By The Great Horn Spoon

This week, we started a new book by Sid Fleischman titled By The Great Horn Spoon.  We reviewed the different elements of stories and learners began to discuss the motivations and traits of the two main characters, Praiseworthy and Master Jack.

Later this year, we will be doing a readers workshop unit on Character Studies and Historical Fiction Book Clubs. I am using this book to model reading and book club techniques that learners will practice independently later this year. Having a model and mentor texts helps learners reflect on their previous experience so they can be more successful when they practice independently.

Our focus has been on main character traits and how the character’s journeys on the story mountain can be found in all stories.  We will examine secondary characters and how their journey impacts the main character’s journey either positively or negatively.  We will look at how characters change and lessons that they learn. As readers, we will think about how the lessons of the main character, can teach us lessons we can use in our own lives. Through character examination we learn to recognize themes in the story as well as story structure.  If you read with your learner at home, spend some time examining the characters traits, discussing the story structure and looking for themes.

We will also be examining the setting, characters, and story elements of By The Great Horn Spoon to make connections with our unit study and our Argonaut Journal Project (more details to come).  Please encourage your learner to share their connections with you.


California History: The Mexican American War

As part of our California History unit, learners studied real and fictional historic characters who were alive in 1846 during the U.S. war against Mexico.

This week, learners practiced using our non-fiction reading strategies to read about The Bear Flag Revolt and the events leading up to the Mexican American War. As a class, we talked about the importance of this war in determining the fate of California; after the war the Treaty of Guadalupe was signed and the land that now makes up California (that was part of Mexico before the war) became part of the United States.

Looking at the map, learners were impressed by the large amount of land that changed hands from Mexico to the U.S. at the end of the war. The goal of the lesson was to show learners that there were many different perspectives and opinions about the war. Even though the war took place in Texas and lasted only two years, it played a significant role in our state’s history.

Yesterday, learners studied the role of one characters from history and learned about about their opinions regarding the war. Today they interacted with others in a “tea party” format. They socialized with other characters and talked about the important events leading up to the war between Mexico and America. This was one of the most exciting tea parties I have ever attended as an educator. We have an incredible group of actors and actresses. They were able to have interesting conversations about a difficult topic! Following the tea party, we reflected as a class. Here were some of the class’s reflections:
“Some people who worked for the U.S. army didn’t think the war was fair, even though they were fighting in it.”
“William Lloyd Garrison was opposed to the war because if the U.S. won, he was worried there would be more slave states in the United States.”

“Jefferson Davis was for the war and said that if the U.S. won the war, there should be more slave states.”
“War isn’t easy. Some people think it will be fun but it’s really not. There’s a lot of diseases and death in war.”
“Women in California had more rights under the Mexican government than the U.S. government. Many women were against the war.”
“Some people thought it wasn’t fair that half of Mexico’s land was taken by the U.S.”
Some of their learners left the lesson with their own opinions of the U.S. war against Mexico. Some were undecided. Ask your child how they stand!

We finished the activity by creating portraits of our characters using coffee as paint.

Rancho Sanchez Adobe

Today we had a fun filled day, working hard at Rancho Sanchez Adobe House. We built model shelters using the same materials the Ohlone would use. Then we made candles, Adobe bricks for building, and lassoed cattle for our hide and tallow trade.

Lady Washington Field Trip

Today we set sail on the Lady Washington. Divided into our crews, we experienced navigating, hoisting the sails, and practiced our negotiating skills as traders. This was the first year we’ve done this trip and I loved it! It was such a fun way to connect to our Explorer Unit. I can’t wait to see how our explorer projects are inspired by today’s learning.


Counting Collections

We’ve reached 10,320 orbeez in our class counting collection! Our class has worked together to build a mathematical model and counting collection. We’re literally building our understanding of place value, equal size groups, power of ten, multiplication, and addition. Although we will dig deeper into these big ideas, the conversations and early connections were exciting and fun! The best part is we’re not done yet; deconstructing our collection will open up discoveries in subtraction, division, arrays and so much more.

Currently, we are zooming in on multiplication. Over the coming weeks we will be developing and deepening our conceptual understanding of topics including: problem solving equal size groups; finding factors, multiples, prime and composite numbers; distinguishing additive and multiplicative comparisons; analyzing patterns; deconstructing base ten place value; and using the three read strategy to solve word problems.

Reader’s Workshop: Building a Reading Life

In Reader’s workshop we have building a reading life. Part of learning to love reading is figuring out what makes reading successful for us. We began the year making goals, tracking our progress, reading books like they are gold (we are always on a treasure hunt), and sharing our reading ideas with others. At the beginning of the year, learners often struggle with confidence sharing their ideas. They think that their idea might be wrong or a “bad idea”. To help build confidence, we have spent a lot of time building each other up and supporting each other because we value everyone’s ideas.

Using our read aloud, Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner, we have started practicing comprehension strategies that help us talk and write about our reading. Each colored strategy in the image below is a mini-lesson we have worked on over the past few weeks.  After I teach a strategy, the learners will practice by writing in their writing about reading notebook or on “jots” which are post-it notes that they can share with me or their classmates.

One of the best ways to support your reader at home is to talk to them about their reading. You can ask them to try these strategies with you or you can model them if you have a shared reading book that you read with your learner.

Writer’s Workshop: Crafting True Stories

We have been very busy working on our first writing unit: Crafting True Narrative Stories. We began our writing process by brainstorming ideas. We thought of people and places that are important to us to help spark ideas. You’ll notice from the images below, that each anchor chart has several colored strategies under a big idea or step in the writing process. Each of these strategies is a mini-lesson taught in the first 15 minutes in class, then practiced independently or in a small group. During independent practice or group work, I focus my time meeting one on one or in small groups to help differentiate learning based on each learner’s goals. Please take a moment to look at each of the strategies and talk to your learner about the story they have been working on. You’ll notice one of the strategies we have been working on is rehearsing the story orally MANY times to get help from partners, practice different leads, add more storyteller voice or action. This could be a fun connection for you to try at home.