Reflections on the 2016-2017 School Year

As I sit here in my house typing this, it still has not quite hit me that the last day of school has come and gone.  Is it true that the children that I have grown to love will no longer walk into my classroom as my children?  Did they really say good-bye?  Probably when I go to school on Monday, and I see the empty classroom, it will then truly hit me.

For now though, I’m going to share some of my favorite memories from this year.

  • At the start of the year, we did a simple baking soda and vinegar experiment with a balloon.  The children were so excited and squealing in delight.  I was thrilled with their excitement for learning.
  • The children did the research and figured out exactly what we needed to have crickets survive.  We even had a parent come in and share her own knowledge about crickets.  We went to Pets Mart, picked up our crickets, and built little habitats.  Most of the crickets actually survived (unlike in previous years) so that we could donate the crickets to the nature program at Triple R Ranch.
  • A child, one day, told me that reading was boring.  I gave some encouraging words and suggested some books, which he did not show interest in.  Later, I began a whole group lesson, and this child was reading.  I jokingly said, “Wow!  If you think reading is boring and you prefer reading to listening to me, I must be super boring!”  The child smiled and said this was not the case.  Meanwhile, the rest of the class assured me through words and hugs that I was not boring.
  • A child told me she wanted to be a fourth grade teacher
  • On my birthday, the children created a giant card for me without me knowing (or at least I pretended I didn’t know what they were making) and took it around to the whole school to get everyone to sign it.  They even made me a crown as they presented the card to me.
  • When learning about geometry, the children asked if they could create a dance to help them remember.  They came up with some very creative dances.
  • The children drew me so many wonderful and beautiful pictures that I will keep.
  • On ugly Christmas sweater day, every single child came to school decked out in their ugly Christmas sweater; some had even made their own ugly sweater with random Christmas decorations.
  • The first time that we launched the trebuchets, they were rather unimpressive.  I tweaked them, and then the next day, I shocked the children when the trebuchet launched across the room.
  • The children’s creativity constantly surprised me whether their movie project, their problem solving, or their artistic abilities.
  • We had a medieval feast for our movie.  The children were so excited, and they loved that the feast included a boar’s head and other authentic medieval food.
  • Our field trip to Colonial Williamsburg was a lot of fun.  Throughout the rest of the school year, the children kept referring back to what they had learned there, especially the printing press that they saw in action.
  • Each of the children met the requirements to become knights.  I watched so proudly as our principal dubbed them into knighthood.
  • Then, there was the day that we studied the Black Death. I had told the kids that I was not feeling well and so would likely not be with them after lunch.  Mrs. Stephens came in and reviewed what we had talked about the previous day.  Then, she revealed that her hand was starting to turn black.  The children started rustling in horror.  Mrs. Stephens then said that they should call the doctor.  One child ran out of the room to get the nurse.  He then saw me dressed as the Black Death doctor.  He walked back in and said, “Uh…there’s a creepy man outside.”  I then walked in, and the children started screaming.  Some even went and locked themselves in the closet.  Mrs. Stephens gently explained that the doctor was here to help her with the Black Death (which the children later figured out was black paint).  Later, the children told me that they figured out it was me.  They claimed it was my shoes even though I went out of my way to make sure I wore completely different shoes.
  • At their final event, they mingled with the parents and shared their wealth of knowledge as the parents had to create a newscast.  I was so proud as I watched them get excited about all they had learned.  Thank you to all the family members who helped us out and made this little video below possible!
  • A child started asking more questions about God.
  • After studying the Roman Road, a child asked to accept Jesus as his Savior.
  • A child announced to the class in a very excited way that his brother had gotten saved over the weekend.  The rest of the class cheered.
  • During morning meeting, a child announced that she had gotten saved over the weekend and was going to be baptized.
  • A child shared her journal about God to the class.
  • While studying about trusting God, one child shared something very personal that allowed her to trust God more.  This encouraged others to share about how they had seen God work in their own lives.
  • Everyday, a different child would ask to pray.  Their prayers were so genuine as they brought the sometimes simple sometimes deeper prayer requests to God.
  • While studying Hebrews, I told the children that no one knew who had written this book of the Bible.  One child eagerly requested that they do research to try and figure it out.  The rest of the class eagerly agreed.  Without me guiding them, they used deductive reasoning to rule out various people because that person had died before the book was supposedly written. They also read portions of the book to determine themes.
  • The children shared with each other how to become a Christian.  They asked each other questions about their spiritual growth.

