well as a focus on fossils and the geologic timetable of Earth. I look forward to lots of hands-on work and projects that relate to this topic.
We are continuing to read Hatchet. Students have been working on reflections in class for each chapter. Look for a comprehensive portfolio of their work at curriculum fair. Just a reminder, their adventure book projects are due Dec. 21st … all rubrics/instructions can be found on Johnny’s Literature page on our website.
Students have been building models of landforms out of salt dough in order to show an understanding of how land differentiates from water formations on Earth. This links nicely with Cheryl’s science lessons in her geology unit.
4/5 students have also started working on the state projects to coincide our unit on Pure Michigan. More information will be on the website within the week. They are both rather large, cross-curricular projects that will be ‘chunked‘ into smaller assignments for the students. This really helps them see how to practice using their time management skills on large projects.
4/5 had a great October together! Below are the class breakdowns per subject area, but overall we continue to work and grow together, practicing those 4/5 core values of Honesty, Caring, Respect, and Responsibility. We have had pretty extensive conversations with our students (in large and small groups) about how, just as we teach them the core subjects of math, science, social studies, etc., that ‘social skills’ is just another subject to which we teach and model. We are asking them to really focus on being able to ask for what they need, appropriately and respectfully, as well as to be aware of others’ needs. We encourage families to use some of the same vocabulary that we use regarding HCRR, and ask lots of questions regarding what happens everyday at school- not just academically, but socially. We are building an amazing family here!
There has been some noteworthy activity in October! As you know, this has been MEAP month. We were very impressed with how responsible the students were with being honest in really trying to do their best. While we don’t teach to the test, and while we know that this is just a snapshot of what each student can really show as a learner, we were thrilled to see the students step-up and ‘show what they know,’- and be proud of it! We are ending October with our first trip to Scio Woods Nature Preserve. We are giving our students an opportunity to take what they have learned in the core subject areas and apply them to tasks and projects in our local community. Some of the experiences on the 31st will include map making and using the observations skills they have been focusing on in science. Finally, October has found the later elementary teachers diving into website design. This is a laborious process, but will continue to improve weekly. Please take the time to check in and offer feedback of ways to make it more useful to you.
In Social Studies, students have taken a quick break from practicing their map making skills, to work through a unit on the different levels of the U.S. government. First, we’re becoming familiar with the three branches of government and how they ‘work’ for us at the local, state, and federal levels. We then move on to what rights and responsibilities we have as U.S. citizens. Then finally, we begin working on our election coverage! Stay tuned for information regarding an interactive evening during Voting Day, November 6th.
Literature has been very busy. Poetry books are officially done and we are looking forward to the poetry reading showcase on October 31. The next task has been to begin reading and discussing Hatchet. This has already been a very rich experience as students have questioned Gary Paulsen’s writing style and choices of what to include in his story. There will be many activities for reflection during this book study, but one that we will return to time and again is journaling as if the students are the main character. This pushes them to understand character motivations, make inferences and connect with the story.
It’s time to EXPERIMENT with science! Students are working on completing their own experiment design, working with Wint-O-Green
Lifesavers! We have been learning how to ask questions, create a hypothesis, and design an experiment to test that hypothesis. Students learned about independent variables, dependent variables and constants within an experiment and why they are important. In science, it’s best to be fair! Our school was invited to participate in the National Energy Foundation and DTE’s presentation on Think Energy!, an energy conservation program. We have worked in class on some lessons that were recommended prior to the presentation, including where our energy comes from, how energy transforms, how electricity is made. Building motors was a highlight! With parent permission, children were sent home with conservation of energy kits that they could implement in their homes with an adult partner. Household report cards will be brought into school by Nov. 7th, so we can see what a difference is made using these energy saving products. Our classrooms will be granted $100 mini grants if we get at least 80% participation in the household survey, so send in those report cards! (Located in the back of the student booklet with the kit!) Geology is coming up next!
In later elementary things have started rolling like the proverbial snowball! This first month is always focused on team building. We have spent a lot of time discussing our grade level values and practicing how to keep our four guiding principles of honesty, caring, respect and responsibility present in everything we do and say. This can be a really challenging task! One thing that helps at home is to use this common language and to ask your children to reflect on their choices. It’s amazing how much we, as teachers, learn from this practice! This is a great group of students and we’re really excited about the potential this year. Academically, students are actively engaged in each content area and have already finished some mini-projects with diligence. In math, all classes are working through our first unit on number sense. Some concepts may seem redundant, but through repeated assessments we are working to identify and fill holes in knowledge so we can tackle the rest of the content. In literature we have been working through our poetry unit. This has included reading and listening to some well-known poems, watching some slam (aka performance) poets and delving into what poetry “is.” We have come to the conclusion that it is almost everything and everywhere! Students have written at least eight different styles of poetry as well as others that they were inspired to write (no assignment necessary!). They are now working to revise and edit these and compile them into poetry books. You may be amazed to see what your child has created! 4/5 Social Studies classes have been working diligently on their map making skills. Students are practicing skills of precision and neatness of work, as well as developing understandings of key components of all maps such as: scale, cardinal and intermediate directions of a compass rose, title, and legends (keys). In our next unit, currently underway, we are working on being able to locate specific points on Earth using latitude and longitude, as well as identify landforms based on key definitions. These skills are imperative to master because the rest of the year’s curriculum is very ‘place based.’ Mid October, we’ll pause in our study of geography to begin our unit on the Presidential Elections. Science is finding the fourth and fifth grade students elbow deep in consumer testing! We are using what we have learned about the scientific method to test and compare four types of commonly used paper towels. The students are designing their own tests for measuring wet strength and absorbency, given a set of common materials. It is really interesting to observe them working in groups, deciding how to use what they are given to create a procedure that will measure the correct variable. The faces made when the washers break through the paper towels are priceless! We will be moving into a short study of energy that will be capped by a presentation from the National Energy Foundation and DTE in late October. It’s going to be a great year in science!