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February 2019 Highlights  

Upper Elementary - Marsh and Forest 

Some Upper Elementary children have lots to share with parents about their school day, though many don't share much.  In fact, you might think that not much happens at all given what your child chooses to share about their day! If this is your experience, try asking more open-ended questions.  Open-ended questions require more than a one-word answer.

Here are some questions that children can easily answer with only one word:

  • How was school today?
  • How are you doing?
  • Did you have a good day?

Here are some examples of more open-ended questions to ask your child:

  • What lessons did you have today?
  • What was the best part of your day?  
  • What was the hardest part of your day?
  • What did you learn about today?
  • What work did you choose to do?
  • What was interesting for you?
  • Who did you work/play with?  (Follow on question: How did it go?)
  • What did you accomplish or make progress on?
  • Were there any conflicts? (Follow on questions: How did that make you feel?  Were you able to solve the problem?  If not: How could you resolve the problem?  What steps can you take?)
  • What did you feel good about today?

If you do get a one-word answer from your child, you can always follow it up with an open-ended question or request for more information, for example:

  • Why...?
  • Can you tell me more about this?
  • How did that make you feel?
  • What can you do to solve/resolve this problem?
  • What do you need to do first/next?

One of the important goals/outcomes of these daily conversations with your child is their SELF-EMPOWERMENT!  That is, you--and we--want your child to develop: self-awareness, a sense of their own power and ability to affect change in themselves, their communities and their world.   You also want your child to develop the ability to solve problems and the ability to advocate for themselves/for what they need. These daily conversations with your child are an essential and vitally important part of their growth and development as human beings!  You are their first, and most important teachers and guides to life!! As teachers/guides, our role is to support you in your child's growth and development.


January 2019 Highlights  

In Upper Elementary, language continues to be very important as children move into accessing more text completely independently and writing proficiently.

  • We focus on reading, writing, language, and speech in many different ways. We read in book clubs, for read-aloud, and independently.
  • We write in many genres, completing the writing cycle with persuasive essays, fan fiction, movie reviews, personal narratives, short stories, poems, how to articles, and many others. 
  • We dive into spelling, word study, parts of speech and sentence analysis, grammar, and punctuation. Concepts like abstract nouns, the apostrophe, homophones, and idioms are eagerly explored by upper elementary children who start to notice the specifics of language more and more. These pictures show two examples of language work that require careful attention to words.
  • While we only occasionally give formal speeches, we think about how to present ideas clearly in conversation all day long – in planning, collaboration, problem-solving, and presenting and sharing finished work. 

There are always more ways to deepen our study and use of written and spoken language, and upper elementary minds have a wide variety of experiences with language. 


December 2018 Highlights  

In some ways, independence in upper elementary is similar to that of younger children; for example, though the 9-12 year olds are capable dressers, they continue to work on self care in other ways, like hair combing and face washing, especially as their bodies start to mature. In the classroom, we support this physical independence in many ways, for example, by providing more complex kinds of practical life experience, like baking or cooking projects or designing your own experiments.  

A typical elementary type of independence is intellectual. I see this show up strongly in Marsh in the children’s sense of justice and quest for understanding. Upper elementary children are curious about the world and open to learning lots of new things. When a nine-year old passionately defends the right of everyone to have a fair amount of snack, plans a going-out (a self-directed, interest-driven, small-group field trip!), or get passionate about hurricane research, these are examples of intellectual independence. I often note how popular persuasive essays are in upper elementary; this type of writing so perfectly exemplifies their reasoning minds! They love to explain and defend their points, then try to anticipate what others might think and build a counter argument. It’s so exciting to watch their intellect grow as they develop their own opinions and reasoning. 


November 2018 Highlights  

In Upper Elementary at Cornerstone, as at other levels, community is key. Children are working on more complex relationships with each other and are able to think about community and responsibility in a more abstract way than earlier. In Marsh, this means we have many conversations about words we use, about tone of voice, about what it means to have things be fair (which is not always equal). Developmentally, elementary children are in the age of the reasoning mind and want to make sure they know why we all do what we do. They work together to develop fair systems for the community, from how to make sure everyone has the computer time they need to how to distribute extra snack to how to best take care of our class pets. One of the main ways we develop these group agreements is through class discussion during Class Congress, a weekly meeting with the agenda determined by the children. The pictures show examples of the issues children bring to the group. 

These skills of communicating, advocating for the community good, and taking responsibility for actions are things that everyone needs to do their whole life. As the year progresses, the children will have many more chances to do practical things that develop real life skills. For example, we will start doing more baking and cooking and planning more going-outs. Children will take more independent responsibility for caring for the environment and for contributing to the larger community, as when they support toddler recess. 

Of course, this work can only happen when children are connected, with some level of trust and empathy. We work to develop that not just through meetings, but also through games and celebrations, sharing and appreciating both our similarities and our many differences.  The work of building and maintaining community is vital and it’s lovely to see our children developing their skills in these areas. 


October 2018 Highlights  

Despite the grey weather, things are active in Marsh! The equinox in September brings great opportunities to learn about the Sun and the Earth and how daylight changes around the globe. Many children were excited to learn that almost everywhere on the globe, people had 12 hours of daylight and 12 of darkness on September 21 (whereas today we’re down to 11 hours, 21 minutes). 

Children are also exploring acorns and learning about how native people processed them for food (see pictures). They will tell you it’s hard work - shelling, smashing, soaking out tannins. We aren’t sure we will ever get something edible, but it sure is exciting to try to figure it out. 

As we transition to less day light (but hopefully some sun, right?), it is more important than ever that children have the clothing they need to support their active learning. Please check to see if your child has extra clothing and has what they need to go outside every day. 

It is an honor to work with your amazing children. Thank you for sharing them with us. 


September 2018 Highlights  

Greetings from Marsh! We have been busy getting settled into our new school year. As we work on getting to know each other, we have had many collectives establishing routines and agreements about how our community will work. Mentor groups have met several times a week to take on construction challenges – testing the strongest columns, making the longest paper chains, designing a stand built of newspaper that can hold a basketball (see pictures). It’s been a great way to practice communicating and working with other people. Work in all areas is humming along. Already one of our favorite times of day is read-aloud, where we are enjoying Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. Thank you for sharing your amazing children with us. It’s an honor to work with them.