It has been a great year, and I am so amazed at the social, academic and more importantly the spiritual growth of the children. Thank you to each and every one of you for making this year so memorable.  I could not have done it without your constant support and dedication.  Words truly cannot express how thankful I am that God allowed us to spend this year together.  I will miss you all!  Please come back and visit!

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Who wrote Hebrews?

Before spring break, we studied the book of Hebrews in the Bible.  As I was introducing the book, I mentioned that no one knows who wrote Hebrews, and I continued explaining the various themes.  The children though became focused on the author; they eagerly asked who wrote the book and asked for any information I could give them.  I explained that people had theories but that no one really knew.

“Can we try to figure it out?”  they asked with anticipation.

I paused for a second before I nodded.  The class went up in cheers.  That day, they finished their assignments quickly so they could rush to the computer lab and begin researching who may have written Hebrews.

Completely on their own, they thought about when the book was written and when many of the potential authors died.  They concluded that Paul could not have been the writer because he had died the same year that it was written.

They read through Hebrews to find clues–the ending is like Paul’s but not the beginning. The writer mentions that the Christians in Italy send greeting.  Why Italy?

Soon, we had a list of all the potential people that it could possibly be.  Each person researched one person and wrote down his or her discoveries.  At the end of the second week, we presented our findings to the rest of the class.

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Then, each child wrote a paragraph explaining who they thought had written Hebrews.

One child in particular was convinced he knew who had written Hebrews.  He researched Pricilla, and he discovered that her husband had moved to Corinth from Italy, which would explain why the people in Italy send greetings.  They knew Paul, which would explain why it sounds similar Paul’s other letters.  And Pricilla had the perfect excuse for why it would be anonymous:  she was a woman.

I took the side of Paul.  I explained that tradition has Paul writing Hebrews, so why should we go against it.  People believe that he died in June, which would have given him six months to write this letter.  The book has some of the same themes that Paul promotes even though it is written in better Greek than his usual letters.  And if he did not write it, it is possible that this was one of his sermons that was written down by Luke.

Even within our class, there was no definitive winner.  Some said Paul wrote it, some Pricilla, some Barnabas, some Luke, which truly shows that no one knows exactly who wrote Hebrews.  As we discussed, we will never know the real answer until we get to Heaven.  However, we can continue to study to teachings of faith to learn how we can sustain our own faith through our lives.

Faithfulness Spreads

At the start of the third quarter, I announced to the children that we would be creating a movie about the medieval times.  As the excitement buzzed, I asked the children what we needed to do to understand medieval life better.  We came up with areas like clothing, buildings, classes in society, etc.

The children spent the next several weeks researching different parts of the medieval period and creating pieces to fit into our medieval movie.

Below is the end product.

Since our theme was faithfulness spreads, we wanted a way to spread what we believe about the God that we serve.  What better way to spread our movie than through the internet! Please enjoy our rendition of the medieval period as we share what Jesus means to us.

Special Week

This week was filled with things that were different than our normal routine, and yet the children handled each day with grace, kindness, and faithfulness.

On Monday, Mrs. Griffin came in and did a fraction presentation with circles pieces.  After exploring the circles, the children created fractions (example a half) with different pieces.  Then, they played a game to get a whole circle with whatever fraction they got creating it as creatively as possible.

On Tuesday, we had another special guest.  Mr. Finch came and taught us about electricity. He showed us his circuit board that he had created as a way to understand different types of circuits.  As the children asked him questions, he got their curiosity piqued about their everyday household items that use electricity.  They determined in the end that electricity produces heat energy, light energy, and mechanical energy.

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Then on Thursday, we trekked off to Colonial Williamsburg.  We did not go there because we learn about the colonial period; we went there because many of the trades have prior roots in medieval times.  At each trade shop, the children were to ask how this trade related to the medieval period.  Throughout the entire trip, the children were on their best behavior, and they were asking very intelligent questions at each stop.

We first went to the Governor’s Palace where the children saw things they recognized from the medieval period like swords and coat of arms among other things.

Our next stop was the Palace Kitchen.  Here we got to see how the Governor in colonial Virginia would have eaten.  With things like a brick oven and a stovetop, this is the same kind of kitchen that would have been seen in the castles of medieval period that cooked feasts and banquets for lords and ladies.  As I told the children, this is also a very special spot for me because I used to work in that kitchen as an intern while at college (and for the children’s enjoyment, I have included a picture of me working there).

