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Sandra's Lower Elementary Class

Welcome to Lower Elementary NE!  Another year is upon us, full of exploring your interests, gaining new skills and diving deeper into old concepts.  I look forward to welcoming all of you into our awesome learning community.  I hope you're as ready for a great year as I am!

Sandra Besselsen


The secret of good teaching is to regard the child's intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination.  Our aim therefore is not merely to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his innermost core” ~Maria Montessori (To Educate the Human Potential 11)

Sandra Besselsen

Sandra Besselsen, Lower Elementary Guide
Jodie Tasch, classroom support

Room Parent
Carly Schultz

 Back to School Parent Letter

Classroom Highlights


The warm weather has been so great!  Some of us have been enjoying lunch outside.  We had a great time on our field trip last week.  The 3rd years came back dirty, sweaty and it was very apparent that they were working hard on the trails!  The 1st and 2nd years were able to do some hiking and learn more about the ecosystems around us in Northern Michigan.  We did some follow up work back in the classroom.  The children picked and chose their favorite Michigan plants and animals in order to create their own explanations of our ecosystem.  

We headed outside this week to make our last observations in the nature spot each student chose back in the beginning of September.  Spring was our final season to take time to make observations, taking note of how our environment changes throughout the seasons.  Just a couple of months ago, children were not able to draw because the snow was coming down on their books and today we had sunny, 90 degree heat!  

Just a heads up, I will be out of town for the next several days, returning Thursday, May 19.  I am celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary and will not be checking my email frequently.  Please include Jodie, jodie@traversechildrenshouse.org, on any communication.  



Writing non fiction is an important skill to learn.  It is fun to learn, and then report out about things that are interesting to us.  Often we might see this as a superior skill to creative writing.  April, National Poetry Month, reminds us that writing to express our feelings, thoughts and emotions is just as fun and an equally essential skill to practice.  Encouraging and practicing writing that uses figurative language is challenging.  Children need to hear and examine poetry that does this in order to help inform their own writing.  We’ve been reading a variety of poems and working on writing our own poems through different lessons these past few weeks.  Writing while being able to get rid of the conventions the children have to adhere to every day can be freeing.  They like creating shorter lines, playing around with the text on the page, exaggerating, and making up their own words!  Next week, we will have our own little poetry jam, giving each child a chance to share one of their own poems or maybe a favorite that they have read.  It has been entertaining and enjoyable to hear everybody’s poems.  The children often write about what they love and it’s great to see this come through in their writing.

I have no questions for you to ask your child this week, but a challenge!  Write a poem together as a family.  Try using one (or more) of these techniques:  alliteration, hyperbole, metaphor, personification, simile, onomatopoeia! They might need a little help remembering what each of these terms are.  We keep working on it!

Music with Angela Lickiss Aleo
We finished our cycle on the Brass Family Instruments and their long term project about The Magic Flute opera by Mozart before Spring Break. Since then the students have been learning about Mechanics and Music, primarily through hands-on learning. This includes various types of mechanisms that are used in the making of music, like music boxes, a musical tree, marble run chimes, and the marble machine. We have seen how simple machines can be combined to create complex machines. Ask your student how simple machines combine in different ways to create music!


Last week, William Kanner and Kristle Haberichter worked with the children in small groups to demonstrate the use of a microscope.  They brought in a variety of slides the children could use to observe their world through a different lens.  The kids absolutely loved it and it has inspired more work with the microscope in the classroom.  It was great for them to see that the work in the classroom can look similar to the work in an adult’s world.  

We have a busy next couple months.  There are several performances and presentations happening in April, including the school talent show and a play presented by the theater club.  I am thankful that we can all gather together again for these special gatherings.  Next month, we will celebrate May Day, visit the Boardman Nature Center for a day trip and then in June head to LOC for a couple of days.  

I can feel that spring is here with the energy the kids are bringing to the room.  There is definitely a sense of anticipation and upswing in moods with the warmer weather.  It was time!  Even with this energy, the children have had some great work cycles with hard work being completed.  

What is a purple people eater?  Play the game I am going on a trip and taking with me…  Can you name a part of the flower?  Who were our special observers this week and why were they here?


It was great to take time to chat with all of you a couple weeks ago.  Once Spring conferences are finished and the break, the year seems to fly by so quickly.  The last couple of months of school will bring new lessons, but we will also be spending lots of time perfecting and securing the skills and concepts already presented.  We want the children to bring lots of confidence in what they already know to next year, whether that be upper elementary or moving to a different stage in lower elementary.

