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February at GAP School!

Yellow Crystals

English Language Arts with Emily

For the Yellow Crystals, the month of February has been jam packed with games, skits, positive affirmations, books, nature journals, and rotation stations! "Gamification" is an awesome way to learn, review, and practice reading and writing skills. Some games that we've played are: Grow a Tree, Code Cracking, High Frequency Bingo, and Keyboard Type! Grow a Tree is a GAP School spin off to the classic game Hang Man. The Educator comes up with a word or sentence that is displayed through blank spaces. Learners get the exciting task of guessing which letters make up the message. Using this game we review the vowels first (a,e,i,o,u, and sometimes y) because all English words have vowels! Next, we review alphabetical order by choosing consonants. Our last step is guessing words and sounding out the message!  

Our Code Cracking game was a fun way to visualize the concept of alphabetical order as well as sound out new words! Learners received a sheet where the letters of the alphabet were correlated with numbers. Learners looked at a set of numbers to decode a written message. All groups, Robins, Chickadees, and Bluebirds, have participated in this activity. The Robins took it a step further by creating their own codes for the Educator to crack! 

High Frequency Bingo continues to be a class favorite that allows Learners to get familiar with words that they read and write every day. Keyboard Type is a new activity that the Bluebirds have started partaking in. The Bluebirds have received a laminated alphabetical order "keyboard". The Educator calls out a letter, sound, and object that matches with that letter. The Learner's job is to identify the letter by "clicking" on it while also producing the sound that the letter makes. These games are a great way to practice the skills that we have been learning!

In the spirit of community impact, the Robins group worked hard to write, practice, and perform a skit with the theme of kindness. These Learners had the important job to discuss, and communicate the message of THINK before you speak. THINK stands for: T, is it true? H, is it helpful? I, is it inspiring? N, is it necessary? and K, is it kind? The Robins performed in front of an audience for GAP School's all school end of day meeting and also filmed a video to share with families on Community Day! 

The Chickadees and Robins both practiced creative dramatics by reading skits during class periods as well. We called these "table reads" where we all sat together, read, and practiced assigned lines to perform together as groups. When thinking of community impact, the Chickadees and Bluebirds created, wrote, and displayed positive affirmations to showcase on Community Day! 

During DEAR time, our reading skills have been continuing to expand! On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, the Yellow Crystal Learners read an A-Z Level book or a BOB book as a step before exploring other "fun to read" checked out books. Our Nature Journals continue to be a fun way to practice routine, copy work, sentence structure, and spelling phonetically. The Yellow Crystals continue to participate in games, DEAR time, worksheets, and manipulatives in small groups during rotation stations as well. 

Math & Science with Noni

During the month of February, the Yellow Crystals math/science class learned about shapes - the building blocks of geometry! We identified their characteristics, including number of points and sides, and then we explored how to draw them using straight edges. We also had fun playing with the shape blocks to both copy patterns and create some of our own! It was exciting to see how many different ways we could use triangles to create other shapes.

Another theme of the month was discovering math stories and illustrating what they looked like. We then did the opposite and transformed a picture into a math sentence! The Robins and Chickadees also reviewed what the place value chart looks like.

As part of our all school big idea, we decided to study one aspect of the problem of erosion at our school: the weathering of the Water chicken way trail. We decided it would be fun to calculate how many feet we all collectively have at GAP School. Just how many feet might walk on that trail a day? We determined this by counting how many people are in our class pictures. It was a great opportunity to practice our counting by 2s, and some enthusiastic Learners even decided to count by 10s to discover how many toes we have! We also created some posters that demonstrated what our "dot talks" look like, which led to many interesting conversations about brain diversity.

Our science heroes unit continued with reading biographies on Margaret Lowman, Wangari Matthau, and Jean Henri Fabre. For our next topic in science, we will be focusing on insects with a special emphasis on ants, bees, butterflies, moths, and how they keep the world well fed!

Social Emotional Learning with Janelle

This month in SEL, the Yellow Crystals embarked on longer wanders through the woods and were excited to explore on rainy days. The search for the best "boat" is limitless and helps the flock's Learners flex their problem solving skills and build relationships. Scanning the environment for treasures or specific items is a fun way to incorporate visual motor skills, increase attention to tasks, practice direction following, and show mindfulness. We also jumped into a lot of cutting, gluing and drawing, which support increased confidence through self expression, strengthen visual, perceptual, and bilateral coordination, and help with fine motor skills.

