From the Desk of Ms. Demitropoulos:
We have had some memorable moments in November. For example, we got to host Bell TV in our classroom and the kids got to lead the Pledge of Allegiance for the entire school. The students were so excited to be involved in this special moment! We also had a fantastic experience with our fourth grade buddy class while completing a project to find similarities and differences between the buddies.
The students learned about being “bucket fillers” and how to help friends when they are feeling sad, down or tired. They continue to discuss ways to be good friends and how their actions and words can change someone’s day.
Identifying people and things that we are thankful for and making our art projects were a serious hit during the Thanksgiving week. Some examples were: I am thankful that I was not alive when dinosaurs were alive, I am thankful for money, and I am thankful for food, family and school. It is so heartwarming to hear the differences among the kiddos and their thoughts. They make me giggle all day.
In language arts, we have been working on predicting, sequencing, and identifying characters, settings, problems, and solutions. These kiddos constantly impress me with their ability to decode and sound out words in writer’s workshop. We transitioned from writing sentences to writing books to show sequencing by adding time order words.
From the Desk of Ms. Kaim:
As always, the boys and girls in Room 104 were very busy this month. They began the month by learning about elections and voting. This included going to the auditorium to watch people voting on the stage. We also took two longer field trips, one to see a play based on the Pete the Cat books and another to see a play based on the book Bunnicula.
Our Continent of the Month was North America. The first graders learned about Veteran’s Day and made cards for veterans. They also learned about the history of Thanksgiving. Reading The Goat in the Rug led the boys and girls to weave their own paper rugs. Other projects included making worry dolls after studying Guatemala and creating totem pole models after learning how/why they are made by native peoples of the Northwest. A highlight of the month was sampling food from different places in North America.
The boys and girls also read Leaf Man, created their own leaf creatures, and wrote stories about them. After this, we began studying matter. Our first lessons focused on the properties of solids. The students sorted and classified solids in different ways.
We moved on to basic number concepts and place value in math. The first graders also continued to count their way to Day 100 and work on their 100 Page Books. Our fifth grade buddies helped us count our Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF donations. I am proud to report that the kindergarten through fifth grade Options students brought in over $800 to donate to UNICEF.
Another special project this month involved taking a secret field trip to the neighborhood mailbox. The students wrote letters of thanksgiving to their parents, addressed the envelopes, and sent them on their way. The boys and girls were very excited about surprising their parents!
The first graders are looking forward to getting more snow to play in, seeing A Christmas Carol, and learning about South America during the month of December.
A month ago, we made a wreath for the Shedd Aquarium's Wreathcyle challenge. We'd love to win a field trip! Please vote for our wreath as your favorite. We are currently in third place. Voting closes December 6. Thank you!
From the Desk of Ms. Murray:
Some highlights...to further advance our technology skills, we explored the online websites of "Code.org" as well as "Scratch.org" in the computer lab with our technology teacher, Ms. Newberry. Second Graders learned the basic guidelines for arranging commands to string together code. They then used these skills to create original games with Bunnicula as the theme. The students will be able to show their finished online creations in a couple of weeks! Additionally, we attended a performance of an adaptation of Bunnicula with our First Grade Options' friends. Our second field trip of the month was to the Arlington Heights History Museum where we were guided through a program designed to educate second graders on early pioneer life of early settlers who explored the West.
In Language Arts, we explored the genre of "Tall Tales" by learning about a famous pioneer, Johnny Appleseed. In this beloved second grade tradition at Bell, we read one interpretation of Johnny Appleseed's tale and watched a video exploring other aspects of his tale. After participating in these activities, we then created a character organizer to highlight Johnny Appleseed's character traits, such as perseverance and ingenuity. We then created "Strip Poems" where students individually created summary boxes and then combined their boxes with other students. Finally, we made Johnny Appleseed Glyphs where students adapted pieces to represent their opinions on all things "apple." We also finished our first class novel, Bunnicula - a humorous mystery/fantasy novel where a dog named Harold narrates the strange happenings in his household after the arrival of a peculiar bunny that they name, Bunnicula. Harold, the dog, and Chester, the cat, discuss the peculiar findings of white vegetables and note Bunnicula's vampire-like markings. Second Graders, to expand our theme of "game-making," created original board/card games to emulate the theme of Bunnicula. While we had complete artistic license, we did have to think about our"end-users." A portion of the final grade involved their peer review of the game.
In Math, we finished our third chapter and began our fourth as we focus more closely on multiplication. Students learned to group "doubles" facts such as 2 and 4, 5 and 10, and 3 and 6 to multiply more efficiently. The focus is not only on rote memorization of facts, but also the application of various strategies to solve multi-step word problems. We also explored two important properties of multiplication - the Commutative and Distributive Properties.
In Social Studies, as it was November, we took a closer look at the American holiday of Thanksgiving by learning about early settlers and their reliance on the assistance for survival on the indigenous people who already lived in what we now refer to as North America. We briefly explored the difficult concept of how early English settlers negatively interacted with indigenous people. We then discussed how or if we celebrate the holiday with our own families.
In Science, we concluded our exploration of magnets with one final investigation. Second Graders were asked how a magnetic field could be measured. Using a paperclip attached to a string, we drew the paperclip away from a stationary magnet. We recorded the point at which the paperclip was no longer attracted to the magnet using a ruler with cm as the unit of measurement.
From the Desk of Ms. Thiel:
We started the month of November with an Author Celebration Day! We enjoyed a day of relaxation and reading in our pajamas. The class enjoyed many short stories, poems, chapter and picture books of all types. We were fortunate to have Mrs. Miller as a special guest reader!
We began our second Novel Mr. Tucket by Gary Paulson. The class has been working on finding inferences. We will continue to practice this skill as well as work on identifying main ideas and supporting details within the text.
