Meadowlarks M – F 8:30 – 2:30
*Our existing 1st/2nd grade will shift to a 2nd/3rd grade in fall of 2017 when our final class configurations are realized.
The Meadowlark class is a blended group of second and third graders, or as we say, New and Old Hands. Throughout the year twenty-one children will question, speculate, inquire, reason, and interpret together as supported by our over-arching theme of Communities and Systems.
Fall term is a series of firsts for some of the youngest students of the Marylhurst Primary School. Imagine opening your first Writer’s Notebook and being told it is all yours to fill with your own thoughts, ideas, and inspirations. Imagine the first time wrestling with a math problem and the excitement that comes with an “a-ha” moment of understanding and connection. Imagine being invited to write and draw in the sunshine of a garden, perched upon or under a bridge built by your classmates the previous year. Imagine the excitement and sense of trepidation of a first homework packet. Finally, imagine the mindful responsibility felt when asked to design your own classroom culture through an understanding of both the social colonies of the ant and the structure of human communities. Add in discussions of the larger themes in the story “The Iron Giant” by Ted Hughes and the beauty of the natural world expressed by the artist Andy Goldsworthy and you begin to get a sense of this Fall in the Meadowlark class.
Children of this age are naturally inquisitive. Our studies are formulated around natural questions and larger essential questions, such as, “What is the evidence that Earth has changed over time?” The children use nonfiction books to build a vocabulary of facts, and are currently sampling a variety of atlases, maps, and topic-specific books. Appropriate use of technology and valid research resources, are crucial lessons. Ask a Meadowlark student about the validity of Wikipedia as a research source.
The Meadowlark class spent the early fall months examining social insects, in particular the intricate structure of ant colonies. Students started by looking at the world from the perspective of an ant: writing and reading, designing and building centered on understanding the world from an ant’s perspective, and thus from the perspective of another. This work overlapped and informed student work in building a strong and supportive class community. One project, in particular, represents this work well. The children were asked to design and build a particular ant chamber (queen, larvae, pupae, garbage, etc.) at home using found material. When individual chambers arrived at school it was our task as a group to create a functioning colony. Together we had to decide where each chamber would be placed and what to do with the four queen chambers, knowing that each ant colony typically has just one chamber dedicated to the life of the queen. After much debate and negotiation it was decided that we would combine the four into one large chamber fit for a very fine queen indeed. The next task, as with any group, was to figure out how to connect. The children had to measure and assess how to create tunnels that brought each individual piece together into one coherent whole. The subsequent ant colony represents their willingness to work together, to collaborate, to compromise, and to ultimately craft a structure that reflects both the individual and the whole group. The children also built two giant ants, having been divided into the head, abdomen and thorax teams, created a book of final ant thinking framed around the question, “What do human communities and ant colonies have in common?”
Literacy in the Meadowlark class is speaking and listening, storytelling and shared laughter, reading and writing, poetry and list making, it is listening carefully and sharing ideas with vigor. Literacy is books, books, and more books. There is time for quiet reading, and learning the habits of quietly reading for an extended period of time. Literacy involves frequent individual meetings with a teacher to receive support and guidance. Literacy is crafting ones imagination into cogent whole stories that intrigue and delight. Learning to express ideas across disciplines is fundamental work for the Meadowlark student.
In addition to both fiction and non-fiction writing, a poetry packet is sent home every four to five weeks. Each child is responsible for choosing a poem to commit to memory, and then signs up for a class recitation. In April, during national poetry month, the Meadowlark children will become roaming poetry minstrels. Tap a student and request a poem. In addition to individual poems, occasionally a class poem will also be memorized.
The reading experience in a first and second grade classroom is appropriately vast. Many second graders are moving towards a fluent reading style and the ability to sustain reading for increasingly longer periods of time. Third graders are learning to actively engage in ever increasing textual complexity. Each Meadowlark child has a book box with an identified “Easy,” “Just Right,” and “Hard” book. Getting to know themselves as readers is paramount at this age, and not tied to leveled books but rather interest, knowledge of oneself as a reader, and the idea that reading is purposeful. All children in the Meadowlark class practice active reading, the art of connecting text to personal experience, to previously read information and asking if what they are reading makes sense. This consistent subtext provides all readers with the tools to engage deeply. Weekly trips to the school library supports budding interests as well as growing proficiencies.
Currently, the Meadowlark children have immersed themselves in a study of geologic time. Big number thinking, “What does one million look like?” and, “How do I represent the Earth’s age—4.6 billion years—in a way that can be conceptualized?” took up much of our late fall. In shifting their focus away from social insects, the children’s thinking has been guided by the essential question, “What evidence do we have that demonstrates that the earth has changed over time?” Together we looked at the three periods of Precambrian Time. What a wonder to discover that if earth time was represented using a twelve hour clock that Precambrian Time would take up 10 hours and 32 minutes. The question persisted, “How to learn more about the rest of earth’s life span?”
Each child is becoming an expert on a particular geologic period so as to travel back in time to explore the atmosphere, and the animal and plant life. This project builds on the intersection of science and one’s imagination. The Meadowlark children are hard at work developing characters, which will include a sidekick and a villain. Using the classic traits of a hero, sidekick and villain the children are expanding how to use adjectives and strong beginnings to engage their reader. They are using their new understanding of an arc of a story and budding research skills to create a graphic novel.
Meadowlark children are embarking on a life-long mathematical journey. It is important that students feel both challenged and joyful as they learn to bring strong habits and positive attitudes to bear when working through problems. Children of this age are working to develop a set of math tools that are applicable across disciplines. This year we have focused on understanding number patterns; place value; and reading, writing and understanding whole numbers. Considerable energy has been devoted to building stamina, developing multiple strategies to approach a new problem and learning to organize and communicate math ideas and reasoning clearly. Walk by the Meadowlark classroom any morning and you will find the children deeply engaged in problem solving, pattern work, working on strategies such as estimation and rounding, discussing what is more than or less than, taking apart numbers (subtraction) or putting them together (addition). Each Thursday is “Golden Ticket” math. The children are given a particularly challenging problem in one of the math domains. Earlier this year the children created a math punch card (yep, much like that coveted coffee card) and with each successful “Golden Ticket” solution gain a punch. We have examined logic problems, writing problems to send to upper class buddies, determined the length of a thousand pennies, and built a tapestry of one million dots, all in support of understanding earth time and conceptualizing huge numbers. The children then created a geologic timeline, with specific demarcations indicating important events, which extended back to earth’s conception. Recently we have used these open-ended Thursday mornings to explore the concept of time. The children’s creation of individual personal timelines coincided with work on earth’s personal timeline. Quantifying measurement as a standard increment was also part of their exploration. Current Golden Ticket work involves pendulums as a means of tracking both human time, a grandfather clock, and earth time, Foucault’s pendulum. The children are currently constructing their own pendulums to test a “period” using variable weight and string length. The children also have a “Notes to Self “ journal, where they document understandings that support further work in math.
In Science the children are currently learning about both the layers of the earth and the rock cycle. Each is collecting a soil sample from their home turf in order to analyze and map the composition of what lies beneath their feet.
Music, P.E. and Spanish round out the busy days of a Meadowlark student.
Teachers Mary and Hanna