Part of our current mathematics focus is to compare items by size, identifying them as tall/taller, short/shorter, big/bigger and small/smaller. We are also beginning to look at using non-standard units to measure everyday objects. Happily, at the front of the building a number of banana trees are emerging from their winter hibernation and are growing rapidly. The children have noticed and been commenting on the banana trees, and this gives us the perfect opportunity to experiment with some measuring.
Today, in small groups, the children looked at the collection of trees, and first counted how many there were. Then they decided which was the tallest, and which the shortest. They were then invited to choose from a selection of objects to use to measure the tallest tree (most chose the large outdoor Lego blocks).
There was a lot of excitement during the process of measuring, as the tall tree was much taller than the children, taller even than me, as the children pointed out many times. Getting the chosen units of measure to balance one on top of each other required teamwork and determination.
We are looking forward to measuring the tree again in the future to see if it has grown, and if so, by how much.
As we came to the end of our first Line of Inquiry, The ways in which people use water, the children had thought of, or discovered, many different ways that people are dependent on water, including for drinking, for washing, for playing in or with, for cooking, and for flushing the toilet. The teachers wanted to make sure that we hadn't forgotten one important use; how water can be used in an emergency to put out a fire. We decided to use a provocation as a more authentic and memorable way of exploring this idea.
I explained to the children that as a treat after the holidays, both PS1 classes were going to have a campfire and roast marshmallows over it to eat. We first discussed how it was important never to go near a fire, especially when there is no adult around. We explained that the teachers would be doing the actual roasting of the marshmallows, but that everyone would be able to enjoy watching the fire and eating marshmallows.
We went over to an asphalt area near the Elementary building, where Mr Hoji had prepared a fire pit for us. Our security supervisor, Mr Ruslan, was there to oversee us all. All the children sat on benches at a safe distance from the fire and watched while Mr Hoji lit the fire, which was very exciting, especially when there was lots of smoke.
Both Ms. Nadejda and I showed the children how we put a marshmallow onto a skewer, and then the children watched as we roasted marshmallows, one per child. The children said the marshmallows were 'yummy' and 'sticky'. We had a lot of fun noticing our sticky hands and faces afterwards!
When every child had enjoyed a roasted marshmallow, I suggested we should all now go back to class, and asked, 'Shall we just leave the fire burning here?' Immediately, several of the children shouted 'No!' When I asked what made them say that, they responded 'Because the fire could get bigger and bigger and bigger!' I acted as though I was confused, and asked them 'What should we do then?' I was told very clearly that we should 'Put the fire out.' When I asked how we could do this, several children suggested 'Put water on it!' This of course was the idea behind the provocation, to make the link between water, and its ability to put out fire. Right away one of the children made this connection, saying 'We should add this to our list' (we have been keeping a list of the ways in which people water, adding to it as we learn new facts).
Mr Ruslan then used a bucket of water to put out the fire, pouring it carefully over the small flames while we watched.
We felt it was important not to miss this opportunity to consider fire-safety a little more.
Mr Ruslan showed the children a fire extinguisher, and we explained that often inside buildings, we can find these special 'bottles', especially made for putting out fires. Some of the children noticed the a 'circle' on the extinguisher. We explained that this was a dial which shows if the extinguisher is full of the gas and powder needed to put out a fire. If it is empty, we know it needs repairing or filling.
We watched as Mr Ruslan showed us how first we must shake the extinguisher several times from side to side before pulling out the pin and then aiming the hose at the base of the fire and squeezing the trigger.
It was very exciting to see lots of white powder billowing out, onto the fire and the nearby surroundings. When he was finished, not only was the fire out, but the area was all white.
Once more we reminded the children that they should never go near a fire on their own, and that if they ever see a fire burning, they must always tell an adult right away, rather than try to put it out on their own.
We ended the morning of fun by giving Mr Ruslan and Mr Hoji a spontaneous clap for their work in lighting the fire, keeping us safe, and showing us how to extinguish a fire, before going back to class to read books about firemen and the important work they do. All agreed it had been an exciting morning!
As we continue to explore our first Line of Inquiry, The ways in which people use water, we wanted to encourage the children consider our connection to water, and our dependence on it as a precious natural resource. In order to do this, we first needed to think about the term 'precious'. What does it mean when we say something is precious?
We began by simply introducing the word during morning meeting, and wondering aloud what it might mean. Through discussion, we came to the understanding that when something is precious to us, it is very important, and we would be very sad to lose it. Each member of the class took time to think, and then share something they considered important. This included:
Having shared our ideas, I suggested that the next day each child bring in something that was precious to them (but not something of great monetary value, and not without asking parents first).
