Fourth graders in Ms. Saunders’ room have taken a close look at language in the second half of the year. They focused on grammar using the work of Michael Clay Thompson and learned a little Latin, broke down the eight parts of speech and diagrammed sentences. They read and discussed Junior Great Books stories and did a novel study and finished up the final Word Masters competition (see results in an earlier post). In addition, they studied the etymology of words. After reviewing some words in use during the Jamestown period as well as today and how their meaning has changed over time, they selected a Word Masters word for which they traced the history. In doing so they learned that the English language is comprised of words from many different languages and that our relationship with or use of words changes including the spelling, pronunciation and meaning. Students chose to create diagrams, comics or short stories to illustrate these changes in their words.
Their work with Ms. Taylor continued to include Math Exemplars, M3and Hands on Equations. In addition to doing research on the plants that attract and support songbirds for the third grade bird sanctuary project (see the article for third grade), the class created worm composters. They were inspired by an article that one of the students brought in about a family who had an incredibly small amount of waste each year—less than a garbage bag full! The students also learned that you can put tissue and pencil shavings in a worm composter. With the paper recycling project in place, we began to wonder if worm composting might be a way for us to further reduce the amount of classroom waste we create. As we learn the best approach to setting up and maintaining the worm composters and the worms quickly multiply, we hope to successfully set up other classrooms for composting next fall!
Fourth grade students analyzed primary source documents when they looked at multiple portrayals of Pocahontas in paintings that spanned many years. After reading information in a primary source reader, watching a video and considering the perspective of Chief Roy Crazy Horse of the Powhatan Nation, they thought like historians to try to determine the truth about who Pocahontas was.
To finish out the year and tie up the theme of relationships, students are reasoning about the disappearing honeybee after being inspired by a project they did with their art teacher, Sharon Bivens. They’re taking a close look at the possible causes of the disappearing bee and how each of those potential contributors to the issue have a host of stakeholders who have something to gain and lose as we try to solve the bee problem. For example, pesticides are used on plants to ensure crops are not destroyed by bugs. However, there is evidence that pesticides may be causing hive collapse disorder in the bee population. Though farmers may feel they must use pesticides to guarantee high yields and keep prices down for consumers, they may not have any crops if they depend on pollination by the bees. We hope that by looking at all of the connections to this one problem, students will solidify their understanding about relationships: everything is related in some way, all relationships are meaningful and relationships change over time.