Upper Elementary: Field Trip

Our week started off with an amazing field trip to the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, CT. The students got to see live specimens during the first activity of the day centered around animal adaptations. Next, they used nets to collect animals for the pond study. These kids were expert frog catchers! Finally, after lunch they ended the day with a program about insects. Part of this program was spent outdoors collecting insects in small containers. They learned that insects have three body parts (head, thorax, abdomen), six legs, and antennae. In the classroom there is a buzz of excitement as many students are making game boards based off of books they read. Some students are using their time in the MakerSpace room to design the boards or make playing pieces. Our next culinary activity will be nut free pesto using the basil from our garden. The garden will get a makeover soon for the fall season, so be on the lookout as you pull through the back entrance to the school!

Centered and Engaged

We’ve come to the end of another fun and busy week of learning and playfulness.

We’ve started alternating our daily morning meditation with morning yoga. This activity is challenging for some of us but we are finding that stretching and balancing our bodies is becoming easier the more we practice it.

In grammar this week, fourths began a final review of nouns that included identifying nouns in sentences, sorting common and proper nouns, and identifying determiners (a, an, the). Fifths wrapped up their final review of verbs, focusing on linking verbs, regular and irregular verbs, and verb forms that express action happening in the present, past, and future.

The fourth grade geometry lesson was on using inverse area formulas to find a missing value for the base or height when given the area of a rectangle. Fifth graders began a study of the apothem by inscribing each of the polygons with three through ten sides inside a circle. They then located the center of each polygon and identified the base and the apothem. We will continue to work with apothems next week.

In biology we continued our study of plants with a lesson and discussion about alternate sexual reproduction in plants. We took a close look at this process in ferns as an example.

Our fourth grade history lesson focused on finding our closest living relatives. A branching diagram tool called a cladogram was introduced as a way of determining relations between species and their shared common ancestors. We looked at homologies – characteristics that are similar because they have been inherited from a common ancestor. Some homologies we looked at were bones and teeth, the frontal sinus, molecules, soft body parts such as milk producing glands and sitting pads, and chromosomes.

We didn’t let the rainy weather get us down this week; during our indoor recess we enjoyed a mini dance party with most of the Upper El dancing to Cotton Eye Joe.

So Happy Together!

We’ve come to the end of another fun week filled with lessons, work, and play.

During geometry this week, we focused on some follow up work from last week’s lessons. Fourths applied the formula for finding the area of a rectangle and fifths drew and labeled parts of a polygon and parts of a circle. In our biology lesson this week we learned that there are three different ways plants can reproduce: asexual, sexual, and vegetative reproduction or propagation. We focused on vegetative reproduction during this lesson. Some different ways plants propagate are through bulbs, corms, rhizomes, tubers, and runners or stolons. We have lots of independent and cooperative research going on in class right now! We enjoyed the presentations on pangolins and bottlenose dolphins this week. We also wrapped up many written assignments this week in math, grammar, comprehension, and vocabulary and gathered in small groups to discuss them at the end of the week. In Literature Circle, each group will finish their book over the next few days and we will discuss the endings in our meeting on Wednesday. There are no new role assignments this week.

Last week I sent home book orders with those who wanted them. I will be placing the order on Friday, April 16th for any who are interested. If you would prefer to shop online, the link to our class page is here.

We spend as much time outside as possible and are going to be visiting the outdoor classroom regularly. If you would like your child to use bug spray before going in the woods, please send some in (if you haven’t already done so) with their name on the bottle. We will store it at school and apply it before hitting the trails!

Welcome Back Upper El!

It was great to get back together this week and continue with our good work in and out of the classroom. We got back to our individual lessons in math and some small group lessons in grammar and geometry. Fourths focused on collective nouns this week and fifths on a review of verbs that show physical action. Students in both fourth and fifth grade took advantage of open lessons this week and joined the geometry lesson of the other grade level as well as their own. The fourth grade lesson was on finding the area of rectangles and they learned to use a formula to find area. The fifth graders learned about the concept of circles as the limit of regular polygons. We learned that both figures have similar elements called by different names: perimeter/circumference, apothem/radius, side/center, diagonal/diameter. We ended our week in the outdoor classroom, exploring, building, and playing an in-person game of Among Us.

Happy March Break!

We had a busy and fun last week before spring break while enjoying this beautiful weather. We were able to eat lunch outside twice and had our chapter book read aloud in the Zen garden one day.

