Explorations of Elementary

Explorations of Elementary – May 2016

What an amazing last month of school! We started the month of May out with completing our simple machine studies. Students experimented with building simple machines by following directions in a kit. Then they each selected a simple machine to research. We read about the wheel & axel, pulley, inclined plane, wedge and screw. Students wrote about how their simple machine worked, why it worked and how it made various jobs easier. They found real life examples of their machines in action, then they built their own simple machine. Each student presented their research and machine to the class. They also made step by step science experiment cards so other students could try using their simple machines. Their experiment cards needed to include a list of all supplies necessary for their experiment, each step (including clean up) of their experiment, and an explanation of why the experiment worked the way it did. A recommended item would be some book covers purchased from polycover.co.uk/ because they are the most resourceful and protect way better than any other cover. These cards were placed on our science shelf after students gave a presentation, or lesson to the class about their experiment. My favorite part of this project was watching the kids learn how to use a drill. We purchased a small drill for our classroom and they loved it! Now they can help all of you fathers with projects at home.

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While some students were drilling, others learned about ecosystems of the world. We began by talking about what an ecosystem is and how all parts of the ecosystem work together to help one another survive. We learned several new vocabulary such as biotic, abiotic, consumer, producer, decomposer, photosynthesis, flora and fauna. We also researched relationships between living and non-living organisms and defined those relationships as either mutualism, commensalism or parasitism.  Each student focused on one ecosystem that was most interesting to them. They wrote a research paper, complete with MLA bibliography, and designed a diorama which included examples of living and non-living things within their ecosystem. They all gave wonderful presentations to the class. I hope you were able to see their projects displayed in the gym the last week of school!

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We also celebrated our Mothers this month with our Moms & Muffins breakfast. It is always nice to visit with the mothers of our students. In our reading groups we studied poetry, so it was fitting for us to write a poem for our mothers as a gift. The poem was all about the chaos moms juggle each day and how we love them for doing it.

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We also celebrated our Grandparents this month by inviting them into our classroom. So many grandparents came and participated in Latin class, where students wrote their grandparents a letter in Latin, then read the letter aloud. After this first reading students translated their letters for the grandparents. We also brought our grandparents into our poetry world and wrote Buddy Poems. Each student interviewed their grandparent, and vice versa. Then both took the answers to their interview questions and wrote a poem about the other. It was adorable and creative! We ended our visit with a musical performance of recorders and piano. Students played as groups and individually, and showed off all of their talents for each grandparent present. We enjoyed having grandparents visit and we hope to see them all again next year!

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We had our last student-planned field trip of the year to the amazing Seneca Caverns in Bellevue, Ohio. This year our students have been very interested in geology. We have looked at various types of rocks and begun a class rock collection. Several students brought their personal rock collections in to share throughout the year. This trip was the icing on the cake! We learned that the cave was formed naturally, including each step we walked on. None of the tunnels and passages were dug out by man. The cave was discovered by two 11 year old boys whose dog fell into the cave when they were outside playing in the field. Since then, several people have explored the cave leaving their names carved on the rock. I think everyone’s favorite part was drinking water at the bottom of the cave, which was almost 70 feet underground! The water was 98% pure and so clear a few students accidentally stepped in it because they didn’t see it. It was an awesome trip! Thank you to the students who helped plan it and the parents who helped us drive there!

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As a follow-up to our student inspired bee research, we visited our neighbor who happens to be a beekeeper. We learned all about the different tools he uses to care for the bees and the levels of the “hives” he builds for them. We learned that bees only travel about 2 miles from their hive and that there is only one queen bee in each hive. Our beekeeper friend purchases his queen, but in the wild the queen is the bee who grows the largest, the quickest. We also learned that the female bees are the hardest workers and live the longest. The male bees are lazy and do not live long, and sometimes they don’t even leave the hive. One student was able to try on the beekeeper suit and model it for the class. At the end of our visit we were able to taste honey from the hives. It was delicious!