This month was all about birds, so it was only fitting that our brain blast flocks are named the Robins, Chickadees, and Bluebirds! We made pine cone bird feeders and discovered many of the Learners (and the squirrels!) have a voracious appetite for peanut butter. Our goal was to make bird feeders to hang so we could observe the birds, but the squirrels had other plans. So, we seized this as another opportunity for flexible thinking and made more bird feeders out of birdseed, gelatin and water to send home at Community Day. It was sticky, gooey fun and served as another delightful way to incorporate sensory exploration, practice bilateral coordination, and build our hand strength. 

Our new favorite area to practice social emotional learning and enjoy bird sits is Log Hotel. It is perfect for balancing, crawling, and using our booming imaginations! Not to mention, it is an amazing spot to see and hear the variety of birds that are in our outdoor classroom. We have talked and reflected a lot on how our bodies feel more relaxed and calm when we sit and listen to birds as a way to help with self regulation.    

At Log Hotel the flocks naturally navigate through conflict resolution, big feelings, and self reflection with less and less Educator involvement over time. This month our Learners beautifully supported each other and listened to each other when big feelings did happen. We have introduced a few new resources to our SEL routine which have enabled us to make time to check in with each other and support each other with social emotional needs. This included an emotions check-in, which is a remote control to help us get back to a peaceful place when we are feeling frustrated, sad, or mad.

Looking to next month, we are creating a peaceful spot in each of our classroom spaces to serve as a place to go when Learners have big feelings and aren't quite at a place where they can talk about it yet.

Silver Stardust & Warriors

English Language Arts with Sarah & James

As we conclude another enriching month of reading education, we are excited to inform you about the impressive advancements your children have achieved in their reading activities and abilities. Last month, we delved into the prewriting process for persuasive paragraphs. Students honed their brainstorming techniques in their writing notebooks, focusing on encouraging kindness in communities (Willow group) and advocating for erosion prevention (Dogwood group). Utilizing the O.R.E.O. graphic organizer (Opinion, Reason, Example, Opinion restated), students structured their persuasive arguments before crafting their paragraphs.

To bolster our paragraph writing, we revisited the fundamentals of complete sentences vs fragments, while emphasizing the importance of a subject and predicate. Through various exercises, including sentence assessment and matching, students refined their sentence construction skills.

Following the completion of rough drafts, students engaged in peer review sessions, with each draft receiving feedback from at least three peers. Utilizing proofreading marks and constructive criticism, students collaborated to enhance the quality of their writing, aided by a comprehensive checklist. Once all revisions were complete, students proudly presented their polished drafts at Community Day.

In addition to persuasive writing, we initiated book analysis activities, providing students with the opportunity to apply comprehension strategies to any book of their choosing. These strategies encompassed making inferences, connections, predictions, comparisons, contrasts, and summarizations, with tailored approaches for fiction and nonfiction texts. For fiction, we use the “Somebody Wanted, But So Then,” strategy and for nonfiction we focus on the main idea and the details.  

Transitioning to our schoolwide theme, "I am because we are," in ELA, we're exploring the concept of authorship. “I am an author!” Students have recognized the various purposes of writing, from informing through biographies to persuading with recent paragraphs, and now eagerly anticipate the creative challenge of writing to entertain.

In preparation for crafting fictional stories, we delved into character traits and story elements. The students were guided through brainstorming sessions and they utilized the SWBST structure (Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then) to outline their narratives. With some students already immersed in crafting their rough drafts, the journey of creativity is well underway!

February was a powerful month for the Silver Sycamores and Hickories. By focusing on historical figures that have created change we studied the Underground Railroad, School Integration, Women's Suffrage, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, John Brown, Ida B. Wells, and Sacagawea. Learners read, discussed, and wrote about these people. Their writing has improved greatly throughout the year. Their primary project was to create a book about Ruby Bridges. Learners connected well with this important young person. We continued to practice and track reading fluency. As a group, our fluency has continued to steadily improve. We strongly encourage Learners to read to you regularly at home, even if they prefer to read something on a lower level! It gives them a lot of confidence.  

Lastly, we said goodbye to James as he prepared to depart from GAP School and welcomed in Emily as the new Silver ELA Educator! We will miss you James!


Math with Kyle

February helped our math groups prepare to grow! 

The Dogwood group finished their pattern carnival posters to display at Community Day and challenge other Learners with. They were enthusiastically focused and the work created was colorful and exciting to see! They also focused on creating and interpreting graphs while labeling the axis properly. 

