Author Visit and Show What You Know


As usual, we had another busy week. We began the annual Pennsylvania System School Assessment on Tuesday. Monday we talked about what our testing schedule would look like and had an extensive ‘morning meeting’ discussing what we could expect to see on the test and what the expectations would be. We also talked about Miss Sarah beginning to teach this new block on Local Geography and History. Miss Sarah began the block after our morning meeting by talking about state symbols. The class drew several in their main lesson books.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings were spent taking the assessment. I am very proud of the focus, effort, and perseverance the class showed in their test taking. We always talk about assessments being a way to ‘show what you know.’ I have to say that overall the class had a very positive attitude about the assessment and, of course, I am proud of them as long as they do their best.


On Wednesday afternoon, we were incredibly lucky to have Parent Circle organize a visit from author, Adam Gidwitz, author of books such as A Tale Dark and Grimm, In A Glass Grimmly, The Grimm Conclusion, The Inquisitor’s Tale, and now The Unicorn Rescue Society. He was a terrific speaker and had the kids eating out of his hand; he is a former school teacher. The kids were especially excited to meet him, because we read blog articles written by him about his writing the entire week before his visit and practiced text dependent analysis writing based on his articles. ( TDA is the type of writing the fourth graders had on the PSSA this year.)


Reviewing a Writing Rubric and assessing an essay written by another student.


Reading an article written by Adam Gidwitz and finding evidence to support the prompt they are writing about. 

download.jpgThursday, we were back to testing and were busy with orchestra in the afternoon. Today, Miss Sarah took the lead in the classroom bringing state representative Ryan E. Mackenzie to visit the class to talk about what he does for our state and what his job is like. We also learned that Mr. Mackenzie went to high school with both Mrs. Ostfeld and Miss Jill!

Next week, we will start out the week with the Math sections of the PSSA and Miss Sarah will continue to expand on our local history and geography block.


Why do we have a class play EVERY year?

As I’m sure you have heard at home, we are busily preparing for our class play. We have put on a play every spring since first grade. But why? Don’t tell the kids, but it’s not just for fun. Class plays are grounded in each grade’s individual curriculum and the appropriate developmental level of the students. Students act out what they’ve learned throughout the year in the language arts and bring their curriculum to life. This not only helps children truly remember what they’ve learned, but also gives students an opportunity to showcase other skills and employ teamwork.

Class plays incorporate music, recitation, memorization, acting, and visual arts (via set and costume preparations). Also, the play meets children at a place of their age’s unique social development — both in story and practice. The practice and performance of a play requires age-appropriate finesse in social learning and group dynamics. The play’s topic, or storyline, also seeks to address the struggles felt by the particular age group.

This year in fourth grade, our play is from Norse mythology. The malevolent Loki teaches the children the consequences of their own budding morality and of their choices as they emerge from early childhood into an expanded worldview.

In first grade, the parts the children had were mostly chorus, we recited everything together, sang together, and moved together.  In second grade again, most of the play was presented by the chorus with only a few lines spoken by individuals. As the children approached the nine-year change in third grade they were given individual parts, each one with their own solo speaking part. This year the complexity of the play increases as well as the vocabulary. The characters this year are much more nuanced as well. The expectation this year is for the children to bringing their individual characters to life. It is going to be quite the challenge, but I believe their will rise to meet it.

Odin's_last_words_to_Baldr.jpgThe parts given to each child are chosen for specifically to challenge or compliment each student’s personality. Through plays, students can be guided to emerge or develop from a comfortable place within themselves or perhaps play a part of someone very different and challenging. Parts can also be given with the hope that a moral message will resonate within the child as they live into the character and words that will be spoken. 

The children feel exuberance and joy bringing their lessons to life for their loved ones during the class play. It is a culmination and presentation of much of the hard work. This year our stage and costumes will be very special and we will have a pot luck immediately following. 



Spanish Classes in Fourth Grade 

Classes are organized in a similar way to morning circle in main lesson. After greeting one another at the beginning of each class, students stand up and recite verses and sing songs accompanied by gestures and a variety of rhythmic, movement activities.

Following the songs and verses, students sit down to receive content that requires greater concentration. Phrases, vocabulary, and themes that were introduced in third grade are expanded upon. New vocabulary is reinforced with a variety of questions and answers. Students answer questions chorally and individually in a call and response manner with more detailed and complete answers than in previous grades. Stories, games, and additional movement activities are part of the second phase of the class. Students recite a verse at the end of each class.

Thematic content supports the study of many of their main lesson blocks. We discussed various animals, how they move, where they live, and what colors they are. Geographical features were introduced and discussed in relation to where animals live and to the environment around us. Telling time is reviewed with more details than in third grade, and includes seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, and a year. Qualities of the characters and events in their studies of Norse Mythology are discussed.

Students learned about the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday that is celebrated on Nov. 1 and made colorful “papel picado” (cut-tissue paper) that is traditionally part of the holiday. Numbers, colors, the date, seasons, and the weather are reviewed in greater detail. Students answer questions and give personal information such as their and family members’ names and ages, how they feel, where they live, and clothes they wear. Grammar is introduced as it relates to the students and includes learning the pronouns, basic rules of gender and number, and conjugations of verbs. Students write and draw in their main lesson books to support various topics and lessons that are presented. When necessary to facilitate learning, Spanish is translated into English.

Señora Linda

Beautiful Geometry

This week we dove into geometry working with measuring, drawing, and identifying angle names and measurements. We jumped turning our bodies 360 °, 180 °, 90°, and 45°. We also used our arms as the arms of angles and are developing an ‘angle dance.’ We also found varying degrees of angles in everyday life around our classroom. The class is doing an excellent job making the connections between the degrees of angles and fractional pieces.


