Friday, November 18, 2016

Week 11 -- November 14 - 18

This week has been full of special events and preparation for public displays. In homeroom, the students have been polishing up their kindergarten ethnography presentations, which will be displayed on Grandfriend's Day and at an upcoming Morning Meeting (12/2). We also spent more time getting into our combined astronomy/mythology unit talking more about constellations. Each student also selected a myth from outside of the Greco-Roman tradition to read now, and later, read and discuss with Susan's class. On Thursday, we took a field trip to the UofM Natural History Museum for two planetarium shows. The first show included a number of Native American etiological myths about the origins of the stars and constellations; the second show had us looking at an asking may good questions about the current night sky. In the coming weeks, the students will be asked to directly observe the night sky; they should already be able to locate and identify a few of the brightest stars and constellations, depending on how bad the light pollution is. (The concept of light pollution led to a whole separate conversation.) -- Ask your student to tell you a story about the Pleiades and see if he/she can find it in the sky.

The weather on Friday led us to have Science class outside. We planted tulips and dropped milkweed seeds in the raised beds and then had a little extra time to jump in leaf piles!

Sam's Math Group
This week there was only math on three days and on Tuesday much of the class was taking the AMC 8 contest, so the remaining students learned and played the numerical card game "Poison." The rest of our time on Monday and Thursday was devoted to working on Khan Academy and Singapore. Right now, most of the class is working with fractions and mixed number, a few have started on the related idea of unit conversions.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Social-Emotional Intelligence and the New World Order

I started thinking about this blog post a while ago and had written a few notes. In the wake of last weeks election, I am particularly struck by the first line of those notes:

"It's about respect and mutual understanding of what the goals are."

Developing social intelligence, the so-called EI or EQ, requires unscripted and less hierarchical social interactions amongst the relevant parties; in the classroom this is the teacher declining to intervene in some situations that might be remedied quickly by an adult and that require significant discussion by the children to tease out without a dictum from above. Promoting autonomy means the kids need to try (and hopefully) succeed in navigating those delicate social interactions, discomforts and spats without an authority figure stepping in.

[Of course, there are times when the teacher must intervene, but the preference is to allow students to figure out things on their own. The teacher is largely an observer and intercedes only when a student or group is having particular difficulty resolving a conflict or when politely, and directly, asked for assistance.]

At SK, small class sizes and a desire for a strong community require empathy, compassion and some good old fashioned "walking a mile in your shoes." By design there can't be large social divides like cliques, clubs, athletics, or the arts to balkanize the populous into more homogenous affinity groups. We all HAVE to interact with each other.

Perhaps the country will be better off if we can try for some more of that as well.

Weekly Updates -- October and Early November

From this point on, I'll be posting my weekly update to this blog as well as having it included in Walter's school-wide weekly email. This time I'm including all the weekly updates from the beginning of October until now. I'll be including pictures when relevant.

Friday October 7:
This week we celebrated the first student birthday of the year. Traditionally in the 5/6, the birthday student has been given a choice from a number of activities. Juliana chose to "watch something relevant" on a screen. We watched the Star Trek episode: Darmok; our classroom conversation turned to the cultural aspects of language and linguistics. Tangentially, also as part of our studies of culture, we have been thinking about positive classroom and small group behaviors. Each student looked at one of the "Rights and Responsibilities" posted by the main entrance and made a Goofus and Gallant style drawing or paragraph after reflecting on how to best illustrate it. This week, in our ongoing studies of the kindergarten, the 5/6s generated focused questions for study and next week we'll begin collecting data.
In Monarch land, Wednesday afternoon was our big Monarch release event. The combined 5/6 classes with Lisa released about a dozen butterflies this year and are anxiously waiting to see where our Monarchs might be seen. The event was made even more special with the flyby of a wild Monarch just before the release.

October 14:
This week we saw us furthering some our ongoing research into the Kindergarten, formulating formal questions for study and identifying times to make observations. On Tuesday, we discussed the possibility of getting a class pet and what the pros and cons of some various animals would be. In the mythology theme the class each read their own short myth from around the world and worked on writing a summary of the myth including the main idea and key points. In preparation for a visit from UMS dance instructors next week and then a field trip to see the Dorrance Dance Company, we talked and watched some video clips about the history of tap dance. 

In Math, Jason and Sam's group met together on Tuesday and Thursday. The combined groups are discussing graphing data on the coordinate plane using the 5-6 monarch studies as the focus. We'll continue this discussion next week, particularly thinking about how to normalize the date based on a life event of the butterflies rather than using a specific date as the benchmark moment.

October 21:
First, a presentation followed by discussion, a visit from guest instructors, and a field trip to see the Dorrance Dance company perform ETM:Double Down at the Power Center. We learned more about the history of tap dance, the fusion of tap and electronic music and also got to learn and perform a bit of tap dance ourselves.
Second, in preparation for the upcoming parent-teacher conferences, all the students did their first major reflection assignment of the year. While the weekly reflection is about the short time period and individual assignments, the larger reflections help students revisit and deepen their thinking about longitudinal assignments, general class structures and social dynamics.
They also continued working on the "Indistinguishable from Magic" stories adding illustrations to accompany their writing and continued to make observations of the kindergarteners for the ongoing ethnography project.

October 28:
We had a return visit from Susan and Jenny to teach us more about electronic tap music; they showed off some technology for creating electronic music using physical actions and, in addition had the class doing some a capella music loops.
The class has been putting the finishing touches on their "Indistinguishable from Magic" stories and are now focusing on editing and peer review.
The class continues to collect data for the Kindergarten ethnography project. This week we learned about the concept of an artifact and decided for this project it would be a slide show for Grandfriends Day. On Thursday everyone had an individual check-in with Sam to discuss their specific plan.
In Sam's math group, we followed on the Monarch graphing lessons of the last two weeks by further discussing negative numbers. We talked about "caps" and "cups" and the Zero Monster, as a way to conceptualize addition of signed numbers. We also looked at positive and negative numbers on the number line. In the Singapore books, most of the class is beginning/revisiting adding and subtracting fractions with like and unlike denominators.

November 4:
This week Sam's class focused on finishing up the "Indistinguishable from Magic" stories with a reciprocal peer-review process that was modeled for the class by Jarod, Juliana and Lilith. Additionally, we had a lesson on run-on sentences as part of the process of proof-reading the story for small details. (In contrast to the peer review which was more focused on reader response and clarity of ideas.)
Halloween is always a big day for the 5-6s, in addition to the parade, we got together with Jason's class to play some board games in the afternoon., asking the students to learn the rules from the manuals or to teach each other if they were already familiar with the game. Tuesday afternoon saw us celebrating another birthday, Lucas brought in snacks and then chose to have the class watch "something related to class" on the screen: the Star Trek:TNG episode Masks. That episode gets into the connections of astronomy and mythology which is also, not coincidentally, our next major project.

November 11:
This short week gave us time to reflect, respond and polish as well as introduce our next major project. Wednesday was largely devoted to thinking about and discussing the results of the election; we also spent some time working on the final presentation for the Ethnography project. Thursday afternoon we had some more time to work on the presentations and began our next unit on constellations and mythology with an introductory small group activity that had the class researching and reporting about specific constellations and the associated Greek Myths.
As I mentioned in an earlier email, there was no formal checkout this week, finishing the Ethnography project and the warm ups from this week will be included in next week's checkout (on 11/18).