Hands-on with Letters of the Week in SK

Like many other students their age, Parker’s Senior Kindergarteners learn their ABCs. However, while other curriculums lean heavily on rote memorization to instill these early lessons, Parker’s master teachers have developed the Letter of the Week campaign, which devotes a week to creating multi-disciplinary activities around concepts that will help children remember the sounds they are studying.

A recent letter and sound was the short “o,” and teachers thought of “octopus.” The SK team remembered a previous lesson when their classes studied an entire octopus. “This seemed like the type of hands-on learning we had been missing this year,” SK teacher Nanci Moore said.

To prepare, SK students watched educational videos and read books to learn more about the octopus. “After reading some books and watching some videos, it was really cool to have one right there to examine its anatomy and have a little less fear of something,” SK teacher Dana O’Brien shared further. “They were able to feel the beak, funnel and suckers on the arms. They could see where the eyeballs were (they were great about remembering the pupils of an octopus are more like a rectangle than a circle). They remembered that the funnel squirts water, and each sucker is packed with chemical receptors that smell and taste upon contact. They had read that each sucker (the large ones that are closest to the beak) can hold at least 35 pounds and wrench open clams, crabs and other prey quite easily. They wanted to know how long the octopus was if we stretched out its arms, and we found out that it was five feet long! Using magnifying glasses, they got a close-up view of the skin, which amazed them, since they know octopuses are masters of disguise!”

This lesson helped reinforce their understandings of the octopus and answer questions on things they might not have considered previously. “They had great questions relating to how the octopus could make itself fit through a small hole and how the food got into its beak and excellent thoughts about the three hearts of an octopus. I think seeing it right there in front of them allowed them to formulate questions and feel more connected. Our goal in SK science is to help children maintain a curiosity about the world around them and learn how to formulate questions. I think this certainly allowed this to happen.”

This is a perfect example of the dynamic learning Parker is proud to deliver. Some students may have memories of having to memorize letters and sounds from a book and simply repeating them back, but Parker SKers will look back at a week of activities and say, “oh.”  

Click here for photos!
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.