We have been spending some time the last week creating a timeline to display people that are interesting to us.  It is fun to see the variety and who each of the students have chosen to research.  Some follow their interests closely such as environmental activists and others have chosen explorers, artists, sports figures, scientists, and many others.  Alongside this, the students also started writing a short personal essay of a memory they have in one of their favorite places.  This gives them a chance to share something from their own life with others, which they were eager to do!  

I hope everyone has a restful break next week.

Questions for your child. What type of guests does the bed and breakfast in our new read aloud specialize in?  What favorite place did you write about?  How do we know spring is here (*Clue:  Something to do with the amount of day and night we experience.)?


Almost daily, we have a time during group saved for Finished Work for Sharing.  This is one of the favorite parts of my day.  Big work like studies get shared during this time, but also the smaller work that the children have been working on is shared.  Often children are excited to tell about their new lessons that they have received.  Children take this opportunity to share work that has been a challenge to them or work they found fun.  Today, we had a group share some more difficult fraction work that they had a lesson on this morning.  This work ties in a lot of other knowledge they have accumulated from other lessons.  It was great to have them share because other children were able to recognize that they are working on math that will help them with this tough problem.  Sometimes it may look like children are just tracing shapes, but they are building an understanding of equivalence needed when working with fractions.  It may seem like a lot of work laying out bead bars and finding common multiples, but this experience is retrieved when looking for common denominators.  Laying out pegs on the pegboard to find the least common multiple looks like an isolated exercise, but it too gives a physical experience to recall when trying to figure out equivalent fractions.  It feels good for the children to see that all they are working on individually comes together and is used in different lessons down the road.  Having one group share their lesson today triggered many others to keep practicing lessons so they are ready when more is presented.  

Questions for your child.  What writing and math activity did you love most on the HundredthDay of School?  What do you like best about Parent Visiting Day? 


Art with Alison:
This time of year, when it tends to be gray no matter what time of day it is, I like to find some projects with COLOR.  So Lower El classes have been introduced to the artist Paul Klee.  His work is both abstract and colorful.  We discussed as a class his use of shapes and line in his work and especially focused on his painting titled, Castle with Sun.  His use of geometric shapes to make up his castle looks similar to building blocks.  Students used rulers and circle tracers to draw and build their own castles.  They then used black sharpie to trace over their lines and shapes.  Then comes the color!  Students are using watercolor to fill in the geometric shapes of their creations.  They were given a brief lesson on two different watercolor techniques and we discussed the reason for the name “watercolor”...It takes lots of water!  The students have really gotten into this project and the colorful castles are a bright ray in the midst of all the gray. 



We have been taking a close look at biographies.  It is our current genre box on the shelf.  Many of the biographies we have read discuss obstacles the character has had to overcome in order to achieve their goals.  We have read about Cesar Chavez, Yuyi Morales (an immigrant from Mexico), Venus and Serena Williams and William Kamkwamba (a self taught engineer from Malawi).  We have had some great discussions about perseverance.  These books have also helped us recognize that not everybody across the world lives the same way that we do.  

The second plane child has a strong sense of justice as well as admiration towards others.  The classroom needs to include stories that give the children examples of real heroes throughout history.  This shows the child what humans are capable of achieving.  It also creates gratitude towards those that have come before us, paving the way for a better life for all of us.

We are looking forward to welcoming you to the classroom for Parent Visiting Day on the 23rd, 24th or 25th of February.  If you haven’t already, please sign up for a time slot using this link.

Next week will be exciting with Valentine’s Day and the 100th Day of School celebration.  I have also heard of many vacations happening in February.  If you have not already, can you please let me know if your child will be gone in February.  

Questions to ask your children.  Which biography did you enjoy reading the most?  How did you build your boat?  What has been a challenge the last couple weeks, either in school or at recess? 


It is nice to have almost everyone back this week!  The classroom feels full of energy.  Things went well here while I was gone last week.  Jodie said that there was lots of practicing happening.  

