In preparation of our first Socractic seminar next Wednesday, we read the beginning of Piero Ferucci's book, The Power of Kindness. You child will read the rest of the excerpt and question, highlight, and respond to the text for homework this week. He/she will also answer the question--what is altruism?
This method of teaching/learning is based on Socrates' theory that it is more important to enable students to think for themselves than to merely fill their heads with "right" answers. A seminar is a genuine discussion around a text, problem, or experience where students, through questioning, delve deeper into the topic. Its purpose is to explore meaning in a work when classmates support one another by listening, taking turns, sharing thoughts, and questioning. For me, it typifies one of the guiding principles in my classroom—collective inquiry.
Other Homeroom Highlights:
The past few days have been spent on concepts within number sense such as place value, expanded notation, positive and negative numbers (for some students) using the Jump Math curriculum.
We launch the next read aloud, Umbrella Summer, a story about a young girl who worries about just about everything. We'll uncover her underlying fears and reveal the support that she gets to overcome them. On Wednesday, we made predictions about the book based on the title and cover then read the first two pages closely using questioning strategies. In upcoming weeks, we will practice summarizing and analyzing characters, plot, and theme.
We recollected our experiences at 100 Elk and used thinking maps (specifically bubble maps) to organize our thinking then the children paired up and told each other their most memorable experience. Over the next few days, they will write their first draft. Also, in the upcoming week, each student will chose one adult to thank during outdoor education week and write them a letter of gratitude.
Finally, we started our spelling program, Spelling Plus, on Tuesday. This program was developed by Susan C. Anthony, a Colorado educator, over twenty years ago. In introducing the program, I emphasized that spelling is important, the English language does not follow many spelling rules, the importance of learning to spell correctly the first time, and reviewed the steps of daily spelling practice.
1. Point to the first word. Spell and read it.
2. Trace, spell and read the word.
3. Cover the model. Write the word and read it.
4. Check from the model.
5. Check and correct the word you wrote.
6. Close your eyes. Spell the word and say it.
We've been fortunate to have many outdoor nature experiences this year with naturalist at the City of Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks and a forester at 100 Elk Camp in Buena Vista. Our focus has turned to the study of plants. After an art class with Kara introducing the children to observing and drawing plants carefully, we walked to Thunderbird Lake and each child chose their own species to draw and write comments and questions about. On Thursday, we will spend the entire day at Sombrero Marsh with Thorne Ecological Institute. In the upcoming weeks, we will experiment with seeds and plants. Some of the learning objectives for students are to: explain why plants are called producers--living organisms that capture and use the sun's energy to create their structure; identify the sources of molecules that plants use to make their structures; describe some of the structures and functions of specialized plant parts; and trace the predictable life cycles of plants through germination, growth, reproduction, and death.
Photos of students with our first grade buddies painting rocks for the peace pole and creating thinking maps
We spent four wonderful days at 100 Elk Camp at the foot of the Collegiate Peaks just north of Buena Vista. Little did we know what was happening at home in Boulder.
This year was the tenth year the fourth and fifth grade classes spent outdoor education week at this glorious place. I tried to take pictures of all the students even though I did not accompany all the groups on their activity rotations.
"A Fish, A Fish," could be heard from the banks of South Boulder Creek today. Students scrambled around two of their classmates who held a large net to get a glance at what they had caught. This was part of our day exploring the riparian habitat and the organisms that make the Creek their home. Mayflies, crayfish, minnows, larvae, houndstooth plant, and many other plants and animals were studied and discussed.
The morning was spent with volunteer naturalists from the City's Open Space and Mountain Parks department and in the afternoon we determined the water quality of South Boulder Creek by collecting and examining the animals that were present in the water. The Keep it Clean Partnership and Boulder Water Quality Outreach led this exploration.
Although it was a hot day, the cool waters were a welcome relief!
I received the following letter from Beth Heckel, founder of Think Humanity, a non-profit that benefits refugees in underdeveloped parts of Africa. After a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo visited the classroom last spring, the children in the class were inspired by his presence and example in helping other refugees--especially children. So the homeroom organized a bake and book sale to purchase mosquito nets and then sorted and bagged thousands of vitamins.
Here are a few photos of us giving out vitamins to children at Moonlight. We had enough for 30 children under the age of 5 years old –each one year supply. We tried to take the largest ziplock that had 60 vitamins and add another 5 smaller bags of 60 vitamins inside; that way they would each have about 350 vitamins to make their year supply. We gave instructions to the parents and said that they must make sure only one vitamin a day. Some of them had the containers so we had to show them how to open the child proof lids. They had never seen anything like them before. We explained that they should keep them in an airtight container in a cool spot. (My biggest fear was rats getting into the vitamins – which means that the rats would be healthier than the children!!)
After we were done giving out vitamins to the 30 children, the line was a little longer. We got the names of 14 more children and promised to bring back vitamins for them. I left Uganda before that was done, but will see that they get them. Otherwise, the remaining vitamins went to the clinic near a refugee camp. We also talked about giving vitamins to children at another school called Asaba.
I believe we had enough for 80 children total.
Thank you again for all the work your students did in counting, labeling and packaging vitamins. I imagine somebody had to pay for the ziplock bags too, so thank you to whoever that was.
As part of their middle school exploratory and school service, two eighth grade peer ambassadors spent this afternoon in our classroom. They plan to help the students with their learning and reading during upcoming Tuesday afternoons. Thanks for giving back to your school Olivia Straka and Jordan Galloway.
This morning, Adam and I sat in our cars in the Horizons parking lot listening to the end of an NPR piece, "Struggle for Smarts? How Eastern and Western Cultures Tackle Learning." The conversation between Adam and I that followed was quite stimulating. The main gist of Jim Stigler's (professor of Pyschology, UCLA) research is that "in the Japanese classrooms that he's studied, teachers consciously design tasks that are slightly beyond the capabilities of the students they teach, so the students can actually experience struggling with something just outside their reach. Then, once the task is mastered, the teachers actively point out that the student was able to accomplish it through hard work and struggle."
Later today, I was doing more research on the math program the fourth and fifth grade team has been piloting and implementing the last three years--Jump Math and came across an interesting video documenting a conversation about growth mindset principles between John Mighton, founder of Jump Math and Carol Dweck of Stanford University. Dweck's research shows, "Just by teaching them that math is a set of acquired set of skills and every time they push outside of their comfort zone to do hard things, neurons in their brains form new connections...it focuses them on learning, making mistakes and learning from them, persisting when they have setbacks."