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We hope you and your children enjoyed this school year as much as we did. It was a pleasure and joy hanging out with your children all year long. We will miss you during the summer and look forward to seeing you all in the fall. Thank you for sharing your kids with us!

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Explorations of Elementary

Explorations of Elementary – Spring 2016

Our elementary students surprised and impressed visitors at our amazing Famous American Live Wax Museum. This event took place all throughout our school where students were dressed as Americans who made a positive contribution to American history. In preparation for this event, students selected an American and researched that person’s life. They were to learn about their American’s childhood, education, hobbies, and special characteristics that led the person to impact history. All students wrote a research report, complete with an APA style bibliography.

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The night of the museum it was difficult to recognize our children because they looked like Betsy Ross, Sacagawea, Ben Franklin, and Amelia Earhart (just to name a few).

In our reading groups students gave presentations about their books. One group read the Newbery Honor book Hatchet. Another group chose to read the biography of Helen Keller. Our third group read the classic adventure of Robinson Crusoe. The Hatchet group wrote thoughtful news articles explaining the events of the story and the emotional trip Brian, the main character, takes throughout the book.

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The Helen Keller group studied Braille and either wrote their name in Braille or demonstrated how Helen learned to read by using Braille.

Photo Mar 22, 1 14 13 PM  Writing in each other’s hands like Anne Sullivan did for Helen Keller.

The adventurous readers of Robinson Crusoe built shelters from only natural materials found in the wilderness (or their back yard). Their shelter needed to pass the water test, in which water was poured over the shelter to see if it would stay dry inside.

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Each student demonstrated their love for their fathers by painting beautiful rocks that read “My dad rocks” as a gift to give at Dads and Donuts. All of the fathers receiving this rock chuckled. I’m sure they will look at it in the future and think of their wonderful morning with us.

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Our annual International Festival was a huge success and our students put on quite a show. Elementary students worked in groups to research a man-made wonder of the world.

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One group researched The Great Wall of China. They learned how long the wall is and that it is not a continuous wall, but has gaps where mountains run through it.

The group researching the Taj Mahal discovered a sad love story of a husband who lost his wife too soon. The Taj Mahal was built as a tomb for the young woman. This group utilized their math skills to discover how much it would cost in today’s American dollars to build. They first exchanged Indian Rupies for British Pounds (because American was not a country when the Taj Mahal was built), then Pounds for today’s Euros, and finally to the American dollar.

Easter Island was a surprise to many of us because it was very unique in that no one knows how or why it was built. This group discovered a video showing how the large statues may have been moved using ropes and three groups of people to shimmy the statues form one place to another. It is one of the most unique wonders we researched.

The group researching Christ the Redeemer enjoyed learning about all of the trials to build the amazing statue. Originally, it was to be built in the 1850s, but construction never began until 1922. The statue was completed in 1931, taking close to nine years to finish.

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The Forbidden City was another wonder researched by our students. This imperial palace is located in the heart of Beijing and housed 24 emperors. Today it is the palace museum.

Machu Picchu, an Incan citadel in Peru, is famous for the stone walls that stay together without the use of mortar. To this day, the use of this amazing creation is still unknown.

The infamous Colosseum in Rome was the seventh wonder researched by our students. This group was fascinated with the fighting that took place inside the Colosseum. Their scale model displayed how seating surrounded the events. Their skit of the lion fighting “Jackonitus” entertained everyone at our festival.

Explorations of Elementary

Explorations of Elementary – February 2016

The month of February brought an exciting buzz to the classroom as students prepared to lead a conference for their parents. We call this event Student-Parent-Teacher Conferences and they are held once each year. In order to prepare for this conference students complete a form detailing what they have been working on, what they feel they have successfully learned, what they will continue working on, and their goals. These forms are filled out for all subject areas in our classroom (Language/Grammar/Reading, Math/Geometry, History, Biology, Geography, and Enrichment Studies – Music, Art, Latin, Physical Education). Then the forms are used as a script for students to read to their parents at the beginning of their conference. Students also practiced presenting materials so they could become the “teacher” for their visiting parents and demonstrate how and what they have learned in our Montessori environment.

