As the leaves begin to change color ever so slightly and the weather finally turns cooler, teachers at Overbrook are taking a cue from Mother Nature and bringing a harvest of fall lessons into their classrooms.
Junior high students are reading the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, grandfather of the horror story, and writing scary stories themselves. First-graders spent a week as “spider scientists” learning everything about the arachnids. And kindergartners got their hands slimy and gooey last week as they dissected pumpkins for a lesson on estimation and counting by 10s.
“We just ended our first quarter, so this is the perfect time for teachers to bring in a fresh lesson,” said Principal Sister Mary Gertrude, O.P. “Plus engaging students in activities that coincide with the season really increases students’ interest level and retention of the lessons being learned.”
The first-graders in Mrs. Sarah Joyce’s class spent a week studying everything about spiders across the curriculum.
“The lesson on spiders is a science unit that has interdisciplinary tie-ins,” Mrs. Joyce explained. “So, in writing and grammar, we worked on using verbs and adjectives to describe spiders and then wrote a Diamante poem about spiders.”
But the lesson didn’t end there. In science, the first-graders learned specific vocabulary and factual information about spiders; in reading they practiced finding the main idea and details in books about spiders; and in work stations the students worked in small groups to read a non-fiction text on spiders while decoding words and recognizing sight. To end the lesson, they pulled in a few fun projects such as creating spider artwork with their handprints and edible spider webs out of pretzels and white chocolate.
In junior high, the scary factor inched up a notch with the assignment in eighth-grade to read Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” short story. The students were then assigned to write their own scary story. But in the classroom, English teacher Mrs. Cindy Buss teamed up with computer teacher Ms. Rianne Harris to create three technology-driven activities based on the short story. The students had a class discussion using Senteo interactive response units to answer questions about the story, which were then automatically fed into the Smart Board where students could see charts based on their responses. Two more interactive technology lessons followed including a lesson using Edmodo – a website that is a network that connects teachers to students, administrators, parents, and publishers with online resources and tools – and computer drawings based on the story.
After the first lesson using the remote control units, eighth-graders were asked if they liked the format. A resounding “yes” came from the students.
“This lesson not only challenged the students to think critically about ‘The Tell-Tale Heart,’ but also incorporated new and interesting technology tools into the lesson to expand on the students’ creativity and thought processes,” said Mrs. Buss and Ms. Harris.
In kindergarten, it was all about the pumpkin last week. The students spent much of the day Friday doing a “pumpkin investigation.” The classes were each given a small, medium and large pumpkin and asked to guess how tall the pumpkin was, how many seeds it might have, and if it would float. They then set out to find out how close their estimations came.
The students carved the pumpkins and extracted all the seeds. They then counted the seeds in groups of ten to see which pumpkins contained the most seeds. The large pumpkin won out in Ms. Chrissie Conyer’s class containing 593 seeds.
Teachers at Overbrook work to provide interactive, interesting lessons for students all year. But when the weather turns crisp and the leaves start to change, there is just something in the air that makes learning more fun.
Overbrook roots children in truth, inspires them to wonder and challenges them to give their best to the world. Founded in 1936 by the Dominican Sisters of the St. Cecilia Congregation, Overbrook offers an advanced curriculum including Algebra I and Latin in junior high, Montessori teaching in prekindergarten, studio art, music in all grade levels, and the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program for lower grade levels. Fourteen different clubs and organizations are offered to students for extra-curricular activities as well as nine different team sports.
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