Wishing You A Happy Thanksgiving

This week the Upper El students and I would like to share some thoughts about what we are thankful for this year. With permission, and a promise to keep it anonymous, I am sharing quotes from each student’s daily journal…

“I’m thankful for my family, friends, and dog, Freddy. This is because they’re kind, funny, make me feel loved, and are a little bit crazy – but in a good way. I’m also thankful to be able to have Thanksgiving in person this year which I think is amazing and very important this year 🙂 !”

“I am thankful for my mom, my grandpa, and my dog because my dog is very funny and so is my grandpa and my mom is very nice. I am thankful for my friends, my family, and food. I am thankful for food because food is one of the things we need to live, my family because they are the best, and my friends because they stick with me and we have the greatest memories.”

“I’m thankful for my family because if we did not have family what would we do, my friends, teacher, and church because they are nice, strong, and amazing.”

“I’m thankful for my family and friends, pets and farms because they honor me and respect me. I am thankful for my moms because they help me and cook for me.”

“I am thankful for my family, for my friends, for the food we get to eat, and for my video games.”

“I am thankful for my grandma (Nonna) because she is fun to play with. I am thankful for mountain biking because it feels good when you land a jump or go down a trail very fast and don’t fall.”

“I am thankful for my family, friends, and teacher. I am thankful for water, food, my house, entertainment, and school.”

“I’m thankful for my brother and my dad because my brother and I don’t see each other that much.”

“I’m thankful for my friends because they’re always there for me. I’m thankful for food because it keeps me living.”

“I am thankful for food because you can’t live without it. I am thankful for my mom because she helps me in tough situations and we do fun things together.”

“I am thankful for my family because they help me when I need it. I’m grateful for my xbox because it is fun.”

“I’m thankful for my mom and dad because they do so much for me and they brought me into this world. I am thankful for food, family, entertainment, friends, joy, love, caring, being kind, and the Earth.”

 

…and I am beyond thankful that I get to walk this journey with your children. They are truly amazing, hard working, kind, and compassionate people.

I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Developing Compassion Through Service

“We see the figure of the child who stands before us with [their] arms held open, beckoning humanity to follow.” -Maria Montessori

It was Maria Montessori’s vision that the way to make the world a better, more peaceful place, was through the children. Consequently, serving others is a vital part of the Montessori philosophy. In Upper Elementary, we place great emphasis on becoming good stewards and caretakers of the Earth and its inhabitants. One way we do this is by participating in real, meaningful community service for others, outside our school. By doing this work, the children learn the joy of giving of themselves, and develop compassion. The intentional focus on serving others fosters the growth of caring, empathetic students who are capable of thinking beyond themselves.

We were pleased to learn that the St. Vincent DePaul Mission in Waterbury continues to need contributions to its Sandwich Making Program and that, by following COVID safety guidelines closely, we are allowed to participate in that program. On Friday, at 12 physically distanced food preparation stations, the Upper El students worked joyfully to make sandwiches for our neighbors in need. We made a total of 206 sandwiches. Thank you parents, for donating the ingredients!

This week we continued our Biology lessons on photosynthesis with a focus on food making that goes on inside of plants. We learned how a plant uses water and carbon dioxide to make sugar, and how some of that sugar is used up immediately and rest of it is reduced to starch for storage. In Geography we learned about simple wind patterns on Earth that are created by heated air rising at the equator and cool air flowing in from the poles to replace it, a cycle of a constant flow of air.


The HUB

The MyFWM Dashboard has a fantastic new feature called the HUB. Each morning we start our daily work cycle by visiting the Dashboard of MyFWM and checking out the HUB. There, the children are learning to check any messages they have received from teachers, see what the schedule is for the day, and look at their current assignments. They check off assignments as they complete them, and in this way are using the HUB as an organizational tool for their schoolwork. By making this part of our daily routine, each student is not only learning useful skills to help them become responsible, organized, and accountable, but they will also be prepared to use this tool in the event that we spend a portion of our year learning from home.

