Hundredth Day in the English Classes

Yes, today we reached the hundredth day of the school year. At assembly this morning Ms. Sylvia explained to the pupils in the English Classes that this tradition of celebrating the 100th day of school is a little more than forty years old. The tradition began as a way of making the concept of 100 more concrete to entry level pupils. It has developed into a tradition that has gradually crept up through primary school grade levels. From kindergarten pupils to sixth graders, the English Classes at Cygnaeus School celebrated in a myriad of ways. After their Finnish lesson this morning, our first graders quickly made the dazzling 100-eyeglasses shown in the photo collage above.

Together with their fifth grade peer pals, the first graders created a list of one hundred adjectives. With their peer pals, the first graders searched their classroom to find 100 numbered stars that had been hidden. Once no more stars could be found, each first grader arranged the stars that s/he had found in ascending numerical order. The fifth graders checked their work. Then the first grade pupils sorted their numbered stars into even and odd numbered stars. The next challenge was to create a long line of all 100 stars in numerical order.  That was when we discovered that there are still three stars that have not been found!

The last challenge using the numbered stars was to lay them out on a table in rows of tens.  With a little trial and error, this task was mastered, too. The session with the fifth grade peer pals concluded with 100 seconds of silence. During the last lesson of the day Ms. Sylvia read the book, Fluffy’s 100th Day of School by Kate McMullen to the first grade class.

The fourth graders, together with the English Class kindergarten, started their Hundredth Day workshop with a rousing workout to Jack Hartmann’s Let’s Get Fit: Count to 100 Song. Then the pupils practiced estimating numbers of unifix cubes up to one hundred and then actually counting them.

Other activities included filling in the missing numbers on a hundred chart and drawing pictures of how they imagine they will look one hundred years into the future.

The second and third grade classes, along with some sixth graders, had 100th day booklets that offered lots of fun activities. These included estimating how many dice rolls it would take to reach a total of 100, estimating how many times someone’s name could be written in 100 seconds, doing fitness activities for 100 seconds and lots, lots more.

Finally some sixth graders were challenged with the task of writing poems celebrating the 100th day of school by using exactly 100 words under the guidance of Ms. Sandra. Incidentally, while thinking about what to write, a realization was made that our sixth graders have passed their 1000th day of school. The Finnish school system has 190 school days in a year. That means that the thousandth day in total for sixth graders occurred just before the autumn break. The Hundredth Day poems will appear in this blog within the next couple of days.


Design and Craft Textile Studies

In accordance with Finland’s newest curriculum all primary school pupils learn design and craft. Half of the English Class sixth grade class have been learning textile studies skills while the other half have been learning woodworking skills . Now, after Christmas, the groups will change over. The sixth graders shown in the photo collages in this post sewed mittens from fleece material. Then they learned basic knitting so they could knit cuffs for their mittens using the garter stitch.

It didn’t take very long for the pupils to master the new skill of knitting. They sewed the cuffs to the mittens by hand and voilá, the mittens were ready for use.

Since today was the last lesson for these sixth graders in the textile studies room, pupils purposefully finished up projects that needed to be completed. The new year will begin with learning brand new skills.

Celebrating 100 Years of Finland’s Independence

The theme of the Suomi Finland centenary celebration was being and doing Together. That theme of togetherness was very evident in the celebration at Cygnaeus School on Thursday, November 30th. The English Class pupils and teachers, together with all of the other pupils and teachers at Cygnaeus School, outdid themselves with decorations and programmes that included music, art and dance for invited guests. The main speaker at the celebration was Juhani Ruohonen, the head of  Satakunta County Museum. He spoke about how the town of Pori and 105 year old Cygnaeus School have changed and developed in the last hundred years. The music classes’ choir, Synkooppi, sang a beautiful rendition of Finlandia.

Fourth grader Oska played the part of a grandson who sent a letter to his grandfather wondering how Finland’s flag and national anthem came to be. The role of the grandfather was played by retired teacher Antt Ilén from Cygnaeus School. His grandfather replied with a great deal of enlightening information in his letter to his grandson. The rest of the celebration was divided into decades where a programme number always highlighted something special in that decade. Essentially all of the pupils in the school had some role in the programme. There was folk dancing that represented the exuberant 1920’s. The 1930’s featured The Seven Brothers, which is a very famous book by Finland’s national author, Aleksis Kivi. We also heard a song about the brothers sung by third and fourth grade boys.

The 1940’s were a tumultuous time of wars. We were honoured to have war veteran Olavi Sandberg, who is 90+ years old, talk to us about his life. He also told how he had helped lay many veterans to rest in their final resting places in years past.  When he sang Veteraanin Iltahuuto, (The Veteran’s Evening Call) together with the sweet voices from the third and fourth grade music classes, it was deeply moving. Roy K. translated the song into English as follows:

