It’s the first post of 2012 and there’s much to report from the elementary classroom! We arrived at school last Tuesday to find the elementary classroom looking very much like a greenhouse thanks to a burst pipe. Thank you very much to Sam S. for answering my 7:00am distress call, after I discovered that turning off the water was not going to help. We quickly scrambled to move essential supplies into the lodge and come up with a meaningful lesson plan for the day. One thing that is often said of Montessori elementary students is how adaptable they are to changing situations. Our students certainly proved that statement to be true.
We began our day with a ‘one hour biography’ lesson. Students had one hour to find out as much as they could about a famous person and find a creative way to tell us about them. We had skits, poems and riddles about everyone from Annie Oakley to Gandhi. Our next task was to read and memorize a poem in one hour. At the end of the hour we all recited our poems. We worked on geography and arithmetic in the afternoon. At class meeting students said that they thought the day was a lot of fun and many of them enjoyed being back in their old classroom for a day – though I heard several of them remark “was it this cold in here last year?!” and “We could never fit in this room now!”
Highlights from the past 3 weeks:
*Allagash students have been enjoying our daily reading group. Every morning we read a book together and then the students write and illustrate sentences from the book. In the afternoon I meet with the students individually and they read the book aloud to me. These books will go home on Wednesdays. Please have your child read the book to someone (mom, dad, brother, sister, dog) every night. Books should be returned to school on Monday.
*We continue to work on place value. Last week students used long rolls of paper and paper squares to make place value charts. Students are using the stamp game to lay out numbers into the thousands place and do simple addition problems. Soon we will move on to dynamic equations with both addition and multiplication.
*Allagash students have been charting the daily weather with their own personal weather maps. At the end of the month we will create a graph to explore weather trends. We will compare our graphs to those created by first graders last year.
*You may have heard your first year talk about their new red folders. At the beginning of each week, I fill each folder with work designed for each individual student. The work might include poetry, math problems, spelling words, or cultural studies assignments. I correct their work at the end of each week and add new works. So far, the folders have been a big hit!
*We used old LL Bean catalogs for a lesson about currency. Students were given a budget of $200 and their task was to “buy” items that totaled $200. They had to buy at least 4 items – so the fishing vest for $199.99 didn’t count. Students also created charts with 4 columns ($1, $10, $25, $100) and sorted everyday items into each category. This work has provided a wonderful opportunity to practice rounding as well as brushing up on addition and subtraction.
*Last week, I told this group one of my favorite geometry stories: ‘The Love Story of the Lines’. This story is designed to help students understand convergent, divergent and parallel lines. Ask your student to tell this story at home. This week we used the sticks to construct adjacent angles and decide if they were complementary, supplementary or neither.
*Students have been doing a number of activities to help them become creative writers. They each chose a different art postcard and wrote sentences about it. We looked at the sentences as a group and brainstormed how we could make them more interesting to readers. They quickly noticed that most of the sentences they had written were true, but did not contain any descriptive words. With some prompting, “The horse is in the snow” soon became “The horse with the shiny, black coat wandered through the bright field of snow” This week students are creating books of descriptive words and trying the assignment again.
*Second years continue to work with the small bead frame. Last week we tried subtraction on the frames. I reintroduce the terms minuend, subtrahend, difference and borrowing. They will practice dynamic addition and subtraction for the next few weeks.
*3rd years have been studying polygons this month. Students identified and labeled the parts of a polygon, and we discussed regular and irregular polygons and measured the angles for pentagons – decagons. Through these activities, students reached a few conclusions:
-In regular polygons, all angles measure the same.
-Whether regular or irregular, all pentagons total 540 degrees, hexagons total 720 degrees, etc.
-All polygons are made up of a certain number of triangles. Regular pentagons are made up of 3 triangles and so are irregular pentagons, etc.
Based on these conclusions and using prior knowledge about triangles – that all triangles measure 180 degrees, we discovered that we can calculate the total measurement of any polygon by multiplying the number of triangles by 180 degrees. I used this work to introduce the term ‘n’ to mean any number. Now they are able to calculate the measurement of any polygon on paper. They were all so amazed at how easy this felt that they used polygons larger than I would have expected. The winner so far is a 1,239 sided polygon measuring 222,840 degrees!
Why would I do this with third graders you ask?
-It gives practice performing addition and multiplication on paper – without materials, which is part of the move toward abstraction that I am always talking about.