We have celebrated a lot of birthdays this month!  The children are getting really good at creating an acrostic poem for each child.  We write each poem as a group.  First, we brainstorm together.  Each child offers suggestions for what makes the birthday boy/girl special.  What are their likes?  What do they contribute to our community?  What stands out about him/her?  The children are getting great at staying away from phrases like, “She’s nice.”,  “He likes to play.”, She’s a hard worker.”, etc.  If these do come up, I ask them follow up questions in order to get into the details of what makes this person kind or what does he/she like to work on the most or what do they enjoy playing.  This helps the children go beyond the more generic thoughts and think about what they really like about a person or what really makes him/her the person that they are.  Then we take all of these ideas and put them into sentences that fit in with the letters in their name.  This can be tricky, but it forces us to think about synonyms and stretching our minds (or using the dictionary) to find new verbs and adjectives that we can use.  I enjoy writing together.  It provides great modeling and practices working as a team, which sometimes means compromising.  

If you would like to read more about Montessori, there is a TCH blog that provides bi-weekly posts concerning Montessori topics.  Check it out if you haven’t already.

Questions for your child.  What are tops and bottoms referring to?  Who are we reading about that lives in Times Square?  What newer sound have I heard in the classroom this week?


Happy New Year!  It always feels good to come back and start the year fresh.  The children seem eager to be back with their friends.  These first couple weeks in the classroom have focused on getting back into a nice work routine.  We have been checking in with students on the details of their work journals, making sure that the year is starting out with establishing good habits.  Many new lessons have been given, and it is becoming apparent to many of the children that these recent lessons trigger an understanding of what has been presented prior.  Some children are being asked to think about lessons they’ve had a couple years ago in order to make connections with what is currently being presented.  This happens with concepts in all the areas of the classroom, from geometry to geography.  This is what is great about the Montessori curriculum; it is a constant building of new knowledge upon old, and will continue through upper elementary.  I love seeing the children’s past understanding come to light in these new lessons.  

We have also started something new with our weekly math routine.  The children here this week started work with Daily Fundamentals.  We will be practicing math and language using this system a couple times a week.  The children will be presented with math and language skills to practice that they have already been introduced to using the materials.  This will replace our weekly math time.  Daily Fundamentals is more streamlined while still fulfilling the purpose of weekly math.  It also gives the children a little extra practice with language and reading! 

Ask your child about a new lesson that they’ve had!  What new song did we learn last week and what does it make us think about?  What is our read aloud, Fortunately, the Milk, about?


We have had a busy few weeks!  The children have been working hard on finishing their Festival of Light studies. They have been cooking and baking their special dishes for the celebration of light on Friday.  The children have also been encouraged to practice lessons for the last time in 2021, finish up other studies and new lessons have been sprinkled in as well.  Throughout this busy time, we have taken time to sing a song together.  This gives us a moment of calm and reflection on finding our light during these darker days. Your children might want to sing it to you.  Here is a link to the version we’ve been using as our accompaniment.    Find the words below.

We recently finished our read aloud, I Can Make this Promise by Christine Day.  This has been one of the heavier books that we have read.  We had a lot of discussion while reading the book, not only to make sure everyone understood what was happening in the story, but also because the topics that came to the surface for the main character Edie were a little more complex.  The book brought up discussions concerning the treatment of Indigenous people in the 60s and 70s, as well as adoption.  The book emphasized the importance of discovering and celebrating one’s culture and ancestral roots.  It would be great if you took some time to talk with your child about what they thought of the book and their own history.  

I hope you enjoyed (or will enjoy - some kids are keeping it secret) your very special gift the children made for you.  Have a wonderful holiday season and great ringing in of the New Year!

Love Shine a Light
Love shine a light, in every corner of my heart
Let the love light carry, let the love light carry
Light up the magic in every little part
Let our love shine a light, in every corner of our hearts

Love shine a light, in every corner of my dreams
Let the love light carry, let the love light carry
Like the mighty river, flowing from the stream
Let our love shine a light, in every corner of my dreams

And we're all gonna shine a light together
All shine a light to light a way
Brothers and sisters, in every little part
Let our love shine a light, in every corner of our hearts

Love shine a light, in every corner of the world
Let the love light carry, let the love light carry
Light up the magic, for every boy and girl
Let our love shine a light, in every corner of the world

And we're all gonna shine a light together
All shine a light to light a way
Brothers and sisters, in every little part
Let our love shine a light, in every corner of our hearts


As our days are getting shorter and shorter and we move closer to the Winter Solstice, students have started their exploration into the different ways light is used to celebrate this darker time of year.  The children will be working in groups to create a presentation.  They will have something written, and possibly a visual and/or food to help present the information.  I look forward to the last week of school in December as we will have our own Festival of Lights!  We started this morning with a poem that I thought I’d pass along to you.   

The Shortest Day 
by Susan Cooper

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us—listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome, Yule!