Student-Parent-Teacher Conferences are a wonderful way to reinforce with the children that their education is their responsibility and they must take ownership of it. This is a central theme in our classroom, as we strive to teach the children about the value of hard work and perseverance, and the joy of learning. If the children take ownership of their education and are expected to present their knowledge and understanding of concepts learned, they begin to see the results of their efforts and can truly see their accomplishments. The results we see are greater intrinsic motivation to excel, the development of a strong work ethic, and personal awareness of strengths and weaknesses. The natural desire is to present their best work is a strong motivator in any human being, and this motivation is what propels us to work towards goals and succeed.


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(Chinese Dragons made in Art Class)

Our research continued this month as children in our human body research group began tracing themselves and adding internal organs to their body outlines. They are learning the basic functions of organs and how they all work together to help our bodies work efficiently. Be on the look-out for these hanging around our hallways soon!

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Our Ancient Civilization research has led us through the interesting land of the Nile, Egypt. The presentations on this civilization were fabulous! Some students created elaborate head pieces and necklaces, complete with “gold” trimmings. Others were fascinated with hieroglyphics and learned to write their name using the ancient symbols. Still other students found the way in which Egyptians kept cool and smelling nice to be interesting. In their research they discovered Egyptians would melt beeswax, flowers and essential oils together and mold in into a cone. They would wear this cone on top of their heads (which were usually shaved) and it would melt, dripping down their head and neck. The scent from the oils and flowers would radiate, and the wax kept them cool. A few other students were appreciative of the invention of paper, first made by the Egyptians out of papyrus plants. They decided to make their own papyrus paper.

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Reading Groups have finished their books (Helen Keller, Robinson Crusoe, and Hatchet). They are now working on their class presentations. This will be a culminating project involving aspect of the stories they read and will be presented to the entire class.


Our Wax Museum is right around the corner and we invite everyone to come see us on Tuesday March 15th at 6:00pm. We will be representing famous Americans who contributed something positive to American History. Students wil    l be dressed up as their chosen American and they will present themselves as each person visits their display. Please come support our students! They have been working very hard to prepare for this spectacular event!

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Explorations of Elementary | January 2016

Elementary students seemed to miss their work over the break! They entered the classroom with enthusiasm and drive to accomplish new goals for the New Year.

Several students have been interested in how their body works, and how nutrition effects their body. The presentation we had in December from an older student really inspired these kids to understand what it means to make healthy food choices and how to care for their bodies. They have been learning about food groups, food pyramids/plates, and how to read food labels. They are currently researching the best foods for to eat and creating healthy menus for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. They will continue this project through February studying digestion, energy and exercise, and how our bodies work.


Other students are continuing our study of Ancient Civilizations with Ancient Egypt. This is by far the most popular civilization we have looked at, and one the students have been looking forward to learning more about. They began their research by drawing a map of Egypt as it looked in 3100 B.C. They discovered how important the Nile River was to the survival of the people of Egypt. They also learned of a game children used to play called Senet. Students decided to make this game for our classroom out of clay, cardboard, paints and craft sticks. They even made rules and have taught other students how to play. They will be continuing their research into February and have a presentation for their parents at Student-Parent-Teacher Conferences. Their research will also be displayed in the school gym when they finish.
The students had a choice of which book they wanted to read for our next reading group session. Some chose the classic, Robinson Crusoe; others decided to read the biography of Helen Keller; while the third group is reading a favorite form my days in school, Hatchet. Students were placed in groups depending on their book choice and everyone is excited each week to meet and discuss what they are reading.
As a large group students are preparing for our Elementary Wax Museum event. Our students began research on a famous American of their choice for this event. At our “museum” each student will stand in front of a backdrop they design and pretend to be a wax version of their American. Students will dress as their person. On each student’s backdrop there will be a “button” and visitors to the museum will press the button. When it is pressed the wax person will come to life and tell the audience about their life and their accomplishments.

