Monday, September 16, 2013

This is my country!

September 9 – September 13

We just completed our second week of school and we are now starting to settle into a routine. The weekly theme was "This is my country!" (Remember that Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance is celebrated this week.) Here's a recap of our week of fun.

Fourth through sixth graders have the option to use whatever handwriting style they want so long as it is legible. Some will choose to print, others will work on cursive. We use Handwriting Without Tears as the instruction in the younger grades and then give children the opportunity to learn a second or third script or to study calligraphy. Each week, copywork selections (poems, sayings, jokes, etc.) that coincide with the theme are provided for children to use. Here are this week’s selections.

We read The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco. It's always fun to see children's expressions when they realize that it is a true story about the author. Our mini lesson (check it out here) focused on "sequencing chronological events." The supporting skill is "determining meaning through text and picture clues."

We use the Words Their Way spelling program because it is an individualized spelling program that integrates beautifully into a Montessori classroom. This week students learned how to mark their own spelling tracking sheets and how to do word hunts and how to fingerspell/ type/ write each of their words from a word sort.

Poetry and Literature
This week's selection was “The Star Spangled Banner” by Frances Scott Key. It's a social studies tie-in for the War of 1812. I used it as an introduction to explain the major differences between poems, drama, and prose and we discussed the structural elements of poems and drama

This week we focused on the 6+1 Writing Trait IDEAS. We read The Memory String by Even Bunting and then created our own memory boxes.

We are reviewing how to read and write all sorts of numbers: extra large whole numbers, fractions, decimals, negative reals, rational expressions, numbers written in scientific notation and even numbers with exponents. Students learn the patterns for reading large numbers starting in first grade but we review the concept at the beginning of each year. One popular independent activity this week was the "Really Big Number" name generator.

This week we studied "sound." We watched Bill Nye and Magic School Bus clips from YouTube. We made connections to music (The Star Spangled Banner and the 1812 Overture) and artillery fire (the War of 1812) but by far the most fun was had with the iPad decibel meter app. Even with yelling, the loudest sound any single person could generate was 90 decibels. (We left the meter on during the lesson and someone dropped something on accident.) It was surprising that normal background classroom noise hovered around 45dB.

Following last week's introduction to the concept of Manifest Destiny and in celebration of Patriot's Day, we studied Francis Scott Key and the War of 1812. We discussed the burning of Washington D.C. and how the famous portrait of George Washington was saved by Dolley Madison. Everyone had the opportunity to share the items they wold save if their home caught on fire. We also listened to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture (for a Napoleonic connection to War of 1812 which will be another connection to next week's lesson on the Louisiana Purchase). On the timeline, we added the following events: the War of 1812, the composition of the Star Spangled Banner and the burning of the White House.

Many Americans mistakenly believe that the Tchaikovsky wrote the 1812 Overture to celebrate the United State's victory in the War of 1812. Not only did the U.S. NOT win the war, but the 1812 Overture is about the Napoleonic retreat from Russia, Tchaikovsky's homeland. However, the Napoleonic Wars are an important factor in the U.S.'s decision to declare war so the song makes a fun tie-in. Besides, the cannons are just great fun! (Start watching at 4:54 for the "famous" bit.)

This week we got an introduction to the Collage Center of our art studio. After a five minute introduction, everyone chooses to work in one of the two centers already introduced: drawing or collage. (For a review of our art program, click the VISUAL ART link on the sidebar or the Art Studio tab at the top of the page.)

I love to integrate children's literature with every subject area and art is no exception. Ezra Jack Keats, Lois Ehlert, Leo Lionni, and Eric Carle are children's authors who are also fantastic collage artists. Other books I like include Boom Chicka Rock by John Archambault, The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall and This Little Pirate by Philemon Sturges. (BTW- these three authors did not illustrate their own books.)

As I mentioned last week, one of our goals for P.E. is to show children that there are many choices for physical activities and they don't have to be organized sports . In preparation for our hiking field trip, we are learning how to walk. We analyzed our gait by making foot impressions on construction paper with a wet foot. Then we studied proper posture (which we will review many times in dance class and music class.) We learned how different ways of walking affect our forward movement (heel-toe-pushoff versus landing on a flat foot or running on tip toes.)

We are learning the Pledge of Allegiance in American Sign Language. Here is the version that we use. There are many regional variations of the pledge but this version breaks it down into individual signs (some with explanations) and also has a video of the entire pledge.

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