The Window: A Glimpse Into Our Classrooms
Voices of Our Children
Each day, I find myself acutely aware of all of the different noises that resound throughout our hallways and classrooms. There are the facility-related sounds, such as the PA system and doors opening and closing: phones ring, papers rustle, book bags drop to the floor. All of these sounds remind me of the hushed chatter of an audience anticipating the start of a symphony, but the music truly begins with the voices of our children.
Their voices weave together with the complexity of different instruments in an orchestra. Friendly conversation in the halls is like the faint whistle of flutes. From inside the gym, shouts of encouragement sound like the beat of timpani drums. “Oohs” and “aahs” over experiments in our science labs swell like the string section. Melodically, teachers and students engage in dialogue. Students’ questions carry the music to a crescendo, just before the sound of their laughter ties the concerto together.
As I listen each day to this sweet music, I am reminded of Gustav Mahler, who said: “A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything.” While the curriculum, our building structures, and systems lay the foundation for the music we make, it is the uniqueness of each child that helps to turn our school from something ordinary into something spectacular, from a simple song sung by a single voice into a symphony. Because each child is here, we are creating music that is wholly different than it might have been were he or she not with us this year.
This week, we focus on the specialty classes in our curriculum. Physical education, music, art, creative movement, Spanish, and science lab have an important place in our community as distinct subjects of study. However, they also are integral to the world of learning we are creating for and with your children. While many of our students may readily find their voices through formal mathematics instruction, for example, other students need a musical or artistic pathway to help them find their way to math concepts. We are always looking to create integrated, dynamic opportunities throughout the arts for students to arrive at common understandings in different ways. Please enjoy highlights below of recent activities that occurred either across several of our specialty areas or during integrated celebrations of learning.
A "Feast" of Learning
Second graders have been working to learn all about la comida (food).
To begin this study, they reviewed vocabulary using flashcards and plastic food, and played several smart board games, like Memory and Péscalo. Initially students had to match each picture with the correct word, giving directions to the teacher in Spanish.
Following these warm-up activities, the class discussed the vocabulary associated with food groups (la carne, los granos, las bebidas, las frutas, los lacteos, las verduras, el postre) and talked about different foods that would belong in each category. In small groups, student looked at several Latin-American and Spanish grocery store ads and took turns pointing out a food and naming the category to which it belongs.
Using magnets, the teacher placed different food categories in a line across the whiteboard, and the students took turns selecting a food and placing it in the correct category. As they placed the food in its proper category, they were encouraged to use correct form of the verb ser to state where the food belongs.
During the following classes, they worked in groups and went "shopping" for foods that they would eat at different times of day: desayuno, almuerzo y cena (breakfast, lunch and dinner). To add a math component, each group had to add up the prices of the items and say which cost more (más) and which cost less (menos), and learned about several currencies as well.
"My kind of ice cream is rainbow and vanilla. Together all of these flavors are a kind of a flavor. This is banana, this is cherry, this is blueberry, this is green bean flavor and this is rainbow color flavor. It's a birthday ice cream because this is the candle." —Sam
The Kindergarteners have been exploring the magical process of color mixing in art class while painting their favorite ice cream desserts. Sam's ice cream cone is one of many delicious paintings. While he set out to paint chocolate ice cream, the colors in his palette led him to a whole new world of culinary possibilities! The Kindergarteners have been using concentrated liquid watercolors and palettes with wells filled with the primaries (red, yellow, and blue) plus magenta and brown. They have practiced washing their brushes between colors and changing their water when it becomes dark in order to preserve their palettes. Because light can pass through their clear glass water containers, washing brushes inspires awe when the water changes color. Whether in the their water jars, on their palettes or on the paper, the children share their color discoveries out loud and teach their color "recipes" to each other. As one Kindergartener said while painting his ice cream, "This is making me hungry!" (Don't worry, next week we'll work on some vegetables.)
Native American Musical Traditions
Third graders are learning about Native American cultures, and are being introduced to the diverse musical traditions of several of these Indian groups. A great example is the Oglala Lakota Sioux tradition. Green Acres is lucky to own two authentic Lakota tom toms. We start by watching a video of a powwow on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It features an interview with Bug Spotted-Tail, a member of the tribe, and a dancer. He talks about the tradition of dancing. The video also shows how tom toms are played by a group of drummers sitting around the drum and using mallets. Children take turns playing the tom toms. Then they are taught a Lakota song, “Wi Yo Hey Yo.” The song is used to play a guessing game called “La Hal.” For the game, the children are divided into two teams and receive red or yellow sticks. One team has a small stone or bone. A team member hides the stone in one hand or the other, and the other team has to try to guess which hand holds the stone. The point of the game is to win sticks by tricking the other team. The team with the most sticks at the end of the game is the winner. We use the tom toms and jingle bells to accompany our singing, since ankle bells are worn by the Oglala in their dances.
The conversations that follow are always rich. Here are some student observations from the activity:
- “It was really fun to play the game. I liked when I tricked the other team.”
- “You had us learn the song just by listening to you singing it. I think that’s how the Oglala children would learn it.”
- “The dancers are all ages. Some of them are old people, and some are little kids and teenagers. They all know how to do the dance."
Second Grade Weaving Assembly
Recently, second graders presented a celebration of their learning from their unit on weaving to our School community. The presentation integrated information that the children have uncovered in their homecorner classes with elements of art, music, and creative movement. Through dance, music, and speech, the students explored questions such as: Why do people weave? What can be learned about a culture from the way in which they weave? What are ways in which weaving can take place using different media? Why is the skill of weaving important? Please enjoy this picture (below) from the event.
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