-They love a challenge! It is unfortunate that we often save concepts like this until middle school when students do not always have an interest. When they learn this again later on in their school careers, they will already have this knowledge in their brain. It is fun to speak with Montessori alum as they go through high school and college about how their experiences with the materials help them grasp concepts.
*Acadia & Katahdin groups are also honing their creative writing skills. They have been having lots of fun with similes! After intruding similes, we looked through classic literature to find and record many examples. We found 3 Musketeers and Treasure Island to be very helpful, but nothing compared to the number of similes we found in our American Tall Tales book. Students created lists of similes in their language notebooks. Here are a few of our favorites:
The timeline of life is as long as the Amazon River.
The man is as old as a Cambrian fossil.
I’m as tired as an owl in midday.
The playground is as snowy as the North Pole.
The cultural studies room is like a science lab.
Judy is as tall as a California Redwood.
The coat room is as cold as Antarctica.
Fractions are as fun as reading National Geographic*
*This student wanted me to note that this was not meant to be sarcastic – he really loves fractions & reading National Geographic.
*Constructing a good paragraph is a challenge for many students (and many adults). We spent the past week reading well written paragraphs and discussing the parts of a paragraph (topic sentence, supporting sentences and closing sentence). I cut up several examples and asked students to put the paragraph back together and explain what clues helped them determine the order. Students had lots of fun doing this activity. Their assignment is to write a paragraph about their pet and cut it up. They will then trade with someone else who will try to put it back together.
*The Katahdin group is busy working with fractions. We did a brief review of the nomenclature and performing addition and subtraction using fractions with like denominators. Now we are doing addition using fractions with unlike denominators. Students are using the fraction box to check their work.
*We continue to discuss relationships in our geometry work. Students used the large hexagon box to create “geometry pockets”. They traced and cut out a number of shapes – rhombus, hexagon, isosceles trapezoid, obtuse angled trapezoid, parallelogram, and equilateral triangle.
*Katahdin & Acadia groups have been enjoying many language lessons together. Read the language section above.
*We continue to move through the timeline of humans. This week we discussed Homo heidelbergensis. Ask your student to tell you about their diet and about using toothpicks (really!). We are beginning to plan for the spring fair, which will focus on early life. Details will follow shortly.
*My friend and neighbor, Nicole, is the 3rd/4th grade teacher at the Friends School of Portland (on Mackworth Island). Students were invited to watch a puppet show about Greek myths. The Friends School students were wonderful hosts and our students were a great audience. This was a wonderful opportunity for our students to see a different school & a different classroom. Nicole’s students will make a trip to Meadowbrook in March. In the meantime, some of our students will have a Friends School pen pal.
*Elizabeth (Aurora’s mom) visited our classroom with Handsome the dog (thank you Danielle & Pearl for lending us your dog) to give students an idea about what a veterinarian does. As you can imagine, this was a huge success! Students were armed with clipboards and stethoscopes as they evaluated Handsome – who we found was very friendly, drinks a lot of water, is partially deaf and just a tad overweight.
*Last week I asked our parent board to help our classroom acquire a laptop. Thank you Andy (Lucas’ dad) for finding us a wonderful Mac for the students. This week we visited the BBC Early Life site to compare early human skulls. We already had our first class debate about the merits of wikipedia. I was amazed that such young children already have such strong opinions on one side or the other.
Dates to Remember
We are going to try a different approach to parent education. The elementary students will be on hand to give lessons in different curriculum areas and answer questions about our classroom. Students may stay in Activity Club on this date and I will bring them over to our classroom at 4:45 to get ready. You are also welcome to drop your child off at this time. Please let me know if your child can make it to this event, so we can begin planning.
February 13th & 14th
Winter Conferences – An email will go out shortly asking you to choose a time for your child’s conference.
Every Monday at 8:00am sharp we have a fiddle jam session in the elementary classroom. Students gain more than just practice time from this experience. Playing music with their peers is great fun and can instill a passion for learning music in each student. It also gives the students an extra opportunity to receive feedback about their playing. It is difficult to practice at home if you don’t have a parent or sibling that can help you when you forget the notes or correct your bow hold. Recital time will be here before you know it!
|Students explore the world of Homo Heidelbergensis on the BBC website.
|Elizabeth helps students examine Handsome. Students recorded information about him during the exam.
|3rd year students created polygon charts using polygons from the geometry cabinet. Later they applied their findings to polygons with hundreds and thousands of sides.
|Our future 1st graders have been visiting the elementary classroom on Tuesday mornings. They enjoy receiving lessons from our current 1st years.