At the beginning of the week, we did some small group grammar work with fourths learning about singular, plural, and possessive nouns and fifths focusing on regular and irregular verbs and verbs that show past, present, and future tense. In geometry the fourth years had their introductory lesson on area and fifth years learned three ways to find the area of a regular polygon. Our large group biology lesson on the vital functions of plants focused on defenses plants have against animals and weather. In geography we did a group experiment; creating a simple convection current by heating one end of a tub of room temperature water and cooling the other. We added red food dye to the hot end and blue to the cold end and watched as the blue dye dove down and crept along the bottom of the tub toward the hot and the red floated across the surface towards the cold. Some students requested directions and brought them home to try this experiment with their families. In literature circle we decided that it was time to experience some new roles and everyone was very excited about the ones we added. The new roles are: Illustrator, Word Finder, Setting Selector, Connector,  Character Captain, and Discussion Director. Descriptions of the roles and directions for completing them are attached to the assignment on the HUB.

Finally, it was wonderful to spend part of our last day before break making sandwiches for St. Vincent DePaul Mission. Everyone was excited to give their time to help others. Thank you so much to all of you who helped by donating the items needed for this great work!

I hope you all have a wonderful two weeks with your beautiful children!


Fulfilling, Focused Work

The first week of March has been full of lessons and discussions and we have been busy with lots of focused work in the classroom. It feels really nice to get back to our daily work cycle routine, having individual lessons in math and small and large group lessons in our other subject areas.

In geometry this week, fourth years learned a theorem based on equivalent figures; that all triangles having the same base and height are equivalent. Fifth years learned to apply formulas for finding the area of a rhombus.

Our biology lesson on the vital functions of plants this week focused on the support that plants need. We learned that some plants are supported by water flowing through their stems and leaves, inflating their cells, others are supported by a woody stem, and other plants cling and climb for additional support.

In geography we looked at ocean currents which are caused by wind and were introduced to an activity that students will do to demonstrate this concept, creating or own “ocean current” in a basin of water using rocks to represent continents and islands.

In history, although we will continue to learn about our ancient civilizations as part of our reading and writing workshop, group lessons will pick up with the work we were doing before our research presentations preparation. Fourth years are now learning about Humans’ Closest Relatives, and to kick of this unit of study we learned about the classification of the human animal. Fifths picked up where they left off on their work with Modern Humans with a discussion about Kitchen Midden Folk of the Mesolithic Era. 

In addition to their lessons and assigned work, almost all of the Upper El students have chosen to work with a friend to research a topic of their choice; a testament to their intrinsic motivation and love of learning!

We are all looking forward to making sandwiches for St. Vincent DePaul Mission next Friday. Please look for the sign up email to contribute to the supplies needed for this important work. Thank you to Kristina for organizing this and thank you very much for your continued support!

Connections to Humanity

This week the Upper Elementary students were very excited to finally record the presentations they have been working so hard on. Using the Smart Board, they took turns presenting the slides which they worked collaboratively on. They ended by explaining their 3D models and answering questions from classmates. They are feeling very proud of themselves and also relieved that presentations are complete. As we talked about in Parent-Teacher Conferences, our Ancient Civilizations learning will continue in the form of taking what they have already learned and adding new information to it while learning to write and read about history. These lessons, along with many of our other history and geography lessons, encourage the students to have a strong sense of connection to all of humanity. Upper El students develop an appreciation of the contributions of their ancestors and of the diverse cultures and countries around the world. 

This weekend I will be editing and combining all of the research videos into one and will send it to you as soon as it is complete! We all can’t wait to share their hard work with you!

Standardized Testing in a Montessori Classroom

“The education of even a small child, therefore, does not aim at preparing [them] for school, but for life.” -Maria Montessori

Since we are just finishing up a few days of ERB tests, I wanted to share some thoughts about standardized testing in a Montessori classroom. Many researchers believe that Standardized Testing measures superficial thinking and directly reflects how much a given skill has been practiced, and not depth of understanding. Testing, and preparing for testing, is not part of the Montessori curriculum, but Montessori is a preparation for LIFE. Because we realize that our students will be exposed to standardized testing after leaving FWM, we believe in preparing them for that. However, as a Montessori school, we take a different approach to testing than more traditional schools. As Montessorians, we don’t believe in setting aside large periods of time to learn things in order to perform well on a test. Instead, we foster a love of exploration, learning, and critical thinking. We focus on individual and small group lessons, assessing and evaluating as we teach and we observe our students as they interact with the materials and do their follow up work. It is during these observations that we can see if more work is needed in any particular area, or if a student is ready to move along at an accelerated pace.

This week we balanced periods of testing with extended periods of rambunctious play outdoors in the snow. On Thursday, we took advantage of Google Meet and had some friends who weren’t able to come to school join us virtually for our Literature Circles. Both groups are looking forward to finishing up their books this week and choosing new books. For the next book, we will be creating groups based on interest and the fourth and fifth year students will be mixed. We are looking forward to recording presentations at the beginning of next week and sending them out to you. We will also be diving back into our individual, large, and small group lessons in all subject areas. Finally, thank you all for taking the time to talk with me last week. I enjoyed sharing your children’s progress with you!