Thursday, January 22, 2009

Notes from the Classroom

I had no idea it had been over 2 weeks since I've written! I keep thinking that I'll make some notes in the evening and then after dinner I'm so tired, I just fall into bed. To catch you up, here is what I wrote for the school newsletter:

"Upon our return from the Winter Break we have gotten right down to business. We’ve used math, language, and art skills to make personal calendars. (If March begins on Sunday and has 31 days, on what day of the week does it end? List as many words as you can to describe “Summer”. Using only the colors yellow and blue, paint “Spring”.)

We began – and finished – Abel's Island as a read-aloud and made a 3-D diorama in the clay table of his island. How does he finally escape? Ask a LE friend! We are now deep in the adventures of Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: 100th Anniversary Edition (Books of Wonder), which has been another wonderful adventure for mapping skills. Surprisingly, Physics plays a part in both stories. Abel’s challenge was to overcome the force of rushing water in the river surrounding his island. Dorothy, on the other hand, was lifted straight off the ground in her house and discovered that it didn’t fall. Why not? LE friends did experiments with gravity and concluded that another oppositional force must have been at work to keep her in the air. Now we move on to explorations with parachutes.

The entire downstairs is learning to knit as one of our New Year’s Resolutions. The children painstakingly made handmade knitting needles using just wooden dowels, a pencil sharpener, sandpaper, beeswax salad bowl finish, and polymer clay. Each team was given a 100 gram ball of yarn and challenged to divide it into two equal balls. Before the yarn could be cut they were required to weigh both balls on the balance to make certain they were the same. Now the knitting lessons are beginning!

Speaking of things being divided fairly, we have had a lot of ongoing math work with fractions. Look at the pizza illustrations on this page – if you have one friend, you get the entire pizza… for several friends, we divide the pizza up into equal parts. This is such a real-life way to explore the concept, and a way you can reinforce math work at home.

Language lessons continue; we’ve even had some friends explore the Greek and Latin roots of our language. One child laid out the human skeleton and discovered that the word phalanges (small bones in the hand and foot) is related to the word phlanx, a line of overlapping shields. The word patella (the kneecap) is related to the Latin word for shallow dish. Do you think that might be the root of our word plate as well?

I challenged the entire class with the riddle:

Monoclonius + Triceratops = 4 horns
Monoclonius + Pentaceratops = 6 horns
Triceratops + Pentaceratops = 8 horns

How many horns does each dinosaur have?

More fascinating than the answer is the WAY in which students utilized the resources of our classroom to gain the answer. From thinking about geometry shapes (triangle has 3 sides) to pulling out the encyclopedias to visiting our collection of dinosaur stencils to see the shape of each animal, students were hard at work tackling the question.

I’d like to say how fascinating and wonderful it is to see learning coming to life in such a tangible way in the classroom. We were privileged to be together as a class to hear President Obama sworn in. We gathered with lunch trays balanced on laps, squeezed together around the radio since the Internet was totally bogged down as people all over the world watched the event online. It was so reminiscent of earlier times when gathering around the radio was common, and the way families in America often listened to their president speak. Elementary friends had a wonderful lesson that morning about the legacy of Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and it was amazing and humbling to all of us to be a witness as history was made."

The Dinosaur Riddle poem is from a book called Bone Poems, a book of poetry about dinosaur skeletons. It is a lot of fun!

I made notes on the books we read for our discussion on the civil rights movement (it was an introductory discussion; we focused on Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) Here are the ones I recommend:

Book of Black Heroes from A to Z: An Introduction to Important Black Achievers for Young Readers

Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

I Have a Dream with forward by Coretta Scott King

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dear Dr. King: Letters from Today's Children to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tomorrow the entire preK and K are going to the National Air and Space Museum; my children can't go since I'm not allowed to take my children out of the state of MD during the temporary court ordered custody. So the girls and I will be going to the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Whenever I'm not teaching, spending time with my kids, taking care of the house, or resting I'm supposed to be doing my Montessori teacher training (HUGE binders, hundreds of questions) but I will still try to write when I can.

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