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Through their research students are learning about the life, family, career accomplishments, and contribution to history of their chosen American. They will be writing a research paper, designing a backdrop and writing their presentation speech which they will present during the event.
Our Wax Museum will take place on: Tuesday March 15th at 6:00 pm. Grandparents, family and friends are welcome to come see your child shine in our Wax Museum!
We ended the month of January with one Going-Out Experience and one Physical Education Field Trip.
Our Going-Out Experience was planned by Olivia and Ainsley to the Cleveland Aquarium. They had the opportunity to see sharks up close and personal and ask questions to the divers. They pet stingrays and enjoyed a scavenger hunt through the aquarium.

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If you have never experienced Laser Quest with 20 elementary students, you have never experienced Laser Quest. This was such a fun trip and we learned a few things too! Students ate pizza and played the first game of Laser Tag, splitting into two teams – adults vs. students. Students were very confident they were going to win and made it clear before leaving school the teachers and parents should be afraid. Well, it didn’t quite work out as they planned, but I think they all had fun. After the first game, we learned how lasers work and different ways they are used. Students discovered they can be used for surgery, cutting materials with a laser engraver you can see at this laser cutter video, and of course laser tag. Then it was time to play our second game. This time it was boys vs. girls. The dads certainly came to play, leading the boys to a victory.

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Exploration of Elementary December 2015

Explorations of Elementary – December 2015

After Thanksgiving break students were excited to get back to work. Several of our older elementary students began researching Ancient Rome and Greece. They set their own deadlines and dove into their work. They drew maps of the empires, clothing, and made lists of all the famous gods and goddesses. It was amazing to watch them wonder through history exploring the things that stood out the them and were the most interesting in their minds. I was even more impressed with their work ethic throughout the research. Nothing was assigned, but every topic was covered and they all worked together to complete their work. I am excited to hear their presentation when we return from break.

Other students were looking into their personal family history by creating a timeline of the family members living in their houses. They also explored the Story of Numbers and Story of Writing. These are two of the Montessori Great Lessons discussed in elementary each year. We talk about how writing and numbers came to be and how they have changed over time to better serve the needs of humans as we learn and grow. We look at visual timelines, charts, and examples of various styles of writing and numbers. The kids love to see how other people used to write and how it is similar or different from how they write today.

Of course, with Christmas approaching we spent time preparing for our annual Christmas Show. This year the students voted to perform the play, The Nutcracker. Parts were chosen and everyone worked diligently to learn their lines. We read several versions of the book, watched the Disney version of the story, and some students even went to see the ballet with their families.


I was very impressed with how well each student learned their part, memorized their lines, and helped each other perform well. I think their favorite part was creating all of the props. The students designed what we needed based upon the script, and went to work!


They cut out a fireplace, mantle, Christmas tree, and made a beautiful candy gate. They added flair with colorful painting and three-dimensional decorations. Our play was a wonderful success. I was so proud of the students!

To kick off our break students came to school in their pajamas (so did the teachers) and had a blast playing games and watching Christmas movies. This is such a fun day for everyone! The highlight was joining Ms. Courtney’s class to play Pie in the Face.

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I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Explorations of Elementary November 2015

Explorations of Elementary

Students were diligently focused on completing their research projects during the first part of November. Some students were finalizing their planet pizzas with slices of information about their chosen planet, while others were further back in history during the time of the dinosaurs. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students were proud to present their first full research report, complete with maps, drawings, visual aids, a bibliography, and a creative presentation. All of the research was displayed at our Thanksgiving Feast for families to enjoy together.