In Geometry the fourth years learned another way to prove the equivalence between a rhombus and a rectangle and fifths learned how to find the area of a parallelogram. Everyone really seemed to enjoy our Biology lesson this week on photosynthesis. We had a great discussion about the pigment chlorophyll and why most plants are green. The students enjoyed using a mortar and pestle to crush leaves into a pulp and then combine the pulp with rubbing alcohol to draw out the pigment. They also learned that plants need the sun, and without the sunlight, the pigment in the plant will die. Our fourth grade History lesson this week was on the Cenozoic Era, the age of mammals. Our fifth graders learned about the Azilian people of the Mesolithic, or “Middle Stone Age” culture. In language this week, fourth graders wrapped up their work with Sentence Analysis, and fifth graders did some in-depth work with main and auxiliary verbs.


Studious Scientists

Our week has been filled with fun and learning together. The fourth years learned about proving the equivalence of a rhombus and a rectangle in geometry and the fifths worked on finding the area of squares. In our biology work this week, we continued learning about the upward flow of water in plants with a focus on transpiration. We learned that as water passes out of leaves through the stomata and evaporates, the empty space it leaves is filled by water flowing in from the stem. This continues and creates a steady pull of water and nutrients from the roots, through the xylem and the leaves. The students were surprised to learn that this force is strong enough to pull the water ten times as high as the highest tree. In our geography lesson, we experimented to see which heats up and cools off faster, land or water. We started with some predictions; some thought land would heat faster and some predicted the water would. Everyone thought the water would cool off faster. The children impressed me with the reasoning behind their predictions. We learned, by monitoring the temperature of a jar of sand and a jar of water placed in the bright sunlight, that the sand’s temperature rose much higher than the water’s, and when we removed them from the sunlight, it cooled off faster too. This principle will be used when we examine the heating and cooling of land and water masses.


Competent Collaborators

An observer of our Upper Elementary classroom would see most of the children collaborating on their work; this is intentional. Montessori elementary communities are designed to support this collaboration because it is recognized as a need for this age group. Elementary children crave interaction, not just in a purely social setting, but also in organized groups where they are focused on a goal with their peers. At this age, children form strong attachments to friends and want to be surrounded by their peers. For this reason, most of their work is collaborative, with the exception of when they are working on individualized skills. This is also the phase for “acquisition of culture” (Montessori). This is one reason why there is such a strong focus on learning about how people throughout history have contributed to society. The children assimilate this new knowledge about history as they are learning to contribute to their own world, classroom and beyond.

This week our fourth grade geometry work focused on proving the equivalence of a triangle and rectangle. This work starts sensorially; the children use a metal inset material to prove the equivalence of the two shapes. After using the material, we discuss the requirements for the equivalence of a triangle and rectangle; when the base of the two shapes is equal and the height of the rectangle is half that of the triangle. The fifth graders focused on inverse area formulas. They learned how to find the height when given the base and area, and how to find the base when given the height and area. In biology we continued our lessons on the circulation of plants with a discussion and demonstration about capillarity; the upward movement of liquids as a result of surface tension. In history this week, the fourth years learned about the Mesozoic Era of the Timeline of Life (250 to 65 million years ago) and the fifth years learned about the Magdalenian people (17,000 to 12,000 years ago), the last group of modern humans in the Upper Paleolithic Age. The children’s enthusiasm about our Literature Circles continues to grow. They are enjoying discussing their books and sharing their roles with the group.


The Science of Kindness

“Let us treat them [children], therefore, with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them.” -Maria Montessori

In Upper Elementary we put an intentional focus on recognizing acts of kindness. Being kind and witnessing others showing kindness creates several physiological changes in our bodies. We get a boost to our oxytocin levels – a hormone which helps us form social bonds and increases our trust in others. Our dopamine and serotonin levels also rise. These are neurotransmitters which, respectively, give us a euphoric feeling and help regulate our mood. Being kind to others also benefits us by increasing our self-esteem, empathy, and compassion. Upper El students are encouraged to record acts of kindness others extend to them or that they witness between their classmates throughout the day on Kindness Leaves. These leaves are collected throughout the week and on Friday they are read aloud to the class, recognizing the person who extended the act of kindness. The leaves will be displayed in our classroom throughout the year before they are brought home at the end of the year by the children.