The next day, the children were excited to arrive at school with their precious items to show to their friends. Each precious object was put into a the same large box, and during morning meeting, we carefully removed item at a time and passed it to its owner, who was asked to share with us what they had brought, and why it was precious to them. When I removed the final object, the children were surprised to see that it was a jar filled with water. I asked the children why they thought I might feel that water is precious. They suggested that maybe it is because I drink water, or because I use it to wash my hands.
We wanted to extend and push the boundaries on this thinking and consider the wider picture, and so we tried out a new thinking routine. First, we each discussed why water is precious or important to us, personally. Some children said 'because I like to swim in water' some said 'because I drink water' others said 'because I wash my hands'. Next, we considered why water is precious or important to our whole class. It was suggested, 'because we use water to wash the tables in class so our class stays nice and clean'. Finally, I asked 'Why is water important to the whole world?' The children considered this for a while, before saying 'Because fish and sharks live in water.' and 'Because trees, and flowers and grass need water.' and 'Because animals drink water. If there was no water, they would die and we would be sad because people are about animals.' As one child shared their ideas, it sparked the thinking of other students, and so our ideas built upon each other.
The children were then asked to record their thinking on paper using illustrations to show how water is 1) precious/important to them, 2) to our class, and 3) to the whole world. In the photographs below, the children are holding their finished work.
This was the first time we had used a thinking routine of this sort, and we were very impressed with the big-picture thinking the children were able to do.
This week we began inquiry on our new unit. Our central (or big) idea is:
'Humans' relationship with water can have consequences on how the world works'
We began with a provocation to get the thinking started. During morning meeting, I suddenly heard the phone ringing, and went into the kitchen to answer it. When I got back, I explained to the children the we had just received a call from Mr. Rashid, (our facilities director) who makes sure that everything at school works properly, and who manages a team of people who fix things when they get broken. I explained that he had just informed me that the water in our building was about to be switched off. (Of course this was not really the case, but we played out the situation, in order to encourage some problem solving and some deeper thinking.)
Luckily we had all just washed our hands on entering the classroom, but I asked the children to consider what the effects might be with no water in our building. Here is the transcript of our discussion, using the children's own words:
As you can see from above, the children began to make connections and to problem solve with our imaginary problem. Of course we didn't want to have this 'problem' continue for too long, so after only about ten or fifteen minutes, we received an (imaginary) call from Mr. Rashid again, telling us that the water had been switched back on, so we didn't need to worry.
This provocation meant that we had already begun to think about the important role that water plays in our lives, and about some of the ways we use water.
Following this, on subsequent days, we looked carefully at our central idea, and tried to work out what some of the bigger words meant, as you can see below:
We also walked around school in groups, looking for examples of where people use water in school. Here is what we found:
We will continue our inquiry for the rest of the school year. For more detailed information, please go to the 'Unit of Inquiry' page at the top of this blog.
This week we also continued to talk about positional and directional language. We read 'Rosie's Walk' by Pat Hutchens first and talked about Rosie the hen's journey.
After reading the book, the children were invited to have some fun, playing a game where they followed directions to use position themselves behind, under, on, next to and in front of the table! This caused great amusement. It might be fun to try to play around with this language at home, also.
There was big excitement in our class this week as our restaurant, appropriately enough named 'PS1H Restaurant' opened for business.
We had worked very hard, first creating a list of items the the children felt we needed to 'build' our restaurant:
We decided which of the items we would easily be able to find in school, such as tables, chairs and a cash cash register. Then, in order to gather the rest of the props we needed, we decided to look further afield. Together we wrote a letter to parents asking if they could donate any of the resources we had identified. Each child signed their own letter and took it home. Many children brought in items such as empty food containers, plates, cutlery or empty drinks cartons to add to our restaurant. The children made menus, play money and the restaurant sign in class. Once we had everything we needed, we then set up the restaurant.
We thought about the different roles that exist in a restaurant, and came up with chef, waiter and customer. Finally, it was time to start enjoying our new role play area! It is turning out to be a great opportunity for language and maths development. Customers look through menus and place orders, servers write down the orders and take them to the kitchen, where the chef prepares the food and drink. When the meal is finished, maths also comes into play as the bill is called for, customers are told the cost of their meal, and then of course have to find the money to pay.
Having looked at how letters look in a variety of other languages in previous weeks, today the children had the opportunity to see what letters are like for people who cannot see, or cannot see well.
Together we looked at some pages in a children's Braille book, before each child had an opportunity individually to freely explore the books, using both their sense of sight and of touch. Since the books are aimed at children, and are picture books, the pictures on each page were raised or were made of a tactile material, so that not only the words, but the shape of the objects could be 'seen' with the hands.
