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January at GAP School!

Yellow Crystals



English Language Arts with Emily


English Language Arts has been delicious and action packed in the month of January! Our Bluebirds group has been working hard as they continue to recognize letters and practice their sounds through morning meetings, Jack Hartman videos, headbands, and letter tile games. We have expanded our knowledge by understanding new word meanings. Adjectives and action verbs have been introduced through cheers and games. To dive a bit deeper, we compared the flavors of M&M's with Skittles and used adjectives to describe their taste! We plan to revisit this activity as we begin descriptive writing. Afterwards, we read the books Green Eggs and Ham and Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots to help us form opinions on which candy we enjoyed best. We have furthered our understanding of concepts of print by reading "BOB books" during DEAR time and a nonfiction book together as a class. Learners felt pride as they added details and sounded out words while completing weekly nature journals. Kindergarteners were introduced to the concepts of theme and setting within stories while reading If You Give a Pig a Pancake and The Lorax. After reading The Lorax, Learners generated ideas on ways to show our community kindness at GAP School. They decided to create positivity posters to hang up around school! As we move forward into February, we will begin to create these posters.


The Robins and Chickadees have been diving deeper into reading and writing as well! These groups also participated in adjective and action verb cheers and games. After taste testing M&M's and Skittles, we wrote descriptive sentences on each candy together as a class. This helped prepare us for our opinion writing. After reading the book Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots, we formed our opinions on which candy we enjoyed best and got to writing! Learners were encouraged to find confidence in their writing as they phonetically sounded out adjectives that supported their reasoning. After writing our opinions, we read the book Green Eggs and Ham and had a class discussion on how opinions can change. These first grade groups have also begun to be familiarized with dictionaries! While practicing alphabetical order, the Learners are detectives as they hunt for words together. Robins and Chickadees have been playing headbands and dice rolling games while practicing letter blends and digraphs. Learners have been reviewing the concepts of theme and setting through read alouds. Nature journals have been a safe place to practice writing independently as we practice writing sentences, phonetically spell words, and use adjectives to describe what we see. In the weeks to come, the Robins will be working on a skit with the theme of kindness and the Chickadees will be writing and performing positive affirmations to share with our GAP School community.  


Math & Science with Noni


January was a good time for the Yellow Crystals to practice what we have been learning. In the Bluebirds we created a number line then filled in missing numbers, did some simple adding practice, and played a “mirror me” game for finger counting/awareness progression. We also started doing individual math sheet warm ups.


In the Chickadees and Robins we created a number line in our journals. We worked with a large group of pencils and explored different ways to group them in order to more efficiently count and visualize the number. The next step was using 20 or so dice and grouping them by 5s and 10s to establish a total count of dots. They also began working with math sheet warm ups (adding and subtracting) to prepare them for upcoming assessments.


The Yellow Crystals were also introduced to “dot talks” in which they counted a group of dots and shared with the group the patterns and shapes that their brains saw at first glance.  Lastly, we started practicing simple addition and subtraction math sheets to aid in computational speed and accuracy. Upcoming, we have geometric shape studies and decomposition of numbers into chunks!


In Science, the Yellow Crystals have been exploring the true stories of real life problem solvers and environmental heroes. We have read the biographies of Rachel Carson, Marie Thorpe, Margaret Lowman, and Mary Anning. We also explored the adaptations stories of the peppered moth and the Madagascar hawk moth.  We have also been watching closely for the appearance of new fungi on warm and moist days!


Social Emotional Learning with Janelle


January was a blast with the Yellow Crystals! We are continuing to build our problem solving skills and social emotional learning through supported conversations during pretend/learner-led play, and are seeing a growth in everyone's abilities to use "I feel..." statements to help each other understand their perspectives.


We enjoyed a lot of tracking in mud, in snow, and in mud again. You can ask your Learner which animal they enjoyed tracking the most: coyotes, foxes, racoons, rabbits, squirrels, possums, and dogs, oh my! This fun skill serves so many purposes, such as practicing focus and attention while trying to avoid stepping on the tracks or missing them, slowing our bodies down so we can look around for stories of what may have happened where we see the tracks, using visual motor skills to scan the environment, and practicing mindfulness through it all.  



