Upper El Week Six

“The satisfaction which they find in their work has given them a grace and ease like that which comes from music.” -Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child

In Upper Elementary, students who are on top of their assigned work have the freedom to work on an “independent study.” This is often an individual or group research paper and presentation, but can also take the form of a creative story, an extra math exploration, or another project. This week we have enjoyed listening to some interesting and informative research presentations which were chosen as independent studies.

In a Montessori classroom there is great emphasis placed on learning to think. This is different from memorizing information and reciting it back. Thinking requires more effort and brain activity. Students who learn to think, learn to innovate, ask questions, be creative, and problem solve. They are persistent and confident, self-motivated, independent, and courageous. Montessori classrooms are student-centered instead of being teacher-centered. This places the emphasis on their learning, independence, and discovery. My role in Upper El is as a guide, experiencing the curriculum along with the students while carefully observing them, ready to introduce the next concept when each student is ready.

We welcomed two new members to our classroom this week, Fabio and Houdini, our class guinea pigs! Thank you to the Hildebrand family for gifting these sweet class pets to us! The students are excited to help care for them and they will bring our Montessori “care of living things” to a whole new level.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Upper El Week Five

“They will imitate us in any case. Let us treat them, therefore, with all the kindness which we would wish to help develop in them.” -Maria Montessori

Each week the Upper El students recognize acts of kindness which they observe happening around them. They do this by writing the act they witness down on a paper leaf and placing it inside a box. On Fridays we read each kindness aloud and the person who performed the act of kindness hangs the leaf on our interior classroom door. These kindness leaves accumulate all year and at the end of the school year, the children bring their leaves home. This recognition of kindness has an effect not only on the giver and the receiver of the kindness, but also on the rest of the class as observers.

We continued learning about the classification system in Biology. We looked at the classification systems of the Kingdoms of Protoctista, Prokaryote, Fungi, Plant, and Animal. Our follow up work focuses on Fungi Kingdom, with each student learning a little more about a particular fungus to share with the class next week. In our History lesson about Closest Relatives we learned about cladograms, organizational tools used to compare three species. We also learned about homologies, characteristics that are similar because they may have been inherited from a common ancestor.

Virtual Parent-Teacher Conferences are coming up on October 28th! Please look for an email this coming Tuesday with a link for you to sign up for your conference slot. 

Have a wonderful long weekend!


Upper El Week Four

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.'” -Maria Montessori

One of the best complements a teacher can receive is to be told how wonderful their students are when they aren’t around. I was lucky to be on the receiving end of one of these complements this week. After unexpectedly being out of school on Monday, (not an ideal day for a teacher to be absent) I was told by a colleague who helped out in the classroom, how amazing this group of students is. This is something I have already observed about this group this year, but it is even sweeter to know that they maintained their focus on their work and respect for one another and the adults who were helping, without me being present. Bravo, Upper El! I am so fortunate to be working with you!

This week we had our first Literature Circle of the year. Each student read their assigned pages and prepared for small group discussion by choosing a certain “role” to fill. This week they had free choice of roles. Many chose to illustrate a section of the assigned reading, others described and analyzed a character, some looked up interesting or new words they came across in their reading, and one chose to be the discussion director for her group. It was such a pleasure to walk around and listen in on each group’s conversation about their book. They laughed and shared feelings and thoughts about passages and discussed their opinions with each other. I also heard them complementing each other on their work with the roles they chose.

In History this week we started work with Humans’ Closest Relatives. We looked at how and why animals are grouped together and looked at some shared characteristics of certain groups of animals. In Biology this year we will be focusing heavily on the animal kingdom. We started by discussing the classification of animals and looked at the five groups of vertebrates. In Geometry, fourth graders learned about the Seven Triangles of Reality and fifths reviewed the formula for finding the area of a parallelogram.

I hope you enjoy the beautiful weather this weekend!


Upper El, Week Three

It was a great third week (and first full week) in Upper El! On Tuesday we celebrated the International Day of Peace, celebrated by Montessori schools all over the world, by singing and signing “Light a Candle For Peace” with the help of our Music teacher, Francine Wheeler.

We celebrated three summer birthdays this week! Thank you to our friends for bringing in treats for us to share! I have shared the birthday google slides with each student so they (and you) can access them from home and read the birthday poems we write for each friend during their celebration as we progress through the year.

We finished our first chapter book read aloud, Because of Mr. Terupt, and started our second one, When You Reach Me. We love starting work cycle with a read aloud. It gives any children who are hungry after their morning recess a chance to have a snack and settle before beginning their work. Students are really settling into their regular work cycles each day. I have observed them collaborating on research projects, focusing intently on their independent work, and helping classmates whenever a friendly hand is needed.

On Wednesday we had our first Literature Circle of the year. Students were randomly divided into two groups, each group being assigned a book. We are starting with Wonder, by R.J. Palacio and Holes, by Louis Sachar. As a class, they decided they wanted to finish these books in seven weeks and we figured the number of assigned pages accordingly. At the end of the seven weeks, the two groups will switch books for our next session of Lit Circle.

This week we had our first geometry lessons and assignments. Fourth year students learned about congruence, similarity, and equivalence, and fifth years had a review of finding the area of rectangles, squares, and triangles. Everyone was given the choice between two possible follow up assignments and they have a week to complete them before their next lesson and assignment. This is the format we will follow all year. This gives students some flexibility and choice and helps them to develop time management skills as they balance each of their assignments from different subject areas with independent and cooperative work they choose to do.

