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Early Elementary News for November, 2011

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 are now 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, 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!

In the next few weeks we will engage 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.

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