There was snow and everyone celebrated! Did you know that large snowball making, rolling, and snowman building are amazing bilateral coordination, visual motor, core and hand strength, and heavy work activities? Or that throwing snowballs at a target helps us grow visual motor, visual perceptual skills, and further build hand strength and bilateral coordination? We saw teamwork, collaboration, and problem-solving happening all over the place as giant snow balls were rolled to new locations or piled up to build little Olaf's and big Frosty's. Snow days are hard work! We also read a lot of books about snow/snowflakes and made so many different types of snowflakes. We practiced scissors skills, built hand strength, and worked on fine motor skills by squeezing glue, sprinkling salt, and using droppers to make snow crystals grow. Some of our Learners even dove into the sensory experience and figured out how to make a fun dough out of glue and salt!!  


After the snow, there was mud! We had so much fun problem solving how to slide in the mud while avoiding contributing to erosion! We also did body painting, tree painting, stomping, and just plain making mud balls! There were smiles, giggles, and tons of sensory processing/fine motor skills grown! 


Individual emotions wheels helped us loop back around to social emotional discussions. Each Learner made one of their own that was unique to them. Just like snowflakes, they were all beautifully different. Some Learners added illustrations to help express their emotions and others were more comfortable relating to just colors.  It can be a fun dinner or car conversation topic (when they're not sleepy) and an awesome way to help everyone feel more comfortable talking about emotions.

We are starting to dive into affirmations and helping our community through making less landfill contributions. We can't wait to show you what we have been up to at community day in February! The weather has been so very ...Virginia. Please keep sending reusable hot drink mugs to school with your Learners!



Silver Stardust & Warriors


English Language Arts with Sarah & James


Engagement was high while we wrapped up our latest unit with the Dogwood and Willow groups! We started every class reading a few short biographies to study as our mentor texts. 


As we wrap up another exciting month of learning, we are thrilled to share with you the incredible progress your children have made in their reading skills. In Silver ELA with Sarah, the Dogwood and Willow groups have been working toward writing persuasive paragraphs in connection with our Big Idea: "Community Impact." What can we encourage people to do that would leave a positive impact on our community? The Willows chose to talk about kindness! The Dogwoods chose to focus on preventing erosion! To scaffold toward our persuasive paragraphs, we have been covering many different reading standards. 


We have started investigating the "author's purpose." Understanding why an author writes a particular piece is a key skill in deciphering the nuances of a text. We engaged in lively discussions about the various purposes authors may have. Authors write for 3 main goals: to persuade, inform, or entertain (P.I.E.). Our snack and lunch books are fiction and written to entertain the audience. With our last Big Idea: "Changes Over Time and Space," we wrote biographies to inform our readers. This unit, we will be writing to persuade our audience to make positive impacts on our community!  


You can ask your Learner about the author's purpose song to the tune of "Frosty the Snowman!" When rehearsing this song, we dug deep into the lyrics. We examined the parts of a poem (stanzas and lines). Then, we highlighted the main idea and supporting details of each stanza! Analyzing this song helped us understand more about the three main reasons authors choose to write. Reviewing this fundamental skills of "main idea" and "detail" not only enhance comprehension, but also lay the groundwork for critical thinking.


Next, we practiced the reading skills "cause and effect". The cause and effect relationship is a crucial concept for comprehending the structure of a story or informational text. When investigating a cause, we ask ourselves, "WHY did something happen?" When questioning an effect (or impact), we ask, "WHAT happened?" An effect can turn into a new cause, and the chain of events goes on. We examined cause and effect within texts and had engaging conversations around cause and effect in our own experiences! Where can you all see these relationships at home? 


This led us to explore reading skills around "problems and solutions" (AKA conflicts and resolutions). Recognizing problems and understanding how they are resolved is an essential reading and life skill. We learned that a "problem" is something that needs to be solved. A problem can be between groups of people, two individual people, with one person, or with something going on in the world. A "solution", we learned, is the means of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation. You can try using this vocabulary at home when problem solving together! In our groups, as a prewriting strategy, we brainstormed problems of all sizes to choose a focus for our persuasive paragraphs.  