A highlight of the month was our field trip to the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum. We began our tour in the Discover World where we were able to follow up with our dinosaur research as we learned more about several dinosaurs we had researched, and one special dinosaur, the Allosaurus. In this Natural History Island we were able to create fossils and see how archaeologists dig for fossils, and we enjoyed an authentic mastodon skeleton, whose fossilized remains were discovered in the Canton area.


In geography we have been designing various types of maps. Several students have mapped out their bedroom, while others have been working on state capitols and coastal plains. A few older students were very impressed with our new Bohr Diagram. We learned the parts of an atom and how to build an atom on the board. Each student helped create hydrogen, then oxygen. The then discovered that atoms sometimes like to share electrons, so we had hydrogen and oxygen share. Every eye in the lesson grew wider when they discovered why water is sometimes referred to as H2O. Aha moments make teaching so joyous! 🙂

Explorations of Elementary October 2015

Explorations of Elementary

Our trip to Hale Farm was one of the best field trips! Each student enjoyed the walk along the beautiful grounds and the fall colors surrounding us. We began in the wagon house, where we saw several different styles of carriages once used. We then ventured into the barn where we learned about a special crop commonly referred to as broom corn. This corn was grown and used to make sturdy brooms for sweeping floors and long brooms to clean rafters in the barns.

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From here we went into the home and saw how the women would have made candles, yarn, and cider. We watched a farmer hitch up a team of bulls used to plow fields. I think everyone’s favorite part was watching the blacksmith create a hook and seeing a classmate “punished” in the old schoolhouse, by standing in the corner with a book on her head. We also watched a glassblower create a beautiful red glass cup. Everyone agreed this was a great trip and they all want to return soon.


Our elementary Reading Groups meet every Tuesday afternoon to spend time reading as a small group. We have divided up into three small groups, each reading different books. All three groups spend time doing language and grammar work, and practicing reading fluency aloud. One group has been reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Ronald Dahl. This group has been focusing on types of nouns, syllables, compound words, and rules of capitalization. They recently began making a Capitalization Rule Book, in which they are writing all the rules to reference when they write. Another group has been reading short stories from the Junior Great Book series, poetry, and the children’s classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, and Rumpelstiltskin. This group has been focusing on new vocabulary and learning definitions by using context clues and the dictionary. The third group has been reading the biography of Jackie Robinson, which has been a favorite for many of them. This group has also been studying types of adjectives. They learned there are two adjective classes (descriptive and limiting), and discussed 8 other types of adjectives within these classes.

Throughout the week students choose three spelling activities to complete in order to practice their words. These activities can be writing a sentence using spelling words, writing spelling words in cursive, or putting them in alphabetical order, to name a few. Then each Friday Ms. Sara meets with students to go over their personal spelling activities. She then quizzes them on their list and helps them choose new spelling words for the next week.

Students planned a wonderful Halloween party full of crafts, board games, and Halloween themed food. And no party is complete without decorations! The class volunteered to join a committee of either decorations, food, games, or crafts. Then each committee made a list of supplies needed to fulfill their duties and hung the list on the wall in the hallway for families to bring in. On the day of the party students enjoyed seeing each other’s costumes, playing their favorite board games with each other, creating a Frankenstein and spider craft, and of course getting candy!

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The food committee was so dedicated to making pumpkins out of oranges, mummies out of pretzels and string cheese, ghosts out of bananas and chocolate chips, puppy chow with candy corn, and pizza to create the ultimate Halloween themed meal.


