A Whitby School Newsletter Connecting Parents, Teachers and Students in Learning
UE F a l l / w i n t e r 2010-2011 upper elementary
Math.....................1 English..................3 Science..................4 Culture..................5 Music and Art..........5 World Language........6
IB Unit Surveying the Community
Area of Interaction Community and Service
Central Idea Statistics can inform as well as mislead readers and the community Fifth Grade Math During their study of statistics in October and November, the fifth graders focused on different ways to represent data. During this unit they learned how landmark values like mean, median and mode, aid the user in analyzing and interpreting their findings. Once these concepts were understood, the students wanted to apply their statistical knowledge to a real-life topic as well as something timeless and global. They discussed several topics to explore before choosing bullying at Whitby. Students developed multiple-choice questions ranging from asking for details on the type of bul-
lying involved, (physical, emotional, cyber or other), location where it happened, if they’ve ever been bullied or watched it happen to someone else and if so, did they report it. The survey was administered to 110 students in ME, UE and MS during their math classes. The students the analyzed and communicated the data including creating bar and circle graphs to represent their findings before writing an in-depth analysis. Beyond compiling this information, students wanted to take action. Groups engaged in various antibullying projects from designing and implementing a campaign to eliminate bullying to writing letters to Mr. Fainelli about the results with suggestions on how to prevent bullying. Other groups are educating the community by writing skits, designing Public Service Announcements, (PSA’s), and joining an “Eliminate Bullying Task Force” - all of which were done independent of class time. While the Whitby environment does not tolerate and has minimal bullying, the students learned important life lessons along with valuable math skills.
UE students work on self-portraits
Curriculum Connection is a publication of Whitby School connecting parents, teachers and students in learning. Thank you to all the faculty, administration and staff who contributed to this issue. Editor: Bob Horne Contributing Writer: Polly Tafrate Design and Production: CP Design
Fifth graders graphed their survey data in bar graphs or circle graphs.
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math, continued IB Unit Developing a Game of Chance
Area of Interaction The creative and inventive genius of people (past and present) have an impact on society and the human mind.
Central Idea Probability often influences people’s decisions. More Fifth Grade Math December saw the fifth-grade students learning about how their actions are often influenced by probability. For example, if an 85% chance of rain is forecast one day, it would be wise to bring an umbrella or wear a raincoat to school. They discussed other ways where probability enters their lives in areas such as medicine, commercials and casinos. During this unit of study, the students worked in groups as they discussed and planned ways to create, operate and test a game of chance with the emphasis on making a profit. First, they calculated the mathematical chance of events happening before engaging in various experimental events using dice, spinners and coins as their tools. Then they worked in pairs to create their own carnival games based on probability. They wrote a business plan by using tables, graphs and diagrams to show “the bank” how they would make a profit and thus make them eligible for a loan of 100 tickets. How often they could roll a multiple of three with dice, pick a red queen from a standard deck of cards or choose different colored marbles from a bag when blindfolded, or toss a bean bag into different value holes were a few of the popular games. Then it was Carnival Time! The teams were loaned 100 red tickets worth $.0.50 each. With that money they were to play the other team’s games and pay out prize money from their game. The players ranked them by means of a rubric. At the end of the class period, the team with the most money was the Carnival Games Champions!
Sixth Grade Math Sixth grade math started the year applying many of our whole-number skills and procedures to decimals, accompanied by an investigation into positive and negative powers of ten. We continued by delving deeper into introductory algebraic principals by expressing unknown quantities and patterns using variables and variable expressions. We are currently honing our fraction skills with all types of fraction and mixed number operations and are exploring fraction-decimal-percent equivalency. Throughout the year we have been practicing our math facts and continue to work on improving our recall speed and fluency. In December, sixth grade students completed an IB. unit entitled, “Say What You Mean, So You Get What You Want.” In this unit, students delved into the world of computer programming, using Scratch to design programs that accomplished different tasks. Scratch is a modular programming language developed in conjunction with M.I.T. As students quickly learned, there is little room for interpretation when communicating with a computer. Positioning is communicated using coordinate geometry, motion is communicated either in terms of positive or negative steps or changes in the x and y position. Directions and turns are communicated using degrees. Governing much of the programs students created are repeat and if commands. The first task facing students was to design an interactive video game. Most students had a working model of their game after two class periods, but worked to make their games more interesting and inviting by creating variables to affect game functions like speed, score, and levels. Students also experimented with the use of randomness to make their games less predictable. Having graduated onto intermediate programming, students were given the task of creating a program that would create a work of art at the click of one button. Artwork had to incorporate a level of randomness, take less than five minutes to complete, and include the use of variables. After completing their art program, students put together a virtual exhibition highlighting three example works of art accompanied by an explanation of their creative process (program). Please feel free to peruse and interact with student projects at http://scratch.mit.edu/users/ whitbyschool
UE students designed games based on probability, and played each other’s games at a math Carnival!