Three weeks seems like a long time between our two breaks, but it has already gone so quickly.  There is a lot of energy in the room and we are trying to keep everyone focused, making good choices and finishing up big work.  

Questions for your child.  Where does our read aloud book take place?  What is your festival of light you are studying?  What did you like best about our Harvest Feast Day? 

From Andrea Deibler in the Kitchen: As I start to get my footing as the new Kitchen Director, it’s becoming clear that I have a lot of new names and faces to learn. Last week’s Harvest Feast gave me an excellent chance to meet so many of our students in a short amount of time, and get a better sense of the skill level of each classroom when it comes to helping in the kitchen. I’ve been so impressed with how students of all ages are able to peel, chop, measure, bake and use the kitchen tools with safety and confidence. Most of all, I am overjoyed that our students genuinely enjoy learning how to cook.

Our Harvest Feast each year centers around the story of Stone Soup. Just as the villagers in the story each add a humble ingredient to their soup, we ask our students to contribute an ingredient and their time to help prepare the soup for our lunch. Many hands make light work, as they say, and pretty soon we have a couple of huge pots of soup, chicken noodle and coconut wild rice, as well as a colorful fruit salad with pineapple, orange and pomegranate seeds, a kale salad with roasted butternut squash, dried cherries, toasted pumpkin seeds and and apple cider vinaigrette, and freshly baked slipper bread. In years past, I’ve learned, everyone eats together in the gym, a tradition I very much hope returns once we can all be together safely in one room. For now, though, the act of simply working side by side in the kitchen brings about feelings of normalcy and camaraderie that we have all craved over the last couple of years.

For me, this last month has been a reawakening. I am working again after a year and a half hiatus to have my son and be at home with him, and I am thrilled to be cooking for people again, especially the children and staff at our school. I look forward to the rest of the school year ahead with gratitude and excitement, and soon I will know everyone’s name!


We have lots of excitement happening in the classroom surrounding the play, Stone Soup.  The children are getting to know their parts, some of their movements on stage and next week we’ll be working on the scenery.  Each child has an important role to play and this experience gives them an opportunity to work as a team while also working on their reading and presentation skills.  I am looking forward to their performance on Tuesday, November 23rd before our own Stone Soup Feast.  They will perform it for the other elementary and junior high classrooms.  I will record it for all of you!

I also wanted to take some time this week to talk about independence as it is an important part of our classroom.  Each child is working towards independence a little bit differently.  It does take an element of personal responsibility on each child’s part in order for the classroom to function smoothly.  Giving children freedom is necessary in order to develop independence.  Independence is not only necessary for a well working, peaceful classroom, but the children will need practice in this and greater responsibilities as they develop in order to achieve all the great things they have planned for their future.  Quite a few years ago, the school community read How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haimss.  This was an excellent book for us to read and discuss together.  In it, Lythcott-Haims offers practical alternative strategies that underline the importance of allowing children to make their own mistakes and develop the resilience, resourcefulness, and inner determination necessary for success.  At conferences, I wanted to share a section of the book with you concerning independence.  Lythcott-Haims offers suggestions about what types of things children can do independently at certain ages.  Attached below are the charts for the lower elementary age child, as well as the ages leading up to this age.  We all want to be there for our children and meet their needs, but sometimes the best way to meet their needs is having the child do something on their own.  If you are interested in reading the book, it is in our parent library at school.  Do not hesitate to reach out to one another.  Maybe there are a few of you that missed the discussion a few years ago and would like to do that now.  

Questions for your child.  What anniversary did we read about this week?  Why do leaves change color?  What is a characteristic of a folktale?  What is something interesting you learned from someone’s study this week?

Afternoon Art Classes 
Students in afternoon art classes have been turned into Architects!  They have been tasked with designing and creating their own mini pop-up dream home. We began by discussing all the possibilities for rooms in their homes and created a list on the board.  We then chatted about what might be in some of these rooms.  For example, a candy room would need excessive storage space for all the jars of candy in it as well as a comfy chair for sitting and enjoying the sweet treats!  We then took our discussion into shelving and furniture and I showed them two different ways of drawing these.  The first was at eye level, and the second included some perspective.  Once all of the discussion was over, we folded and created the first room of their dream house and the students proceeded to create their space.  It has been a very creative and fun project thus far and I can’t wait to see all of the rooms they design.  I’m hoping someone thinks of a bathroom at some point, but for now, it has not been a priority.


