Lower Elementary’s Celebration of Learning

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The students in Lower Elementary put a lot of time and effort into preparing for their Celebration of Learning. They vacuumed the carpet, organized and cleaned their cubbies, cut and arranged flowers, prepared an array of snack options for their guests, and created a beautiful and unique banner to welcome everybody to their classroom.

As they arrived with their parents, grandparents, and siblings, they offered to serve their guests a snack, and then began presenting their classroom and their favorite works. Some of the most popular works to be shown off during the evening included tangrams, pizza fractions, and the x-ray skeleton. Each and every student demonstrated patience, kindness, and most of all, pride and excitement in sharing their daily world with their families.

Posted in Lower Elementary, McGuffey, parents

Prime Numbers with Nancy


At McGuffey, we all wear different hats—from the literal hats and caps that students wear on Crazy Hat Day (see above for our friend in the fuzzy hat, left hand corner) to the symbolic hats that staff members wear when they take on different roles throughout the school.

Before Nancy became our Head of School, she taught mathematics. Last week, she wore her math teacher “hat” to talk about prime numbers with some students from the Upper Unit. What a gift to have many hats from which to choose!

Posted in math, McGuffey, upper unit

Staging work begins for Willy Wonka Jr.

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Music class has turned into staging class this week as we prepare for our upcoming musical, Willy Wonka, Jr., to be performed on March 25, 26 and 28 at the Oxford Community Arts Center. The students are working hard at learning the staging as well as preparing props in art with Ingrid. What an inspiration they are to all the staff for sheer energy and focus! Their excitement for the musical shines through in all of their work—inside music class as well as outside music class. In the photos above, you see some Oompa Loompas learning their moves and having a ball.

Posted in Lower Elementary, McGuffey, music

Current Lost & Found Inventory

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Here is the current inventory of Lost & Found items. If any of these items belong to your family please retrieve them, send your child to the office to pick them up, or email Ingrid for assistance. Yes, that is an adult belt, size 36-40. The black item at the end of the first photo is a lovely tubular scarf, or perhaps a pouch style baby sling. Winter items that remain in Lost & Found once spring arrives will be snuck into random cars during car line.

Posted in announcements

Unstructured time and executive function


Recently, in Primary, a group of children created an obstacle course in our outdoor classroom. They talked with one another about how it should be set up and how it should be run. They decided to form a queue and have one child help moderate when it was time for the next person to go. They agreed if someone fell down, they needed to stop the action until they knew that person was okay. When the course was completed, that child would join the end of the line, where they would receive a hug from the person in front of them. (There were also some complex rules about stepping out of the obstacle course in a series of turns to shell corn from the cob that the teachers still don’t quite understand!)

This activity was not conceived of or driven by the adult. The ideas came from the children and they negotiated the solutions. If someone was being unkind, we would step in to help resolve the conflict peacefully, but we don’t take sides. This helps them acquire many skills, one of which is executive function.

Executive function is the management of working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, problem solving, and planning and execution. In order for executive function to develop, children must have time where they create their own ideas and carry them out. While it might look like our children are simply “playing,” they are, in fact, building skills that are critical later in life. We consider this flexibility of time, and the ability to craft it, to be an essential piece of our curriculum.

Posted in McGuffey, outside, Primary

Read-a-Thon is Ending Soon!

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We have just a week left in this year’s Read-a-Thon! Hopefully, the extra time we had at home over the past few due to the weather gave you and your children lots of time to curl up with a good book. The weekend is a great time to get some reading done, too! Consider dedicating a block of time this weekend for the whole family to read together.

To help get everybody excited about reading over the weekend, students in Grades 1-8 received a copy of the first issue ever of the McGuffey Times newspaper today, featuring some fantastic work by the members of the McGuffey Writing Club! We’ll have another post about the newspaper – and about the next session of Writing Club – very soon. We’ll also have extra copies of the McGuffey Times available during the Celebration of Learning next week.

Posted in language arts, McGuffey

Wintery Afternoons in Extended Day

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During the chilly months of winter, we move Extended Day indoors, into the kitchen, the library, and part of the Upper Unit’s classroom. Some of the most popular activities during these recent afternoons spent indoors include making Fuse Bead creations, building with Legos, playing chess, working on jigsaw puzzles, drawing pictures, and making cities with Straws & Connectors. It’s rare that a day goes by without a student asking a staff member to take a photo of what they’ve created, and we want to share a few of these moments and creations with you!

We aren’t always indoors during the winter, though. Whenever the weather allows, we move the fun outside. Spring’s sunshine and warmth aren’t too far away now!

Posted in extended day

Words of Happiness and Liquid Colors

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colors9Last month in art we created our first Collaborative Tile display. You will see these again in the future, with different mediums and themes. This first theme was centered around happiness, and used liquid watercolor paints with permanent markers.

Students were asked to pick a word that represented happiness to them. Lower Elementary students chose a noun, grades 4 and 5 chose a verb, and grades 6-8 chose an adjective. The words were written with permanent marker, then the tiles were colored with liquid watercolors. Once dry, students picked a background mat. It is tempting for children to pick their favorite color but they are learning to pick a background that enhances and complements their work. The tiles were displayed as a group and brought happiness to office visitors the last few weeks.

Once we completed this project, we continued exploring colors in liquid form. We colored with permanent markers, which previously did not smear when combined with watercolor inks. This time, we applied rubbing alcohol, which breaks down the permanent ink and creates fun effects on the drawing. Next, we dripped concentrated liquid watercolors into milk, then dripped in the rubbing alcohol. This was a variation on an experiment using food coloring, milk, and dish soap. Finally, we did some free choice exploration using water, rubbing alcohol and concentrated watercolors during which students could try whatever combinations they desired. One first grader discovered if you saturate blotter paper with rubbing alcohol, it will no longer absorb water;  it stays on top of the paper for a while.

Posted in art

Congratulations to Susan Guidi on her Montessori Certification


Congratulations to Susan Guidi on completion of her Montessori certification! Susan is our Upper Unit Social Studies and English Language Arts teacher and has been working on her certification for over a year. We are grateful for all the extra hours she has put in to accomplish this, and we are proud to have her on McGuffey’s teaching team!

Posted in Middle School, Upper Elementary, upper unit

Guest Speaker Victor Dandridge Kicks Off Read-a-Thon 2015


Yesterday began McGuffey’s annual Read-a-Thon, during which students are encouraged to find sponsors who pledge to donate a certain amount per page or per book that their student reads over the next two weeks. Once raised, these funds are used to purchase new books and instructional materials for all of McGuffey’s classrooms. It’s one of the most exciting times of the year at our school, and it’s a great chance to nurture the love of reading and storytelling that exists within every student, no matter what grade level.

To kick things off, McGuffey welcomed guest speaker and comic-book creator Victor Dandridge, who gave a presentation that allowed every student to create their own superhero (or super-villain). Through his self-publishing imprint, called Vantage:Inhouse Productions, Victor developed U Cre-8 Comics, a bridge between comic books and classroom fundamentals. During his presentation, students learned how comic books can build vocabulary (including words like protagonist and antagonist), and they worked with the U Cre-8 template to develop their own character with a specific origin, a combination of abilities, and a unique appearance. Most of all, they learned that comic books are first and foremost a way to tell stories, and that people of all ages can use the comic book format to tell any kinds of stories that they can imagine.

Thank you, Victor, for visiting McGuffey and for sharing your love of creating comics with our students! We will be posting more updates from Read-a-Thon as it continues over the next two weeks. In the meantime, find a good book and dive in!

Posted in fundraising, guest speakers, language arts, McGuffey