19 Dec

Third Grade Book Club

Submitted by Ms. Kanter and Ms. Sussmann

One morning in late October, the third graders arrived and followed their usual morning routine.  They read their morning message.  But this message had something unusual.  It said that there would be an exciting announcement at morning meeting and that we would be having a community morning meeting with the whole grade to announce it.  The students were abuzz, trying to guess amongst themselves and asking the teachers for clues.  After a few minutes, both classes gathered in one of the classrooms in a large circle and morning meeting began.

Finally, it was time for news and announcements.  Students heard about their schedule for the day and then were told they were about to hear about something they would have the opportunity to do that was brand new to the 3rd grade.  They heard about the fun that adults have when they get together for a book club and were told that they would soon have the opportunity to have a real book club … on a cold December night … with their parents.  They were invited to wear their pajamas and were told that the evening would end with milk and cookies.  Smiles were seen around the room as kids began to chatter with excitement.

Finally, Wednesday, December 7th arrived, and it was time for the parent-child book club.  Parents and children arrived with their books ready to discuss the book Frindle written by Andrew Clements.  After a few minutes of gathering and chatting, parents and children went to their assigned rooms.  There were so many people that participated that we needed to use 5 classrooms to hold 5 book clubs.

Parent volunteers were the book club leaders.  They were provided with a discussion guide, and they led their group in conversations about the book.  Members shared what they liked, what surprised them and other thoughts they had while reading.  It was a time when they could hear new insights and express their own opinions.  It was clear that both adults and children really enjoyed the book and then having a discussion with others about it.

At the end of the meeting time, each club pulled a raffle winner who was then able to choose a book to take home.  After all book clubs finished their lively conversations, everyone met back together for milk and cookies and smiles.  It was a wonderful evening that brought 3rd graders, their parents and their teachers together in the spirit of shared literacy as a Dwight-Englewood community.

19 Dec

Second Grade Explores Englewood

Submitted by Mrs. Byrne, Mrs. Geller and Ms. Gomez

On Wednesday, December 14th, the second-grade classes embarked upon a “Tour of Englewood”.  After learning about the three types of communities, urban, suburban and rural, the students enjoyed touring our local suburban community.  Their tour included:  a drive down Palisades Avenue to observe and learn about commercial space; a visit to Englewood Florist to learn about a local small business; a stop at Englewood Police Station for a tour; a close look at City Hall; a drive by Mackay Park to see community recreation space; a stop at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center to tour and learn about our community healthcare; and a drive amongst local streets to observe and learn about residential space.  The tour was complete when we drove by our own Head-of-School’s residence!

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Mrs. Byrne, Mrs. Geller and Miss Gomez were our tour guides for this trip, and they highlighted the physical characteristics such as landforms, buildings, roadways, and the transportation system.  They pointed out the human characteristics such as workers, residents, volunteers, and people working in government agencies.  Finally, they highlighted the cultural characteristics such as historical markers, food, languages, and recreational facilities in the city of Englewood.

The students absolutely loved this trip, and it was a great way for them to see a suburban community in action!

02 Dec

What’s Happening in First Grade?

The Lower School faculty members that eagerly work with our D-E first graders have provided a glimpse into some of the work that they are doing in writing, music, wellness and technology.  The students are so busy that we will have to provide updates about art, math, reading, science and Spanish in the coming weeks.

Writing Workshop:

Once upon a time in a far off castle known as Dwight-Englewood, 30 first-grade princes and princesses were learning about fairytales in their classroom with Ms. Farrar, Mrs. Koteles and Mrs. Muus. They read magical stories during reading workshop where they discussed characters, problems and solutions, and the setting of stories. Then, their magical fairy teachers granted them magic of their own. But, instead of using wands, the children were given pencils. With these pencils the first-grade students began writing their own fairytale stories in writing workshop. Will the children finish their stories before the clock strikes 12:00? Well, as we have all learned, fairytales always have a happy ending and all the children will live happily ever after.  The first graders look forward to sharing their fairytales with each other and their families soon.

Music:

While exploring music with Mary Heveran throughout the first grade year, each month first graders are introduced to the lives of the famous composers.  They begin with Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart.

