Friday, March 24, 2017

Week 26 -- POOT Testimony and Projects

Sam's Homeroom:

This week we went further into the Place Out of Time trial. Looking further at the testimony of Tom Joad, each student wrote a reply to an initial comment made by some other member of the simulation. In this way, the kids are not only responding to testimony but also critiquing and furthering others responses, which requires a different type of thinking.

Separate from, but related to the simulation, each student was asked to brainstorm a few topics for a long-term project that somehow builds on their character's life and times. Each project will lead to the creation of some kind of artefact (that's educational jargon for a tangible, physical or digital product). So far the ideas for the projects run the gamut from designing clothing and putting on a fashion show, to investigating the impact of minor technical tweaks to the performance of an RC-car, to short graphic novel biographies, and more traditional slideshow presentations or formal reports. We will be working on these projects well into May, each week taking time to think about the next steps. 

 Above: Tomoe Gozen taming a horse.
Monday's Warm Up asked the students to draw their
POOT character doing something typical.
Below: Coco Chanel making a dress.

On Tuesday the whole middle school went to see the Ann Arbor Symphony perform several pieces of classical music at Hill Auditorium; the highlight was the loud booming bass drums at the beginning of selections from Stravinsky's Firebird Suite.

The class has been getting so good at completing the Perplexors (grid logic puzzles) that this week we moved on to a different kind of logic puzzle that involved thinking about missing letter combinations in words--a mini-spelling lesson in addition to a logic puzzle.

Sam's 5/6 Math

This week we spent some time reviewing concepts relating to percents, especially calculating discounts and markups with an emphasis on using a 10x10 grid to help us think about what quantity in each problem represented 100% and then figuring out what 1% would be so that other percents could be calculated more easily. (Singapore Math calls this the Unitary Method).
We also took a look at concepts surrounding averages: calculating the total (sum) based on an average, finding the value of one item from the average and information about the other items, recalculating the average of a subset when members of known value are removed from the group.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Week 25 -- Origami, π, the Legal System

Sam's Homeroom:

This week we've been getting into the meat of the Place Out of Time simulation. As the trial phase begins, we spent some time going over various legal terms (plaintiff, defendant, testimony, magistrate, objections, evidence, hearsay, etc.) and looking at and responding to the opening arguments from the plaintiff and defense attorneys. 

On Wednesday the first witness, Tom Joad from the Grapes of Wrath, was called by the defense. We spent a lot of time discussing: the basic legal framework, the content of the opening arguments, and the testimony of Mr. Joad (including a sidetrack into the history of the dustbowl, US labor relations and 1930s era socialism), so that the students were all clear on what was being said, argued, and meant. They were all asked to respond, in character, to open of the opening arguments.  

To further their engagement with the topic, we did our first round of "Take a Stand" this year; an activity where, in or out of character, the students are asked to take a position ranging from strongly agree (standing by the window of the classroom) to strongly disagree (standing by the door) in response to a prompt. This time we did it in character and talked about two prompts about the role of the individual and society in creating and maintaining wealth inequality. Unsurprisingly, Al Capone and Erik the Red had a very different perspective than St. Nicholas of Myra or Pierre Trudeau. I've found this activity a great way to encourage the children to think about how to respond to topics that might show up in their research of their character. 

[As an aside, this week's logic puzzle, has a poorly worded clue that was, to my reading, missing a colon. This lead to a good conversation about the importance of accurate punctuation, and for those who were ready to think about, an introduction into the proper use of a colon for lists.] 

Jarod and Folu argued that video games should be considered a sport.
This weeks Scholastic News asked the children to take a position on whether or not video games should be considered sports (E-sports). Thursday afternoon, we had a lively discussion about their opinions based on what they'd written.

