A Community of Learners

Curriculum Update

  • January 9, 2018 - March 22, 2018

    Math:  We have begun our third-quarter concept of "Systems."  In math, this idea includes:  systems of ratio tables and graphs, systems to compute with decimals and percents, how integers differ from rational numbers, and short-cuts to calculate with fractions and mixed numbers.  Some students are working at the 7th- or 8th-grade level with these topics!

    Reading:  Our whole-class book for this unit is The Phantom Tollbooth.  We have looked at the system of idioms and how applying the literal meanings rather than the figurative meanings can create humor.  Each student also chose at least one small-group book to read:  Chains, A Wrinkle in Time, Night of the Spadefoot Toads, or George's Secret Key to the Universe.  We practiced having jobs in Literature Circles in order to keep the book discussions flowing well.  We also learned a system to decode and define multi-syllable words called the Ending Grid.  We will finish up with learning root word systems to help identify meanings of advanced words.

    Writing:  The entire district focused on “Informative and Explanatory” writing this quarter; however, we also included fictional writing, and the cursive writing system.  This was important in relation to our AmeriTowne unit, since students need to have signatures in order to sign their checks and deposit slips.  We are finishing up with analyzing various systems that authors use to write non-fiction (includes:  Cause-and-Effect, Problem-Solution, or Compare-and-Contrast).

    Science:  We are studying human body systems now, and will begin mixtures and solutions next. 

    Social Studies:  Our AmeriTowne unit was our focus for this quarter, and did we have fun!  We explored the systems of checking accounts, branches of government, elections, and employment.  The job interviews were a highlight of this unit!  See the Photo Gallery for pictures of this amazing event.

    Social/Emotional: We have spent most of the quarter working on Key #5 in the Go For It! book program.  Students have talked a lot about what it takes to set and achieve goals. 

    Passion Project:  Students have become accustomed to earning their Tinker Tuesday time each week during this quarter.  It has been very helpful to teach them how many small steps it takes in order to accomplish a large project!  Our final presentation day has a tentative date of May 16, 2018.  


    August 17 - September 15, 2017

    Math:  We have begun the year learning the Order of Operations, which is part of algebraic thinking.  This skill will be the foundation of future higher-level math, so we are taking our time making sure that everyone has a good understanding of the standard.  If you hear your students talking about P.E.M.D.A.S., they are discussing math!

    Reading:  After an introduction to our “Explore, Discover, Reveal” concept, children began reading Little House in the Big Woods.  In our focus on reading comprehension, we will be doing deep character analysis, investigating theme, and comparing/contrasting details throughout the historical narrative series.

    Writing:  The entire district is beginning with “Narrative” writing this quarter.  We have talked about 4 different styles of beginning a story (true personal narrative or an imagined story).  We briefly reviewed how to use dialogue and correct punctuation.  We will continue to work on this throughout the year.

    Science:  We are studying weather now, and this week, the students created and performed skits to show how weather could affect explorers.  We will learn the tools used by meteorologists to measure weather as well.

    Social Studies:  We have read two short non-fiction texts on famous explorers.  We will delve more deeply into this topic by writing a non-fiction piece in the coming weeks.  We are also making connections to pioneers.

    Social/Emotional: In September, we will begin our first goal, focusing on having a positive attitude.  During the summer, I contacted the author of the Go For It! book program!  She is an amazing person, and I hope to have her communicate with the students this year to further their growth in positive habits and in understanding their personal development.

    Passion Project:  You may have heard about our balsa wood bridge project!  The purpose of having all students work on this in-depth project together is so that they can get the feel of the time-intensive nature of a high-quality Passion Project.  We will focus on accountability and advanced quality work this school year.


    May 1 - May 25, 2017

    Math:  We will continue the 6th-grade curriculum, working on Expressions & Equations, Geometry, and Data & Statistics.  

    Writing:  Our final test on Greek and Latin root words is coming up soon.  

    Social Studies:  To build an understanding of the Navajo culture so that they could better understand the novel we are beginning, students researched and are demonstrating three fundamental influences of/on the Navajo First Nation.  

    Science:  We tested our egg steam ships!  We learned that we must improve our knowledge of engineering a great deal...

    Reading:  We began reading a middle-school-level book called Code Talkers related to our 4th-quarter theme "Balance."

    Social-Emotional Goal:  We began Key #6 - I use my imagination every day to become the person I want to be!

    Passion Project:   Our Presentation Night is coming... May 17, 2017, 6:00-7:00 pm.  Cookies and juice will be served.


    April 3 - April 27, 2017

    Math:  We began the 6th-grade math curriculum.

    Writing:  Non-fiction essay about hearing and a non-fiction paragraph about humans interacting with the planet's natual resources.

    Social Studies:  PARCC testing

    Science:  A review of mixtures and solutions

    Reading:  We began our final concept:  "Balance."  Book reports due April 27.

