Friday, January 23, 2009

First Grade Independent Literacy Centers

First graders have been enjoying learning through independent literacy centers. All three 1st grade teachers have developed common centers which promote independence, creativity and problem-solving. Students look forward to “center-time” and the chance to express their individuality as they learn.

A favorite center for many students is called “squiggle.” Students are given a squiggle line on blank paper which they turn into a fully elaborated drawing. For example, different students might take the same squiggle line and turn it into a snail, a snake, a girl’s hairdo or a lollipop! The second part of this center requires children to write about the drawings. The amount and sophistication of writing required of each student differs according to individual ability. A student from Mrs. Makuch’s class says, “In squiggle you can use your imagination and write about your imagination.” Another student says, “It could help you be an artist one day!”

Another favorite is called “Top Ten.” Students create a list of ten items in response to a question such as “What are your favorite foods?” or “What are some ways to warm up when you are cold?” The lists can be serious or silly! One student says, “You could look at books to find ideas.” Another comments, “You can draw pictures and write sentences to go with your list.”

These centers, and others, go a step beyond a right or wrong answer. They encourage students to stretch their thinking, use their time wisely and apply learned skills to express their individual ideas.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ashford Students Use Technology to Witness History: January 20th 2009

The excitement was evident early on January 20th. Ashford School was gearing up to watch the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barak Obama. Ashford School has only one cable TV drop so we knew it would be a challenge to make viewing the historic event a possibility for all classes planning to participate. Grades 4 and 6 squeezed into the library and viewed using the cable TV.

Additionally, in various classrooms throughout the building, computers were directed to the special feed provided by the Connecticut Education Network (CEN) for live-streaming of the event. This feed to CNN was established by the CEN in anticipation of the regular Internet lines to news sources becoming clogged during the height of viewing. Computers were connected to projectors and the programming was viewed by many as it was projected onto whiteboards. Through these technology tools, Ashford students got to watch the massive crowd, listen to the new President be sworn in, and participate in the Star Spangled Banner with the nation in real time on this historic day!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Geography Bee

Kristina C.’s knowledge of the Aztec Empire helped her clinch the 2009 Geographic Bee championship at Ashford School. She knew that Mexico City is located on the site of Tenochtitl├ín, the ancient Aztec capital conquered by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Kristina faced tough competition from runner-up and fellow eighth grader Shannon H. 7th grader Devin P. placed third.

In addition to the finalists, other young geographers included fourth grader Brian B., fifth grader Aidden A., sixth graders Ron L. and Kaitlyn L., seventh graders Caitlin E. and Jason P., and eighth grader Bailey L..

The Bee is a program of the National Geographic Society for students in grades four through eight. Bee questions address the physical and cultural aspects of both United States and world geography. Kristina’s next step is to complete a written exam, aiming to qualify for the state bee in April. All state winners are eligible to compete for the national championship in Washington, D.C., where the first-place prize is a $25,000 college scholarship and a trip to the Gal├ípagos Islands. “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek will moderate the finals in May. Good luck, Kristina!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bringing Social Studies to Life

Sometimes the best way to learn is to leave school. That’s what Ashford’s 5th grade does when it needs to bring its social studies program to life.

In October the three 5th grades traveled to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. There our students participated in hands-on activities using archaeological tools to uncover history and discover how wild plants and other materials were used to make twine, insect repellant, and a cure for poison ivy. In addition, the classes toured an authentic 16th century village and saw what life was like at that time. According to Amber Nurse, “this was the best field trip ever.” Other students echoed the same sentiment.

In the Spring our 5th graders will become more acquainted with our state government as we tour the state capitol and legislative office building in Hartford. We will learn about rights and responsibilities we have as citizens of Connecticut. At the Old State House our students will also explore our state’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government through role playing an election, a debate, and a mock trial.

Later in the Spring, we turn our sights to the Freedom Trail in Boston where two guides dressed in period costumes will take us on a tour of sites that were important to the American Revolution. These sites include the Boston Common, the Granary Burial Ground, the site of the Boston Massacre, and the Old North Church. At Faneuil Hall we will be greeted by Benjamin Franklin who will give our 5th graders his own insights and wisdom about his life and the Revolutionary War period.

Friday, January 09, 2009

7th Grade Science Classes Study Marathon Runner

Running a marathon is considered an ultimate test of the human body’s stamina, but exactly what happens to a runner during the standard 26.2-mile course? How does a marathon runner prepare his/her body? These are some of the questions that were presented to the 7th graders at Ashford School as part of their study of the human circulatory system.

In order to find answers, the 7th graders decided to study one particular marathoner, David LaPorte. Mr. LaPorte, a special education teacher at Ashford School, is also an avid runner and a second year participant of the famed New York Marathon. Using part of an EETT technology grant, students built microprocessor-controlled sensors that measured and recorded skin temperature every five minutes. Mr. LaPorte agreed to wear the sensors this past November 2nd when it took readings during his three hour and fifty-one minute jaunt through the five boroughs of New York City.

When he returned, students retrieved the raw data and began the process of converting it for analysis. This required the use of many algebraic concepts that would challenge even the advanced student,
but the idea was to generate motivation by offering data about a real event and a real person. It was a teacher’s delight to watch students like MariElle P. blurt out, “Ah hah, now I see how that works!” while diligently working on a rather lengthy equation designed to convert computer units into Celsius.

After the conversions were completed and a large format graph of the entire race was synthesized, a team meeting with Mr. LaPorte was held. He was able to answer questions about his experience and offer some hypotheses that might explain the dips and peaks in our graph. For more information and access to student responses, visit the class website at:

This is one of the many interesting science and technology experiences being funded by this grant during the 2008-09 school year.