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Sandra's Lower Elementary Class

Welcome to Northeast Lower Elementary! I am anticipating a great school year together with your children. I look forward to seeing where their excitement and interests lead them in their studies. I feel honored to partner with you in fostering growth and a love for learning within your child.


Sandra Besselsen

Sandra Besselsen, Lower Elementary Guide
Jodie Tasch, classroom support

Room Parent

Mary Schiller

February 7, 2019

I have had a really nice time talking with all of you this week about your child’s progress in the classroom. Writing the reports causes me to pause and reflect on all the wonderful things the children have been doing, but it also gets me excited to look at what these last few months of school will look like. We have lots of time to move forward, gaining knowledge from new lessons and deeper understandings of old lessons. The children have had a great week and seem to be feeling comfortable back in our normal routine together. It may not be green outside, but I have been bringing some green into the classroom with a few botany experiments. The children have enjoyed predicting and watching what has been happening with the plants. Last week, we had a fun time experiencing opposites through movement such as acting like an uncooked spaghetti noodle and then getting tossed into boiling water. On Monday, we will be spending some time talking about the TCH Open House and what that might look like for each student. The new format offers a great opportunity for each child to showcase what work they love best! It should make for a very interesting evening with a nice variety of presentations.

What does concrete have to do with poetry? Is there something special from our class in the Gala auction? How are milk and aliens related?

January 21, 2019

While teaching in the Dominican miles from home, another culture and another language, I was able to experience the Montessori philosophy and lessons at their best.  I am lucky to have been able to visit such an amazing community of learners. Even with the language barrier, I was able to teach lessons and the children and I were able to find common ground to use to communicate.  I hope to be able to share all the things I was able to take in while working under the lead guide in the DR. The last few days back, we have really been working on gaining back our work habits and getting some momentum started with practicing new lessons.  We’ve done some large group exercises on listening. It was great to see you at parent visiting day. This always causes some good self reflection on the child’s part.

What sport did Wrigley start for women?  Who does the farmer need to do his job and why?

January 7, 2019

It has been truly a great start to 2019 in the classroom! I feel like the children have come back refreshed and ready to get to work. This feeling of rejuvenation has seemed to be great motivation for lots of practice. While many new lessons have been given to smaller groups and individuals, we have all been participating in some experiments together, looking at the properties of air and the combining of different substances. Swimming is always an enjoyable time for the children. Many of them have already been pushed outside of their comfort zones in order to stretch their abilities in the water. This experience is a great extension of our environment. Even though we aren’t quite halfway through the year, I am starting to see the growth that has happened since September and looking forward to seeing where the momentum will bring us.

Who is Miguel de Unamuno? What were girls not allowed to do in the late 1950s according to Out of Left Field? What 100th anniversary was celebrated this week?

December 13, 2018

Our graph in the classroom shows the days getting shorter as we approach the shortest day of the year.  I think all of us are feeling this as well. The children have been diligently taking notes and writing drafts for their holiday studies.  While this is always hard work and takes time, it is very meaningful, working through the process from beginning to end and then learning from one another’s traditions they have researched.  It also gives the children some practice, on a smaller scale, for the timeline of the research fair in spring.

We have taken advantage of the season and used the traditional and familiar poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas to practice reading aloud, with expression and memorizing.  It is fun to hear the progress with the children’s fluency and confidence as they all work on their couple of lines.  

We have started a series of lessons that focus on knowing and understanding the different roles people play in society and creating a sense of gratitude towards each of those roles. We started with looking at all the different roles people have just to eat our toast for breakfast in the morning.

Start up a conversation!  Practice O Christmas Tree with your child including the German verse! What was your favorite biography this week? What few lines are you memorizing from A Visit from St. Nicholas?

November 29, 2018

November has gone quickly for me! While it is hard to be away from the classroom for two weeks, I had a wonderful time in Karin’s classroom. I am especially grateful to have had the opportunity to student teach with a colleague from across the hall. I have already implemented a couple routines that I really enjoyed in Karin’s room. It was also very beneficial to observe the classroom that the the lower el students will eventually become a part of. I have spent much of the week in one on one meetings with students, touching base with the students on how they are feeling in the room and work that they have been completing. This is always needed after such a long time away.

With the Stone Soup Feast in our rearview, we have now started to think about the holiday studies. We have taken some time this week to brainstorm some topics and do some reading. Students will be researching a variety of traditions from the United states and around the world. I look forward to helping out with and hearing these studies as there are so many different topics, from the history of candy canes to the Parol star lantern of the Philippines. We have also began reading some books that are up for the Caldecott Award. This has been a lot of fun as the books are so well written and it gives us a chance to talk about how the amazing illustrations help tell the story. I look forward to having the next few full weeks in the classroom before the children are off for a well deserved break. I will be focusing on bringing some more variety to the classroom with some new lessons in science and history that have not been presented yet.