As I was looking through the children’s lessons and writing reports, I realized that I had not given lessons in the area of geometry yet this year.  I am not quite sure how this happened as I usually begin the school year with a few of these.  I do know that as a new school year starts, I am worried about keeping the children progressing (especially after a long summer off) with writing, math, and reading comprehension.  The first couple great lessons naturally get the biology and geography studies going.  I actually love the geometry lessons given in the Montessori classroom.  They are a great example of cosmic education at work.  A child’s daily life immerses her/him in the concepts presented in geometry.  Everything seen has lines, surfaces and angles.  The children are not going to be proving theorems anytime soon, but the lessons in elementary lay an experiential foundation for their future studies. The geometry materials are creative and give a sensorial, manipulative experience.  Identifying and “messing around” with the relationships between shapes, their angles and lines help develop logical thinking.  The presentation of these lessons tie in great people of our past like the Babylonians, Egyptians and Greeks.  Taking the time for these lessons, mixing together math, history, art and the world we see around us is important.  

Many moments in the classroom steer us in different directions.  While working on some reading comprehension, I had a great conversation with some children about what it means to be a citizen.  Another article read with others brought discussion and an upcoming experiment about how much water a watermelon can drink before it explodes.  Studying the layers of the Earth got some thinking about the journey a rock takes through history.  Making space for these unintentional, but meaningful conversations and explorations is essential to curiosity and excitement being present in the classroom.

Here is a link to the poem the children have been memorizing, How the Leaves Came Down By Susan Coolidge.  I enjoy working on memorizing poetry with them.  I can actually see their confidence build when practicing reading their lines.  

Questions to ask your child.  Who is Edie and what is the mystery she is trying to solve?  What geometry lesson have you had this year?  What is something about breathing that our mystery reader last week taught us?

From the Specialist: Angela Lickiss Aleo, music

As we have settled into the new school year we are digging into the instruments of the percussion family. We have been getting hands-on experience with all different types of percussion instruments: castanets, bongos, frame drums, shakers, moon drum, and xylophone. We also have been  working on the fundamentals of music, reading notes and rhythms. Last week we listened to the Trepak from Tchaikovshy’s Nutcracker and represented the musical form in dance with musical ribbons.


On Monday, Indigenous Peoples’ Day was celebrated across the country.  In our classroom, I gave a little history of the Anishinaabek, the indigenous people of our area.  In the Montessori classroom, short histories and stories are told to spark the children’s curiosity.  Some of the things that really interested the children were their houses, tools, food, clothing, how they traveled when trading, what the kid’s schools were like and what they traded.  While the history is important, I also tried to emphasize that the Anishinaabek people still live and work in this area, and keep their culture and customs today.  The study of other cultures is woven into the classroom through read aloud, biographies, authors and history stories.   I encourage conversations that recognize other cultures at home too, and especially when you travel.  Horizon Book Fair is coming up.  This is a great time to bring in new books about people who are different from ourselves.   I am always trying to be more intentional about choosing diverse and inclusive books for the classroom.  The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee at the school I just visited in Duluth puts out an annual list of 100 diverse books for their book fair.  This list is a great place to start if you aren’t sure where to go for suggestions.  With permission from them, I am sharing it with you too as it might be a great resource for your family’s reading time at home.  

Last spring, our class participated in an IPR Kid’s Commute event and the children loved it!  This week Saturday Kid’s Commute is hosting a live event, Kids Commute LIVE: Food, glorious food!  Hosted by IPR’s Kate Botello, the 2 p.m. concert will feature the Interlochen Arts Academy Wind Symphony.  I wanted to pass this opportunity along as your children might enjoy it. 

Fall conferences are coming up!  Looking forward to talking with you in a couple weeks.  Here is a link to sign up for these. 

What is our fall poem about that we are memorizing together and can you tell me your line?  How many millions of pounds of apples do the farmers of Michigan produce each year?  Tell me something in our world that can be put into a classification system?  What is something new you learned about Maria Montessori?


