The week before a big break such as winter break is always mixed with a lot of fun and a little bit of chaos. However, students love these days of dress-up, winter activities, a bit of hygge in the classroom, and lots of games. We read books about winter and "sewed" paper gloves, discovered why bears hibernate and about frogs that freeze themselves solid and then thaw out and hop away in the warm spring, and got our hands messy mixing together Oobleck, a non-Newtonian fluid (it acts like a liquid when being poured, but like a solid when a force is acting on it.) All of these activities were focused on processes: processes of trial and error, the process of change, and how we can affect the process through how much force (emotional or physical) we put into what we are trying to achieve.
Students were exposed to not only traditional academic activities this week such as writing, grammar, math, and science but they were also able to participate in the 2nd grade store! PNA students get to interact with students in all grade levels and the 2nd grade store was an awesome way for 1st graders to learn about money, making wise choices, and being kind and considerate. Students were given $4.00 of play money and were given the opportunity to shop in each of the 2nd grader's store (items were made by the students). It was a great lesson on how far the dollar goes and that you can't just have everything you want.
Lastly, students also learned that saying goodbye to friends is a process. The importance of children being able to say farewell to a classmate moving away is so important for them to process the emotions that follow the absence of a friend. As we gathered in the classroom, students were able to share warm thoughts and ask questions to their friend who was moving to a new part of the state. They were able to share a snack, give a gift, and celebrate the friendship they have built in the classroom here at PNA. Establishing a sense of community and hygge into the classroom truly enable students to feel at home and create deep relationships with their peers. As we all departed for winter break, I truly believe the families and teachers at PNA felt a deep sense of coziness and comfort that can only be present when their is a lot of support and care within a school.
Hygge is a Scandinavian word that translates to a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.
I love to incorporate as many hands-on activities into the classroom as I can. It is awesome to see children applying what they are learning in real-world scenarios and problem solve with their classmates. I focused our Parent Snack this week on different design and task challenges to showcase how we work together to create within specific perimeters with limited materials. Students were challenged, along with their adult, to build a free-standing holiday tree out of nothing but pipe cleaners, or a stocking using only paper and tape, or a sleigh that would slide across the floor using nothing more than aluminum foil. It was so fun to watch how engaged each table was in their particular project!
We continued the theme of learning by doing as we delved into what makes something float vs. sink. After learning about density and how it affects whether something will float or sink, students were divided into teams in the classroom and were given the challenge to design a boat that would float while carrying a small plastic animal. They were given metal wire, 5 popsicle sticks, 5 pipe cleaners, and a large sheet of aluminum foil. We had a lot of wet tables (and clothing!) but students had a blast through trial and error while building their boats. All in all, most boats were successful and, even though it was frustrating to have a boat sink, students learned a lot about teamwork and how to change up their initial ideas of what would be successful.
Over the past 2 months, I have watched the older grades during their after-school Lego robotics club work together and towards the common goal of participating in the FIRST LEGO League competition. I feel excited for the opportunities PNA students have as they get older knowing that they learn these very important fundamental skills of teamwork, trial and error, vision, integrity, and to believe in themselves from the youngest grades, and then they carry that into the upper grades and are able to work in groups with a strong sense of self AND teamwork.
Check out the article on WasabiLearning.com that talks about why PBL and STEM lessons belong in a modern classroom. I found it to be very inspiring! A great quote from the blog stated, "STEM develops a set of thinking, reasoning, teamwork, investigative, and creative skills that students can use in all areas of their lives. STEM isn’t a standalone class—it’s a way to intentionally incorporate different subjects across an existing curriculum."
Compounds words, word sorts, alliteration, scooping, poetry, vocabulary, literature - these are just some of the ways your child has been exposed to words this week. Immersing students in a language rich environment is imperative for their acquisition of new and more complex vocabulary. We may think words such as 'dawn' and 'dusk' are simple words. However, for a child who has not been exposed to them on a regular basis, they are new and unknown. Students need to be continually flooded with new words and have them used on a regular basis in story telling, read aloud stories, conversation and writing. For example, we are reading Charlotte's Web at the end of each school day. This book has so many opportunities to flood a young mind with new descriptive words (jubilee! runt! dejected! enchanted!) and it's pure joy to see them absorbing these words and rolling them over in their young minds. But it is not merely enough to read these lovely words, give a brief description of them, and then move along. We must find opportunities to use these new vocabulary words in our daily life.
Students this week were exposed to not only a variety of rich vocabulary in our read aloud stories, they were also introduced to compound words and parts of speech. I wish we could all feel the excitement that our young scholars feel when they were made aware that we have names for words! We explored proper and common nouns, adjectives, and verbs - and then used their new knowledge to create a word bank that they could draw from in their writing. To see their language and vocabulary development from the first week of school to the first week of December is just wonderful! They are developing confidence and structure in their sentences, paying attention to detail of letter formation, proper punctuation, and correct capitalization. However, we mustn't only limit our assessment of their skills to observing their writing and reading. When we give them opportunities to use their new skills informally, they really thrive! Students loved playing Gingerbread Compounds and were learning new compound words without even realizing they were actually teaching each other! It is this independence that we hope to foster in PNA students; the ability to independently take control of their learning and enjoy the process of doing so.
Aside from all of our learning in the classroom this week, we also participated in PNA's wonderful winter concert. It was enchanting to see our students come together and joyfully sing and perform their hearts out. Nothing quite gets me in the holiday spirit as much as seeing a room full of families and children sharing a common theme of gratitude and community. I was so proud of all our students from the very youngest to our oldest for being dedicated to their performance!
Dusk outside PNA on Thursday was just beautiful - a perfect setting for the winter concert!
I love the outdoors, reading, art, gardening, and sharing my love of learning!