Can you Didgeridoo?

As a part of our unit on Australia, we have been learning about the Aborigines – their music, art, Dreamtime stories, their relationship with animals and nature, and the struggle to keep the traditions of their people alive. After researching the artwork that the Aborigines are most known for – dot, x-ray, and cross hatch – the children were each given a PVC pipe “didgeridoo” to decorate in the Aboriginal style. We then watched a movie of an Aboriginal man named David Hudson who “taught” us how to play our didgeridoos. Don’t miss the video of us playing below!

Making our Campus Even More Beautiful!

This week we got together with our fifth grade buddies to plant native plants around campus. This event was sponsored by our student organization called EAG (Environmental Action Group). With the help of science teacher John Cunningham, students from EAG explained how to properly plant these native species, and then each buddy pair planted at least one. Buddy groups from across the grade levels will be doing this over the next week or so. Our campus will be thriving with these lovely additions!

Australian Landscapes and Haiku

Australia is known as “The Land of Contrasts” because of its varied landscapes – from red deserts to cerulean oceans. After viewing many photographs of places in Australia from books as well as from watching parts of the video “Australia the Beautiful,” the children each chose a landscape to paint using watercolor and then wrote Haiku to go along with it for our poetry unit in writing.

Perimeter Exploration

Today the children were given a challenge:

They worked in partners to explore the possibilities.

They then recorded their findings:

The children began to realize that the more “compact” the shape, the lesser the perimeter, and the more “nooks and crannies” or the longer the shape, the greater the perimeter. We found that the greatest perimeter is 36 and the least is 18!

Love is…

Inspired by an interview with poet and children’s author, Kwame Alexander, on NPR, the children were given the prompt “Love is…” They could finish that phrase any way they wanted in a statement or poem. The results were quite amazing! NPR asked for teachers to send in their students’ responses to this prompt, so I did! Listen on Valentine’s Day to see if they are read aloud when Kwame Alexander returns for another interview!

Writing Partnerships

“Writers from the very young to the most advanced benefit from having someone who is a trusted confidante, a sounding board, and a cheerleader.” – Lucy Calkins

Last week, the children were assigned their partners for our next writing unit on personal narrative. These partnerships are very important for a variety of reasons. Not only does having a partner help children to bounce ideas off of each other, get them thinking in a different way, and to catch basic editing errors such as spelling and grammar, but also, it gives them opportunities for one-on-one social interactions –  practicing questioning, complimenting, and critiquing in respectful, helpful ways.

Once the partnerships were established, we brainstormed a list of the kinds of things good partners would do. During each writing period, the children will hear a mentor text read aloud, then practice starts of stories for several strategies such as: choosing a small moment with a person who matters to you, a special place, a meaningful object, or a “first or last.” After writing for about 20 minutes, they meet with their partners to share what they have written and hear some suggestions. Each pair also has a special spot in the room that they go to each time they meet.

Capture the Grid – A Multiplication Game

As we are learning more and more about multiplication, playing games can help us conceptualize what happens when you multiply two numbers. This game, “Capture the Grid,” provides a geometric interpretation of multiplication whereby the numbers landed on the spinners  determine the dimensions of the rectangle “array.” The children play against a partner and, with each turn, they have to draw their array on their grid. The first one who cannot fit their array on the grid is “out.”

In addition to giving the children experience thinking about the relationship between multiplication and the area of rectangles, the lesson also provides problem solving experience. They need to think about how to place the rectangles on a grid to cover the maximum number of squares possible which involves spatial reasoning ability. Also, thinking about the rectangles to use to cover a specific number of squares on a 10 by 10 grid engages students with a problem that has more than one solution. (Marilyn Burns)

Old vs. New – a Building Project

This summer, in collaboration with our art teacher, Karla Matheny, a new idea for a third grade building project was hatched. Knowing that we were changing our curriculum for Early Connecticut to “Connecticut Now and Then,” we thought it would be interesting and fun for the children to work with a partner to create 3D buildings from the 1830’s and then the modern version of that building. As we presented this idea to the children in November after our visit to Old Sturbridge Village, great questions emerged such as “What materials would have been used in the 1830’s for buildings vs. modern buildings?” and “How did the styles of the buildings change over time and why?” These questions fueled their exploration in the art room.

The children worked first on the buildings of the 1830’s for two art periods. Each pair of students did a different building: a schoolhouse, a tavern, a bank, a sawmill, a farm house, and a print shop. After the buildings were constructed, they had the opportunity to add details such as people, furniture, and other features such as fences and gardens. The excitement in the art room was palpable!

The next part of the project was to think about the differences between the 1830’s buildings and the modern versions. The children constructed these out of different materials and added a variety of details.

Finally, we invited Margy’s first grade class to join us so that the children could present their projects to a captive audience. As our guests moved from table to table, our third graders explained the differences between buildings “Now and Then.”

We are Really “Digging” our Archaeology Unit!

In 3Z over the past several weeks, we have been conducting investigations about a simulated dig derived from an authentic archaeological site, called the Greens Farm, that has been modified for the classroom. The goal of this unit is to help the students learn how to learn by figuring things out for themselves. They had to keep good records in their journals, think hard about the clues provided by the evidence, look for patterns in the emerging data, and continue to formulate their own questions along the way to solving the mystery of the dig.

The following photos will provide you with a pictorial account of our archaeological journey:

Here the children are looking at a contemporary map of the town of Portageville, NY and are comparing it to a map of the same area from 1900.


Next, we looked at an aerial view of the Greens Farm that had been gridded prior to the dig. We noticed the stone slabs that had been in this pasture since the Green Family could remember.

We had a lesson about stratigraphy and how archaeologists use this in their research.

After that, we turned over these cards to reveal what was found underneath the first layer. We were amazed at the shape of the foundation as well as how many artifacts there were!

We drew our own detailed map of this layer.

Next, we began to analyze the artifacts, and began to discover patterns.

Most recently, we have been researching floor plans of building of the late 19th century and looking up the artifacts we found in the Sears Catalogue of 1897 to see if we can learn more about their uses.

Up next will be making our final hypotheses about what we think this building was back in the late 1800’s and providing evidence from our research to back it up. Soon we will find out what this site actually was –  stay tuned!!




Early Connecticut Day

What an amazing day we had for our third grade Early Connecticut Day! The students certainly looked the part coming dressed as children from the 1830’s, and we tried as best we could to recreate the feel of a one-room school house in our very modern, twenty-first century classroom, by lining our desks up in rows with boys on one side, girls on the other. The children did one craft in each of the four homerooms in the morning – copybooks, cross-stitched initials, tin ornaments, and silhouettes – with a snack break for some delicious Jumble cookies and strawberry preserves, a recipe from this time period made by the Boone family. We then had lunch in the classrooms, followed by generously donated apple pies, after which we shuttled off to Whitney Workshop to make old fashioned toys. It was a busy but memorable day, and we could not have done it without the help and support from all of our 3Z parents! Thank you for making this such a special day!