Sunday, October 1, 2017

Our First Language Arts Blocks

Our first Language Arts blocks for this year are Jataka Tales for the younger group and The Imaginary Island Project (creative writing) for the older.

I have pages already up on my website for both topics:

By the way, I just found out Jamie York has a nice one-page sheet listing the common Block Rotations in Grades 1-8 (PDF) if you're looking for a handout.

The kids are having a wonderful time with both blocks, and definitely ready for a change of pace after our intense high-energy four weeks of Physics. The mood has shifted. The energy in the room is completely different.

Highlights from this week include:

  • Daily math practice (for the older group I use Jamie York's math materials, which are great, and I'm currently taking his 7th grade math workshop and love it!)
  • Daily creative writing time
  • Our Poem for memorization: "My Heart Leaps Up" by William Wordsworth
  • Skill Cards (Ending a Conversation, Joining In)
  • Current events: I found and read two articles from the local newspaper which had to do with Compassion:
      "Something from nothing: Group converts plastic bags into mats for homeless"

      "Accessible nature: IDNR grant to fund improvements to nature preserve"

  • Our Philosophy lesson introducing Jane Addams
  • The arrival of new classroom materials from Waseca Biomes
  • Our usual fabulous Wednesday at the Farm!
  • Our final lit circle for Bridge to Terabithia, the plot diagram graphic organizer, a GREAT ending discussion, and drafting two essays for HW (a persuasive essay and a narrative essay)
  • Individual lessons including exponents, periods for abbreviations, alphabetical order, common and proper nouns, nomenclature for the parts of the fish, and how to weave a potholder.
  • Introduction to our first collection of Jataka Tales, I Once Was a Monkey: Stories Buddha Told, and hearing
      The Foolish Forest Sprite
      The Deceitful Heron
      The Monkey and the Crocodile
  • Writing one-sentence summaries of each story, adding them to the new yellow main lesson books, doing beautiful artwork for the MLBs:
      Scratch Art with oil pastels and black acrylic paint, for the introduction and the dark cave with the animals' eyes glowing

      Autumn Tree Perspective Drawing with colored pencils, for The Foolish Forest Sprite

      Fish Printing with my collection of rubber fish and Daler Rowney acrylic ink, for The Deceitful Heron

      Photography for our still life with figs, for The Monkey and the Crocodile

      (On Monday we will finish the Still Life art project by doing our watercolor painting step.)

  • Hearing John Masefield's beautiful poem "Cargoes" and talking about creating an image for your reader through powerful word choices, which means that you have to know your Imaginary Island well enough that you can see it yourself! Taking the group through a series of lessons to force them to explore their Imaginary Island thoroughly:
      nomenclature for the Landforms and Water Features

      drawing your island including its landforms and water features

      nomenclature for the biomes, looking at the biome maps for each of the eight continents

      drawing your island again as a biome map, using the Map Legend Stamp to create a map key, thinking about the plants and animals which would live there

      Fundamental Needs of Humans lesson (another of my beautiful new materials this year)

      thinking about the people(s) on your island and how they would meet their needs (shelter, nutrition, clothing, defense, transportation, communication, art/culture, etc.) based on their biomes

      using our absolutely luscious Faber Castell Gelatos -- this brand new art material is part crayon, part chalk pastel, part watercolor pencil -- to begin to create some 2-D art about your Imaginary Island

      beginning to draft your first creative writing story

    Dorit Winter's book on the "Wonder, Wish & Surprise" main lesson block (this book is called The Art and Science of Teaching Composition) emphasizes using activities which harness scientific thinking (such as the biome maps) to engage children and allow their creativity to flow. She feels that pre-teens will feel exposed, sensitive, and even silly if you just task them with writing creatively... which opens them up and makes them vulnerable. This way, she argues, they think they are engaged in something else and the pressure is off. In fact, her approach is spot-on and my entire group is entering very enthusiastically into writing stories which take place on their islands!

    Our first week of creative writing (she also advises that you not call it "Wonder, Wish & Surprise" to the children, which will give away the different moods of the lessons in advance) focused on a sense of Wonder. What could be more wonder-filled than creating an imaginary world? (For those who are paying close attention, yes, the magical world of Terabithia served as a lovely transition into this block. That was intentional on my part.)

    P.S. There WILL be a surprise or two in the third week of this block. If you're a parent of one of my students, I will be sending out an email about this.

    My Science Club kids were here on Thursday. We've started doing a quick activity for the younger siblings (ages 2 - 4) between 3 and 3:30, and having the older kids (ages 6 - 9) do their Science Club at 3:30 pm. This is because the "littles" were feeling sad and left out that they couldn't stay for the very cool Science Club! This week, the "littles" did fish printing and the "big kids" designed and built their Balloon-Powered Cars and had a fun & exciting race.

    This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

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