To support our writing skills, Dogwoods and Willows have had more practice with apostrophes. We learned that plurals do not use apostrophes! Singular and plural possessives use apostrophes, but where do they go!? Using the "lasso" helps us know when and where to use these possessive apostrophes. You can ask your Learner about this lasso! We also reviewed "The Invasion of the Apostrophe" and how apostrophes are used in contractions. We have been intentional with this practice when nature journaling as well.


Coming up, we will brainstorm convincing reasons to support the impact we hope to make and solutions to the problems we have identified. We will dive deeper into the structure of persuasive and opinion writing using graphic organizers. As always, we will go through the writing process: prewrite, rough draft, revise/edit, and final draft. Through their writing, your children are not only practicing the art of persuasion, but also actively contributing to the well-being of our local environment, both socially and ecologically. 


By tying these reading skills into the broader, real-world context within our Big Idea, "Community Impact", we aim to instill in our Learners a sense of responsibility and the understanding that their education can be a powerful tool for positive change! Your children are ready to make a positive impact on our communities! 


In our exploration of how people solve problems, the Hickory and Sycamore groups have been learning about some incredible people who have made an impact on our community, nation, and world. We have read, discussed, and written about the Underground Railroad, Native Americans, segregation, Women's Suffrage, and individual leaders, including young people, in all of these struggles. These individuals have become our primary focus for writing and have stimulated insightful discussions.  We will share some of our work at the next Community Day.


The Wayside series continues to be our fun read, and we have been using Reading A-Z Fluency Passages to practice and measure our growth. Some readers have improved as many as six A-Z levels just in the month of January. They have become very accustomed to our routine of reading to: self, a friend, and to James. This routine provides practice and assessment while giving students an opportunity to develop supportive relationships around learning. We have worked hard to relieve anxiety and create a space where Learners feel safe to be vulnerable. 


Although reading will remain our primary focus, we will give more attention to the writing process within our next unit. Hopefully we will develop fun and exciting activities. Additionally, please continue to find ways to engage your Learner in reading. 


Math with Kyle


Silvers started 2024 off with loads of fun in Math!


The Dogwoods started their “Pattern Carnival,” which is creating a pattern on a poster and challenging their classmates to guess the pattern. Some Learners did their own mix on the Fibonacci sequence, utilizing shapes or even big numbers. We also investigated the “Hailstone Sequence.” This is starting with a whole number, dividing by 2, and if that number is even, multiplying it by 3, if it is odd, adding 1. This was a fun challenge for the Learners, to manipulate numbers and find patterns. The Dogwoods also enjoyed the puzzles of “24 Cards” this month. They were challenged to find as many solutions they could. We also started creating graphs about fun topics that we came up with. Some Learners graphed the size of an instrument compared to how heavy it is, some graphed the rating of a book compared to how many pages there were. 


In the Hickory and Willow groups, we dove into the patterns of multiplication. We did dice multiplication, where groups rolled dice and had to skip count by the numbers they rolled. A variety of strategies were used, such as tens friends, skip counting, and grouping, during this unit. We explored what happens to tens friends when the two numbers are multiplied instead of added together. They were able to create illustrations to represent math equations with pictures, tallies, dots, etc. They also enjoyed finding areas using 1x1 square tiles up against different shapes. 


The Sycamore group visualized the number 100 with objects such as beads, markers, paperclips or cubes. We also created arrays with these items! The Sycamores also reviewed the value of coins and discovered new ways to get to one dollar using various coins. With the 100th day of school coming up, we brainstormed ideas to incorporate math into the day. We thought of some very creative ideas! We also explored array puzzles of finding the shaded areas of an array without counting by ones. The methods were interesting and effective across the board.


Science with Furn


We spent the first half of January with mid-year reviews! We began with a game-show-style review of our previous unit on adaptations. Silvers showed great recall of this topic! We then played a game that included vocabulary from all of the previous units. In this game, Learners chose randomly from a list of grade-level appropriate science words, and explained to the group the definition of the word that they chose. Once the rest of the group guessed it, that word would pass on to the second round! In the second round, Learners acted out their words. Learners loved explaining topics to one another, and it was exciting to see their recall of the topics covered throughout the fall.


After reviewing our previous units, Silvers offered feedback on science class and how they felt their science learning was going. This allows future science units to continue to be built collaboratively and encourages engagement in class. Each group re-established their group expectations, and we recorded the expectations groups came up with so that we can reference them at the beginning of every class.