It will be interesting to follow up this learning experience and see if the children can find any of the letters from their own names in the Braille alphabet.
A reminder that there is no school tomorrow, Friday 16th February.
Wishing all those who celebrate, a Happy New Year!
This Tuesday we had a very exciting start to the day. As a way of highlighting to the children how important letters are, and how letters (writing) is found all over the world, we invited a wide range of parents, faculty and staff members to help us out.
When the children arrived on Tuesday morning, they were each handed a 'passport' with their photograph on the front, and their name written in Latin script, as they usually see it at school. Our special invited guests were positioned at tables around the room. After we explained to the children the purpose of our morning, they were invited to move around both PS1 classrooms, taking their passports with them to be 'stamped'.
At every table was at least one adult ready to write the children's names into their passports using a script that looks different to Latin. The children showed their passports, told the adult their name, and then watched as their name was written using letters often unfamiliar to them. Languages (and scripts) represented were
This wonderful learning engagement could not have taken place without the help of so many staff, faculty and especially parents, and so a special thank you to them is in order from all of us in PS1!
The following learning engagement took place last week...
We wanted the children to consider what happens when letters are not used effectively, and how this affects the smooth running of our lives. In other words, what happens when letters do not do a good job of helping us to ‘organise our world’. To this end, one day I read the story ‘Carrot Soup’ by John Segal to the children during morning meeting. In the story the main character, Rabbit, plants and takes care of carrot seeds. In Spring, he is very excited at the thought of harvesting his carrots and making his favourite carrot soup recipe.
Rabbit is very upset to discover when he arrives in the spring to pull up his carrots, that they have disappeared! None of his friends seem to know what has happened to them. The story ends happily when rabbit returns home to discover that his friends have secretly helped him out by digging up the carrots and making his favourite soup.
At the end of the book, the recipe for Rabbit’s carrot soup is displayed. I suggested that the children might like to try to make Rabbit’s soup. The children were excited at this idea, and together the group looked at the ingredients listed in the book, as I unpacked the bag of items I had brought in ahead of time to make the soup.
What a disaster! Instead of carrots, onions, butter and chicken stock, I had 'mistakenly' brought pumpkin, garlic and a potato. Clearly I had not properly read the list of ingredients, in other words, I had misread the letters.
Everyone was very disappointed, but it prompted a discussion about making mistakes. I asked if it was a bad thing that I had made a mistake, and brought the wrong ingredients. The children reassured me that it was not a bad thing, and that “It’s ok to make mistakes.” We discussed how, when we make mistakes, we often learn even more than when we get something right the first time.
The next day, I told the children that I had taken more care to check the list of ingredients. During morning meeting, the children helped me check the items off from the list, and were relieved to discover that I had got it right this time. Everyone pitched in to peel and chop carrots to make Rabbit’s carrot soup.
We then continued to follow the recipe, frying off onion (chopped by me) in butter, then adding chicken stock and the chopped carrots. We let this cook for about 40 minutes and then let it cool a little.
The children then watched as, in batches, we blended it all up, so that it became a wonderfully rich and delicious soup.
When we were finished, almost every child wanted to try Rabbit's favourite carrot soup. Some children chose to have parsley on top, some just tried it on its own.
If you would like to try to make Rabbit's Favourite Carrot Soup at home, here is the recipe (taken from the book, Carrot Soup, written and illustrated by John Segal):
Having spent much of last week planning it, on Tuesday of this week Dress Up Day finally arrived. Students in both PS1 classes arrived at school in a variety of different costumes or outfits, and were very excited to both let others see their choice of clothing for the day, and to see what their friends had chosen to wear. Much time was spent in the first part of the day, comparing masks, emblems, patterns, colours and face paint!
Suddenly, while everyone was still playing before morning meeting, two surprise visitors burst into the room!
Superman and The Green Lantern talked a little to the children about our Unit of Inquiry, and then sang the alphabet song with us before flying off to continue their work ridding the world of evil.
The children each spent time during the day looking carefully at themselves in a mirror, noticing, describing and discussing their special Dress Up Day costume with the teacher, before painting a self-portrait.
At the end of the day, the children asked if we could have another Dress Up Day, and we agreed that it would be fun to do again, perhaps when the weather gets a little warmer.
The elementary StuCo is organizing a Used Book and Toy Sale on Feb 13th.
Please consider donating any unused items that your child is no longer using. Donations can be placed in boxes in the classrooms. The class that collects the most donations will have the first opportunity to go to the Used Book and Toy sale.
Funds will be used to provide Plov for our support staff and community members of the Mahalla during our Navruz celebration in March and other elementary community events.
