Making time to share and listen to everyone's ideas is a constant struggle in the classroom. Time constraints and short attention spans limit the amount of time we are able to spend on sharing new ideas, alternate solution strategies, and connections. I am a firm believer that creativity is born from constraint; thus, we have "thought bubbles."
Today we used our thought bubbles during math. I posed a "finding the difference" problem on the white board, and the students were to write if the easiest strategy to use would be counting up or standard subtraction. This added an element of novelty to our discussion, and allowed me to assess their understanding in real time.
Today was an important day. Today we put it all together. The practice making connections, summarizing, and questioning. The group work that required collaboration and communication. The activities around rights and laws. Today we began literacy circles!
Literacy circles are a way of studying novels that allows for differentiation and deeper understanding. I chose 3 novels at 3 different lexile levels, each involving an election. I then grouped the students based on their instructional reading level and assigned them the appropriate novel. Twice a week, these literacy groups will meet. They will read an assigned chunk of their novel together, then separate to complete their lit circle jobs. The jobs are detailed on bookmarks, and they are rotated each session.
The next day, the groups will meet to share their work and begin the next chunk. In this way, your child is not only challenged to deepen her reading comprehension, but also learning various aspects of elections and government. Meanwhile, each group builds the invaluable skills needed to work cooperatively within a group.
As often as possible, I build our activities to lead towards some type of creation. As you may know, Bloom's Taxonomy states that creation is the highest demonstration of knowledge. When students (or for that matter, people,) have the opportunity to create, they are forced to use and put together the knowledge they've been building. Moreover, children feel a sense of ownership of the material and thus are inspired by the opportunity to make it their own.
You may have seen evidence of creation in the 3rd grade classroom. Our calendar, labels, and schedule were all made by the children. The creative process revealed many opportunities for learning and problem solving. With the calendar came investigation into the holidays, weather, and identifying factors of each month. With the schedule came categorization of the various parts of the day, and the idea that we may need some blank labels for special events that arise. Even though we created these back in August, the students still come up with creative ideas for these systems. Just today a student asked if we could add a clock to each part of the schedule that show what time each part of the day starts. Had the classroom come "fully-furnished" with a calendar and a schedule, the students would not have this constant reason to think creatively.
Our unit on Community, Civics, and Government has lead us to create our own class constitution. We began by building an understanding of the concept of rights through books, videos, and anecdotes. We then applied this knowledge by having our own class protest. We then used the story Two Days in May to evaluate how well citizens in the story protected the rights of the deer. After analyzing how certain laws are in place to protect our rights, we brainstormed what rights we have in the classroom and what rules we could put in place to protect them. The students pointed out that some rights are protected by me and some are protected by them.
Finally, we used those rights and rules to create our class constitution. By creating our own constitution, the students gained a sense of power and ownership over the culture of the classroom along with an intrinsic understanding of the nature of rights and laws.
Our math focus this week has been adding and subtracting dollar amounts. The students know to write all monetary amounts in the form of $__.__ __, and that the decimals need to be lined up with adding and subtracting. Today, the focus was on making change. Most of the children understand that when you don't have the exact amount of money, you give the cashier more and get change back. The process of deciding how much change is the challenge. We practiced this by giving every student the opportunity to be the shopper and the cashier in a game involving purchasing school supplies. Most of the students are still relying on a pencil and paper to subtract and find the change. Next week, we will learn why counting up is easier and practice using that method. This is a great skill to reinforce anytime you are shopping with your 3rd grader!
Last week began our first Student Spotlight! Most of you were able to access the Google Doc I sent explaining what exactly this is. If not, I have embedded it in the box below. For some reason, I am unable to increase the size of the box. You can scroll through to find out when the spotlight will be on your child. Please note that the schedule has changed since I handed out the hard copy. Some students asked to switch.
This week, the spotlight is on Chava Rivka!
Here you can see Chava sharing the special name plate her sister made for her.
In 3rd grade, the literacy focus moves away from "learning to read" and toward "reading to learn." In order to use text as a means of learning content, students must have a diverse set of strategies for comprehending what they read. Today we read a story called "Two Days in May," about wild deer who wind up in a city neighborhood. The story connects to our study of rights, as the citizens hold silent protest to protect the deer from being killed by animal control. This is a long story, so the children monitored their comprehension using a trifold paper labeled "Questions," "Connections," and "Summaries." You can probably guess what they were supposed to write in each section. Here are some great examples!
Every once in a while, after a long work session, the students and I need a brain break. We need a chance to stretch our limbs, take deep breaths, and refresh our minds. During these moments, we often head to the outdoor classroom. Formerly known as the courtyard, this space was transformed over the summer. The Ganon and Kindergarten students and teachers worked tirelessly to create a magical space for children to explore. Looking at the pictures, you will see that children of any grade can enjoy the outdoor classroom.
What an exciting day we had! Today we exercised our right to a peaceful protest. Inspired by the March on Washington, which we watched online via the Smithsonian Institute, Sophia asked if we could have our own protest. We discussed what made the March on Washington so special (the singing, the peaceful nature, the amount of participants) and used that as our template. After brainstorming what we would want more or less of at school, we made our signs. The students decided that it wouldn't make sense to ask for things like "a bigger bed" or "more t.v. time," since the school isn't in charge of those freedoms. The excitement in the room as we made our signs reminded us that many rooms must have been feeling that way in preparation for the March on Washington!
Marching around the school, our chant was, "What do we want? Freedom! What do we have? Rights!" Students, staff, and administrators were intrigued and excited as they watched us march by. After it was all said and done, we couldn't believe how tired we were. How did the civil rights demonstrators march for so long when we can hardly make it around the building?
Our stories, videos, and activities this week led us to contemplate Joachim Prinz's statement, "The most tragic problem is silence." Do you agree?
When students finish their work early, they are usually given 3 options: silently read a book, write in your free-writing journal, or do an activity from the "Independent Study" area. Today, a couple of students decided to try one of the latter activities.
Orly chose the activity "Which One Doesn't Belong," a fun and engaging math activity.
Little people, big minds.