Thursday, April 21, 2016

Varied Learning: Post Vacation Plans

Photo Link and Information
Students will likely arrive back to school on Monday happy and relaxed after the wonderful weather vacation week we've had. They'll also likely have a full blown case of spring fever after all of this good weather and play. What's on the agenda for the final weeks of school?

PARCC/Systemwide Prep and Test
On the first day back, students and I will review a host of problem and topic types in math as the next day students will take the systemwide middle school transition test. This is a test of all the material we've covered in the math curriculum to date, and it's a test meant to give us an idea of students' overall knowledge level with regard to our K-5 math curriculum. The results are informative and used, in part, to inform middle school teachers about students' math knowledge levels and needs.

Once that test is complete, we'll practice math problem solving as we prepare for the PARCC test using facts and figures related to the local endangered species, spadefoot toad. I'll revise PARCC practice problem types to include spade foot toad related numbers and information. Later, and just before the PARCC tests, students will review all computation learned in the past year. I plan to include lots of science facts and figures in the computation review so that students are also rehearsing science information for the MCAS test as they computer.

Local Endangered Species--The Spadefoot Toad
Our work with Drumlin Farm, Mass Audubon, and the Nyanza SUASCO Grant, will find us raising a local endangered species, the spadefoot toad. Students raised tadpoles when they were in first grade and studied endangered species in fourth grade so they have some experience with this, however, this time we'll deepen that work by connecting it with the responsibility to raise and care for local endangered species. As part of this study, Dr. Bryan Windmiller from Grassroots Wildlife Conservation will speak to the fifth grade about this work in mid May. Later we'll work with Drumlin Farm to re-enter the spadefoot toads we raise into their natural habitat. Students will study about the spadefoot toad in reading/science research class too.

River Habitat Study
We'll also use river facts and figures as we prep for PARCC problem solving since part of our study this spring will involve learning about the river habitat. To do this we'll welcome Drumlin Farm naturalists who will come to the classrooms to teach students about river habitats. Later we'll explore our own habitat near the narrow Dudley Brook and Concord's Great Meadows which lies along the Sudbury River, a river that also meanders through our school's local environment. Students will learn to study the river habitat with a number of activities and tools that parents, high school students, and teachers will learn about during a guided naturalist training by Drumlin Farm's Education Director, Robin Stuart in May. This naturalist training has been planned as one way to help our student leaders lead students' study of their local habitat.

Biography Research and Presentations
Students will continue to research and write their biography presentations. These presentations had a great jumpstart just before vacation with the help of many high school students who joined us as part of their high school service day. The teacher who takes charge of writing will lead our efforts in this area as we prepare for the early June presentation.

Science Week
The days leading up to the Science MCAS tests will find us reviewing science facts and concepts studied since kindergarten with video and targeted review lessons and study.

Play Practice
Our fifth graders will also prepare for the fifth grade play during this time so there will be a lot of rehearsals and practice for this signature learning event that the whole school community looks forward to.

Field Studies and Special Events
We'll travel to Boston to walk the Freedom Trail and hear many wonderful stories of America's past. We'll also have Field Day at the High School and as mentioned before our "Amazing Adventure" tour of Great Meadows. In addition, parents have planned a number of celebratory events since this is the students' last year of elementary school.

The year will also include a number of great special events including the school concerts, picnic, book fair, service learning events, and more.

Students will engage in a number of STEAM explorations once the PARCC and MCAS tests are complete. I know that I'm very excited about this hands-on learning part of the year.

It's going to be a very busy eight weeks of school ahead! Time to prepare the teaching/learning ship for the next leg of the journey :)