Our argonauts have finally made it to Sam Francisco and are heading to the diggins. Fortunately, they documented their journey along they way through a collection of journal entries. We will be sharing them soon, so stay tuned. Can’t you tell they have been at sea for 180 and their journey has not been an easy one?
This week we started our new unit in writer’s workshop relying heavily on our in depth study on the gold rush. Learners are in the process of planning and drafting their information on a focused topic from the gold rush. Learners planned out the different parts of their writing, learning the importance of giving background knowledge when writing about history before diving into their more focused topic. We will then integrate other genres of writing into our pieces, including narrative and opinion. We are just starting, but keep your ears open for a celebration at the end of the unit to see all their work.
It has been a busy few weeks in Room 24. We are experts at growing ideas and asking questions when reading nonfiction! It has been more of a challenge mastering the skill of summarizing. To support a deeper understanding, we have spent the past few days looking more deeply at what makes a strong summary, and how you summarize across texts and synthesize that information. We started by reading three articles on a similar topic, like race cars. We then created a tool to help organize the main ideas of each article and then take those main ideas to create a theme across all the texts. The last piece is finding supporting details for each main idea and then using transition words to bring them together into a summary. It has been a really visual process for the learners to really understand what makes a good summary. Keep practicing at home, and ask your learner to make a tool to show you their new skills and successes.
The annual tradition giving a homemade gift and hand written appreciation to a “secret” classmate happened this Friday. It was fun to see the learners’ excitement and pride in gifts they had made for their classmates. The time sleuthing and creating one unique and special present was worth it. The learners enjoyed watching everyone’s “reveal”. It was sweet to see how engaged and excited learners were during the whole exchange. They turned all of the wrapping and ribbons into creative recycled decorations for our party later that day. Singing, dance-offs, bubbles, treats and other fun ended our very, very eventful week.
Yesterday gold wasn’t just discovered hidden buried in the foothills, it was also discovered in the 3/4 classrooms. This was a simulation so the learners could feel what it was like to find (or not find gold). As the learners were cleaning up for snack, they heard me hollering that gold had been discovered. The first learners back from lunch quickly learned that gold wrapped chocolate was scattered all over the room, and was ripe for the taking. They ran crazily around the room gathering what they could. As more learners trickled in, gold became harder to find. Some learners that arrived in the back of the pack, got nothing. We debriefed in the circle. Only 1 learner had found more than 20 pieces, only three found between 10-20. Most found less than five, and about a quarter of the class got nothing. We talked about how this simulated what it was like during the actual gold rush. They figured out that as more people arrived in California, less gold was to be had. It was a great way to start to think about why gold fever was spreading so quickly, and how it often wasn’t as it seemed.
We followed up by creating a KWL chart to help guide our learning and began two new read alouds, on fiction, the other non fiction. What Was the Gold Rush is a great book fro the who was series that is written specifically for learners in third a fourth grade. The second, By the Great Horn Spoon is one of my favorites. We are listening to the audio and following along as we listen. It is a wonderful book about a boy named Jack and his butler Praiseworthy and their adventures sailing from Boston to San Francisco to strike it rich.
As part of our California History unit, learners studied real and fictional historic characters who were alive in 1846 during the U.S. war against Mexico. Each learner took on the role of one character and interacted with others in a “tea party” format. As a class, we talked about the importance of this war in determining the fate of California; after the war the Treaty of Guadalupe was signed and the land that now makes up California (that was part of Mexico before the war) became part of the United States. Looking at the map, learners were impressed by the large amount of land that changed hands from Mexico to the U.S. at the end of the war. The goal of the lesson was to show learners that there were many different perspectives and opinions about the war. Even though the war took place in Texas and lasted only two years, it played a significant role in our state’s history.
After studying their own characters and becoming experts (and actors!), learners mingled in class to find and talk with other characters. They shared their own perspectives (in character) and asked others questions. Following the tea party, we reflected as a class. Here were some of the class’s reflections:
Some of their learners left the lesson with their own opinions of the U.S. war against Mexico. Some were undecided. Ask your child how their opinions are continuing to change as we learn more and more about California’s history.!
Then the learners worked on painting portraits of their characters. We used different shades instant coffee mixed with water to create the look of a daguerrotype (the first commonly used type of photograph).
The learners celebrated the last chilly school day of 2017 with a cozy day of reading. We finished our unit based novel The Giant Rat of Sumatra: Or Pirates Galore by Sid Fleischman. We were lucky to have two guest readers visit from the office. (I lost my voice and Karrie and Stacy generously offered to step in.) The learners spread out their blankets, pillows and stuffed friends for both the read aloud and reading their own books. They enjoyed warm cider and popcorn, along with clementines from Je’Nelle. The coziness factor was heightened by our projected fireplace hearth. Almost all of the children chose to stay in and read during recess! Here are a few photos from our day. I also included some kindness quotes that we’ve been going over each week on Fridays. Feel free to use/review them over the Winter Break. We’ll continue using kindness as our focus for mindfulness, appreciations, and our other Friday SEL activities in the new year. See you in 2018!