It seems to only take a few days for the class to establish their identity and to feel like they have been together for months. It is amazing to watch this happen every year and see the new mix of people blend together to form this new social unit. From everything I have read recently about education, we are right on track in so many ways. On the Tuesday before school started I went to a book reading and signing at the Barnes and Noble on the Westside. A talk was given by Paul Tough, a former editor of the Times Magazine, and his new book is called How Children Succeed. He was also quoted in a recent article in The New York Times written by Joe Nocera. Tough argues that simply teaching cognitive skills isn’t enough and that non-cognitive skills like character are very important. He listed the traits of grit (what a great word), self-discipline, zest, self-control, curiosity, optimism, and being able to communicate and connect with people as some of the important character traits to develop. To this New York crowd, he emphasized that being concerned with only test scores and not taking into account these character traits was limiting the positive impact that education should have on their children – what an affirming thing to hear.
Everyone in the class seems to be getting along with each other and they are all involved in work. I always start off the new year by giving out daily schedules and having the class work on specific assignments at the same time. This gives everyone a base to start to build working and social connections with each other. I am really excited about all of the work that we have done so far, but I am especially enjoying the student’s work on my Grimm’s Fairy Tale Project. This project has evolved into one in which so many skills and organizational concepts are covered. To begin this work I am using 12 illustrated frames that a former TNS student did for me inspired by an actual fairy tale. I have miniaturized his illustrations and given a copy to each of the students in my class. They are coloring in the frame and deciding from what they see what the story line should be under each drawing. When everyone has finished coloring in and writing about each of these twelve frames, I will have them share their work with the class. We will then hear why the artist created each of the illustrations for this fairy tale, and then finally read the actual fairy tale together. The project has one more piece in which each student will select their own animal fairy tale, illustrate it in twelve frames and write their condensed version of the story under each picture. This part of the project will end with each student presenting their work and then reading the actual fairy tale to the class. This project has grown as I have worked on it and has been so enhanced by having our graduate share his talents with us and the marvelous idea of having the students write their story under his drawings. This structured work based on his pictures gives each student a substantial grounding in the project before having the task of creating their own fairy tale.
I am just as excited about much of the other work that we have started which I will just list for you now but will talk more about at our first class parent meeting. These other areas of work are math work books, journal writing, reading Scope Magazine together, many dog related projects ranging from looking at idioms and phrases using the word dog to tracing the development of dogs from wolves. Each student is also doing a dog a day drawing and researching a dog breed of their choice. We have taken some time to get to know the younger class this week by walking with them and then doing a drawing activity. We had phys. ed. on Wednesday and on Friday the older class will conduct buoyancy experiments, determining how much buoyancy each of the different size containers we use on our boats will have and allowing students to calculate the total buoyancy of their finished boats.
We are off to a great start. Everyone came back to school excited to see friends and to begin work. We have been focusing on group activities so that everyone becomes comfortable with each other as well as learns the ins and outs of the Middle Class routine. We have jumped into our first two projects, gardening and birds. Each child has started to put together a field kit which will include a sketch book and pencil in a soft back pack to which tools will be added as needed such as magnifying glasses, compasses, etc. We will be taking these on field trips to local parks and wildlife areas to observe, record and study the wildlife and gardens of Monmouth County. We have a trip planned to Dearborn Farms to see their children’s garden, learn about native plants and photograph and draw what we see.
Meeta and I planned a project on birds over the summer. Our idea for doing a project on birds was met with enthusiasm and each child has chosen a bird to research and then make a presentation to the class with the objective being to teach other students as much as you can about your bird. We have been discussing how to identify birds, how to effectively search for information and what forms could be used to make a presentation to the class.
Meeta and I have started to meet with small groups and individuals to get everyone started in a math packet or key curriculum math workbook. This process will continue over the next week or so until everyone has been assessed and assigned math work.
Chris ran a great Phys Ed session on Wed and today we watched a video on floating and a TNS parent came in to do some exciting experiments on buoyancy.
It is always amazing how much we manage to accomplish in a week.
We have had a wonderful beginning to the school year! My class are so sweet and eager, getting into everything and enjoying what the classroom has to offer. We started the week by taking pictures of everyone in the class on the first day of school so we had a record of the very specific outfits chosen for such an important day. These pictures were then printed and each student added his/her favorite things to be hung on the wall with the picture. This was a great chance for everyone to get to know each other a little bit. Today we had a great time with the older class walking at the park. This was another chance for my class to get to know some of the older classers so that they feel like they have friends in other classes. We had a great time during the buoyancy workshop we did this morning with a TNS parent. He does such a great job of making sophisticated concepts so accessible for people of all ages.
I am looking forward to seeing all the parents from my class at my meeting where we will be discussing all the important need-to-know pieces of information for the year. If you have any questions please call me.