The foundation for all learning at the Village School is a strong sense of community. The children view themselves as integral members of their classroom and the larger Village School community. Students learn the important skills of learning with and caring for others and building responsible independence. Academic learning is enhanced when the children feel both safe to contribute their own original ideas and are open to hearing the ideas of others. Community building activities are present throughout the day, from morning meetings to group book talks to cooperative games. As part of community building, we are also working on ways to instill a growth mindset and cultivate responsible independence within our class. We are aiming to have a ‘can-do’ attitude and the students are learning about why this is important for their brain development.
Our Theme this year is Native Americans, with a focus on the Northeast Woodland tribes. Story is the vehicle through which we learn and explore Native American culture. The children hear a story of the week (or every other week) and think about how the stories reflect a tribe’s beliefs and way of life. When appropriate, we use stories from other regions of the United States. We investigate questions that we have about Native American culture and explore the lives of early and contemporary Native Americans. The children learn about everyday life of different tribes in the Northeast. Children have experiential and visceral experiences as they gain an understanding of theme. Their learning opportunities include making dream catchers, making and playing games, a monthly full moon project, and creating stories. Starting in January, the children choose a spirit animal. During this interdisciplinary unit, children will research their animal, create a spirit animal story and write a “just-so” story about the animal. The children live the life of their animal and what they learn finds its way into their play. Theme is interwoven into the other disciplines and culminates with an end of the year celebration. The children learn about theme through guided and independent research, reading together and individually, and by doing hands-on projects that bring the ideas we are thinking about to life.
During Reader’s Workshop children immerse themselves in a wide variety of books. Children are exposed to many different genres, from non-fiction to chapter books to poetry. The units of study will help students build skills to think deeply about the books they read. Children are given independent books from the classroom library. These books help them practice and develop skills, and offer the right challenge to extend their learning. We’ll also have group readers this year where we’ll read and discuss a common novel, which offers rich discussions, time to reflect and write about their thinking. We’ll explore themes in the novel, character motivation, symbolism, and more. This will help them to deepen their thinking when reading their independent books. Children will be assigned reading and writing homework for the class reader and when assigned, this supersedes reading their independent books. To enhance continuity between home and school, children carry their books home each day and should spend at least 20 minutes each evening reading independently. Throughout the year, children are read stories aloud as well.
Writer’s workshop is a time for students to think about their own stories and to communicate with others through writing and drawing. While becoming more skilled with the technical aspects of writing, children are also learning to find their own voices, craft writing pieces, explore different types of writing and to think carefully about language. Because it is important for students to let their writing flow and get their words on paper, they are encouraged to use their best choice spelling. Teaching students a variety of strategies to spell unknown words empowers them to record their stories onto paper. Some units of study for this year are: Poetry, Short Stories, and Report Writing.
Through journaling, children learn to record, value and reflect upon their own experiences. They are also creating seeds that may grow into later writing. Journal is a time for students to think about what is important to them and to get it down with drawings and/or words. We also use the journal as a place to collect the poems of the week. The children paste in the poem and write and draw about it. What they write about varies and helps them to work on close reading of poems.
Word Study is a time for students to practice building English language skills. Dictionary skills, vocabulary building and learning parts of speech are the cornerstones of word study. A component of word study is spelling. During spelling students learn spelling rules, words that break rules and other words. They also learn the conventional spelling for their best choice spelling words. They also have a weekly spelling quiz on Fridays. Word work helps students to increase their sight word list and serves as a bridge between best choice spelling and conventional spelling.
The Investigations math curriculum offers students opportunities to have multiple experiences with mathematical concepts through games and other hands-on activities. The students construct their own understanding and have a true sense of ownership of mathematical strategies and ideas. Children are encouraged to use multiple strategies to solve problems and engage with peers to stretch their thinking. The mathematical strands of number sense, geometry, data, and measurement are woven through the year. Investigations is aligned with the mathematical Common Core state standards. A letter explaining the mathematics will be sent home at the beginning of each unit. Students will receive homework that reinforces math concepts explored in the classroom.
Art classes are taught once a week with a focus on process-based art. Experimenting and playing with a wide variety of materials–paints, clay, sculpture, and the natural world–students are urged to explore, play and even be surprised; mistakes are seen as opportunities. Included are theme-based projects such as spirit animal masks and clay coil pots, projects often inspired by famous artists and collaborative projects that challenge students to work together to create a cohesive vision. It is the hope that by year’s end, each child will feel more confident in their unique expression and artistic vision.
This year we are singing Native American songs, as well as songs about nature and the seasons. Challenges will include singing in rounds or parts, and making beats and rhythms while singing. Students continue recorder, with some songs overlapping between singing and recorder class to help students to learn to play by ear. Recorder students should practice for at least 5 minutes a day at home.
Our focus in science is connecting children with the natural world, building observational skills, doing hands-on experiments and introducing some basic scientific concepts. The students will use different types of scientific equipment during class including magnifying glasses, dissection microscopes, compound microscopes, plant presses, and thermometers. The science curriculum is planned throughout kindergarten to 6th grade so topics are introduced during an appropriate theme and developmental stage. The topics we’ll explore this year include invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish and mammals. We will study the phases of the moon, the reason for the seasons, the solar system and an introduction to constellations. In the winter, we will explore tracking and do a series of water experiments. In the spring we will turn our focus to seeds, seedlings, and the Three Sisters Garden.
Homework is given every week. Spelling and handwriting is sent home on Mondays and due on Friday. Math is sent home Monday through Thursday and is due the following day. Other homework such as writing, independent projects or reading specified chapters of a class reader will be sent when deemed necessary. An integral part of your child’s homework is reading her independent book (unless reading homework is assigned) for 20 minutes a night. Homework should be able to be completed in 30 minutes or less (not counting reading homework). If your child cannot complete homework, please send in a note the day the assignment is due. When a child forgets to bring in homework, a purple slip is sent home and a parent needs to sign it. This helps to communicate what your child is missing and to help the work come in the next day.