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Pond Life, India, and The Function Machine

It seems like a cliché - but can it really be June? Yes, we have done a ton of work and learning this year. I have watched all of the children grow - they are reading, thinking, calculating, and relating in new and deeper ways. It's one of my favorite parts of teaching young children, so much of their learning is really obvious. I can say to them, "You couldn't read that at the beginning of the year," and they nod with a grin.

Nancy's Brand of Magic

Nancy was greeted with the usual chorus of excited "Hello's" this week. She had brought a particularly exciting bucket filled with small pond critters. Before the children got to dive into examining and identifying these animals, they got some lessons in how to use their tools (magnifying lenses and magnifying boxes) correctly. They practiced with their tools. Children noticed how an image in their hand lenses flipped upside down when it was far away and how the lenses made the world blurry if they brought them right up to their eyes. I sometimes forget the importance of this time to gain familiarity with a tool because I am so eager to get to the next step, but it is a key part of successful learning. By the time we got to close examination of the animals, everyone could focus on that task because they already understood how their tools worked. Nancy gave each child something specific to look for, "See if you can see how your critter grabs a bubble of air to bring under water." "Look for tiny pincers on the end of each leg." "Can you see how that one is swimming? It's doing the sidestroke." The children saw all that and more, pointing out discoveries to their classmates.

Friday Rhythms

Fridays in our classroom are a little different than other days. After we finish lunch, we do a full classroom clean. Someone pulls our list from its place next to the fridge, and everyone gets to work: dusting, sweeping, cleaning out the fridge, wiping down the boards, watering our plant, emptying out the pencil sharpener, and taking out the trash, recycling, and compost. We have had a few visitors in the past few weeks who walk into what looks a bit like chaos. I enjoyed watching them, watch the children. Yes, they get distracted, but they own this process, and it's impressive how much they get done in a relatively short time.

Then they all settle in for our Friday guest reader. A parent, grandparent, or sometimes one of the students reads a favorite book to the class. This week we heard The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt which inspired some heated playing of rock, paper, scissors.

Our Theme: India

We focused on learning about some holidays celebrated in India this week. The children connected India's Independence day celebrations with our 4th of July. We talked again about how in both cases its a marking of self-rule after being controlled by the British. We watched a movie "Celebrations in India" that helped us understand some of the stories and history behind Diwali the Festival of Lights and Holi, a colorful explosion observing the beginning of spring and the triumph of good over evil. Someone asked if it was like Easter and that prompted some detailed discussion.

Math: The Function Machine

Thank goodness technology doesn't always work properly or else a clip of me leaping around the classroom would be making the rounds. This rather energetic math lesson is all about The Function Machine, my paper and glue creation. I "set" it for a certain rule (ex: + 2) and then put different numbers in it. They bounce around (as I do a certain amount of beeping and booping), then different numbers come out. The children have to figure out my rule. They were inspired enough by my antics to make their own function machines. All of this makes something like "x-4=y" much less scary than it was for many of us when we first encountered that sort of math.

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