Working on a luminary for the Fool Moon parade.
Sam's Math

This week has us spinning around in circles and folding ourselves up. Monday, we continued to look at Origami, this time working on actually folding cranes, dragon heads or cups -- which was an interesting exercise in following directions. The rest of the week was spent in a celebration of Pi-day, looking at some of the basic concepts about circles: circumference, radius, diameter and area, which required the introduction of the concepts of irrational numbers and square roots. 
On Tuesday, we had a special guest lecturer, our very own sixth grader, Jarod Meakins, who presented the basic formulas and did some examples with the class. On Thursday, we measured real-world circles and talked about the difference between abstract and potentially perfect ideas, versus the inexactitude of measurement in reality.
Friday was the big celebration of Pi-Day, complete with Pie!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Week 23 -- Time, time, time, see what's become of me......

Sam's Homeroom ---

This week we did a lot of activities centered on the Timeline that we've been working on for a few weeks now. This week we got into some "Why" question and worked to fill in the gaps in time and place with additional notecards. On Friday we presented our project to the whole school at Morning Meeting.
Also related to the Place Out of Time project we talked a lot about the concept of dignity, which matched up nicely with one of the stories in Scholastic News about segregation and the Brown v. Board of Ed. court case. 
We also had an extra music class to prepare for the Music Cafe.

Will and Lilith continue to tweak their K'nex car in science class.

Lilith keeps the beat during a rehearsal for Music Cafe. 
In Art the class has started working on their designs for Fool Moon and Festifools.

At Morning Meeting, Mark talks about the scale of the timeline.

Will talks about our class' realization that time is very
long. (To put the cave paintings from Lascaux on our
timeline, we'd need to go 400m from Jason's room.

Sam's 5/6 Math ---
This week we focused on concepts with percents, especially using the Bar Model strategy to calculate discounts, taxes and interest. A few of the sixth graders have begun planning for our Pi Day celebration coming up in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Week 19 and 20 -- "How Did You Find That? AND "Who Are You?

Week 19

Sam's Homeroom:

This week we got really into researching characters for the Place Out of Time simulation. On Monday, everyone learned who they'd be portraying, and started research on their character in more depth. In conjunction with the research, we've been talking about evaluating sources for credibility--Rachel did a wonderful activity with them on Thursday (ask about the F.A.R.T. test if you want to hear more). On Thursday, as a way to organize and deepen their understanding about their character, everyone starting working on a timeline of major events that occurred in their character life, but also in the world at large.

We also spent some time talking about how to extract the meaning from a source with an activity from Scholastic News about Martin Luther King, Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech, which led to an interesting discussion about the Declaration on Independence (because King references it) and a little bit about Jim Crow and various forms discrimination King alluded to in his speech. 

Sam's Math Group

This week we've been focusing on geometry, particularly angles and the tools of geometry: protractors, compasses and straightedges, as a way of deepening understanding about the types of angles and triangles. A particularly relevant 'discovery' the kids made, if you know the lengths of the three sides of a triangles, there is only one triangle it can be (allowing reflections and rotations).

Week 20

Sam's Homeroom:

Researching characters for Place Out of Time has occupied much of the week. In addition to ongoing work on the research log, everyone is also making a timeline of their character's life, including personal event, and also major cultural or political events that occurred at the same time, but not necessarily to the character in question. [Having a broad knowledge of world events helps the students better understand and portray their characters.] Completing the timelines is the major goal for the week.

We also had a special pop culture connection: In this episode of My Little Pony the young ponies consult with the older characters (collect data from primary sources) about how they got their cutie marks. It turns out that all of the older ponies stories share common elements and an overlapping timeline. The class had a discussion, first about why we watched this episode in particular, and then about the value of overlapping narratives for better understanding an event, a place or a time. 

On Thursday, Rachel continued to discuss digital research and evaluating sources with all the 5-6s.

