Students are busy planning

Our Kindergarten and 4th grade classroom buddies teamed up to dream up their own floor plans and wish lists for the NEW SPS Design & Innovation Lab. First they toured our library to get the layout and feel of the the space. Then returned to class and started working on the particulars. Take a look and listen to the following planning ideas.

Design Plan Video 1

Design Plan Video 2


Taking writing beyond the pencil and paper and experiencing learning in a new way is the key to engaging kids in the classroom. We started off our new opinion writing unit with a taste test. The students had fun tasting three small sweet treats and choosing their favorite. We spent time brainstorming how we might help convince someone else of our opinion. We studied mentor texts such as the Mo Willems Pigeon series. We studied the types of language the authors used and worked to incorporate those strategies into our writing. It’s amazing how strong the kids opinions were and how many of them picked the strawberry over the candy! I am looking forward to continuing this unit all about their opinions and I can’t wait to showcase their work in April!

For the past two weeks, second graders have been busy exploring the world of nonfiction books. Through headings, bold print, and text boxes, they have begun to expand their knowledge about topics that interest them: from penguins to basketball, weather to volcanoes. They have focused on noticing details, putting parts of the text together to grow their understanding, and pausing to ask questions. Students have been reading both individually and with a partner to grow their understanding of different topics, and together write down such questions in their “emergency kit,” a sticky note pad and pencil they have with them during the reading block.

This week, students have learned that non-fiction books hold special surprises within their pages; that, when a book surprises you, it is usually because the information is new and exciting. For each student in the class, this unit has either grown their love for nonfiction or ignited a love for nonfiction that previously wasn’t there. American author Tracy Kidder once said, “What I like about non-fiction is that it covers such a huge territory. The best non-fiction is also creative.” They have a daily curiosity and excitement to arrive in the morning and dive back into their books, further looking at the world and all its wonders through a new lens.

As a teacher, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing my students motivated and engaged in their learning on so many levels. This was evident during our recent course of study on Ancient Rome. During this unit, students had a great sense of intellectual urgency, which essentially means they just had to know more about a wide variety of topics! Students were given choice in creating an artifact to represent an area of interest to them in relation to Ancient Roman history. We engaged in deep discussions, looking at multiple perspectives on whether or not Julius Caesar was a good ruler. We experienced strong emotions tied to our learning about the destruction of Mt. Vesuvius, or battles in the Colosseum.

In a recent teacher conference I attended, keynote speaker Ellin Keene referenced the the role of engagement in learning. It made me reflect on how engaged the 3rd graders were over the past few weeks as we traveled back in time to Ancient Rome. Ellin stated that as teachers, we should not “do the song and dance for our students,” but rather “inspire them to find the dance they want to do.” These kids each found their own source of inspiration whether it be researching more about gladiators, or learning more about the feats of Roman engineering. How rewarding it was to see them eagerly share their learning with others! Please enjoy some photos from our Ancient Rome culmination, where the 3rd graders performed a play recounting the life and leadership of Julius Caesar.

Fourth grade is fully immersed within our Lucy Calkin’s Informational Writing and Reading units. The class has self-selected, not only biographies of famous people that fascinate them, such as Milton Hersey, Betsy Ross, Muhammad Ali and Harry Houdini, but has also selected others types of informational text that appeal to their interests. Whether it is Forest Animals, Mountain Lions, World War II, Mummies or Crystals, we are picking up and learning from nonfiction texts that speak to us. Last week, we noticed text structures, learned how to take organized notes and created informational posters which utilized at least three of the note-taking structures we had just learned. This week, the class will focus on how to teach their information to others and how to best tackle the hard parts of informational reading: complex topics and tricky vocabulary.

As Tony Wagner, author of The Global Achievement Gap, pointed out, “We are confronted by exponential increases of readily available information, new technologies that are constantly changing and more complex societal challenges. Thus, work, learning, and citizenship in the twenty-first century demand that we all know how to think-to reason, analyze, weigh evidence, problem solve-and to communicate effectively.” Please enjoy a photo of the 4th grade class, communicating the information they researched to a small group of peers.

As the snow levels in town begin to taper off and thoughts of spring start to bloom, 5th grade students (and teachers) begin to think of the not-so-far-off transition to Middle School. Although the physical move to middle school only requires a limited number of steps down a familiar hallway, the mental transition can be much more involved and is often a source excitement and stress for both students and parents alike. Fear not, just check out the attached photo of our current 6th graders competing for the attention of the amazing Mrs. Mulvihill, the 6th grade Language Arts teacher!

At Seven Peaks we are intentional about making sure that kids have a smooth, fun and functional transition to 6th grade.  Relationships between current 5th graders and their soon-to-be middle school teachers and peers are created and fostered through several meaningful activities, such as…

  • Increased attendance of 5th graders at 6th grade culminations. For example we just watched an amazing 6th grade “Pop – Opera” performance that excited the kids about possible 6th grade performances
  • Move up Day – In June we will head over to Shevlin Park for a full day of team building activities that will allow our 5th graders to get to know their Middle School teachers and 6th grade peers
  • For parents, we will host several spring meetings to answer questions about what to expect socially, emotionally and academically in the year to come
  • Locker Combination Training – Believe it or not, being able to easily open a locker seems to be a common source of worry for 5th graders

In short, we will make sure that our 5th grade kids feel excited and comfortable about their move to “the other hall” of the school.  With caring and talented teachers like Mrs. Mulvihill and Mr Gylling, it is easy and realistic to have high expectations about the middle school years to come

We are immersed in our Fairy Tale Story Boards. Please watch the attached video as it shows the incredible energy from our Kindergarten afternoons. The students are actively working on creating their characters, and the setting. They are working on their retelling of the story and focusing on the sequence of events based on the characters of their storyboards. Our kindergartners will then share their storyboards with their 4th grade buddies next week! I am so proud of their efforts.


8th grade continues to dive into service learning

The projects have been personally selected and is self-directed. They started the process of looking at their personal interests and passions in January and have been working to find ways to apply those interests to help others. Students met again on February 10th with their coaches and had their 3rd IB Community Project meeting. This month, students each met to continue research and prepare to put their plan into action in the community within the next 2 months. Coaches asked that all students plan for time outside the classroom between now and the next community project meeting (March 17th, 2017), in some way.

We greatly appreciate the partnership SPS students and parents have to developing caring and compassionate young men and women. Service learning is an integral part of building character and has always been at the heart of SPS mission and vision. We invite you to ask any 8th grade student about their project or what their next steps are in helping to serve another.