October 24, 2012

Homemade Alphabet Chart

When we moved to the new school facilities, we didn't have an alphabet chart. No problem. The kids made their own.

October 10, 2012

Dodgeball and Red Beards: Wonderful Things We've Learned!

In our classroom we have a bulletin board entitled “Wonderful Things We’ve Learned.” Once in a while, the students write down something they’re excited about having learned, and pin it to the board. Here are the current contents of that board. (I've fixed up some spelling.)

I learned that Leif found America before Columbus was born. I learned about vikings. I learned how to throw a ball and make it bounce backwards.
I learned that ***** is sin in Hebrew and ***** is sin in Greek. ***** means God. Sin means missing the mark. (Sorry, couldn't type the Hebrew and Greek words.)
I learned about vikings and volcanoes.
Volcanoes are so scary because of fire. I’m excited about volcanoes.
I learned that the Pacific Ocean is the biggest of all the oceans.
The volcano movie was fun. Dodgeball is fun.
I’ve learned how to skip and come back to things you don’t understand in a book.
I learned about volcanoes. They are so red! (with picture of erupting volcano)
P. E. was so fun because we played many things. And I’m thankful that I came back to Japan.
Vikings had long houses, so I was surprised. Vikings fought against so many places.
I did science. Oceans and continents are 71% and 29%.
I learned about Eric the Red. His beard and hair were red.

September 02, 2012

First Day of School Eve

Tomorrow is the first day of school in our new elementary school facilities. I can't wait to be part of the fun and learning that's going to happen here.

April 09, 2012

M & M Math

Sometimes people wonder how we teach more than one grade at the same time. Here is a math lesson that shows one way we do it. With the Easter holiday coming up, we taught a math lesson with M & Ms.

Well, something like M & Ms.

Each child got a ring of chocolates. The younger students graphed the colors.

Then they measured the length and width of their paper with chocolates. They found the perimeter, or how many chocolates it would take to make a border all the way around the paper. The first-grade math student whose hands are pictured below realized that she could just use her measurements from the length and width to calculate the perimeter without actually making a border around the whole page.

The students were then asked to figure out the border if they folded their papers in half. Some students folded their papers horizontally while others folded theirs vertically. They ended up with different numbers of chocolates required to make the border. At first they thought mistakes had been made. But after confirming that their different answers were in fact right, some of the students realized why. Others didn't, but at least they now have a question in their minds to keep considering. A sixth-grader who was watching was challenged to think about what proportions of rectangles give you the most area for the least perimeter.

After figuring out the border, the children were asked to find out how many chocolates could fit on the page (the area). They didn't have enough chocolates to cover the paper and count, so this required some thinking. Some kids made a few rows, counted the chocolates, then moved the chocolates down the paper and counted them again. They figured the area pretty accurately. One first-grader realized that ten chocolates fit across the page, so she could make a line of chocolates down the page and count each chocolate in that line as ten. She shared her idea with her classmates. As a teacher, it was incredibly fun to watch a first grader discover and teach her friends that the area of a rectangle is its length times its width (even though the she didn't phrase it that way).

Older students were asked to find out how many chocolates could fit on the foil circle that the chocolates had come from. They realized pretty quickly that it was too hard to work on that bumpy surface, so they traced the outline onto paper. A third-grade math student started to cover her shape with chocolates. She ran out and decided just to cover half of the shape and multiply by two. She confirmed her answer later by borrowing chocolates from someone else and covering the whole shape.

A sixth-grade student, who knows how to use pi to calculate the area of a circle, placed chocolates across the large circle to find the diameter and calculated the area that way. He knew that he had to subtract area of the smaller circle, so he started to calculate the area of the smaller circle the same way. After a few moments, he realized it would be easier just to fill the inner circle with chocolates and count them. Sometimes in real life, lower math is more practical than higher math! As a result of watching him figure out the area using pi times the square of the radius, the third-grader was interested in that time-saving formula.

We don't do these kinds of activities every day; our students do have their own grade-appropriate textbooks. However, lessons like these are what make a multi-age class really crackle. Children can work side-by-side on problems that challenge them, and gain new understanding and inspiration that they wouldn't otherwise have. And the students can have the last word on this lesson. "I love yummy math!"

March 07, 2012

Student-Written Fables

New Hope School students have been reading and discussing Aesop's fables in a unit about ancient Greece. They decided to try writing some fables of their own. Enjoy!

Minnie, the Dog, and the Cat
by H. P. and M. S.

Once upon a time, there was Minnie Mouse, and Minnie Mouse had a dog. The dog barked at Minnie Mouse. A cat came to them. The cat meowed at Minnie Mouse. It was noisy. Minnie and the dog went home, and the cat went home too. So the dog cried and Minnie Mouse said to the dog, “You are OK.” Tomorrow, the cat will come again. The dog went to his doghouse, and the cat was there! The cat had three kittens. The three kittens lost a worm, and the dog found it. The cat said, “You are nice!”

Moral: Don’t bark at each other; be nice.

The Lazy Lion and the Helpful Goat
by T. S. and H. O.

Once there was a lion and a goat. The goat always took care of the lion, so the lion was lazy and couldn’t take care of himself.

One day, they ran out of food. The lion was hungry, but the goat told him to wait because there was a famine. The lion ate the goat. The lazy lion wasn’t used to taking care of himself, so he got sick and regretted having eaten the goat.

Moral: Be patient.

The Lonely, Rich Dog
by M. K. and M. M.

Once upon a time, there was a rich dog. The dog lived on an island and the dog didn’t have friends. Another dog came and said, “May I play with you?”

He said, “No,” and the other dog was sad. The next morning, it was a very warm day. The  dog came again to the rich dog’s house. He wanted to play, and the rich dog was crying. The other dog heard, and he wanted to help, so he did. The rich dog said, “Thank you,” and they were friends now. They lived happily ever after.

Moral: Make friends.

The Two Battling Dogs
by R. S. and H. O.

Once upon a time, a weak dog named Barky and a strong dog named Jarky were fighting. They both got tired, so they rested. Jarky wanted to fight to the death, but Barky did not want to fight. Barky finally said, “OK,” to fight to the death. Barky killed Jarky.

Moral: Even though you think you are weak, you may be strong.

January 31, 2012

Solomon's Temple Replicas

We are learning about King Solomon and the temple he built. Today the students were paired up, given blocks, and asked to make the best replica they could in about 45 minutes. Look what they came up with. If you want to see an artist rendition based on the description of the temple in the Bible, see this page.

How about those cherubim around the ark of the covenant?

This group emphasized that the temple was mostly made or overlaid with gold.

"The table and bread will go here!" 
Golden Lampstand in Progress

January 26, 2012

How Clean Is Snow?

The elementary kids are doing a science unit about "small things." Today we looked at melted snow under the microscope. After seeing all of the floaties in the water, one student exclaimed, "I'll never eat snow again!"

January 21, 2012

Making Stringed Instruments

Check out these student-made instruments! We are learning about David the psalmist and how he wrote songs and sang them with stringed instruments. The kids were challenged to make their own instruments with rubber bands and whatever else they could find. After working on them for a few days, some students were able to tune their instruments and play some recognizable music. Pretty amazing!

(And don't tell the kids, but they are pre-learning about the physics of stringed instruments)