Friday, September 15, 2017

Week of 9/11 - 9/15

Sam's 4-6 Math Group:

This week the class was led by guest teachers on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, Mary Perrin assisted the students in creating a tessellating tile from which the students are making a larger art piece. On Tuesday, Josh got the class started on their Singapore books, though a few students were still finishing assessments this week. On Wednesday, one small group of students had a lesson about using estimation to help with multiplication and division problems when decimals are involved, while the other kids had time to work. On Thursday, we reversed that, except instead of a lesson I met individually with each of the kids who had not had the lesson on Wednesday. Friday the class had time to finish up the tessellations and Singapore assignments, and then got to play math games if they finished.

Working on tessellating art.

Some of the finished Tessellated Art with the original cardboard tile.

7/8 Math:

After being at Tiller's International on Monday and Tuesday, the 7/8s fully split into their small groups for lessons on Wednesday and Thursday. 
The pre-algebra group is still getting used to working in the textbook and some of the introductory ideas and notation used; mostly we are working in chapter 1 in the text. 
The group just starting Algebra this year has been doing an enrichment about algorithms and exercises using the Algebra Tiles to solve single variable equations. They decided they needed negative versions of the blocks and we figured out that we could put black stripes on the side of a block to make it a "negative". They then derived the idea that a black block and a regular block of the same shape eliminated each other. Essentially, they were able to derive the inverse property of addition from working with the blocks. 
The other students have been learning or reviewing linear inequalities in one dimension with absolute value, and at the end of the week linear inequalities in two-variables.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Welcome to the 2017-2018 School Year

Hello Parents, Students, and Friends, 

Welcome back from the summer. For those of you who have followed this blog in past years, you may have noticed a title change. My role at Summers Knoll continues to evolve; this year I will be primarily focusing on teaching math. I will also be working with Rachel in the 7/8 homeroom. This blog will solely report on the activities of my math classes.

Week 1: 

Sam's 4-6th Math Group

This week on Tuesday and Wednesday our math group met with Wendy's group as we did some sorting out (some students are working on an assessment) and getting reacquainted. We began instruction with a number guessing game and then talked about factors and divisibility rules, using factor trees.

On Thursday we split off from Wendy's group and spent the time getting familiar with our space (upstairs) and some of the tools we will be using this year (rulers and protractors) and then began an investigation of tessellations and tilings that will lead to an art project that should be finished next week.

Oliver, Mark and Manon work to figure out which shapes can gaplessly tile the plane.

7/8 Math

The 7/8s are working on a couple of different things depending on what they were working on last year. The pre-algebra group is working with the order of operations, exponents and variables. The group starting algebra this year is doing an investigation of algorithms with the algebra tiles. The students who were well into, or done with, algebra had some time to get reacquainted and find their place in the textbooks and are now working on reviewing or learning about absolute value equations and inequalities in one variable.

Miel and Niko work through and algorithm with the Algebra Tiles.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

2017 Spring Trip Up North


With an on-time departure of approximately 7:55 AM this morning, Sam's class is off for our adventures Up North!

Mostly, Shan will be driving. I'll be available by email, text and phone. 

Next scheduled stop: The Mystery Spot

Getting introduced to the wonders of the Mystery Spot

Sophie is floating in midair?

What does 'level' mean anyway?

We concluded our day with a boat tour of the Soo Locks, dinner at the fine Pennies diner, and a round of putt putt in Sault Ste. Marie. (Apparently, the more tired I get the fewer photos I take, Shan took many of this part of the trip, I'll link to them once I've got them.)


After a rainy morning our day on Mackinac Island is looking a bit clearer. 

At the public boat dock on Liberty Mackinac Island

We're stopped for lunch midway through our carriage tour after looking at the butterfly house. 

Next stop Arch Rock and then on to Fort Mackinaw:

We returned to the mainland after completing our adventures on Mackinac Island and now, after an hour at the pool, we're getting ready for bed.

Notice the boxes of fudge


We had gorgeous weather all day as we made a loop through the Upper Peninsula.
The kids got to touch Lake Superior and skip rocks at Whitefish Point, before visiting the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. 

Whitefish Point

Our next stop was lunch in Paradise, a few kids even had a cheeseburger, but the star of the meal was the authentic pasties. We stopped at the upper and lower Falls in Tahquamenon, and then proceeded to Oswald's Bear Sanctuary. 

The Upper Falls at Tahquamenon

The Lower Falls

Baby bears are exceptionally cute.

We returned to Mackinac for dinner and are now taking a short rest before heading out for stargazing at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Stargazing was a big hit with the kids (once the clouds of Mayflies went to bed). We were able to see the four Galilean moons of Jupiter and, had a great view of the half moon of in the telescope Ore brought. It was pretty cold so we didn't stay out too long, but interest level was high so Ore suggested planning a night of stargazing closer to home. 


We've now said our goodbyes to Mackinaw and are headed to Petoskey to look for the eponymous stones on the beach before making out way back down state. Rock hunting in Petoskey was a bit hit, everyone found at least one Petoskey stone. There were also some other interesting finds. 

Is that a Petoskey Stone?

Locals told us that in season this beach is so picked over it's very difficult to find anything. Good thing we were there before the crowds.

After lunch in Grayling at the Bear's Den Pizzeria (the owner made a point of introducing himself and saying how well behaved the kids were) we cruised back home.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Mid-May Photos

Here are a bunch of photos from Late April and May:

Working on a math activity about area vs. volume

Another math activity, this time curious triangles

Showing off the Hubble telescope luminary.

A fish tank luminary at Morning Meeting

Juliana's fashion show, with Lucas as Erik the Red

Weeding and transplanting the milkweed bed

Analyzing rock samples with HCl

Digging out the bed for the Pollinator Garden/Monarch Way Station

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.