Thematic units change each year and are driven, in a constructivist manner, by the interests of the class. Past themes have included: The Solar System and Space Travel; Egypt: From Ancient to Modern Times; Cesar Chavez and the Grape Boycott; and The Human Body.
TERC Investigations curriculum (largely constructivist) and Saxon math program (more algorithm-based) are used in small groups according to students’ needs.
Second Graders have the opportunity to explore many exciting concepts over the course of the year. They study geometry, shapes, symmetry, perimeter, and measurement. They practice writing and solving story problems putting their knowledge of basic math facts and skills to use. In addition students learn to collect data in small groups and individually and process the results in their own charts and graphs. They work daily on “Individual Work” where they solve Math Challenges in either Time, Money or Place-Value categories. This autonomy within a math group enables students to choose which types of problems to work on during any given day and to work at their own pace. Daily individual time also affords the students the freedom to adapt their workload to their own needs; choosing more challenges or less challenges suiting their different learning speeds and styles.
Our introduction to third grade math is a combination of review, extended thinking and practice, practice, practice. Using the program “Investigations” as our jumping off point, our young mathematicians explore place value, data collection and analysis, and different approaches to computation. We also build in entertaining games to make our math facts more automatic.
In the spring third grade math includes introductory explorations of fractions, decimals (in our money study), multi-digit addition and subtraction with trading, multiplication, division, and measurement. Throughout the year, students develop their skills with data collection and graphing, telling time, elapsed time, and word problems.
A typical literature group works on a wide variety of reading/writing goals. Students sometimes get to choose and read books that match their skills and interests, but also they read several books as a group, taking turns in a round robin format. Reading comprehension is approached through discussion, written responses to questions focusing on characters’ feelings/motivation and the larger themes in each book, and art projects relating to the books. Writing mechanics and are taught and practiced through learning the editing process.
Students are asked to relate the issues and feelings experienced by the characters to their own lives (text to self) and to other books (text to text). Other questions relate to the essential questions MUPS are considering this year: How do we know what’s right? How do the characters in our books know what’s right? What is worth knowing and doing (from a personal perspective and from the perspective of the characters)?
Spelling and Handwriting
Our spelling program is a combination of written lessons and “Cast-a-Spell,” a multi-modal approach to spelling, which uses writing, speaking, hearing, seeing to learn spelling rules and exceptions in an active and engaging daily lesson. We practice cursive daily, using the Handwriting Without Tears program.
MUPS focus on writing from their own imaginations and lives. They create poems, stories, and diary entries. Their writing begins to take shape, as they build in newly acquired punctuation rules. Material is further developed by incorporating mini-lessons and writing prompts. Throughout the year MUPs also share, edit and revise their work.
Art is integrated throughout the entire curriculum. In addition, certain skills and techniques are taught developed. We work in watercolor, clay, acrylic paint, mixed media, and more. We look at artistic styles, and sometimes a specific artist or style. Art projects/studies have included:
We go into the field to learn several times a year. Our trips have included the Shea Theater, The Deerfield Academy Planetarium, Upingill Farm and the Museum of Natural History at Amherst College.