reading is fun
UE English students discuss The Unfinished Angel
hat do good readers and writers do?” has been the focus of our work in Upper Elementary this year. The students have examined what it means to be part of a vibrant reading and writing community and set their own goals. They also examined how to use different reading strategies when reading different genres. During our study of comparative nonfiction, students explored the various purposes of its text, including nonfiction as an informational source. Skills worked on were determining what’s important while summarizing, using subject-specific terminology, planning prior to writing a paragraph, developing ideas with specific examples, and using varied vocabulary. This work dovetailed nicely with our Culture unit on disease and society’s response to diseases in the past and present. After examining the Black Death as a case study from the past, students applied their research skills to writing about a modern day disease in English class. They recorded and presented their findings in an informational essay. Not only does nonfiction inform us, but this genre can also change how we think. In the latter weeks of this unit students enjoyed challenging each others’ views as they wrote persuasive essays on such diverse topics as pets, music, and vegetarianism. To conclude this unit, students reflected on the importance of nonfiction text features, how they’re used and the ways they impact our reading of nonfiction material. During the month of December, author Sharon Creech led us through the mountains of Switzerland in her beautiful book The Unfinished Angel. Reading this literary treat aloud enabled students of all reading abilities to enjoy a common text and take part in a student led seminar. These conversations commenced by asking questions, and discussing the importance of questioning as a method of deepening understanding. Since Creech is a master of craft, we often paused to admire and “take apart” her writing, focusing on imagery, conflict, symbolism, dialogue and voice, all of which lend Creech’s particular magic to her stories. Throughout this novel each student kept a written record of his or her thinking about Creech’s characters, their divergent perspectives and their missions in life. As we watched
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Creech’s characters struggle to meet their own challenges, we learned about ourselves. Perhaps best of all, this wonderful novel invited us to marvel at the unexpected gifts we can receive if we are open to others. What do good readers do? In early January Upper Elementary students gathered into small reading clubs around several carefully selected novels. The big concept of this unit is that “repetition gives rise to mastery.” With this in mind, we have already urged the students toward developing stamina and fluency in both reading and writing by practicing every day. While emphasizing these skills, all “circles” of readers will explore common elements of literature through direct instruction (figurative language, plot development, theme, symbolism, point of view, author’s purpose, etc.) and will apply this learning to the specific book they are reading together. Because literature circles are almost as much about process as content, students are working on sticking to “accountable talk” during their discussions, citing textual evidence when possible and monitoring the group for equal participation. A return to the question, “What do good writers do?” invites us to use the wonderful authors we’re reading as mentors for our own writing. To this end, students will be crafting their own creative pieces which will be shared as we conclude the unit in mid-February.
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science IB Unit
Area of Interaction
There is an inherent relationship between an animal and its habitat.
Central Idea How organisms needs are met for survival.
n November, the students started this unit of study with the broad concept of learning about the main life functions all living things must do to survive. Because of the vastness of this topic, it was then narrowed down to investigating invertebrates, animals without spines. The students learned about their life functions of respiration, reproduction and response to the environment. One experiment was the earthworm’s reaction when exposed to bright light. Another was to examine the regenerative capabilities of Planaria, a type of flatworm. The students investigated what happens when this worm is split into two and discovered that where there was only one, now there are two. They followed the scientific process of hypothesizing, predicting, observing, drawing conclusions and communicating information. Data collection and final conclusions were made with lab partners. In December, the invertebrate they studied was a squid. By read-
Students created “posters” with an online tool called Glogster. ing, taking notes and studying diagrams the students learned how a squid propels itself forward like a rocket by quickly expelling water through a narrow tunnel called a siphon. Each student and their lab partner dissected a squid to observe and examine all parts of this invertebrate. The squid dissection was completed with The Diary of the Squid which prepared students for the unit’s summative—a diary of an invertebrate of their choice. For a few examples, Elizabeth Jamieson chose the moon jelly; Orlando Ashford studied the blue crab; Zachary Brown-Kullman did the giant octopus and Lindsay Taylor wrote about the purple sea urchin.