Sam's 5/6 Math Class:

This week we spent a fair bit of time talking about reading and decoding complicated story problems (mostly about ratios). We went over many of the common mistakes students have made in the past and talked about techniques for avoiding them, like re-reading the problem after writing down the "answer" and using a highlighter to circle or underline important parts of the text. 
We did a couple of problems together as a class, and several of the students corrected me when I (unintentionally?) made one of the common mistakes.
Many of the students will be completing the Singapore Book in the next week and beginning assessments. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Week 18 -- Move Up Day, Science Cars

Sam's Homeroom:

We used our limited class homeroom time this to look back at and go further with previous projects. Most students revisited their first semester reflection documents and worked on finishing and editing their Constellation Myths. 
On Thursday, we had move up day. The fifth graders, along with visitors from Spencer and Chris' classes talked about warm ups, checkout and the general feel of our classroom. In the afternoon we got together with the rest for the 4s and 5s to make posters about real vs. fake internet news sources.
There was no checkout this week because of the limited amount of homeroom time.

Reed and Juliana working on peer reviews of a short story.

Mixed group of 4s and 5s working on a poster about Internet sources.

Sam's Math Group:

Thursday was move up day, so the 4s and 5s got to have math together. We had a game day. On Friday we took a further look at the area and perimeter of composite shapes made from rectangles and triangles.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Week 17 -- Happy New Year and Welcome Back


We began the new year with a "How Was Your Break?" interview warm up to get the classroom conversation going and revisit some of the interviewing and note-taking skills we worked on in the fall.

Mark and Folu decided to work together on a note-taking
 and summarizing activity from Scholastic News.

We've been especially focused on getting into the Place Out of Time simulation. On Monday and Tuesday we spent a good part of homeroom time with Jason's class doing introductory activities for the simulation. This led up to the first major assignment: preliminary research to identify three different people that they would be interested in further researching and then portraying for the next three months. (The organizers of the simulation make the final choice of characters to be used in the simulation.)  Making these choices has a big impact on what the students get out of the experience. To that end, if you have some time this weekend, talk to your child about who they've been researching. You'll be hearing a lot more about one of those people. 

Science this week has the students designing simple cars (made from K'nex). The kids get really into trying out different designs and made some really good drawings of their plans.
Folu's first attempt at a K'nex car.

Lilith and Will work on designs for their car.

Working on the first build.

Sam's Math Group

This week in math we looked to get back into the flow of the Singapore books. Most of the class is working on a unit about area of triangles, so we spent Tuesday and Thursday learning how to identify different kinds of triangles based on the lengths of the sides and measures of the angles. We also looked at composite shapes and talked about how to calculate the area as a piecemeal -- e.g. a rectangle with a triangle cut out of the middle.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Weekly Updates: Week 14 and 15

Week 14

Sam's Homeroom --
Our time this week was split primarily between rehearsals for the school play; researching and organizing the information for the biome card games for science, and planning the stories for the constellation myths, including making a "story mountain" for the plot and writing physical character descriptions of the protagonist and antagonist.

Sam's Math Group
This week we continued our study of arithmetic with fractions, moving on to multiplication with mixed numbers. We especially focused on developing visual models.

Additionally, while the rest of the class was rehearsing for the play, Folu, Sophie and Mark made the treasure chest prop for our class' myth.

Folu uses the protractor to make sure the lid angle was the same on each side of the chest.

Mark use straightedges and Sharpie to clean up and highlight the sketch Folu made. 

Week 15

Sam's Homeroom
Despite the snow day on Monday and the Nutcracker performance on Thursday, this week had quite a lot going. Building on the story mountains (plot arcs) and character descriptions we wrote last week, everyone is now ion the process of writing a myth based on the constellation they designed a few weeks ago. We also continued the work on the biome card games moving from the initial and scientific research to discussions of game balance and power levels of the individual cards. Focusing on the science project and the constellation myths, in addition with the weekly logic puzzle and a Scholastic News, there ratio of assignments to work time was higher than usual and many of the students will have some things to bring home this weekend.

Addie and Folu discuss the ratios of "eats to is eaten by" in Into the Forest.

Sam's Math
We only met twice this week and so work was focused on the Singapore books, especially more complicated fractions story problems using the bar model strategy. On Friday, Susan's 1/2 math class came to show us a mathematical magic trick they'd learned.

Esh shows Will his trick. (Femi is showing his trick to someone off camera.)