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Later Elementary News: October 2012

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!

Later Elementary News: June 2012

With the school year ending, 4/5 students have reflected on their language arts learning this year.  It has been a really fun and informative task.  Below are some quotes from these reflections, but make sure to check out your student’s essay!  I also want to thank all families for their support this year as students worked through some really challenging independent projects.  Fifth graders should be feeling very confident about their ability to tackle middle school projects and fourth graders are very well prepared to manage these projects more independently next year.

Some essay quotes:

  • In language arts class I have found many skills we learn to be useful.  One example is our myth assignment. I’ve never liked speaking, or been good at it.  Reading myths has also never been an interest of mine.  With this project we not only had to read and memorize a myth, but take on a character and retell it.  This was very difficult for me, and although I didn’t do great, it helped me–5th grader
  • I think I learned the most when we read Maniac Magee.  I observed how the author wrote and used what we discussed to improve my own writing–5th grader
  • The reading this year changed me a whole lot.  I’ve got better writing because of that–5th grader
  • I like that we got to work in groups sometimes and the projects were fun, not boring paper worksheets-4th grader
  • I learned a lot this year.  Some stuff was the same as 2/3, but in a more complex manner–4th grader
  • What had the biggest effect on me is my writing.  I used to write in long blocks but Johnny helped me put them in paragraphs and now I love writing–4th grader

I’ve greatly enjoyed working with your kids this year in social studies! They are an insightful, thoughtful, and highly capable crew! We ended the year discussing the lead up to the American Revolution, and while we didn’t have a chance to address the conflict itself I believe students came away with a relatively clear picture of why it happened. I wish you all the very best for an enjoyable and relaxing summer filled with interesting and thought provoking social studies related conversations!

Later Elementary News: May 2012

4/5 Science classes are bouncing, sliding, flinging, and propelling objects all over the classroom in their quest to understand energy (kinetic and potential) as well as how all this energy transfers through materials.  We move on this month to study different forms of energy: electric, solar, wind, hydro, sound, mechanical, chemical, and more!

We’ve spent a lot of time over the past month discussing what life was like for different groups of people living in Colonial America. Students have been working in groups to develop posters highlighting what life was like during this pre-Revolutionary period in American history.  After our spring curriculum celebration we’ll be focusing on the reasons for the American Revolutionary War, the key players responsible for stoking revolutionary sentiments, and the key battles that took place early in the war.

Look for the culmination of a lot of thoughtful projects at curriculum celebration!Students’ book projects are due May 14 and will be on display.  You will also be able to watch students’ individual retellings as well as small group mystery plays.  Finally, you will see their Maniac Magee maps that show the important locations from our whole-class novels.  Throughout the month of May students will be wrapping up these projects in preparation for curriculum celebration.  They will also begin studying the usefulness of thesauruses and create their own, personal thesaurus, for their most commonly used words.

Later Elementary News: April 2012

Happy April from the 4/5s! We’ve got a lot of exciting things coming up over the next couple of months! Here’s a brief look at things to come.

In social studies students are continuing their study of Colonial America. They’ve spent quite a lot of time researching the differences between the New England, Middle, and Southern colonies, and over the course of this month students will be working in groups to better define these three colonial regions. Looking ahead to the end of the month, our focus will begin to shift to the causes of the American Revolution.

Spring is a mystery….at least in our language arts work!  Students are busy choosing or reading their self-selected mystery books and will begin working on their projects at home.  In class we’re listening to a variety of other mystery writings and discussing the common elements of the works.  Students will also be putting on short mystery plays in small groups.  Look for the outcome of this work at our next curriculum celebration!

On a belated note, the 4/5 teachers would like to congratulate Webber Ketz and Eric Mackie for their outstanding work at the charter school spelling bee in February.  They were selected to represent our school after a third through fifth grade spelling bee at Honey Creek and both finished in the top five at this next level!  We couldn’t be prouder of their hard work!