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music and art
Students present their reports about a modern major outbreak and its effect on society.
his fall, UE Culture students focused on the unit question: “How do social systems respond to a catastrophic event?” The significant concepts systems in society across time and place and how their effectiveness has a profound impact on society. As a group, the UE studied the Bubonic Plague of the 14th century Europe and then compared it to a modern major outbreak. The summative student assessment included a written piece on society as they cope with modern outbreaks. Students needed to include a bibliography and create a timeline with cited sources. They students enjoyed working on this unit in conjunction with English. Currently, UE Culture students are examining the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance. The major concepts include the rejuvenation of society after a period of darkness and depression. Our unit question focuses on the question: “What inspires us to create”. The students are currently working on their summative assessment as they create an online web museum and write and perform a skit that exemplifies their Renaissance figure, as well as write a blog that answers the question: “Who inspires you to create?”
Media Literacy Design Technology Media Literacy Design Technology is a multi-faceted course in which students gain an increased facility in using technology, become more educated consumers of media, begin to create a positive digital footprint and learn how to use the IB Design Tech cycle to both analyze media and create it. At the end of the Fall semester they began to examine Public Service Announcements with a view to creating their own for the Whitby community in the Spring.
Unit Resources on the Whitby Website www.whitbyschool.org Home > Academic Programs > Upper School:Grades 5-8 > Upper Elementary > [view by subject]
Upper Elementary students focused on the unit question: “How Does a Culture Communicate through Music?” They learned to play either the Ocarina or the Penny Whistle while studying about instruments from other cultures worldwide. Students are challenged with learning several different notation systems: the British system of notation using crotchets and quavers, the Hungarian Kodaly system using tah’s and titi’s as well s the western classical system using quarter notes, half notes, etc. Each student has an online developmental workbook to chart their instrumental progress as well as show examples of listening to musical compositions in places where they can reflect and share their musical love and creativity with others.
Art Upper Elementary students began by identifying and applying art skills and developing vocabulary to describe the elements of landscapes. Using watercolor, pencil and charcoal, the students practiced the skills and techniques of drawing from life and creating texture. They worked with various computer programs and created an online developmental workbook which they’ll continue to update each semester through eighth grade. They communicated through visual art expression with purpose and direction using a step-by-step creative process as they made connections to other disciplines, life, cultures and artwork.
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Chinese For the Upper Elementary students who are studying Chinese there is an equal focus on the four elements of language—listening, reading, speaking and writing. At the start of the semester, they celebrated an important Chinese holiday—The Mid-Autumn festival. Here they sampled traditional lotus-seed mooncakes, an important staple of this festival. The students are working towards an in-class oral presentation, where they will introduce themselves, their families and the favorite elements of their school-life.
French All of the activities for the Upper Elementary French students are geared towards listening, speaking and learning about French grammar and acquiring new vocabulary words to add to their word cards. Classes start the reading of a seasonal poem. In these poems the students identify new vocabulary words and verb forms before reading and reciting the poems themselves. Bits of French culture enrich the program. The students get to look at French books and artist’s works, but especially enjoy tasting the native foods. For example, French bread rubbed with oil and/or garlic help the students learn adjectives to describe different tastes and sizes such as sweet and sour, big and little. Building on their acquired knowledge of basic grammar, the students learn regular verbs ending in /er/and begin studying how to conjugate them. They also learn the “keys” to the language, using little memory devices such as words ending with the suffix /ment/ are close in meaning to English words ending in /ly/. Students work on making positive, negative, and interrogative sentences in the present tense including prepositions within short sentences. They learn how to greet one another and have short conversations as well as write simple stories. Sometimes they act out parts within the monthly thematic units: “J’aime cuisinier” (“I like to cook”), “J’aime voyager”(“I like to travel”), “J’aime manger” (“I like to eat”).
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Students created brochures in Spanish, for another school.
Spanish The Upper Elementary Spanish students completed a unit entitled “School Life,” which included reading comprehension exercises from the article, “The Stress of Taking Tests.” They had been assigned to one another as pen pals and wrote to one another telling about their school day, classes and materials they use. Class conversations included describing pictures, relating their own experiences at school and comparing those with other students. They also created Power Point presentations about their “Ideal Schedule” imagining how their day would be if they could plan it themselves. Other activities this semester included listening and speaking exercises using the Garage Band program, doing writing exercises, and reading Realidad y Fantasia, a Spanish reader. The summative assessment consisted of writing about a school in a Spanish-speaking country and comparing it with Whitby. They were then asked to create a brochure for the school they researched, using proper vocabulary, grammar, and verb tenses, before presenting it orally to their classmates.