Learning Always Starts with Questions!

In mid-February, our study of the American Civil War began as meaningful learning usually does — with questions. So many questions!! Nearly everyone in the group had only passing knowledge of the conflict, though all seemed to be aware (perhaps because we had been harping on the shared birthdays of Charles Darwin, subject of our […]

The View from the Break-out Room

Our story (read aloud) time in the break-out room this year has been a bit unusual so far. Rather than beginning the year with a novel — often a classic — the material was tied more specifically to our thematic study, and we read a significant number of biographies of naturalists. Typically, they were from […]

The Value of “Real Work”

I’ve long struggled with the expression, “real work,” when it’s used to suggest that certain realities (the abstract, theoretical, or idealized sphere of the classroom, laboratory, etc.) aren’t as meaningful, as authentic, or as rich as other situations. I find it to be too pat a distinction. What we experience in our day to day […]


So much attention is paid to reading and then to writing in the first years of school, that it is easy to overlook the importance that conversation — that first language-based connection we ever have with our children — continues to hold. In our fifth and sixth grade group, it is central to our work […]

The Power of Habit

So much of the building of any community — a classroom group, a family, a project at work, a relationship with neighbors — is about creating routines, rituals, habits. In my neighborhood, for example, when we moved in some 16 years ago, we were gently informed that arranging to have the mail stopped at the […]

Going Deep with Literature

Several weeks before conference week and spring break, we began the third and final portion of our study of “place,” launching a study of migration (immigration, emigration, etc.) LiteraWe began with a new read aloud book, the sadly true, moving and hopeful story told by Linda Sue Park, A Long Walk to Water. This story, […]

Mental Maps

While working on finishing the tessellations we’ve been drawing, and hope to have on display for families at the upcoming Back to School Night, we were also listening to The Hobbit, the year’s first read aloud. I have read this book multiple times, yet am struck again by the richness and humor of Tolkien’s writing, […]