In addition to individual lessons in math and spelling this week, the children participated enthusiastically in our small and large group lessons. In geometry, the fourths focused on identifying seven different types of angles and fifths learned to use a square as the measurer of a surface and worked on finding the area of rectangles. Our biology work this week was recording observations of the four experiments with roots from last week and we also learned about the upward flow of water in plants and root pressure. Our geography lesson on the Work of Air demonstrated that when hot air rises, cool air flows in. Ask your child to tell you about the experiment we did to demonstrate this concept. In language, fourth years continue their work with sentence analysis and identifying the elements in a sentence. Fifth years learned about adverbs of time, place, and manner. We enjoyed our book discussions and role sharing during Lit Circle. I was impressed with each student for remembering to complete their role sheets at home!


Open Lessons

In Upper El we follow an open lesson policy. This means that small group lessons which have a target group (usually grade level groups for lessons in history, language, geometry, and sometimes biology and geography) are also offered to anyone else who wishes to attend. The “target” group is required to attend the lesson, and it is optional for anyone else who is interested. Sometimes fourth year students are interested in sitting in on a fifth grade lesson, sometimes fifth grade students want to see a lesson again, or sometimes I’ll invite someone to join who I determine needs to see the lesson again. The follow up work is assigned only to the target group; the others who join aren’t expected to do the follow up. This week, as I gave a history lesson on the Paleozoic Era of the Time Line of Life to the fourths, some fifth graders decided to join and see it again. Their participation with the fourths in this lesson added delightful enthusiasm and richness to the discussion. I was also pleased to see one of our fourths join the fifths for a geometry lesson this week!

In our Literature Circles this week, students shared their role sheets with their group. They did a wonderful job completing their roles and sharing with their classmates. Next week’s roles have been sent home, along with their books, to be completed as homework. For geometry, fourths learned about classifying regular polygons and about the different parts of a polygon, and fifths learned a theorem based on equivalent figures. Our biology lesson focused on the nutrition of plants and of the work of the roots, and included four experiments which will be ongoing for the next week or so. In history lessons, fourth years finished the discussion of the Paleozoic era and fifth years learned about the Solutreans, who lived 20,000 years ago. The focus of the fourth grade language lesson this week was identifying the elements of a sentence and adverbial extensions. The fifth graders learned about action verbs, linking verbs, auxiliary verbs, and verb phrases.


Working Together

We used our time well during this short week and were joyfully busy! In geometry, fourth year students continued their work with classifying plane figures according to sides and angles and fifth years learned about equivalence of regular polygons and rectangles. For our biology lesson on vital functions of plants this week, we learned about the nitrogen cycle and how nitrogen is fixed so it can be used by plants and animals. As part of this lesson, we learned about the composition of air and that nitrogen makes up 78% of the air in our atmosphere. In our geography lesson on the work of air, we learned that air rises when it is heated. The children learned to make a paper spiral and suspend it over a heat source. They were able to see that the rising heat makes the spiral spin.

We had our first Literature Circle meetings this week and the children received their first role assignments. The role assignments are: reader, vocabulary enricher, illustrator, summarizer, passage master, and character captain. The children will get a different role each week, working their way through all six. They will be completing these assignments at school this first time while they are still learning how to do this new work. We are all excited to start this process!

The topic of our community meeting this week was playground safety. In our community meetings we are learning to state the problem as a question. This week our question was, “How do we stay safe when playing football on the playground?” After stating the question, we brainstormed ideas, solutions, and answers. Each child was given a turn to speak without being interrupted and each idea was recorded for the class to see. After brainstorming, we discussed the ideas and the children asked clarifying questions about some of the suggestions. We then categorized the ideas into logical groupings and voted on the solutions to our problem. The children did a great job speaking and listening and showed great respect for one another during our community meeting. We’ll follow this same format each week, learning to problem solve problems that are real and matter to the members of the class.