We have also been working hard on Math Daily 3. Math Daily 3 consists of three activities that the kids complete daily as part of Main Lesson. Those three activities are Math by Myself, which consists of review practice of skills we have been working on, Math with Someone that involves math games, and Math Writing, which is working to develop our ability to articulate problem solving. Here are two students working together to solve a problem.


We finished out the week with drawing exercises with triangles. Next week, we will continue to manipulate triangles and learn the many different varieties of triangles. triangle1triangle2

Fractions of an Inch, Musical Fractions, AND an Introduction to Geometry

We continued working with fractions this week. We reexamined the rulers we explored last year and drew our own divisions of an inch down to a sixteenth of an inch. Next week, we will work to measure objects to the nearest quarter inch. That work will give us a door to walk through into rounding numbers. The class participated in many more hands on explorations to build concepts of fractions and also completed an assessment to show what they have learned thus far in the block. Next week, we will add and subtract fractions and delve deeper into equivalent fractions.

We also discussed the relationship between musical notes and fractional parts. They have begun to read musical notation in music class, so they had great foundational knowledge. This main lesson book page as well as our work with fractional parts of an inch will be references as we work with equivalent fractions.

This week, we also began work with geometry. We walked circles and eclipses and noticed a lot about our line of sight while walking each. We then drew circles freehand and with compasses. We walked about each line of sight becoming a tangential line radiating from the circle. Next week, we will work a little more with circles and symmetry and then begin to explore triangles and the use of the protractor.


I am so glad to have gotten a few “normal” school days with your children last week after winter break, snow days, and early dismissals! Since our return from break, we have been working on fraction concepts. The class has divided area and linear models into equal shares, has explored finding fractional pieces of collections, and used spatial reasoning to identify different mystery fractions of whole areas. I have been incredible impressed with their abilities in these areas, but I suppose I should not be surprised by their abilities because we have been working on foundational skills for these concepts since first grade. This entire week we have been identifying fractional pieces using fraction words like one eighth or four tenths. Next week, we will definite the terms numerator and denominator and work towards using the symbolic representation for fractions. Once we have a solid understanding of how to write these symbols we will be begin to add and subtract fractions with like denominators, identify and write mixed numbers, and reduce fractions.

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I have to say that I held my own personal anxieties about fractions. In my elementary education experience, I remember looking at a workbook that had a chapter on fractions which jumped straight to circles cut into pieces with fractions written underneath. I did not have experiences to self discover the relationship between fractions and then as the work with them increase in complexity I had no number sense scaffolding of fractions to build these concepts upon. As a result, I just had to blinding memorize the algorithms for adding, subtracting, multiplying, and diving fractions. I feel as though that is where the math train began to derail for me. After that, most mathematics was blinding memorizing which continued to work well enough to get good grades but left me feeling constantly as if I were stumbling around in the dark when it came to mathematics. Once I reached Algebra, it began to get too difficult to memorize all the steps without any understanding behind them and I didn’t advance a great

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deal past Algebra II in high school. I really regret the missed opportunity to form a meaningful relationship with mathematics during those years, and I feel to privileged to be able bring the building blocks for mathematics success to your children. 

Winter Spiral

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 1.20.17 PM.pngOne of my favorite festivals of the year has arrived, the Winter Spiral or spiral of light. This will be the fourth year Circle of Seasons has held the Winter Spiral and it is the fourth time our class has the privilege of participating. This year we will also be getting to hold the winter spiral closer to the shortest day of the than ever before.

The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year. The word solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium, meaning ‘the Sun stands still.’ On the winter solstice, the Sun reaches its southernmost position as seen from the Earth. The Sun seems to stand still at the Tropic of Capricorn and then reverses its direction. It’s also common to call it the day the Sun turns around.  Over the past couple months many of us have been getting slower in our movements, grumpier when we wake-up before the sun, frustrated that when we are walking to the car after work there are already stars in the sky. After the winter solstice, until we reach the summer solstice, each day will have just a little more daylight. We will lean ever so slightly closer to the sun.

The shortening of days and our distance from the sun’s rays bring the winter’s bleak and drear. This is why many cultures in the Northern Hemisphere have festivals celebrating light at this time of year. These festivals sustain us through these dark times and represent for many the struggles between dark and light in our lives.

At Circle of Seasons we have taken up a tradition help by many Waldorf school, the Winter Spiral. Each person in the school has the opportunity to visit the spiral. The children attend with their class teacher and their classmates. We all enter the darkened room silently. (This year we had absolutely beautiful musical accompaniment!) We all sit down and then one by one visit the center of the spiral which is made of fragrant pine boughs. Upon reaching the center each person lights their our own candle. They then carry that light from the center of the spiral and place it somewhere along the spiral as they leave. Each person brings a little more light into the darkness of the room until the winter garden is gleaming with the light of all our candles shining together. I am sure the symbolism is not lost on you, the reader, but it is not explained to the children. They carry the beautiful imagery with them and eventually will form their own meaning from the experience.  

Deep Mid-Winter drawing near,

Darkness in our Garden here – –

One small flame yet bravely burns

To show a path which ever turns.

Earth, please bear us as we go,

Seeking Light to send a-glow:

Branches green and moss and fern,

Mark our path to trace each turn.

Brother animals, teach us too

To serve with patience as you do.

We walk with candle toward the Light

While Earth awaits with hope so bright:

In the Light which finds new birth

Love may spread o’er all the Earth.

Deep Mid-Winter drawing near – –

May Light arise in our Garden here.

Nancy Foster

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Anyone recognize this little guy from our first Winter Spiral? 

It is such an honor to grow with your children and families each year. I hope that this time of year is full of light and love for you and yours.