Art, Music, and Movement Rotations
Students have just completed the first of four rotations through art, music and movement and showcased their learning with a fabulous night of circus arts, marimbas, keyboards and an art display. Not wanting to rest on our laurels, we jumped right into the next rotation this morning! This class will last until our next sharing on February 6th from 11:50-12:45 in the gym.
Readers continue to enjoy independently selected novels during DEAR time, as well as our read aloud novel Liar and Spy.
Students in Jim and Lauren’s classes are immersed in a study of Pourquoi stories. This study is supported by the work students are doing in social studies with Peter and Lynn. Students have read a variety of stories, identifying common characteristics and charting plot lines. They are using planning tools to craft a story including elements of plot, character, setting and language.
Students in Peter and Lynn’s classes are writing poetry using mentor text to learn about specific language and writing with imagery and rhythm. Next week we will be applying revision techniques to deepen our poetic images.
Over the past month, we have been identifying, using, and completing exercises with nouns, adjectives, and adverbs.
Our focus during academic lab has switched to literacy for January and February. Students are working in small groups to examine various aspects of understanding what we read based upon student need. Some of our work includes comprehension in literature, building vocabulary and understanding informational text. Others are working in teacher facilitated book discussion groups enjoying novels with a theme of ‘courage.’ Some of our titles include: Lupita Manana, The One Hundred Dresses, Twenty-one Balloons, and others.
This week some of us moved into a discussion about multiple intelligences, learning styles, and what research shows how the two ideas and theories can support learning. After a brief introduction, students self-assessed and ranked their learning styles then took an on-line learning style survey. In future sessions, we will compare the self assessment and results as a basis to begin our discussion about the upcoming independent learning projects.
Jim and Lauren have started working with Lynn’s and Peter’s classes this month. Our beginning science explorations help students learn to use measurement tools correctly and accurately including triple beam balances, graduated cylinders and rulers, while reviewing units of measurement. Students practiced measuring Gummy Bears in a variety of ways before predicting changes in mass, volume and density when we soaked the candies overnight. Students will continue to investigate density through experimentation as well as buoyancy, capacity, variable and displacement during our boat & hot air balloon studies.
In Jim’s class, we have been on how to use nets to find the minimum surface area and midline length for a given volume. We are now turning our focus to solving algebraic equations in one variable. We are solidifying our understanding of operations and their inverses and how to use them to simplify and solve equations with variables as well as how to demonstrate our thinking using number lines, tape diagrams, and arrays. We have also rediscovered the importance of know multiplication facts and how to use operations on whole numbers, fractions, and decimals in an accurate and efficient manner.
In Peter’s class, we are continuing our exploration of expressions and equations. Specifically, we are extending their arithmetic work to include using letters to represent numbers in order to understand that letters are simply "stand-ins" for numbers and that arithmetic is carried out exactly as it is with numbers. Students explore operations in terms of verbal expressions and determine that arithmetic properties hold true with expressions. Students determine that letters are used to represent specific but unknown numbers and are used to make statements or identities that are true for all numbers or a range of numbers. They understand the relationships of operations and use them to generate equivalent expressions. In upcoming weeks, students will move to the to algebra to solve one-step equations.
In Lynn’s class, we are wrapping up our study of division of whole numbers and decimal number next week with our final assessment on Module 5.2. We will then be moving into addition and subtraction of fractions in the weeks to come.
Lauren’s math class has been solving word problems involving area and perimeter using multiplication. Students are approaching mastery using three different strategies for solving multiplication problems including using arrays, finding partial products, and tradition algorithm. Students completed a mid-unit assessment last week of multiplication skills and concepts.
In the Spanish 1A classes, we have been working on present tense verb conjugations as our vocabulary continues to build. In Lynn’s class we are preparing for an exam on Monday, January 26th to cover basic and “regular” conjugations. We are also reading together our first novela in Spanish Casi se Muere. We are reading aloud together to work on pronunciation, translation, and comprehension skills along the way. Don’t be surprised if your Spanish student holds the family pet “captive” while reading aloud this text. The 15 minutes of nightly Spanish practice might include re-reading to build fluency. If you have time, encourage your Spanish students to read aloud to you! Please refer to Pat’s and Lynn’s Spanish webpages for more information and links.
Spanish with Leticia: Leticia Solari worked with Spanish exposure students this week, getting to know one another, remembering some vocabulary, and working to revive basic conversation skills with partners. Students have really enjoyed working with this native Spanish speaker and are looking forward to weekly Spanish lessons.
Peter and Lynn have started working with Jim’s and Lauren’s classes this month. We have begun our study of ancient civilizations with a 4 day simulation that helps our students explore in a hands-on way what being a member of a civilization entails. They tried to “survive” on their own on day #1 of the simulation - gathering food and water and building a shelter. On day #2, they were part of a small group working together to gather food and water and build shelter for the all groups members to “survive” - without a common language. On day #3 the groups created their own governing system, economic system and religious/philosophical beliefs. On day #4, the smaller groups joined together into a larger group and held a council in which they needed to come to consensus on the logistics of their ever-changing (and growing) civilization. Along the way, the civilizations had to cope with the elimination of certain members of their group due to flood, sickness and famine. In the next couple of weeks we will look at the concept of time - how it is measured, what are key events in our own personal histories as well as in a more global sense of the word. We will also begin looking at the work of Jared Diamond through the National Geographic film Guns, Germs, and Steel. As a coming attraction...on Thursday, February 5th, we will be taking the current social studies classes to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to experience the Traveling the Silk Road Exhibit.
