Wagon train, vocabulary, buddies, and more

By Mark Palacio

Last Friday didn’t make it into last week’s blog because I was out of town. Among the things they did on that day was assembling new stools for our breakout room. We think everyone now knows what a hex wrench is! They also played some games with and started to interview their buddies in Bree and Rich’s first/second grade group. The plan is to make a “baseball card” for each student, complete with photo, interests, and some personal information. We have not yet worked out the individual pairs and trios, but that should get done in the coming week.


Our wagon trains are continuing their westward journey to Oregon. Although luck is often a factor  in our students’ progress (as it really was back then), it also takes good decision-making , teamwork, and effort. The diary entries that students write after each class meeting (two or three times a week) are important because the points they earn move the wagon trains along. What are we looking for in the writing?

  • accuracy in reporting the day’s events
  • character development — not only for the person who is writing the diary but also for that person’s family members (if any) and gradually the entire population of the train:
    • feelings
    • opinions
    • actions
    • appearance
  • authentic additional descriptions:
    • wildlife
    • scenery
    • details about daily life (what you eat, where you sleep, evening activities, etc.
      • sources to help with this include the many books on display in our room, the novel we are all reading, and a video about the Oregon Trail that we are watching in class.



Vocabulary expansion in all of our subject areas is something we work on in many ways. Students have been solving puzzles and completing other kinds of worksheets, using words from the glossary we gave out for Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie (our whole-group novel). They’ve also learned and are starting to use new words relating to our dulcimers (bridge, nut, fret), mathematics, even assembling our new stools for breakout room (laminated wood, hex wrench). Vocabulary also comes into our discussions when we read a chapter book to the class. Watership Down is our current book, and there is a lot of unfamiliar language, in part because the author is English.


And speaking of dulcimers — students are now learning to play a few chords as well as melodies. When Carol Moog brought her traditional treat for her birthday at the end of the day on Tuesday, we were able to not only sing “Happy Birthday” but also to play it!

We’ve started learning about the election process, primarily by using a couple of print resources (one from Scholastic and one from Time for Kids). We will also be going to some websites to see statistics on the current race, but our main focus is on the process, the major issues, the 3-part structure of our government, and the powers of the presidency as spelled out in the U. S. constitution.

We’ve set everyone up with XtraMath accounts. Although students will practice in the classroom and will sometimes have it assigned for homework, we hope that parents will encourage additional practice at home as time permits and will take a look at their child’s progress. This requires registering the home computer, following the directions in the flyer we sent home . Right now, students are working on multiplication and (in some cases) division. As we have told our kids, they can ask for the response time to be increased (from 3 seconds to 6 seconds) or shortened if they want more challenge (to 1.5 or 2 seconds).

We’ve started to work on handwriting and general knowledge in our composition books that have handwriting guidelines. We began by writing the days of the week and the months of the year in sequence (which not everyone knows yet). We then copied and discussed the little poem called The Twelve Months by George Ellis (1735 – 1815):

Snowy, Flowy, Blowy,
Showery, Flowery, Bowery,
Hoppy, Croppy, Droppy,
Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy.

We talked about each word, tried to figure out how it applied to the month it described, and also looked at when and how long George Ellis lived. Before or after the American Revolution? Before or after our wagon train journey?

Mike Batchelor installed a couple of pull-up bars in two of our interior doorways this week, and they have been tremendously popular. Some students can’t quite reach them yet, but they are getting closer. (We’ve asked Mike about finding some outdoor spaces where lower ones might be placed.) The bars are relatively inexpensive, so some of you might consider putting one somewhere in your house, if you don’t already have some large-muscle play equipment available.

That’s about all we have time to report here. We hope your child is keeping you informed at a deeper level.

Note: You can also visit Lynn and Mark’s full weekly blog site (hosted at Edublogs) to read earlier entries or check out our list of useful links.

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