We’re back!

This week we completed our first overnight trip away from Circle of Seasons. Last year, we had a campout on the school grounds, but this year we were fortunate enough to take a trip to the Pocono Environmental Education Center located in Dingmans Ferry, PA in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area. We couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather and the kids and adults had a great time.


The food provided by PEEC was terrific and kids went back for seconds and thirds for most meals. We were able to enjoy our meals in a beautiful cafeteria with floor to ceiling windows surrounded by the forest. A ‘swamper’ was assigned for each meal and they were responsible for setting the tables and cleaning up after each meal. The bunks were clean and comfortable and the educational experiences fit so nicely with our zoology study this year. I believe the canoeing on PEEC’s front pond was the favorite activity along with the night hike that took place on Wednesday evening between 8:30-9:30pm without flashlights! It was a wonderful experience and everyone went home a little more sun-kissed, a little tired, and a lot more independent.


A Yearly Spring Tradition

For three years now, we have been very lucky to have a parent join our class to teach us about the Ukrainian art of pysanky. Kalyna Procyk along with three other family volunteers came last week to help us with project. Pysanka, Ukrainian Easter eggs, are decorated with traditional Ukrainian fold designs using a wax resist method. This year Kalyna brought with her some plans for decorating the eggs using these traditional designs. A few tried their hand at these plans and a few let their creative capacities run wild.

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.