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MS Science update for December, 2011

“That’s Life” Ecosystem projects are well under way and students are using their knowledge of ecosystems and are creating a “world of their own”. These projects will wrap up mid- December and we’ll move quickly to our next unit, “Channel 2 Weather”. Look for the ecosystem projects at curriculum celebration in January!

Later Elementary update for December, 2011

Hi, All! Hopefully everyone had a family and food filled Thanksgiving Holiday! It’s hard to believe that this Holiday season is upon us once again! We hope you all have many opportunities to spend time with friends and loved ones at this time of the year. Here’s a brief recap and look ahead at events in 4/5.

In social studies students are finally wrapping up their Mr. Help posters! These projects have taken a lot of time, but the end products are pretty cool! Over the past several weeks we’ve also spent some time discussing the geographic regions of the U.S. For our purposes this year, we’re discussing five major regions – the northeast, southeast, midwest, southwest, and west. Obviously, these five regions don’t do justice to the physical geography of the United States. Arguably, you could break the U.S. into about ten geographic regions. But these five regions give us a place to start when talking about the physical and cultural geography of the United States. As we move forward into December, we’ll begin looking at the first English settlers to arrive on the North American Continent. We’ll also be talking about push/pull factors that influence immigration and migration. Some questions to consider include: What was going on in England in the 17th Century that encouraged settlers to travel to North America? What “pull” factors encouraged more people to move to the “New World” once permanent settlements were in place? What are some push/pull factors the encouraged people to migrate from place to place once they were settled in the New World? How did the permanent presence of the English in North America impact Native peoples? This last question is one we’ll continue to examine throughout our study of early U.S. history. One of the forgotten stories of U.S. history is how European exploration and settlement in North America resulted in the destruction of Native cultures and Native life. Every now and again we’ll change direction and talk about the present; and we’ll examine how Native Americans today still face major challenges because of events in the past.

In science students have been making their food webs. These food webs show the interaction between living organisms within an ecosystem. Students have also spent time talking about how ecosystems recover from damage caused by humans or natural disasters. These discussions have centered around the idea primary and secondary succession.

In language arts, students are wrapping up Hoot. Look for some great projects on display in January! While working on their group projects in school, students will be reading their independent fantasy books at home in preparation for completing their first book project of the year. The week of December 5 everyone will receive the requirements for the final project which is due January 9th. During class time students will also be discussing fantasy and advertising elements. At the end of the unit students will create an in-class advertising poster to publicize the fantasy book that is being read aloud.

Again, we hope you all had a great Thanksgiving break! Please feel free to contact your child’s math teacher if you have any questions about math. As always, thanks for all you do for your kids!

Middle Elementary update for December, 2011

A huge thanks to all the families that donated food and or time to our Friendship Feast/City of Ember celebration. It’s stunning how many math, science, social studies, reading and interpersonal skills we incorporated into this event. Please keep reading our blog posts to see what is happening in Mary, Salli and Tammy’s classrooms.

Each classroom will have finished The City of Ember and started its sequel, The People of Sparks, during November or December. We teach many comprehension strategies while listening to the exciting stories. Generally, new reading and writing strategies are taught in an I Do, We Do, You Do format. The new strategy is modeled by the teacher (I Do), the children practice it in pairs, groups or with teacher guidance (We Do) and then the children try it on their own (You Do).

By this time in the year, most children should be fluent in the following comprehension strategies: Questioning, Predictions, Visualizing and Connections. The strategies of Summarizing and Inferencing take a little longer for all children to master and we spend a lot more time in the I Do and We Do stages with these. All of the strategies mentioned above are good for children to use orally and for 3rd graders to use as writing prompts for their weekly homework paragraph.

All classes are also exploring nonfiction as we read and get ready to write about communities. Three major nonfiction strategies are 1) Use text features (titles, headings, captions, graphics) 2) Find the main idea 3) Determine importance. All three classes are working on slightly different things during their writing workshop time. Be sure to check the blogs for more details.

Madly, we measure away in math. 2/3 students are using standard and metric units to measure distance, perimeter and area. Hand your child a tape measure on a rainy day and see if they can find the perimeter of the living room in feet or inches. We will head into geometry in December as well and come back to measuring mass and capacity later this year.

Please remember to send in mittens and hats if the weather will be in the 40s or below. We’ve been lucky with lice so far this year, and we don’t want to share hats, but we also don’t want frozen ears.

Early Elementary update for December, 2011

We are now engaged in our second thematic unit of the year, “How My School Works”. The children have been working to achieve a few understandings: their school is a system, they are part of many interconnected systems, when something happens in one part of the school system, it affects other parts of the school system, and that improving one part of the school system can improve the dynamics of the whole school system. Again, to aid in the children’s understanding, we chorally read and sing the “How My School Works” song:

How my school works, I have a hunch It needs people, play places, and hot lunch Being fair, taking care of our school Learning to follow rules
When all of us at school cooperate, The school system will work really great!

A big part of this unit is careful examination of our school and how it works. We have walked around the building and playground to make observations about things in our school that might be improved if we cooperate. We turned our observations into questions and discussed possible answers to our questions. The question we ended up focusing on was “Why does the edible garden on the playground look bad?” We discussed that the fence had been broken because people weren’t being careful when playing around the garden. We also discussed that most of the plants had already been harvested, which is why the garden looked empty or dead.

Making the garden useful during the colder months was one way to cooperate, so we discovered that we could plant garlic for next year’s spring and summer harvest. With the coordination of Deb from Tantre Farm and hard work from the children under Barbara’s guidance, we fixed the fence, pulled plants, prepped the soil, planted garlic, and covered the garden with straw.

During this unit we also talk a lot about rules, why they’re important, and how rules help make things fair for everyone. We have additional explanation of and practice using S.O.S. to solve problems and using our I- Statements to tell others how we feel. We’ll spend more time discussing the concepts of fairness and responsibility. Fair is defined for the children this way: fair is not everybody getting the same thing; fair is everybody getting what they need to be successful. Our exploration of responsibility and what that means includes discussion of some of our responsibilities at home and at school and why it’s important to demonstrate self-discipline and responsibility. We’re learning that a smooth running school system really does need cooperation!

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