In math we used the various methods learned in Chapter 2 to move into two digit multiplication. The children estimated products, multiplied using partial products and regrouping. We ended the chapter by working on problem solving by multiplying two digit numbers. We are ready to tackle division!
In Social Studies we completed our unit on Early People. The children learned about various Native American tribes and attributes unique to each group. The children all chose a specific tribe to research as well as one aspect of the tribe to learn about. The children are finishing their research now and each group will present their completed posters to the class.
In science we have begun our next unit Earth & Sun. We have engaged in investigations surrounding our shadows and how they change throughout the day. The children also discussed and related the position of the sun in the sky to the size and orientation of an objects shadow. We used physical models to explain day and night as well as determine what causes day and night.
This month we completed our first writing piece; a personal narrative. The children completed a rough draft, conferenced one on one and then revised and edited the piece. The children published their final draft and completed a self assessment on their work as well. This was a lengthy process and I am so proud of all the hard work the class put in!
From the Desk of Ms. Milstein:
Despite all the days off this month, the 4th grade options class had a November full of learning. At the beginning of the month, students turned in their first quarterly book reports. Each student self selected a book and completed a project of their choice based on the categories of art, writing, music, or math & technology. We held a miniature book faire, during which time the students got to present their own and view others’ projects. From board games, to life size portraits, to essays and dioramas, it was so neat to see all the different products the kids came up with!
Throughout November the class continued our study of environments in science. One favorite element of this unit is building and investigating food chains and food webs in various ecosystems. Students worked in groups to create hands-on models of food webs and analyze the impact of certain plants and animals. The unit culminated with a project for which the students researched an environment of their choosing and created a new organism that based on its features and invented adaptations, will thrive in the conditions of their ecosystem.
The 4th graders have finished their first long-term writing project! We have been working very hard for 8 weeks, using a writer’s workshop model to create realistic fiction stories. After the students had written scenes for their stories, we spent a few week revising. For some of these sessions writing partners helped each other with mechanics, using action and dialogue, and creating setting in their work.
A favorite unit of the 4th grade class, year after year, is our social studies unit on westward expansion. The students viewed photographs as primary resources from this time in history to spark their curiosities as they participated in a “See, Think, Wonder” response activity. Possibly the most exciting element of this unit is the live simulation game of Oregon Trail. Students work in “wagon groups” to make decisions they would have faced during the historic trip westward. They will earn and spend money on supplies, lose livestock, encounter disease and geographic difficulties, and learn that all decisions come with consequences. Which group will make it to Oregon first with their families in the best health and maintaining the most supplies? We won’t find out until the very end of our studies!
From the Desk of Ms. Caskey:
317 has wrapped up the dark fantasy novel, Coraline. We completed a variety of activities with this novel including performing reenactments, crafting skits based on vocabulary words, and collaborated during small group and whole group instruction. It was also a great text to connect to our narrative unit where we have been perfecting the art of slowing down and describing to build tension and quickly picking the pace back up with shorter sentences. We compared the text to the movie by thinking about why movie production companies make the decisions that they do.
In math, we've completed our rational number journey by exploring how percentages fit into the scheme of everything we’ve learned about fractions and decimals. We’ve scaffolded what we have been working on in math with Khan Academy; this is always an option for either enrichment or reteaching. Our next unit explores all of the operations with fractions and mixed numbers. We should finish this unit before Winter Break (fingers crossed!)
Our tour of our solar system continues in science, with a comprehensive look at Earth’s moon and its phases, as well as crater simulations using a variety of variables in small groups. We'll be visiting the Challenger Learning Center in Woodstock on December 7 to take part in a simulated space mission where we will take an expedition to Mars! In the meantime, we’ll be moving onto explore other parts of the Solar System and Milky Way.
In social studies, we wrapped up our unit on the Eastern Hemisphere with truly incredible guidebooks for the cultural geography segment of our study. We used online encyclopedias to research traveling to these different places and took that learning to create articles for the countries we chose. Our new SS focus is a much anticipated unit on both economics and government. We are in the midst of creating a city from the ground up. We are running for office, creating business plans to be approved by a soon-to-be-formed city council, forming personal budgets in order to get by without taking out loans, and working together to form a community. We have named our town Bell City, and it will be exciting to see where this simulation takes us!
Finally, in writing and ELA we continue to balance a lot of different concepts that somehow all work together. We finished a personal narrative and will move onto a memoir in Writer’s Workshop and we are learning from mentor texts along the way. We are wrapping up our first unit in grammar, where we have been identifying and applying different sentence structures, all while avoiding fragments, run-ons, and comma splices. We also continue to add to our repertoire of prefixes; we have a lot of prefixes for the idea of “outside”. Ask your fifth grader for some examples!
From the Desk of Mr. Klein:
In sixth grade physics, the primary focus has continued to be on simple machines though the emphasis has moved on to the exploration of wedges, gears, and screws. The next section will focus on the related concepts of force and motion.
Seventh grade literature featured the class continuing an analysis of the horror genre as seen in the writings of Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, Charles Dickens, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The second half of the month saw the class examining the field of poetry as exemplified by the work of Robert Frost, William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and Langston Hughes.
Experiments in seventh grade chemistry focused on the concept of mass changes in closed systems. Laboratories centered on the qualitative analysis of unknowns and density being a periodic property. Quizzes emphasized the importance of significant figures.
In addition, the seventh graders travelled to the Art Institute to experience a creative writing class associated with art. The class also attended the Chicago Children’s Film Festival.
The eighth graders in their study of biology focused on cell structure and function, photosynthesis, and cellular respiration. The students have just begun to explore genetics. That study will take a look at DNA, RNA, genetic engineering, and the human genome.