Our New Friends in the Window

You may remember our post from October about the spider who had made a home in our windowsill and then produced two egg sacs. After months of waiting and watching, and just in time for the last day of school, the egg sacs began to hatch today! Now, instead of one friend in the window, we have… well, let’s just say, a lot of friends in the window.

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Preparing Birdhouse Gourds

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Our students have been busy preparing birdhouse gourds for next year’s incoming Grade 1 students. This is a tradition that began last year in our classroom. All students participate in the process: planting birdhouse gourd seeds in the spring, harvesting them in the fall, and then during the following spring, students clean the gourds, drill holes in them, sand the openings, remove the seeds, and decorate the gourds (while also planting more seeds to start the process from the beginning).

On Friday, during our annual Moving Up Ceremony, our Grade 3 students will give the finished gourds as gifts to the incoming Grade 1 students. Any extras will be placed across school grounds for our neighborhood birds to enjoy.

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Building a 3D Puzzle

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Our students almost always have a jigsaw puzzle available to be worked on in the “quiet zone” of their classroom. A time-timer on the table helps them ensure that they don’t spend more than 10 minutes working on the puzzle at a time, and also helps ensure that many students get a chance to participate.

Most recently, our students completed a 3D puzzle of multicolored clownfish. Numbers and arrows printed on the bottom of the curved pieces helped to direct students on how they all connected to form the sphere of the finished puzzle. This was the first non-flat puzzle that our students have tackled, and although it took nearly a month from start to finish, it was greatly admired by all for several days before being taken apart and put away.

Puzzles help our students build logic and reasoning skills, as well as improving their ability to work collaboratively, especially when the work takes place in the “quiet zone” and students must collaborate and work together without talking.

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Planting Our Garden

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A handful of students planted our classroom’s gardens yesterday. This was part of a combined Science and Practical Life unit that has been ongoing for the past month, and has seen students selecting which seeds they would like to grow in the garden, designing their own seed packets in order to familiarize themselves with the kind of information that seed packets often display, using that information to make choices about the layout of the garden, and then finally, planting the seeds.

Our students planted red and orange poppies in the flower-box by their playhouse, birdhouse gourds in the flower-box by their patio, and kohlrabi, melon, beans, and edamame in the garden bed near the sunroom.

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Learning About Balance in MindUP

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Students in our classroom have a lesson in their MindUP curriculum every Wednesday in place of Specials (Art, Music, and PE). The MindUP curriculum teaches the latest scientific information about the brain to offer strategies for helping students to focus their attention, improve their executive function skills, build resilience, and develop optimism and a positive mindset.

Last Wednesday, our students practiced their balance with two exercises. For the first exercise, all students stood apart from each other in their outdoor classroom and tried to balance on one leg for 30 seconds; then, they tried it a second time, this time concentrating on a focal point somewhere within their range of vision. It was amazing to see the dramatic difference between these two attempts. With a focal point to concentrate on while balancing, students wobbled much less. For the second exercise, students practiced walking heel-to-toe on a straight line of tape on the ground, with a pyramid beanbag balanced on their heads (students just finished sewing these beanbags with Ayelet for their Practical Life curriculum).

After both exercises, we discussed a few questions, such as: how did it feel to balance on one leg? (“My other leg hurt!” was a common response). What did you choose for your focal point? (Fence posts, stumps, trees, and other people were mentioned often.) How did the beanbag change your balance? (“I couldn’t look down!”) We discussed how we can focus and think clearly when our bodies and brains work together, and how our brain’s ability to focus improves when we pay attention to the signals our bodies send us.

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Read-a-Thon 2017 Begins

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Our gnome-friend Reade visited all of our classrooms yesterday to kick off our annual Read-a-Thon fundraiser. The Read-a-Thon is a fundraiser for our school library and summer reading books. It works through sponsors; this year, sponsors will give money based on how many minutes a child reads (or is read to) each day. Your child will bring home a booklet to list sponsors and log all those minutes.

After a quick speech from Reade, students met with their partners (Lower Elementary with Middle School, and Primary with Upper Elementary) to spend some time reading together. Pictured above are the Lower Elementary/Middle School partners.

McGuffey’s Read-a-Thon goal for this year is to read for a collective 1,440 minutes, or one full day!

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An Outdoor Work Period

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We had such beautiful weather on our first day back from Spring Break that our students spent their afternoon work period in the outdoor classroom. They could choose any indoor work and bring it out (the most popular choices yesterday were Writer’s Workshop and silent reading books), or they could choose to build and create either in the sandbox or with the wooden Outlast blocks.

As the weather continues to warm up, we will be opening our outdoor classroom more often during work periods. When this happens, students tend to move some of the work that they would normally do at a table or desk indoors to our cluster of picnic tables outdoors.

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Movement of Earth and Land

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In Science, our students have been studying the ways that earth (lowercase e) can be moved by natural phenomena. Last week we talked about how wind can move earth, and we also watched a Bill Nye video on how the earth’s crust can be impacted by things like volcanoes and earthquakes. This week we talked about how water can change the shape of land, and about the difference between emergent and submergent coastlines.

Students have been challenged to find (in the classroom or at home) a picture of an emergent or submergent coastline, whether in a photo, a book, a magazine, a movie, or anywhere else.

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Games

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Students in our classroom are allowed to play one game per day, at any time during their two work periods (morning and afternoon). The games that we put on the shelves for students to choose from are games that encourage strategic thinking and planning ahead, such as chess, checkers, and Yahtzee.

Along with the table in our classroom that always has a jigsaw puzzle on it, these activities offer students the chance to take a break from their academic work while still engaging their minds in productive ways. If possible, we would encourage you to make one or more of these games available at home; not only are they fun activities for the whole family, but you might be surprised by how strategically skilled your child has become by practicing these games at school.

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Grammar Sense

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A number of our students who have completed the first half of the Montessori Grammar Boxes, and who have learned about nouns, adjectives, articles, verbs, prepositions, and adverbs, recently learned how to play a game called Grammar Sense. This game can be played by 2-4 people, and each player starts with a blank template. At the end of the game, by drawing word cards at random, all players will have made a complete sentence.

The template displays a series of Montessori grammar symbols in the following order: article, adjective, noun, verb, adverb, preposition, article, adjective, noun. While some minor adjustments must be made verbally by each player at the end of the game—such as making sure that the articles agree with the adjectives that follow them, and making plural nouns singular if necessary (or vice versa)—the order of the parts of speech on the template ensures that each player will end up with a complete sentence in front of them. The two sentences produced by the game shown above were, “A musical frog danced traditionally inside the furious pussycat,” and “The intelligent dinosaur strolled musically by the hungry puppy.”

The game also includes a Grammar Analysis Flow Chart and a Grammar Sense Control Chart. The first chart helps players determine the part of speech of any given word that they draw at random, while the second chart allows players to verify that they have placed their words in appropriate slots on their template.

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