Some questions to spur conversation. What will you be researching for the holiday study? What Caldecott Award book have you enjoyed most? Who are Milo and Meddy? The substances that form the Earth settled according to their weight forming what layers?

October 25, 2018

This past summer, I heard a story about Maria Montessori setting up an aquarium with the children in their classroom. The children worked to create the right environment for the fish and many of the younger children watch it closely. One day, it was discovered that the fish were dead. The younger children told anyone who came into the classroom about the fish being dead. They were feeling the loss of the fish. The older children did not only report on the fish, but asked the question, “Why did these fish die?” The observation, care for and study of animals is an important part of the elementary classroom. Children at this age have an interest and curiosity in animals. Further study and care for them help children develop greater knowledge of their functions and role they play in nature. A couple weeks ago, a dead snake was found and those who wanted to we were able to dissect the snake. We enjoyed exploring the snake together. The children then identified the snake by using identification books and the Michigan DNR site. It was a great conversation to listen to as the children pinpointed which characteristics lead them to decide that it was the Eastern Milk Snake. We ended with a conversation about respecting the animal even while using it for a science lesson and the children buried the snake. I am very grateful to work in an environment where the children and I have the freedom to explore so freely.

It was so great to see so many parents at Parent Visiting Day and I look forward to conferences next week.

How long does it take for a pumpkin to mold? What is one difference between the book and the movie Wizard of Oz?

October 11, 2018

Stories are an important part of the elementary curriculum, especially stories that introduce children to new people. Children at this stage of development are looking for people to admire. We try to bring in stories of the people in history that have come before us like those who first noticed the sun rising and setting in different places on their land or the Egyptians and Babylonians that discovered the best means to measure when the yard and kilometer were not yet used. We also tell stories of modern people who have influenced culture. After hearing a brief story, some children chose to explore the art of Andy Goldsworthy last week, creating their own art inspired by Goldsworthy’s work.

New this year, I have brought in a few different editions of Scholastic News. The children have really enjoyed reading these articles together in groups. The nonfiction news snippets have inspired follow up work like measuring the amount of sugar in soda and observing the decomposition of a pumpkin. This has given me a great opportunity to listen to the children read aloud to one another, gauge comprehension and find what piques the children’s interest.

A few important dates are coming up. Parent Visiting Day is October 17th from 8:30-9:30 and school will be closed for a professional day on October 19. Please make sure you sign up for conferences, which will be on October 30 and November 1. The link to sign up is on the Compass. I look forward to talking with you.

Quick questions for conversation. What is a coo? What is a lesson that you have enjoyed practicing?

September 27, 2018

The first few weeks seem to always lends itself towards lots of reminders, intervening and establishing process and routine in the classroom. I have been in the midst of this focus, and I am now eager to redirect myself a bit, and spend more time observing the children. Maria Montessori stressed the need for observation. Observation has two purposes in the classroom. First, to comprehend the needs of the child and respond to those needs. Secondly, to endeavor to remove whatever obstacles there are that the child is facing in his growth and development. I love to give lessons and work alongside the children, and lunch conversations always help to get to know a child a little more, but it is also these important observations made from a distance, that reveal more about the individual.

It has been a busy last week and a half. You may have heard your child talking about Meals on Wheels. The first two children from our class will go out this week Friday to serve seniors in the local area. We have had our first couple mystery readers this year. It has been really great. The children have enjoyed it and we have all been introduced to new stories. If you are still interested in being a mystery reader, please work with Mary Schiller on a date. You might hear your child talk about weekly math. Weekly math has been introduced this week and will continue throughout the year. Weekly math is a weekly set of problems the children are responsible for. Just like math facts, it is a small piece of work in the classroom that children work on alongside practicing math lessons with the materials. The sturgeon arrived on Tuesday this week! Watching the sturgeon grow and observing its care will be an exciting opportunity for the children.

The class picnic has been rescheduled for October 2. Hope to see you there!

A couple questions for your child. Why do we experience a fall equinox? Who are the tub people? What is the best part of you?

September 13, 2018

It has not been a full two weeks yet, but the classroom is already beginning to feel like home for most of the students. Jodie and I are starting to see each of their individual personalities and where they will play an important role in our community. I have started to hold my individual meetings with the children, which should happen every other week. This is a special designated time that I check in with each child about how things are going and gives them an opportunity to ask for particular lessons or voice any other things that may be on their mind.

It has been so great giving new lessons and reviewing old ones, either renewing or inspiring interest in a concept. I have given the first two great stories, which open the door to other learning experiences. We have been working on a new song, Ging Gang Goolie. The children have had a lot of transitions. Transitions to new schedules, expectations, lessons and more, but they have made this transition, from summer to the school year, beautifully. Jodie and I are lucky to be a part of that.

I always like to provide some questions to ask your child, which might help with conversations about their days these past couple weeks. Who is Billy? What is one new lesson that you received this week? What is the Timeline of Life?