This month in science, we’re working on finishing up our 3-D models of elements, soon to be on display, hanging from the ceiling in M-2.  We are also finishing up our unit on matter, soon to be moving on to a unit about energy and motion.  Please keep an eye out for an email calling for any “experts” who wish to spend time helping us out with our highly dangerous and destructive experiments.  (Really, it’s just for extra sets of hands and/or ears/ brain cells, etc.)

Later Elementary News: March 2012

In social studies, we’ve continued our study of the North Atlantic slave trade. We’ve talked a great deal about this Triangle Trade, paying particular attention to the Middle Passage – the section of the trade between Africa and the Americas dealing specifically with the transport of slaves. We’ve had some serious and difficult discussions surrounding this heinous trade, and students have been reading sections from historical books dealing specifically with this trade.

As we look ahead at the coming month, students will begin to shift their focus to life in Colonial America and the lead up to the Revolutionary War. We’ll continue to pay particular attention to slavery throughout this time period, and we’ll attempt to view this time period in American history through the eyes of those who were most oppressed.  Some benchmarks we’ll be paying attention to include: (1) 5 – U2.2.2 Describe the life of enslaved Africans and free Africans in the American colonies (National Geography Standard 5, p. 152). (2) 5 – U2.2.3 Describe how Africans living in North America drew upon their African past (e.g., sense of family, role of oral tradition) and adapted elements of new cultures to develop a distinct African-American culture (National Geography Standard 10, p. 162). (3) 5-U2.3.3 Describe colonial life in America from the perspectives of at least three different groups of people (e.g., wealthy landowners, farmers, merchants, indentured servants, laborers and the poor, women, enslaved people, free Africans, and American Indians) (National Geography Standard 6, p. 154).

Also, be on the lookout for information regarding a Newbery Book Award challenge we’ll be doing in our base classes. 90 Newbery Awards have been granted, dating back to 1922. We’ll be aiming to complete 67 Newbery Award winners or Newbery Honor books by June 4th.  When we meet that goal, we’ll plan some sort of celebration. This challenge will take place in each base class, so each class is responsible for 67 books. We’ll keep you posted as this challenge gets off the ground!

In language arts, students are finishing the novel, Maniac Magee.  As we wrap up we are continuing to discuss myths, tall tales and legends.  Students will present their final projects, a retelling of a story of their choice, the week of March 12.  It’s very exciting seeing them practice their oral presentation skills and planning costumes and prop choices to make their retelling as interesting as possible!

We are also continuing our work with 6 Traits writing.  We have covered ideas and moved into conventions.  For a fun conversation, ask them about the difference between revision and editing!

4/5s are also preparing for our second field trip on Tuesday, March 13.  We will be watching the play, Freedom Train, at the Michigan Theater.  This play centers around the Underground Railroad and some of the work of Harriet Tubman.  After the play, students will be splitting up and dining at several of the restaurants next to the theater.  Feel free to join us if you can get away for lunch!

Later Elementary News February 2012

Well, we’re already into the second month of 2012! Thus far we certainly haven’t had much of a winter! Let’s keep our fingers crossed that February is kind to us, too! Here’s a quick look at the month ahead in the 4/5 classes.

In social studies we’ll be focusing on the European slave trade and slavery in Colonial America. I’ve talked with students recently about the idea of keystone events/concepts in history. There are just certain historical events and issues that have to be understood in order to understand the human experience throughout the years. I’ve argued that the institution of slavery – in Colonial America, the United States of America, and throughout the rest of the world – is one such issue. It’s impossible to understand how the United States was formed without understanding the role slavery played in its formation. Similarly, it’s impossible to truly understand our society

today without fully discussing and learning about our nation’s sordid slave-holding past.

Things that will be discussed during our study of slavery in

Colonial America include: The Triangle Trade (people and goods that were traded – and the Middle Passage); The lives of enslaved and free Africans in the Colonies; and the formation of a distinct African American culture in the colonies.

In science students are working on the scientific method by making paper airplanes. They’re conducting test flights and making modifications intended to get their planes to fly further.