As we continued exploring Colonial Williamsburg, we then went across town to the Post Office and the Printing Press.  Third grade went shopping first; while we went went down to the printing press.  As the interpreter explained the process, he was inking and stamping a newspaper.  The children shared how they too had been creating stamps in class to be able to reproduce the same image multiple times.  What is really neat is that the printing press that the children saw was made in the style of Johann Gutenberg’s printing press during the 1400s (a person that we will study next quarter).

Then we switched with third grade, and we had the opportunity to go upstairs and buy some souvenirs.

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The final stop that we went to before lunch was the tin smith and the black smith (both trades which have history from the medieval period).  And finally, what trip to Colonial Williamsburg would be complete without a picnic on the Palace Green?

And of course, I would be doing the children a giant disservice if I did not mention one more thing that we did this week.  We spent a good portion of this week filming for our movie.  Below is a preview.  The premier will be at our fruitful event on March 23 at 10:30 am in our classroom.  We look forward to showing you all of our hard work this quarter.

Video Game Day

Did you hear?  Two Fridays ago, the teachers here at CCA surprised the children with a Video Game Day.  The excitement was evident around the building.

Mario and Luigi showed up!

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On this side of the building, the intermediate teachers dressed up as characters from Wreck it Ralph.  (Ralph, Vanellope, and Fix-It Felix) There was also an appearance from angry bird–she’s the bomb!

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We mixed all the children up among the grades and rotated them.  To know which team they were on, we gave them each a medal with their team number and color.

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In Sugar Rush, Vanellope makes a car with Ralph.  So in the fourth grade classroom on Video Game Day, the children built and designed cars from random material in a crate.  They knew that cars would be going down a ramp, and they wanted to make them go as fast as possible.

In Fix-It Felix’s room, the children built and designed the ramps.  However, because of the great designs and the time needed to build them, we did not actually get to test the cars until this week.  The children were able to tweak their design to make it go all the way down and to make it faster, including adding weight or causing the wheels to turn.

Overall, the children were able to use creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration to confidently show off their designs.

Research Complete

This week, we finished our research of the medieval period.  The children met with their groups and discussed the information that they wanted to share with the class.  Together, they then created and presented a poster for the class.

As a class, we drew out a story map for what will happen in our movie.  Now, we’re on to the next step in our project: creating everything (from costumes to script to props to scenery) that we will need for our medieval movie.

The children are so very excited. In fact, they asked me if we could start filming; I had to remind about all we needed to do first.  But that is what the next few weeks are for.  Stay tuned…

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Fractions

How many of you read that title and got shivers down your back?  The very word “fractions” can cause fear for many people.

However, fractions are not something that I want the children to fear.  So instead of diving right in and doing lessons about fractions and what they are and what they look like, I bring in why they are relevant.

On Tuesday, after defining fractions, I asked the children, “Where will we use fractions in everyday life?  Why are we learning about them?

At first, the children stared at me.  Then one or two tentative hands went up, “For school?”

Yes, yes absolutely we use them in school.  What else?  What about outside of school?

Finally, we started picking up speed as we came up with things like measurement, art, baking, cooking, shoe sizes, store sales etc.

Then I asked them if they knew that photography uses fractions.  The children shook their heads.

I then had the opportunity to share one of my hobbies with them.  We explored the shutter speed that is written as a fraction (the larger the denominator the faster the shutter speed) and the aperture (the size of hole allowing light in.  The larger the hole, the smaller the number just like fractions).  The children were amazed, and they enjoyed learning about something that I do outside of the classroom.

(side note:  for any teachers reading, in the book Teach like a Pirate, the author talks about finding ways to bring in your passions into the classroom.  What are you passionate about that can engage the children into a lesson?  It’s an excellent book!)

Then of course, what lesson would be complete without some practice?  I cautiously handed both of my cameras to my children to take pictures (after going over of course how to hold and pass off).  One camera was practicing the shutter speed, one the aperture.  They could take 2 pictures of the same thing on each camera–one on varying settings (example a slow and a fast shutter speed).

The children eagerly took the pictures.  All I could hear was talk about the fractions and how the bottom number was larger so it must be faster.  So yes, all the pictures for this week were taken by the children themselves.

Though this was just the introduction to fractions and I recognize that not everyone left the lesson understanding completely how fractions work, the children at least rid themselves of any fear they may have had about fractions.

In fact, several students at the end of the week told me, “Fractions are fun!”  And that is the path that we want to continue on.