Art, Music, and Movement Rotations
Students will be engaged in four art, music, and movement “Rotations” between now and Spring Break during Arts and Sciences time and the first two hours of Friday mornings. All students will have the opportunity to work with Kara on a pottery project that ties in with their social studies focus - how clay has been used in ancient civilizations. All students will also be learning to play marimbas! For the other two rotations, students will either be engaged in Circus Arts or Keyboards during the first two sessions followed by either Choir or Tech Lab for the final two rotations. By the end of the year, all students will have had a skill-based experience in art, music, and movement. We were able to hire experts to teach each of these classes using the money generously donated by Council. Thanks!
All classes have begun a new read aloud novel, Liar and Spy, by Rebecca Stead. Throughout this well-written shared reading, we’ll be working to understand characterization and some literary devices that reveal character traits, building vocabulary and revisiting plotline.
Before break all students created a ‘gift of writing’ expressing gratitude and appreciation for someone special in their lives. We encouraged students to use some writing craft that they’ve learned this year, but mostly to write from the heart, and consider presentation.
Readers continue to work toward the 40-book challenge and expand their repertoire of genres by reading independently selected books. Consistent reading at home for an average of 30 minutes each day will support this development. In January we will look at comprehension strategies and literary analysis via book groups in our academic labs.
In December, Jim’s and Lauren’s classes studied circuitry with Lauren and simple machines and chemistry with Jim. In circuitry, students learned about atomic activity and energy, built simple, parallel, and series circuits with bulbs, motors, batteries and more. Students created art with mini LED lights and copper tape, and had fun lighting LEDs and running motors with conductive and insulating play dough. In our simple machines unit, we looked at forces, and how moving application of forces and loads can change how much force is needed to lift or move a load. In chemistry, we investigated acids and bases, created solids and gases through double-replacement reactions of clear liquids, and actually made things explode (in a small controlled manner) when studying the properties of elements.
On January 12th, students in Peter’s and Lynn’s homerooms will begin studying science with Lauren and Jim.
In Lynn’s 5th grade math class we have been exploring estimation and rounding factors, interpreting numerical expressions and comparing using more visual models. We also have been working on multiplication of two and three digit whole numbers and decimals using a variety of visual models and techniques to double check our work. Now that we have returned from break, are expanding our understanding of division as well through visuals models and developing a deeper understanding of the algorithms we have been using.
Lauren’s fifth grade math class has been delving into the world of multiplication: making concrete and pictorial models for multiplication including tile arrays and rectangular arrays, practicing math facts with partners, learning ‘tricks’ to recall facts quickly, playing games and solving word problems, including beginning to restate brain teasers to understand the problem and discern strategies. Students are working on having a keen understanding of what it means to multiply before mastering the algorithm.
In Peter’s, Jim’s, and Alison’s, 6th grade math class, we have investigated positive and negative numbers on a number line, opposites, absolute value, and coordinate graphing, as well as the identity property. Some groups are exploring algebraic expressions and equations, order of operations, percentages, and exponents while others are planning to cover this material in January.
Since our last update, social studies classes have been busy with our final case study of ancient civilizations - the Indus River Valley. Our students have become quite efficient at analyzing using the GRAPES model and we moved quickly through this study. We had a written assessment on both ancient China and the Indus River Valley. Over the last two weeks, students worked in small groups to create their own “Perfect Civilization” applying all that we have learned over our semester study of civilization. Using the GRAPES model as their own template, they thoughtfully decided and the created drawings, writings, and artifacts to share in a museum-style format. Presentations occurred this past Thursday and each group was assessed by fellow students as to their ability to survive/thrive or fall based on the information presented. As we processed with both Peter and Lynn’s classes the “big learning” gained in this semester-long study, we were pleased to see that so many of our students really have a firm understanding of the reasons some civilizations rise and thrive and others are more vulnerable to collapse.
On January 12th we look forward to taking Jim and Lauren’s classes on this same journey through the second half of the school year.
In both Spanish 1A classes, we wrapped up our semester study with an assessment before heading into break. In Lynn’s Spanish class we have learned and solidified our learning of time, numbers, parts of the body and clothing. We have begun looking at the specifics of conjugating verbs - something most of us take for granted in our primary language. This week we continued working with the present tense word verb forms and the formation and practice of questions in Spanish. As we look ahead into the next week, we will begin reading our first novela en español.
Thank you for helping your children practice their Spanish over the two week winter break. Students shared how they traveled, visited restaurants, listened to Spanish language radio stations, changed the language settings on favorite movies to Spanish, or spoke to family members (including pets) in Spanish over the break. At this point in language acquisition, two weeks can be a long time to not be exposed to a language. We tried not to give “homework” (other than completing any missed/incomplete work) but had asked our students to do something meaningful and fun with Spanish over the break. Thanks for indulging them as they try to keep that Spanish language practice happening in authentic ways.
We are very excited to meet Leticia Solari, our new Spanish K-6th grade teacher in January! She will be teaching the Spanish exposure class that will occur one day a week opposite our 5-6 Academic Lab classes. She will spend the first couple of weeks in January getting to know Horizons and will begin teaching formal classes K-6 the 3rd week of January.
Social Emotional Learning
This month we are continuing our work in developing classroom agreements and exploring stress and ways we can calm ourselves. Some of the methods we introduced or will introduce the children to is deep abdominal breathing and body scans.
In January, we will begin our investigation into self. The purpose of this unit is to help students during this transitional period of their lives and get to know themselves and others, who are sharing this experience with them, at a deeper level. We will draw from activities from the Passageworks Institute. A starting point will be for each child to identify his or her strengths through self assessments and two surveys: the Via survey and another about learning modalities/multiple intelligences.