In language arts students are continuing to read “Maniac Magee” and discussing topics dealing with social justice and equality. These topics tie in nicely with our current social studies topic. Students are also continuing their work with the six traits of writing.

Throughout the upcoming month students will be focusing on the traits of word choice and ideas.

Please feel free to touch base with your child’s math teacher if you have any math related questions. We hope you all have a great start to February! Thanks for all you do for you kids!


The 4/5 Team

Later Elementary update for January, 2012

Happy new year from the 4/5s! We hope everyone had a great holiday season and that this new year is starting off well for everyone! We’re looking forward to an exciting and fast paced start to 2012! Here’s a quick look at what’s on tap in the 4/5 classrooms.

In social studies, students completed their MR. HeLP geography posters in preparation for the winter curriculum
celebration. As we look forward to the rest of the month, students will continue their study of early American history. Over the past several weeks, students learned a bit about the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown, paying particularly close attention to what this settlement meant for the Native Americans living in
that region. We’ll continue to explore this early European presence in North America by examining the geography of
the southeast, mid-Atlantic, and northeast regions of the continent. Students will look at how geography influenced European settlement decisions in each of these regions, and they’ll learn about the economic practices of Europeans in these different regions. Students will also learn about early colonial governmental structures in each of these regions. As we continue to examine European colonization of the North American continent, we will continuously explore the following essential question: What did all of this mean for the Native Americans?

In science, students wrapped up their biomes projects in preparation for the winter curriculum celebration.

In language arts, students began the new year by presenting their fantasy scrapbooks. Wow! It was amazing to see how hard everyone worked! We will be beginning our new class novel, Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli, in mid-January. This is a book that fits into the new genre of tall tales, myths and legends. It also has a story line that provides a foundation for our February work discussing racial issues.

Interspersed with reading from our class novel, students will explore several different, short, tall tales, myths and legends. A final project for this unit will be for every student to choose one of these short stories, re-read it several times, choose a character in the story and, dressed as that character, retell the chosen story for his or her classmates. Look for this video at the spring curriculum celebration!

Again, we wish everyone the best for a happy new year! We’re looking forward to a productive start to 2012 in the 4/5s!

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!

Later Elementary News for November, 2011

Happy November 4/5 families! It’s hard to believe we’re starting our third month of school – and that the Holiday season is quickly approaching! We hope everyone has had an enjoyable fall season. We’ve been working hard over these first two months, and we’ve got a lot to look forward to as we head into November. Here’s a quick look at what we’ve done and what’s ahead.

In social studies students have been studying geography. They’ve been using the Five Themes of Geography (movement, regions, human/environment interaction, location, and place – MR. HeLP) as a way to better understand the human and physical geography of the United States. Students chose a specific place in the U.S. to research using these five themes of geography. Currently, students are working on posters defining their specific places through these themes. Questions students need to answer include: How do people, goods, and ideas move in my place? What is the absolute and relative location of my place? How would I define the physical and cultural region of my place? These are just some of the questions students are pondering as they come to a better understanding of what it means to think like a geographer. Please feel free to catch up on weekly social studies updates by visiting our 4/5 class website and clicking on the social studies class page.

In Language arts students continue to read the book Hoot. Currently students are working on a compare/contrast essay that will analyze the similarities and differences between a character from Hoot and either a character from Flush, or an actual person. These essays will be taken through the writing process and displayed, in published form, at our first curriculum celebration. Students will also be starting their final, Hoot, group projects shortly. Our next unit will be fantasy. Look for details regarding independent book choices and projects coming home soon!

In Science students have been studying plants and ecosystems. Currently students are learning about photosynthesis. Students made chlorophyll factories to demonstrate how photosynthesis works and they’ve started to define specific vocabulary words related to ecosystem (balance, carnivore, community, consumers, decomposers, etc.). It was great seeing everyone at conferences! Please feel free to contact your child’s math teacher if you have any math related questions. Also, remember to check our 4/5 class website occasionally as we’re working to keep it updated with pertinent information (www.http://honeycreekschool.org/4-5/).

As always, thank you for all you do for your kids!

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