PS/IS 686 | Brooklyn, NY

This Week in 301

This week we’re started our new writing unit: Personal Narrative. Another way to describe Personal Narrative is “true stories from our own lives.” We’ve begun by using different strategies for jogging memories loose: thinking about times when we felt a strong emotion, or memories that come when we think of a person who’s significant in our lives. The most popular strategy was thinking of “The first time I….” When you’re eight, those first times are still very fresh in your mind!

While we’re in this unit, I’m asking the students to write about memories from their own lives when they make notebook entries. If they want to write a fiction story, they may – but as an extra entry. Their two homework entries a week should be memories. Here’s where you can help! They should all have some lists of memories in their writer’s notebooks now. If they pick one of those ideas to write about, talk with them about the memory to help refresh the details in their minds. Alternatively, help them add to their lists of memories, so they have more ideas to write about. Ideally, the memories should be ones that are particularly vivid or important, not just a story of driving home and stopping for pizza.

In Math, we’ve continued working with “translating” story problems into Plans, which are math equations that “tell” the story.


After that you choose a strategy and solve the problem. An additional step that can be very helpful is putting the Plan on an open number line, because that often suggests an efficient strategy for solving the problem.

We’ve just begun to explore story problems that require more than one step to solve: situations where you need to figure out one thing first, before you can go on to solve the whole problem. Today we were sorting a set of different story problems into problems that could be solved in one step and problems that would take more than one step. Mia and Chiara were really excited when they noticed that one of the problems would actually require three steps to solve it!

In Social Studies we’ve begun learning about the continents and oceans of the world. I’m so sorry that the link I put on the homework sheet for GeoGames didn’t work for so many of you! Try this; you might be able to download it on your phone, or click on “Play GeoGames”. Alternatively, you should be able to access it through FireFox, even if Chrome doesn’t work. The nice thing about GeoGames is that it provides additional levels of challenge once children have learned the continents and oceans. If you can’t get GeoGames to work, this simpler game gives practice for the continents and oceans, at least.

There are also some great songs for learning this content. This one is a little young, but it shows the continents as it names them, and it can lodge itself into memory quite easily. Tour the World is long, but its visuals are really neat, and it actually shows every country, though they fly by at quite a fast pace. This version of Tour the World doesn’t show the locations of the continents and countries; instead, it substitutes images from the places being named, which is also valuable. Lastly, the Continents Rap is great, even if it doesn’t show the continents on a map or globe.

By the end of this unit, the children are expected to be able to identify the seven continents and five oceans on an outline world map, along with the Equator, the North and South Poles, and the Mediterranean Sea. We had a pretest on this information, which the children will get back along with their post-test, so that they can be proud of themselves for how much they’ve learned. Once Ms Marcy and I have scheduled the post-test, we’ll be letting you know the date; but I wanted to give you a heads up that the students are expected to learn this material – so get those songs playing and games going!

If you explore the App store on your tablet or phone, you’ll find that there are also a number of engaging geography-related apps designed for children. Some that I’ve liked are Atlas by Amphio Limited, AirPano, and Living Earth. If you find any that you and your child particularly like, please let me know, and I’ll pass on the information.

Finally, this Friday is our field trip to the American Museum of Natural History. We’ll be visiting the Hall of North American Mammals to examine the environments shown in each diorama, and considering how we would meet our needs for food and shelter if we lived there. Geography and climate have a tremendous influence on culture; by visiting the Museum now, Ms Marcy and I hope to lay the groundwork for that understanding.