Hoping you have a lovely, peaceful weekend!


Upper El Week Two

Our week started with our first birthday celebration of the year. We asked our birthday friend some questions to learn more about him and then we wrote him an acrostic poem using the information we learned. We also enjoyed some popsicles that he brought to share for his birthday.

On Monday we re-read our class Rules and Responsibilities which we wrote last week and then each of us signed it, agreeing to do our best to abide by all of our responsibilities. We also chose our classroom jobs for the week. We will choose new jobs each Monday which will give everyone a chance to try each job in the classroom. The jobs for this year were carefully chosen by the students after a class discussion last week.

This week we started individual and small group math lessons. Each week, in addition to working on individualized math lessons and assignments, students will have a small group math lesson with their grade level peers on a particular concept. They will also work on reviewing a math concept of their choosing from previous learning. This will provide for constant variety and review in their math work.

We also had an introduction to Literature Circles this week.


Upper El – Off to a Great Start!

Welcome to a new school year! We had a great first week of school – getting to know new friends, establishing classroom and school routines, and building community by having fun.

We had our first of many weekly community meetings this week. We had two topics for discussion: deciding what our classroom jobs and responsibilities will be this year and drafting our Upper Elementary Rights and Responsibilities. Next week, we will each sign our class Rights and Responsibilities, agreeing to do our best to abide by each of them. Taking care of our classroom environment is another valuable part of our Montessori experience, and each week, students will share in that responsibility, taking turns doing each of our classroom jobs.

Four students shared their summer reading book reviews this week. We are looking forward to hearing the remaining reviews in the coming weeks. (If you need any guidance about this assignment that was sent home during the summer, please reach out and we can chat about the details.) The children were excited to have their first work cycle this week, during which they each had a spelling assessment, worked independently and with friends, some even already starting research on topics of interest.

I hope you have a nice weekend! It’s great to be back!


Upper Elementary Field Day Fun

Our second to last week of the school year has been a full and fun one! We’ve continued having lots of wrap-up lessons to end the school year, but the highlight of the week was definitely Field Day. The fourth and fifth graders participated in lots of games carefully planned by Mrs. Pascarella involving two of their favorite elements: water and laughter. We ended the day with some refreshing ice pops.

Next week we will continue Spirit Week. Here is the schedule:

  • Tuesday, 6/1
    • Pajama Day
    • Choose your favorite, cozy pajamas.
    • Bring a favorite stuffed animal and your pillow.
  • Wednesday, 6/2
    • Wacky Wednesday!
    • Different shoes? Funky hair? Come to school with any style you consider wacky.
  • Thursday, 6/3
    • Decades Day OR Sports Day
    • This fun day allows you to style yourself from the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90s for the day! Choose a fun outfit and hairstyle….OR
    • Wear clothing representing a team or sport of your choice.
  • Friday, 6/4
    • Movie Day
    • Dress up as your favorite movie character! (No costume masks please.)

Have a wonderful long holiday weekend!


Upper El – Thanks for a great year!

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” -Aristotle

When I was sharing my thoughts on the school year in class today I told the kids that they are the best class I’ve ever had. It was such an incredible blessing for me to make the move to Upper El with the fourths and to gain a bonus year with the fifths. These children are such an amazing group of humans and I am truly grateful for the time I have spent with them.

For this last post of the 2020-21 school year, I will share their advice to incoming fourths and fifths.

  • A good way to start off your year is to have a lot of confidence when you come in because that will help when making friends. It will be hard at times, but just keep on trying. Some of the work can be hard and intimidating but that won’t be that big of a problem because you can do it. Try not to leave work until later because you can forget it and end up without it. You have to make sure to do your work.
  • Here are some tips on surviving fourth grade. 1. Plan ahead. Figure out days that you will work on assignments. That way you will never have an overdue assignment. 2. Your classmates can help you, not just the teacher. Ask your classmates for help. 3. Listen to the teacher. Don’t start to daydream. Focus on the teacher, that way you can remember the assignment.
  • Don’t wait around on work next year. Ask for help if needed. You may feel like you’re the youngest and the smallest, trust me, you have a grade number that most people think of as a baby, but you have a smart and big life to come.
  • You can work as hard as you can and complete as much as you can.
  • Finish your assignments and keep a pencil in your pocket when you get your work done.
  • I think how you’re going to be successful in fourth grade is by: 1. Being kind 2. Don’t be mean to anyone 3. Bring your homework to school 4. Have fun!
  • How to have a successful school year: You need to make friends, make jokes, and just have fun.
  • One thing to know about fifth grade is that anything can happen. One day you might be on decimals but the next day you might be on multiplication. So get your work done, focus, and listen the best you can.
  • My advice to you for next year in fifth grade is do your best and even if you think you can’t do it, just try and do it in the most fun way possible.
  • Get all your work done. Don’t be behind on work. Fifth grade is exciting, fun, you learn new work like fractions and decimals. Even if you mess up, Mrs. Sankey will help you do your best.
  • Let me tell you, being in fifth grade is very fun and exciting. I loved being in fifth grade because there is a new lesson to be learned every day. Also, with a great teacher such as Mrs. Sankey, she can also help you get to new academic levels you maybe thought you could never achieve.

Thank you for sharing your beautiful children with me!  I hope you have a fantastic summer!

With love,

Karen