Yields, Detours, and Roadblocks

Dear Families,

It’s State Testing season here, which means we’re in full swing taking reading and writing assessments. This means we’ve focused less on writing and spelling but more on geography! Our current geography unit, titled The Amazing Race, has students working in groups studying different regions of the United States. We loosely based this unit on the television show The Amazing Race, minus the production budget but more bravado and gravitas from the host. The activities vary greatly. There are seven teams in our class: The Fire-Breathing Four-Eyed Narwhals, The Revengers, The Spring Platypus, Spiky Pineapples, The Alpacas, 3 Musketeers, and Western Avocados.

  • The study of each region begins with a scavenger hunt, called Route Info, where students have to locate various answers using a pictorial map of each state in their region. Teams are awarded points based on how quickly and accurately they complete the scavenger hunt.
  • For each region, students are mapping the states in different ways. In the South, students are mapping important landmarks on the Civil Rights Trail. For the Northeast, the focus is a pictorial map where students draw pictures on the states of important landmarks or industries famous in that state. The Midwest is a political map (cities, roads), and the West is a physical map with a focus on mountains, mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, capes, and deserts.
  • Roadblocks are when students learn about cultural, migration, or trade stories. They are focusing on Dolores Huerta, the Civil Rights Trail, the history of Motor City (Detroit), and Ellis Island.
  • In the Yield for each region, students pick at least four vocabulary words specific to a particular state, create a sentence or sentences using those words, and read it to the class. We are also practicing speaking in regional dialect, which is very humorous as some our Midwest accents turn into Irish or Scottish. Ask your child to share a funny word they learned from a region they studied.
  • The Detours are really fun activities that tap into students’ artistic skills. They include improv comedy for the Midwest inspired by The Second City in Chicago, drawing a recreation of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting for the West, singing a Broadway hit in the style of karaoke for the Northeast, and performing a line dance for the South.
  • Lastly, in what’s referred to as the Fast Forward, students design a postcard that summarizes what they learned from each region . At the end of the unit, each student will choose one of the four postcards they designed and mail it home.

This unit is partially a race as there is a time limit for how long students have to complete the work. There are many students who are learning that managing time is important and that they should be using their time more productively or carefully, or both. Work from the unit is scored and each team receives an average score. If work is not completed, that amounts to a zero, and a lower team score.

As we’re reaching the end our reading and writing state tests, we’ll be devoting more time to our fantasy/science-fiction reading unit. Students are reading a novel in a small book club. This unit focuses on understanding the complexities associated with this very popular genre of fiction (villians, character change over time, conflict, symbolism, and more). The students have been engrossed in this reading unit so far and are loving the books they are reading. Ask your child what book they’re reading and have them share with you its setting and what they think of the characters so far.

Our class met its goal of 30 whole-class Crazy Cool Cardinals. We will celebrate our goal with a class party that will be held on Friday, May 3rd. Please note that this is a regularly scheduled Friday school day that is on the school calendar. I will send more information about our Class Party in a separate email either this weekend or next week.

We scheduled a field trip for Thursday, May 2nd to explore different waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge in conjunction with our upcoming geology unit. I will be sharing the permission slip for that field trip this weekend in a separate email. Please complete that permission slip when you receive the email. This is a separate field trip from our overnight field trip.

Enjoy what’s shaping up to be a nice weekend,

Mr. B

Idiom of the Week: Make a Big Splash