Saturday, October 31, 2015

Week 8 -- Conferences and Halloween Parade

After waxing philosophical last week, I've been under the weather this week, so I'm keeping things short, sweet and practical:

Three Reminders:
Conferences and Time Change -- Don't forget to set your clock ahead Saturday night. Most of you are coming on Monday or Tuesday for a conference.

Identity Project -- This week we narrowed the focus of our Identity projects. As a group we, came to consensus that everyone wanted to build their own list of work to include in the project and so one of the assignments for the week was for each person to create a Table of Contents for their forthcoming book. The next couple of weeks will focus on editing and polishing the documents that were selected.

Checkout Reflection Document -- Most weeks your child should come home with a "Checkout Reflection" sheet, as well as some of the classwork from the week. The checkout reflection, in addition to asking the students to reflect about how the week has gone and providing frequent feedback to me, also is a record of what assignments still need to be completed and thus what your child should be working on for class over the weekend (if anything).
This week, with no school on Monday or Tuesday, we spent a little extra time making sure everyone had their Checkout Reflections done and that any work remaining made it into backpacks for the journey home.

And Now Fun Photos from the Week and Halloween:

Friday, October 23, 2015

Week 7 -- Some Philosophy and 10 Things

On Monday this week I (as well as Jason, Karl and Rachel) was privileged to attend and present at the AIMS (the local independent school organization) conference. The conference theme was "C's of 21st Century Learning: Choice, Collaboration, Communication, Conscientious Living, Creativity, Critical Thinking".

Like living in Ann Arbor, teaching at Summers-Knoll sometimes is a bubble of awesome surrounded by reality.  The prevailing paradigm of education in the last 15 years has been on accountability, assessment and performance. Even our cousin independent schools have largely followed step, and while the purpose of this conference was to push a 21st learning model, I heard more than once from other teachers comments along the lines of, "My class covers late 19th and early 20th century American History, so none of this really applies; there is just some much content I have to cover and I can't squeeze any more in."

It is a joy to teach at a school where we have freedom from rigid expectations about the content that *must* be covered in a particular subject. Personally, I am coming to believe more and more strongly that one of the bogs of modern schools is an attachment to a knowledge-based curriculum in content areas that were first designed more than 120 years ago by the Committee of Ten.

Summers-Knoll's actually lives the 5 C's mentioned above, especially in using Responsive Models of education that see children as important agents (though not sole proprietors) in the diachronic shaping of their own learning.

In my classroom this year, I am most proud of the ongoing "10 Things" that my students have been engaging in as part of their work each week. What I had originally intended as an exercise about the importance of being able to memorize content in a timely fashion on a topic of immediate interest, has evolved to be some combination of Google's Genius Time, independent and self-motivated research, and a (brief) weekly progress update given to the whole class.

Christopher's 10 Things has led him to learn Javascript. 
He's now helping Kaden and Owen learn it while the rest 
of the class is rehearsing for the play.
In the linked video Becca talks about Badgers.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Week 6

A few bureaucratic announcements before the meaty bits:

Conference Sign-Up:

I'll be sending a separate email with conference sign-up information. There will be a link to a google spreadsheet with dates and times for which parents can sign up. All the times are either immediately before school or on Monday November 2.

AMC 8 Reminder/Sign up:

The AMC 8 (American Mathematics Competition) test will be administered on November 17 to all students in Igor's math group and to any other middle school students who inform me of their interest (by email or in writing) by November 11.
For more information look to Igor's previous email or the website: AMC-8.

The Meaty Bits:

"Where I'm From" lessons:

We began to build poems for our Identity books based on this poem and the accompanying video inspired by the original poem.  So far, we've read the poem, identified examples of figurative language within the poem that stuck with each of us, thought about why that was, and begun a brainstorm about events and thoughts from our lives to include in our own versions of the poem. The first drafts of our own versions will be worked on next week, and the final versions will be included in the Identity Books at the end of the theme.  

Checkout System:

This week was also our first week with a formal checkout. Your child should have come home with, at a minimum, a "Things to Do List" and a "Checkout Reflection" document. These, in conjunction, are used to provide the students a system for tracking what needs to be completed for the week and what still remains at the end of the day Friday and thus needs to be completed over the weekend.

Most children do not check out on Friday every or even most weeks, so please don't be upset with your child if they brought some things home to work on this weekend. The goal here is for the students to take control of their own workflows and understand that the natural consequence of not completing assignments during the time allotted in school is that there is work left to be done on the weekend. So, if you want to encourage or nudge them over the weekend to have things done for Monday, go ahead.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Week 5 -- Interviews

This short week was a great time to go further with our writing and thinking about Identity.

We worked to further develop our descriptive writing using the "Favorite Thing" writing prompt from last week. In pairs or troikas, everyone took a writing piece from someone else and tried to make an accurate drawing of the object based solely on the written description. This led everyone to see the need for enhanced details in their descriptive writing, and we'll be continuing to revise these.

Can you guess what they are?


In a similar spirit, the class also began thinking about interviews and documenting information about another person. We first worked to write useful questions and discussed how to introductory questions to draw out the speaker and then follow up with more open-ended questions and follow-ups to enrich the quality of the responses.

The "Favorite Things" writings and interviews will both be in the Identity project books.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Week 4: Figurative and Descriptive Language; How Long Are Your Guts; Library Trip

This week was quite busy for our class. In homeroom we continued to work on writing autobiographical content; we transcribed into the computer and edited our autobiographical anecdotes, and wrote another piece describing our favorite objects. We discussed figurative language, especially similes and metaphors, as tools for helping the reader to get more engaged in our writing.

We finished the week talking about the checkout system and wrote our first Weekly Reflections. (Parents, ask your student to see theirs, it's supposed to come home every Friday from now on.)

Science and Art class furthered the Identity theme as well:

In Science class we unrolled our models of the digestive system. 
In Art, we began working on self-portraits in the
style of a known artist. (In this case Tyree Guyton.)
On Thursday we took a spontaneous trip to the AADL to look at
autobiographies, with an eye toward improving our own writing.