The Veteran’s Evening Call
(1). Over the darkening shore of the bay the sun has set.
Evening call is already sounding.
The burden has been laid down.
Remember your father then, his step has grown weary.
Children and your children’s children,
now it’s your turn.
[Refrain]: Take care, for soon the brothers will be gone,
Remember that for them this land was dear.
Tell your children’s children in song,
the memories must never be tarnished!
(2). The hymn sounds in the vault softly,
darkly the yearning sounds.
Time has reaped its harvest, the field has been picked clean.
Long ago we marched side-by-side.
Fire lit up sky and earth.
On the shore of Lake Onega’s bay,
to whom can this now be told ?
[Refrain]: Take care…
(3). In the waves of Lake Ladoga’s might,
we can no longer dip our shoes.
Brothers who guarded its shores,
when the dawn arises.
Proudly the Karelian folk has borne its suffering.
Mother Earth embraces them protectively.
The sentry is now gone.
[Refrain]: Take care…
In the 1950’s Paavo Nurmi’s success as a great athlete was celebrated. The 1960’s featured Marimekko and a dance known as Letkajenkka. The 1970’s decade was brought to mind by 4 times gold medal winner Lasse Virén. The 1980’s brought Muumi to the world’s attention. In the video below English Class first and second graders join all the rest of the first and second graders at Cygnaeus School, and the English Class kindergarten pupils, in singing Hei Muumi.
The English translation to this Muumi song can be found here.
The 1990’s were renown for some colourful fashion. Fashion trends throughout the decade recycled styles from previous decades, notably the 1960s and 1970s so we watched a fashion show. In the 2000’s hip hop was popular. The fifth grade music class did a stellar job with their band and choir production of Eteen ja ylös. The 2010’s spotlighted a special slide presentation of the art classes’ extraordinary artwork to the background music of Lauri Tähkä’s Minun Suomeni (My Finland).
Toward the end of the programme Headmaster Arto Suni revealed two works of art that will be hung permanently in each wing of the main floor of the school. The works, both called Tuhansien järvien maa/Land of a Thousand Lakes are composed of  individual 3-dimensional white flowers on a royal blue background. Every pupil and staff member in the school made a flower using silk clay. These flowers were then permanently attached to the two painted blue backgrounds. After singing the national anthem, Maamme, and the closing flag ceremony, this amazing celebration of our country and the young people who live in it was over.
Because all of the English Class pupils put lots of time and effort into decorating our school for this special occasion, we would like to share some of their work with readers of our blog. Above is a village of buildings created by first, second, third and fourth graders. Fifth and sixth graders made the snowy trees for the village. The snowflakes on the right are water colour resist with a bit of glitter for pizzazz created by English Class third graders.
An earlier post showed English Class pupils practicing cursive. They used their cursive skills to each write a word that they themselves chose as being their most beautiful Finnish word. The words were either written on white or blue paper and then a Finnish flag was formed with all 117 cards.
Gel print workshops for all of the English Class pupils resulted in the amazing prints seen above. English Class second graders made glittery sweet angelica weeds and sewed snowflakes on paper plates. The first graders made snowy tree landscapes with shredded paper, glue and tissue paper. The entire school looks amazing with lantern jars pupils have made, drawings of presidents, paper stars and snowball lanterns and so much, much more. If talent and creativity are any indicators, Finland is in good hands for the future because we have a school of extraordinary teachers and children!

Another Successful Halloween Sale

English Class fifth and sixth graders, along with their respective teachers, Ms. Virpi and Ms. Sandra, have been planning this Halloween sale for months. The goal of the sale is to raise funds for their class trips.

Planning involves making decorations, advertising, gathering lottery prize donations, deciding the division of labour and responsibilities, pricing, labeling and much, much more.

All sorts of yummy baked goods were for sale, along with soft drinks and popcorn. There was a Halloween DJ and loads of lottery prizes.

A sale like this is a fantastic way of learning entrepreneurial skills at school. Planning and actualizing the sale involves problem-solving, team-building, transversal competences – such as social competence and manners, initiative-taking and cultural awareness. Furthermore, it is something the children will remember for a long time to come!

Halloween Film Project Movies (Part 1)

The films created by English Class pupils, as described in the previous post, are being completed in dribs and drabs. Here is a sampling of the work of a couple of groups of fourth, fifth and sixth graders. It is particularly heartening to notice that pupils made good use of their planned camera angles and shots!


Learning Library and Research Skills

Last week English Class sixth graders visited Pori’s Town Library. As part of their visit the sixth graders tested out special decoding materials that had been developed over the summer by library staff members. The idea was to use a decoding tool to determine the name of a specific  book, DVD or magazine in the library and then to locate it in its proper place in the library.

Another part of the field trip to the library for the sixth graders was learning how to research a pre-determined topic by locating information in books and periodicals, taking notes and marking down the sources of information for a bibliography.

Today English Class third graders visited the town library. They also participated in the decoding activity devised by library staff members. Working in small groups the pupils had to figure out the name of a book using the decoding wheel, and then locate the book in its place among the shelves.

Each group needed to find a total of five different books using cards that were coded. More clues for locating the books on shelves were offered on the backs of the coded cards. For example, a card clue might show the Dewey decimal number of 84.2 and the first three letters of the author’s surname, KAJ. This decoding game is a nifty way to motivate children to find specific books in the library. Both classes very clearly enjoyed the challenge!

Shared Reading with a Reading Partner

“Reading buddies”, “reading pals”, “reading partners”, “shared reading”… There are many names for when older pupils and younger pupils read together at school.  Yesterday afternoon English Class sixth graders paired up with second graders to spend a lesson of shared reading together. This time English Class second graders read to their sixth grade peer pals.

The benefits of this kind of reading are numerous.  Every single younger pupil gets positive reinforcement and attention while reading in the 1:1 situation. The children are reading aloud without the stress of having to read in front of the whole class. Comprehension problems can be dealt with immediately. Shy and more reluctant readers feel more confident when reading with an older pupil. Fluency improves and friendships develop with the older pupils. The benefits of older pupils reading to the younger ones include improvements in fluency, responsibility and confidence as well.