Children at this age are very interested in what life was like for these composers when each of them was 5 or 6 or 7 years old.  Each month when a composer is featured we learn about the composers family life, interests, what instruments each played and whether or not the family encouraged music or thought it was not important.

Here are some interesting facts that the first graders learned.  Perhaps there is something listed that will be new information for you.

Were you aware that at age 9 Bach went to live with his older brother, since his parents had died?

Did you know that Handel’s father did not want any music in the house and on the day that Handel played the march in church for the Duke of Weissenfels, the Duke insisted Handel study music.

Did you know that Haydn was expelled from the Boys Choir at St. Stephen’s Cathedral only to eventually be asked to live in the palace at Esterhazy where he served as conductor for the orchestra?

Were you aware that Mozart could play clavier at age 3 and violin at age 6 without ever having had one single lesson?

Along with these interesting facts, children also listened to Toccata and Fugue written for organ by Bach, The Messiah written by Handel, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart and a favorite- Surprise Symphony by Haydn.

Mary’s hope is that by exposing children to these stories and music they too will be inspired to play and compose music and perhaps be the composers we read about someday.

Technology:

While working with Mrs. Nicolaou, the first graders have been experimenting with robotics and programming using Bee Bots. The children program these little robots using buttons that control the robot to move forward, backward and make turns. In addition to teaching sequencing, estimation and problem solving, they are also learning the fundamentals of coding. There is also a Bee Bot app that offers challenges that further expose the children to coding.

Why do we value introducing coding in first grade?  Coding empowers children and helps them understand what is behind the games and technology they will use in their life. It changes their perspective from passive consumers of technology to active problem solvers. Bee Bots are the perfect way to begin coding with young children.

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Wellness:

While working with Mrs. Franco, the first grade has been discovering how to safely move and follow instructions during health and wellness class. They have been engaged in activities, tag games and challenges that include following directions, decision making, risk taking and cooperation.

They are also starting to utilize throwing, catching and defending skills in simple games and activities in preparation for the sport “Team Handball”. First graders are also incorporating physical fitness activities and games in class in preparation for Fitness-Gram testing that will happen during the winter.

02 Dec

Peeking into Kindergarten

Have you ever heard the saying, “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten”?  The kindergarten teachers, Mr. Coyne, Mrs. Fiore, Ms. DeCos and Ms. Augustus, like to think it is more factual than just a saying, even though it puts some added pressure on us to get this important job done.

These days, however, it is challenging for us to know exactly what our children will need to know in preparation for their future.  If you have ever heard Dr. De Jarnett speak about the future that our children are facing, you have likely heard from him that the vast majority of jobs our children will be doing when they enter the workforce have yet to be invented, which presents us with an interesting challenge.

For example, the three C’s can be found all over our Reading Workshops, where we have been focusing on story structure by reading books that don’t have any words.  Students are asked to use the pictures in these books to help them craft stories in their own words.  They need to be cognizant of characters, settings, problems and solutions.  They use story language and transitional words as they move from the beginning of a story to the middle and from the middle to the end. Much of this Reading Workshop work is done with different partners.  Students need to clearly communicate with each other in order to give these stories words. They must also be actively listening so teams can create a cohesive story that makes sense.  Additionally partners must compromise, as teams are deciding on which book to work with, what the characters’ names should be, how their voices should sound and what details should be included in their story telling.  A solid understanding of the way stories operate will be extremely beneficial for students as they begin decoding and interpreting texts, or reading, on their own.

Our Writing Workshops also lend themselves to practicing communication, collaboration and compromise.  Recently, students have been working on personal narratives or true stories about their lives.  A premium is placed on coming up with a plan for writing before students even pick up a pen, so they are asked to communicate specific story ideas with a writing partner.  Students let each other know which part of their story will go on each and every page making the actual pen to paper writing much less stressful.  Writing partners also work with each other during the revision process, letting each other know about things that can be fixed up to make a story the best it can be.   At the conclusion of our writing units, students are given the opportunity to publish stories they’ve written, share them with classmates and compliment each others hard work.

In both of the above examples, as well as nearly all other times of day, kindergartners are challenged to explain why they think the things they do because in order to successfully communicate, collaborate and compromise we must first develop an understanding of each other.  These things are the foundation of a successful community, and how to be a part of a community is something students will always need to know.