This week, I’d like to introduce you to something you may have heard your child talking a bit about.  Today, we will have our third week of weekly math practice.  Our environment is full of a variety of math materials that aid the children in coming to a full understanding of math concepts, from place value to fractions to division and multiplication.  These materials are where the children spend most of their time during their lower elementary years.  Once a week though, on Thursday afternoons we practice math in a more traditional manner, using a few pages of math problems worksheet style.  We do this for a couple reasons.  This introduces the students to vocabulary that might not be used when a concept is presented using the Montessori materials.  An example of this from a couple weeks ago is the word column being used in the directions.  Instructions are another reason.  Giving the child experience reading through directions rather than having an oral presentation is helpful as they move forward in their education.  Lastly, the children are not presented with material in weekly math that they have not been presented using the materials.  I can use the weekly math to gauge a child’s ability to transfer her/his understanding from the materials to problems presented traditionally.  When corrections and representations need to happen, I will often take the child back to the materials, connecting her/him to the concrete in order to help with understanding.  This is a small part of our week and the children’s mastery of math concepts.  Most of our fun and understanding lie in the amazing materials, but this exercise gives the students an important experience in relaying their application of what they have learned using the materials.  

Just a heads up, next week I will be visiting Many Rivers Montessori in Duluth, Minnesota.  This will pull me out of the classroom for the week, but Jodie will be here as well as a substitute.  While time away from the classroom is hard, I will be participating in an ISACS (Independent Schools Association  of the Central States) accreditation team.  This gives me the opportunity to observe another independent school, as well as Montessori environment.  The Children’s House will be going through their own accreditation visit in the Spring of 2022.  Just as we expect children to make progress and grow, we as educators should as well.  Being a part of the ISACS team is one way this can happen.  

Questions for your child.  What type of poem do we write together to celebrate a birthday?  Have your child tell you the time this week only using an analog clock.  What was your favorite creature on the Timeline of Life?

Physical Education
This group comes to the gym each day at 2:45 and finishes their day with me. We have practiced quite a bit of throwing and catching as well as played plenty of games to improve cardio-vascular endurance. The students wrote a classroom behavior agreement so that if a situation comes up we can use it as a reference. For example, they agree to treat others with respect and kindness. If a student feels something was unkind they can simply remind their classmate of the agreement. I am always available for support but I would like them to feel empowered to resolve conflicts independently on the rare occasions they come up. I look forward to seeing you all soon. 

Della Terra
With magnifying glass in hand, students explored the garden behind the greenhouse. The goal? What insects are in our garden right now? We have found praying mantis, ambush bugs, and so many bees and wasps. One day the weather was cold and rainy. During this time we searched and searched for insects. We found so many bees seeking shelter under the succulent plants that it was fun to count and see how these insects made it through the cool wet weather. 

The other part of our time together was used to ask ourselves the question, “Is a seed alive?” We discussed what makes something alive. This is a harder question than you might think! Then we spent some time dissecting a bean seed to identify a seed coat, seed food, and the baby plant inside. 

We are so thankful for the warm fall so we can explore our garden to the fullest!


We have had a wonderful start to the school year.  The classroom is already a busy buzz of working children.  There are new studies being started and many requests for review lessons.  It was great to catch up with most of you at our class picnic.  If you have any questions about our start to the school year, please do not hesitate to give me a call.  

Some of you have heard this, but others may not have so I wanted to use this week of classroom highlights to talk about animals in the environment and the classroom culture we try to establish regarding mistakes.  This little story has to do with both!  We have two pets in our classroom, Spike (a Uromastyx lizard) and Blackberry (a beta fish).  Part of the work of having animals in the room is not only feeding them, but observing their behavior and habits closely.  Jodie and I found out that our students are very good at this.  During work week, Mr. Blueberry, our old beta fish died and we debated back and forth what to do about this.  Well, we made a mistake and tried to switch out Mr. Blueberry for a new one.  After a few days, the children were worried and talking about Mr. Blueberry.  He wasn’t hanging out in his usual spots, in the castle and by the vent.  We heard several times that he just wasn’t acting himself.  Jodie and I then decided that it was wrong to try to switch the fish out and confessed and apologized, telling the children that the fish wasn’t acting like Mr. Blueberry because it wasn’t him.  This gave us the opportunity to talk about their great observation skills and that we all make mistakes.  Mistakes are a big part of the elementary classroom.  Children do not always pick up on a work 100% correctly the first time.  Sometimes they need a few practice runs, sometimes a review and others need more time to let a concept or process settle.  I try to celebrate mistakes as they are always leading us to our learning, while also correcting them so that the child can move forward in their understanding.  Having Jodie and I admit to this mistake gave us the chance to talk about this and show that we all make mistakes and that it’s ok to come forward if a mistake has been made.  

Questions to ask your child.  Who was the guest in our classroom today and what language does she speak?  What was the first great story about?  Why is Nim, a character in our read aloud book, Nim’s Island, worried?