At 5:00 p.m. on that same evening Feb 13th, the elementary StuCo will host a movie night for all elementary students and families.
Students in Grades 2 -5 can come unaccompanied but parents must attend with younger students.
We will show The BFG, based on the book by Roald Dahl. Pizza, popcorn and drinks will be for sale.
We thank you in advance for supporting our elementary StuCo events.
Having a special day where students (and teachers) can dress up in costume (fancy-dress), has been a recurring theme in our class, and understandably, these days are always so much fun. We readily agreed as it not only was an opportunity for us to have fun, but also for us to have an authentic reason to do some data-handling, and some shared writing and reading (linking extremely well to our Central Idea, Letters help us organise our world).
The first thing we had to do was decide what the theme of our dress-up day would be. Being the caring and democratic class community that we are, we wanted to make sure that everybody had a chance to voice their opinion. First, we discussed the different themes possible, and came up with
We then analysed our graph, and worked out which option had the most 'votes'. The most popular option was 'anything you want'. This works out very well, since it means that every child can wear something that appeals to them.
Now that we had chosen the theme, we needed to ask permission from the 'boss' of our school, our Principal, Ms. Jan. We thought about how we could get in touch with her, and decided upon writing her an email. With the laptop connected to the projector, the children told me what I should write, while I typed it into my computer. You can see the email below.
We then clicked on send, and waited excitedly to see if Ms. Jan would respond to us, and what she would say. We very much hoped she would say yes to our idea!
The next morning, I connected the computer to the projector once more, and the children were very pleased to see that there was an email waiting for us from Ms. Jan. We opened it to see what she had decided. You can see her response for yourselves below.
This was very good news! Now we knew we could go ahead with planning our special day. The next job was to let all the parents know, so that they could help the children make or find a costume over the weekend. Each child was invited to write to their own parents, to let them know that we had a dress up day coming up, and to let them them know what they wanted to wear. Some children had a go at writing for themselves, either using letters they were familiar with, or writing-like symbols or lines and 'squiggles'. Other children drew pictures, and some children knew exactly what they wanted to say, and asked me to write on their behalf. All of these options are valid and important first attempts at writing.
The children were very excited to take their letters home at the end of the day, and begin the planning process. We are very excited to see all the different, and creative, ideas on Tuesday!
"I want to dress up as..."
This week we made lemonade in class. It was a great opportunity to focus on capacity and some capacity-related language. First I suggested during our morning meeting that I thought it might be fun to make lemonade to drink in class. We unpacked the bag I had brought to school and ten lemons, a bag of sugar and a lemon squeezer. I also showed the children three different containers.
We needed to work out how many cups of lemonade we would need, so we counted all the children present that day, and discovered there were eleven. Then, with the three different sized and shaped containers on the table in the middle of the class, I asked how we would know which of these containers to use. I held up the smallest, and asked if the children thought we should use it. The children immediately said no, that this container would not hold enough liquid. They suggested the biggest one instead. In order to check for certain if the container was big enough for eleven cups of lemonade, I poured water, cup by cup into the large container, with the children counting to keep track for me as I did. We discovered that the large container held eight cups of water. We labelled the container with a note saying '8'. Then, to make it clear how many children it would serve, we counted out eight cups and handed them out to children. Of course the children immediately spotted that here were still three children without cups, making it clear to us that we needed to make more lemonade than would fit in the big container.
We repeated the procedure with another container, and discovered, somewhat coincidentally, that it could hold three cups of water. We labelled this container with the number three. I took three more cups and handed them out. Now each child present in class had a cup; eight to represent the number of cups held by the big container, and three to represent the number of cups held by the smaller one. We now knew that if we made enough lemonade to fill both containers, we would have enough for a cup for each child.
Throughout this procedure, we made sure to use capacity-related language. For example we said; "Is it full yet?" or "It's only half full, I think we need to add some more cups." or "Do you remember how many cups of water we put in here?" and "Which container holds more? Which one holds less?"
Now it was time for the hands on, messier, work to begin. After washing their hands, each child took a turn at squeezing lemons, and making sure we removed any seeds. They enjoyed not only the sensory experience of twisting and squeezing the lemon, but also the smell of the juice and the oils released from the peel, and the taste of the lemon juice on their fingers.
We split the freshly squeezed lemon juice between the two containers, putting more of course in the larger of the two, before adding water and some sugar. Finally, each child was asked if they wanted to try some of the lemonade. Every child was keen to sample it, and virtually all of them then asked for a full cup.
Perhaps you might like to make fresh lemonade at home with your son or daughter, allowing him or her to direct the procedure as much as possible. Don't forget to use lots of capacity related language if you do!