The Sycamores created and finished their own math board games. They utilized vocabulary that we covered as a group. Many games were enjoyed by the community at Community Day! We also continued our "composing and decomposing numbers" big idea. We recently focused on comparing math problems and determining which is a higher number.

The Hickory and Willow groups also created their own math board games. A fun lesson that we did this month involved writing our names on grid paper and having each Learner find the area of their own name. It was fun utilizing the artistic side of math!

All groups have worked on math word problems this month. We started using the “C.U.B.” method, which stands for Circle the important numbers, Underline the question, and Box the math “action” words. We have also started writing our own word problems!

Science with Furn

In Silver science class this February, we started off working on our rock cycle projects! As individuals and in small groups, the Silvers worked hard to produce rough and final drafts of their educational rock cycle stories, poems, comics, raps, videos, and more! All projects were required to be both educational and entertaining. The Silvers had one on one check-ins to ensure that they were on track as they prepared their projects. Everyone worked very hard! We were so happy with the variety and quality of our final projects.

After completing our projects, we wrapped up our geology unit by learning about weathering and erosion. While performing physical and chemical weathering tests on a variety of common Virginia rocks, we practiced making predictions and recording results. In the last week of February, we completed our unit wrap up and review. We are looking forward to our next unit, water! To kick off our water unit, we journaled observations and guesses about four mystery water-based liquids. We will use this activity as a kicking off point to talk about the many uses of water, and to think about how we define clean vs. dirty water.

Emerald Alpacas with Corrie

The Alpacas have continued to grow academically and collaborate as a team throughout February. As we dove deeper into the driving idea of solving global and local problems we read novels, contacted local organizations, and analyzed data sets. Additionally, Learners organized a Valentine’s Day White Elephant gift exchange where they shared their kindness and creativity with one another. We want to thank you for supporting your Learner in bringing something special for their fellow Alpaca!

Our English studies centered around investigating an independent novel that extended on themes that were addressed in A Long Walk to Water. Some of these themes included international cultures, refugees, and resource inequality. Learners kept track of key events and symbols in their books, which they used to create their Community Day project. In addition, Learners researched, wrote, and edited professional emails to local organizations that addressed water and sanitation. 

During math lessons, the Alpacas practiced strategies to unpack and solve word problems, like using number lines, graphs, and diagrams. Learners also explored different ways to visualize data on graphs using proportional relationships. In doing so, many found practical applications to consider decimal place value on hundredths and thousandths places.

Projects & Knowledge Seekers with Max & Ryan

February began with a whole lot of energy, solar energy! Learners took concept and design plans from the end of January and built solar ovens, with the stated goal of melting chocolate. We learned that milk chocolate melts at around 90 degrees Fahrenheit and we established the engineering problem of; "can you make a solar oven that can reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit?" Learners designed, built, tested, redesigned, and retested as they tweaked their ovens to be successful. What was our biggest take away? The larger the reflector, the better!

To wrap up our big idea around solving community problems, Learners created their own versions of problem solving sequences. These personalized sequences were a way for Learners to showcase their own understanding of how to approach a challenge through asking questions, brainstorming solutions, putting ideas into practice, and reflection. We have also been taking time to shine a light on notable Black Americans throughout history this month. We have spent time with Madame CJ Walker, President Obama, Bessie Coleman, and Rosa Parks, among others. At each Knowledge Seekers class, we have been reading a biography and reflecting on the life and deeds of those individuals. Our source text has been Black Heros: 51 Inspiring People from Ancient Africa to Modern-Day USA by Arlisha Norwood, PhD.

After we wrapped up our solar cookers it was time to jump into our new Big Idea "I Am, Because We Are". This phrase is from the philosophy of the African humanist, Ubuntu. Here is a great article describing more on the origins and meaning of Ubuntu. For some time, "I Am, Because We Are" has been a popular call and response affirmation here at GAP School. Therefore, we were inspired to close the year asking Learners to discover all the things they are, what they aspire to be, and their connections to their communities. In Knowledge Seekers, we started this unit by exploring how we can be engineers through a rubber band car design challenge. Learners have been exploring how a simple machine, the wheel and axle, works and the difference between potential and kinetic energy. We will wrap up building our rubber band cars at the beginning of next week.

During the month of February we also kicked off our exploration into birding at GAP School. We have been taking time to practice listening to common bird calls using the All About Birds website and then going into the woods for 'bird sits', where we sit quietly and observe all the activity around us. This process will culminate in an extended bird sit and mapping activity that will happen later in March.

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