Elementary Update, November 2012

It is on beyond Thanksgiving and Diwali and we are moving toward Hanukkah, Christmas and the New Year. It is high time we stop for a breather and let you in on the myriad of activities happening in our classroom. It has been great meeting with all of you for out preliminary conferences. Conferences will again reoccur the end of January so we can measure progress or discuss impediments in the learning process. September and October were spent getting to know your children and having them get to know or reacquaint themselves to the classroom, the new and old friends, and the new and old set of expectations and procedures. During that time Ms. Sue, Ms. Monika, Mr. Jim, and myself were busily checking to see where your children were in their writing process, in math, in their verbal and nonverbal abilities, and also how well they were able to follow directions. We watched them interact with each other and us, their new team of teachers.

With all the “getting to know you” stuff out of the way they were then set to work on a few projects.  A rock and mineral project started the year off following our visit from Barbara Medlyn of The Quartz Source. Then, we read mini biographies and vignettes of many heroes and peacemakers throughout history as a precursor to their own biographical study of a “peacemaker” for this annual project. Our reports were presented on October 31st.

In addition, the 1st years are studying basic landforms, maps of the world, and the parts of the seaweed plant, the moss plant, fish and amphibians. They are waist deep in spelling lessons and grammar lessons and drinking gallons of math practice. They have begun geometry studies in earnest.

Second and third year students are studying the body functions of plants, advanced landforms, pin maps and mountains of the world. In the New Year, they will choose a country study to culminate with a spring presentation. They are also getting seared and grilled on their writing and spelling. They are becoming fluent with the four operations of math and complex word problems. Their geometry will move them to fractions and angles.

Elders have several history projects in the works! For American History we are using the series The History of US and are currently studying the formation of the 13 Original Colonies.

For Ancient History, after an exhaustive study of the Sumerians, they have chosen or are about to choose another culture to study. So far, Ancient China & the Vikings are in progress. These studies may be yearlong projects; we’ll keep you posted.

All 2nd through 5th grade students have expectations to fill out a daily reading log entry and journal entry. They have work trackers to help them keep an eye on their longer projects. When push comes to shove – on some of the more complex projects, I will ask them for a TBC (to be completed date) and hold their feet to the fire.

We have not begun formal homework yet. I have asked the children to bring in news articles every Tuesday. This is our tradition of Newsday Tuesday. It is “homework light” with the purpose being to share in the news of the day (as non-violent as possible, please) and conduct intelligent conversation around a topic. It is also excellent for listening and reading skills not to mention public speaking. We have asked the children to garner “news” articles from the print media, computer, magazines and the like and bring them in to share and discuss. The ones that ignite their imaginations the BEST are science oriented. Then they begin the questions….I wonder… Why do you think…? what if…?In the future will this…?etc.: and the discussions are rich!

Any other homework assignments will be verbally communicated to the children and then also communicated to you for your help in gently asking or reminding them that homework needs to be completed. It is important to create some of those fine habits of mind like perseverance and completion.

The word lists that go home are for your children to practice reading to you. They should read them three times over the course of a week to you. This may aid in their fluency. We then test them out in their spelling books, most times, weekly.

We occasionally miss a week of spelling if we are engaged in a Junior Great Books discussion group, which galvanizes our attention and uses up more time than we planned or anticipated. The Junior Great Books discussion groups, aid in comprehension.

The elders have a written component to Jr. Great Books that is rigorous.

The first years have an artistic element that eases them into engaging with the printed text in a more deep and meaningful way. The reading logs, completed daily by 2nd grade and above, support the reading process in the same way.

We have “gone out” a bit in this first blush of the school year. We visited Rosaly’s garden to pick potatoes and learn about organic farming, watched the lumber mill saw trees to planks at Wilkins Lumber, and trekked through Beaverbrook Nature Area for a scavenger hunt. We began our fall art series with a trip to the Currier and 3 more weeks of Art with Ms. June and a “cosmic” theme.

Which brings us to the up and coming. Our December field trip will be to the Planetarium in Concord aka McAuliffe/Shepard Discovery Center This trip will be on Wednesday, December 12th. Drivers needed. We will leave school at 10am and have lunch there. It would be a good thing to pack the throwaway lunch.

We will begin our study of The Big Bang Theory on December 21st (the last day of school before vacation) with a presentation of one of Dr. Montessori’s Great Lessons: The Creation Story. Please delay your travel plans and make a concerted effort to have your elementary children in attendance on that day. It is also the shortest day of the year and our pajama day! Since the day is so short why get out of your pajamas? It is a day full of fun, anticipation and learning. The children look forward to it every year; just ask them.

In addition to science, we will also cover the stories of Hanukkah and Christmas this month. We have already covered the Hindu holiday of Diwali and will find similarities in all three celebrations as all three celebrate the light in the world in a different way this dark time of year. If you have any concerns about this aspect of our curriculum, please have a word with me.

Our first P.E. series will be Ice Skating at Conway Arena starting in January.

We will send you all pertinent information as soon as wee compile it! The children have loved this experience in the past.

Conferences are coming to a completion. If you have not had one yet, please do schedule one.

From the nit and pick file: (oh! that sounds terrible!)

  • Please make sure your kids have layers of warm clothes and all outer garments to keep warm in including mittens, gloves, and hats.
  • Please make sure your children have a complete change of clothing including socks
  • Please make sure your children have plenty of protein for the brain and vitamin C to help fight off the colds and such that invariably turn up this time of year
  • Please make sure your children have a minimum of screen time and a maximum of unscheduled activity and sleep


Thank you for helping fill our first Basket of Hope – it as already been taken to SHARE. We will continue collecting.

Thank you for the Box Tops and Soup Labels.

Thank you for the Scholastic Book Club orders.

Thanks to Maxwell’s Dad for supplying us with a coat of Ice Melt for our Parking Lot.

As an aside, please use EXTREME caution when parking up and getting out of your cars.

In the long and the short of it: THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO


Claire, Sue, Monika and Jim

ElementaryCarolyn McKinney