In the second half of January, we began our next unit - geology! Learners were excited to “adopt” a rock for their first geology nature journal, describing it the best they could with their previous knowledge. After evaluating their current geology knowledge, they started learning about different rock qualities, such as hardness, texture, grain size, opacity, etc. With a large rock collection, Learners participated in a rock challenge in which they used descriptions of these qualities to guide other Learners into pointing out their rocks. This was a great way to help us practice observation skills, communication, and some new vocabulary words! We learned about the "rock cycle" through books, videos, group discussion, and a starburst experiment that took a couple of mini starburst “rocks” through a simulated rock cycle. We practiced making observations of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rock samples with our new vocabulary words, engaged with an interactive rock cycle story, and learned a rock cycle song! Finally, Silvers were introduced to their rock cycle project. Soon, they will be creating their own way of educating others about the rock cycle, through stories, songs, comics, raps, plays, and videos. We are excited to get these projects going!


Emerald Alpacas with Corrie


January was filled with exploring the winter landscape, while also developing academic skills. During Exploration and nature journals the Alpacas discovered a variety of ice formations, snow formations, and many types of animal signs. Tracks, scat, urine, and disturbed soil inspired many nature connections. Imagining the deer, foxes, raccoons, rabbits, coyotes, and other creatures sharing our space has deepened our connection with the land and one another. 


The current unit, about solving local and global problems, generated many inspiring questions. The Alpacas read A Long Walk to Water as their novel study. This story is about a Sudanese refugee’s journey to escape, and later return to build wells. Learners discussed important issues ranging from resource scarcity to the refugee crisis. In addition, the text offered opportunities to analyze story elements, identify point-of-view, practice oral fluency, and practice comprehension. The text inspired the Alpacas to partner with a local organization to promote the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: Clean Water and Sanitation. We look forward to sharing our partnership at the upcoming Community Day.


In Math, Learners studied parts of a whole: fractions, decimals, and percentages. They practiced simplifying fractions, converting numbers from fractions to decimals to percentages, and multiplying and dividing those values. Over the past week, Learners completed their mid-year math assessments, which indicated that their efforts and focus are working!


Projects & Knowledge Seekers with Max & Ryan


Upon returning to school our Learners kicked off our next big idea, "Community Impact: How do people solve problems in their local and global communities?" Learners were asked to reflect on different problems they have encountered in their lives and how they were handled. Students were then presented with a design challenge to create a water filter that cleans dirty water. Upon testing a variety of materials to filter water, we discussed the global problem of water insecurity and reflected on our own gratitude for having access to clean water. From here, we have looked at problems big and small.  We have identified organizations in Charlottesville that take on problems, such as Scrappy Elephant helping to divert waste going into landfills, or Community Bikes providing access to bikes and promoting environmentally friendly transportation. 


Throughout January, we have been exercising our minds to be problem solvers through engaging brain teasers and riddles. We also learned new knots while trying to create tarp shelters in Winter weather. A lot of time has been given to recognizing how much our mentality goes into solving problems. We used examples such as the "Stuck On an Escalator" video to discuss the importance of practicing creative thinking and solving small problems that help us prepare for bigger ones.


As a school we are taking on a very local problem, the erosion of the GAP School Water Chicken Way trail. This is a heavily used trail that has widened considerably in the last 5-6 years. Learners took time to look at and measure the trail through nature journals, and then brainstormed ideas to help reduce the erosion on the trail.  The goals for this project are to protect the tree roots that are becoming more exposed, create space for the forest to take back the wider edges of the trail, and encourage people to walk single file down the trail.  Our first steps have been to lay down logs to mark the correct edges of the trail, cover tree roots with wood chips, and rope off the sections of trail people should avoid. We have been contributing to solving this problem for just 10-15 minutes during Knowledge Seekers. This will be an ongoing stewardship project as the year continues.


We ended the month by exploring how sunlight is a renewable resource that can solve problems. Learners are currently in the design phase of creating solar ovens with the goal of creating an oven that can get hot enough to melt chocolate. Creating solar ovens is a fun and engaging engineering challenge, and also has practical use around the world in communities that are still building fires every day for cooking and cleaning water. We will continue our solar exploration in the first weeks of February. 


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