    Social-Emotional Goal:  Key #5 - I Set and Achieve Goals!  We wrote goals on how much we wanted to increase our spring NWEA scores, as well as continued writing and reading cards to build habits that move us forward.

    Passion Project:   Students did a practice presentation for a classroom in the main building.


    February 6 - March 23, 2017

    Math:  We have worked on the standards addressing Measurement and Data, and we have begun our Geometry unit.  

    Writing:  As your excited children have probably let you know, our published books have arrived!  We will plan an Author's Celebration in April.  After finishing and sending in the copies to the publishing company, we focused on writing Opinion pieces of writing. 

    Social Studies:  After the busy time preparing for the AmeriTowne field trip on Feb. 24, we relaxed with a brief unit learning the 50 states and capitals.  What a fun challenge!

    Science:  We completed units about fossils and the human body.  We also wrote one of our opinion pieces as a Critical Thinking experience using several articles about fossils. 

    Reading:  After the financial literacy books that related to the AmeriTowne unit, we began a College of William and Mary unit titled:  Explore, Discover, Reveal.  As part of the unit, we have been listening to A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle.  The very difficult vocabulary in this novel is excellent exposure to higher-level reading and writing.  

    Social-Emotional Goal:  Our discussions around Key #4 have focused on making wise choices.  We will continue reading the positive habit cards from Key #3  everyday from now until summer. 

    Passion Project:   The children have just finished an initial presentation for critique by their peers ("I noticed...," "I wonder...," and "If it were mine, I might...").  They will be working this week to include the suggestions and improvements suggested by their classmates.  Please, have ALL materials brought to school by Tuesday of the week after spring break!  We need to use them to prepare a second practice presentation to classrooms in the main Pennock building in April.


    January 23 - February 3, 2017

    Math:  We have continued our fractions unit with multiplying and dividing, and converting between fractions and decimals.  

    Writing:  We are furiously working to finish our published books by Feb. 20.

    Social Studies:  We continue learning the AmeriTowne unit to prepare for the 5th-grade AmeriTowne field trip on February 24, 2017.  We still need two more parent volunteers to attend the field trip with us!

    Science:  We have returned to studying planets (4th grade) and weather (5th grade).

    Reading:  The books we are reading are called Lunch Money and Using Money.  They coincide with the AmeriTowne unit.

    Social-Emotional Goal:  Our discussions around Key #3 have focused on writing positive habit-building cards.  We will read these cards everyday from now until summer. 

    Passion Project:  We talked about making a Research Resource Kit (RRK).  Please, look for an e-mail soon with specifics!


    January 10-20

    Math:  We will be taking the final test on our current unit (Fractions) on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017.  

    Writing:  We just completed an independent non-fiction essay today.  All of the previous outlines and essays were written with support from the teacher and peers.  This will reflect what each student has mastered from the process of writing a non-fiction essay.  Results will be shared soon.

    Social Studies:  We have begun learning the unit to prepare for the 5th-grade AmeriTowne field trip on February 24, 2017.  Although 4th-graders won't go on the field trip until next year, this has been a fun learning opportunity, and we can go into more depth with the topics next year.

    Science:  We have been exploring plants in our current unit. 

    Reading:  The book we are reading is called Beyond the Horizon.  We are using it to relate to our Social-Emotional theme now for Key #2:  I Believe in Myself.  We have been working on the vocabulary with much energy!

    Social-Emotional Goal:  Our discussions around Key #2 have focused on building a "Treasure Chest" of our interests, talents, and abilities.  This will lead to discovering and developing our talents, and maintaining a positive attitude will build skills and confidence.


     First Semester End

    On Friday, December 9, parents and families got a glimpse of interest-based research that students have been doing.  See us highlighted in the 27J Compass here https://www.sd27j.org/Page/6766 .  These “Passion Projects” are immensely important to gifted and talented students for many reasons.  

    What did children learn through this process?  

    • The software program Screencastify, and the effort necessary to create an instructional video
    • Presentation methods:  Google slides, Google docs 
    • Teamwork - sharing materials, supporting someone else in a project, and how to get needed help on yours
    • Content about your subject area
    • Content in a new subject area (possible new PP ideas)
    • Self-confidence with the hard work it takes to become an expert in an area
    • Responsibility for self-guided learning
    • How to handle failure

    What will change for second semester?  

    We will continue to work in the Project Room four days per week, but the times will be structured differently, leading to more challenge and deeper learning. We will also see more models of possible presentation methods and share our learning earlier in small groups so that improvements can be made.  This form of critique helps build the “thicker skin” many GT students need and shows them that it’s okay not to be perfect the first time.  The level of depth can also increase, leading to more thorough and advanced learning, higher vocabulary development, and more mature presentation formats.


    November 14-December 2, 2016

    Math:  We are working on the standard “Numbers and Operations - Fractions.”  The unit concentrates on:

    * Finding and explaining equivalent fractions using visual models and traditional calculation methods,

    * Adding and subtracting with like and unlike denominators,

    * Multiplying and diving fractions and mixed numbers, and

    * Converting fractions to decimals.