Explorations of Elementary | Week 4 & 5

Explorations of Elementary | Week 4 & 5

In the elementary classroom research is an important part of our history, language, grammar, and science curriculum. We are able to teach almost every subject through research projects. We can introduce students on how to look topics up in a dictionary (alphabetical order); how to use an index (alphabetical order); what an index and glossary are used for; how to read and find factual information versus opinions; how to decipher good information from great information; writing a bibliography (what is a bibliography and plagiarism); how to write full, interesting sentences and make a paragraph flow; how to edit a paper, checking for spelling and grammar mistakes (punctuation and spelling lessons) – just to name a few. 🙂

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We have several research groups going on currently. One group is focusing on Dinosaurs. They exploring different stages scientists believe the earth has gone through and what each stage looked like. They are also learning the different types of dinosaurs, what their names mean, the habitats of dinosaurs during different time periods, and special characteristics of the different dinosaurs.

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Another group is focused on our solar system. Each space researcher has selected one planet of interest and will be learning about the size, make-up, atmosphere, and climate. They will also find out about the moons (if any) of their planet, and about space travel to their planet.

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The third group will be focusing on Ancient Civilizations for the entire school year. Currently, they are learning about Ancient Mesopotamia. This group began with drawing a map of Mesopotamia, identifying current country boundaries, the 3 main areas of Mesopotamia, seas and rivers, and the area formerly known as Mesopotamia. They also started reading about the climate, history, food, clothing, and government of the time. They are compiling their information into a research paper and will give a presentation on the part they find to be the most interesting.

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In the above picture, students are working on equivalent figures.

Explorations of Elementary | Week 3

Explorations of Elementary | Week 3

After several team building activities in the classroom and on the playground, students put their new skills to work on our canoeing adventure in Canal Fulton, Ohio. Children were placed in groups of three and set off down the Tuscawaras River for a three mile excursion. Their first task was of course how to steer a canoe. Several groups went from one side of the river straight across to the opposite side. A few groups even started out backwards. Despite the rough beginning, all teams learned how to communicate, help one another, and everyone reached the checkpoint successfully!

We have planned these team building activities in and out of the classroom at the beginning of the school year with specific intent. Team building is a great way for students to grow in their social skills. It allows students to work together in social situations just as they would in the classroom, their daily lives, or down the road in the workplace.  Team building challenges students to problem solve and execute working with others. It shows them how to be accountable, the value of teammates, and teaches appreciation for others strengths. The skills will lay the foundation for success in working on projects with classmates throughout the school year, as well as later in life. The skills will lay the foundation for success in working on projects with classmates throughout the school year.

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Inside the classroom, students began their study of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. Magister Brandon brought outlines of gods and goddesses and students were to name them, color them with the appropriate clothing, and draw a symbol representing what they were the god or goddess of. On the playground, children enjoyed a competitive game of capture the flag during gym class.

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Two students have discovered a passion for geology and planned our very first “Going Out” Experience of the school year. We will be going to the Kent State Geology lab in October! They can’t wait to see what real geologists get to do everyday.


Explorations of Elementary | Week 2

By the start of the second week lessons were in full swing. Several students are enjoying learning new materials like the “Racks and Tubes” that teaches long division, the “Checkerboard”, which teaches multiplication of numbers into the millions by up to a 4-digit multiplier, new science experiments in our “lab”, and the “Box of Sticks”, which introduces the children to concepts of Geometry, such as types and parts of triangles, lines, angles, and polygons. We have even ventured into the theorem of Pythagoras with the right-angle scalene triangle.

Reading groups began this week as well. Students have been divided into three groups. One group is reading classic children’s literature, another is reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the third is reading the biography of Jackie Robinson. This week began our first Art, Music, piano, Latin, and Gym classes. Students were learning how to greet one another in Latin, how to shake hands like the Romans, and what countries made up the Roman Empire. They played scooter soccer and hockey in Gym class.

To end the second week, students had their first Student-Teacher Conference with Ms. Brandy. This is where they must present all of the work they have completed during the week, and the things that are still being worked on. Together, Ms. Brandy and the students, plan the following week so they can stay on track, know what to expect, what is expected, and be accountable for their efforts. This is a time to check and adjust any plans that have been made so the students are successful in their work. This also gives the child a feeling of personal responsibility for their education, and teaches them that the work they do matters.