    Writing:  Our writing unit is connected to the College of William and Mary unit, and is focused on parts of speech (grammar study) and writing about ourselves and our experiences & strengths. 

    Social Studies:  Fifth grade has been analyzing primary sources about the Jamestown colony and will soon be writing an essay about our research of 5 primary documents.  4th grade is finishing research on Colorado government and will do a short project on how the government can help fix a problem in the state.

    Science:  5th grade is working on a weather unit.  Fourth grade is working on a solar system unit. 

    Reading:  Our current theme for 2nd Quarter is "Make a Difference."  We are reading books/photoessays about famous people from the College of William and Mary unit.

    Social-Emotional Goal:  We are beginning a unit called Go For It! The Seven Keys to Success.  This program helps people build good life habits.  Key #1 - Have a positive attitude - begins Monday, Dec. 5.


    October 17-November 11, 2016

    Math:  We are working on the standard “Numbers and Operations in Base Ten.”  We will be having a MATH TEST on this unit next week, probably Tuesday.  The unit concentrated on:

    * Place value and patterns within that,

    * Reading, writing, and comparing numbers in numerical and expanded form,

    * Rounding, and

    * Fluently adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing multi-digit numbers and numbers with decimals.

    Writing:  We continued work on non-fiction by writing an essay about skeletons.  We also began improving our writing of summaries (short stories and non-fiction articles).  We continue our work with learning Latin root words, prefixes, and suffixes in order to carry those skills into decoding advanced-level texts.

    Social Studies:  Fifth grade is working on a Tic-Tac-Toe choice menu of research projects about the colonies in our land before the American Revolution.  Fourth grade is preparing for the Rendezvous experience in December.  We will soon be working on analyzing primary historical sources.

    Science:  5th grade is working on a weather unit.  Fourth grade is working on a solar system unit. 

    Reading:  Our current theme for 2nd Quarter is "Make a Difference."  We have begun small reading groups.  Students selected texts this week, and we will begin digging into the vocabulary and analytical concepts next week. 

    Social-Emotional Goal:  We just finished a unit on ending the habit of procrastination.  Some children can very clearly explain strategies that they used to help make improvements, and others will continue with me in a small-group setting to continue working to change these habits.  By popular demand, our next unit (starting Monday) will address organization.


    September 12-23, 2016

    On Sept. 15 in math, we took Part I of the assessment in the Standard "Operations and Algebraic Thinking."  These standards focused on using the four operations (add, subtract, multiply, divide) and writing a letter (variable) to represent the unknown quantity in an expression or equation.  Part II of this standard, which we began this week, includes factors, multiples, prime & composite numbers, patterns, and graphing on the coordinate plane.  Questions to ask your child:  What/how many prime numbers between 1-100 can you name?  

    In writing, we finished the first Performance-Based Task, which was writing a Narrative (a story).  This week, we began reading and writing non-fiction. Questions to ask your child:  (4th grade) What non-fiction text features will you include in your "Migration" essay?  (answers can include:  photos with captions, highlighted/bold words, glossary, diagrams with labels, section headings, maps).  (5th grade)  How is your Time Line like non-fiction writing?

    In social studies, 5th-graders are continuing a Time Line of historical events from 1491-1776.  The 4th-graders have been learning about groups of people important to the history of Colorado.

    In science, 5th-grade continues the "Mixtures and Solutions" unit by making fast-growing salt crystals and separating mixtures/solutions, and 4th-grade begins the "Magnetism and Electricity" unit.  Questions to ask:  (4th grade)  Why do you think magnets don't stick to some metal things?  (5th grade) How are slow-growing and fast-growing crystals different?

    COMING SOON!  Blog post about math instruction and philosophy!

    As always, please e-mail if you have any questions!  lcoleholmbo@sd27j.net


    September 5-9, 2016

    This week in math, we continued our work in the Standard "Operations and Algebraic Thinking."  Our first unit test will be next THURSDAY, SEPT. 15.  This is a combination of the 4th- and 5th-grade standards.  While some students who already demonstrated knowledge of those standards have done extension work during the lesson time, all students will be required to take the final assessment for report card purposes.  We focused on multi-step problems and interpretting remainders.

    In writing, we discussed the various ways to write the lead to a narrative story (either real or imagined).  We will soon have a Final Performance Task in which students will have to write a short story to a teacher-selected prompt (date TBA).

    In social studies, 5th-graders are working on creating a Time Line of historical events from 1491-1776.  The 4th-graders have been learning about Life Zones in Colorado.

    We are combining science and reading a bit this week, as we wrapped up our Rock Candy lab and discussed information about the environment and caring for nature.  Both grades levels have been reading fiction and non-fiction where people/characters depend on or care about nature.

    As always, please e-mail if you have any questions!  lcoleholmbo@sd27j.net