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.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Authenticity in Projects: An Example with Ethnography

Our class recently completed our major project for the "Exploration" theme--an ethnographic study of the kindergarten class. (Click here to see the presentation.) 

One of key features that makes Summers-Knoll different is our commitment to project-based learning. Authenticity in education, especially in projects, is a common refrain of progressive education. The whole faculty has been investigating more closely what this means to us and how it impacts your children. 

Walter recently forwarded an blog post from Buck Institute for Education to the teaching staff here about PBL, or Project Based Learning. Quoting from the blog:

“Fully authentic” means students are doing work that is real to them—it is authentic to their lives— or the work has a direct impact on or use in the real world.

A project can be authentic in four ways, some of which may be combined in one project:
1. It meets a real need in the world beyond the classroom or the products students create are used by real people.
Observing and reporting on the behavior of the kindergarteners is of immediate value to the SK community, especially the teachers who directly work with that class. 

2. It focuses on a problem or an issue or topic that is relevant to students’ lives—the more directly, the better—or on a problem or issue that is actually being faced by adults in the world students will soon enter.

While the problems of kindergarteners are not identical to the issues faced by my 5/6 students; the larger concept of how students interact in a classroom is extremely and directly relevant to my students.

3. It sets up a scenario or simulation that is realistic, even if it is fictitious.
4. It involves tools, tasks, standards, or processes used by adults in real settings and by professionals in the workplace. 
The general scenario--making observations about behavior, drawing conclusions from those observations, and submitting the data and observations for review by peers--is the process used by social scientists.  Additional, Heidi Ganzen, a UofM graduate student in sociology came to our class and talked about the types and techniques for making observations and helped us think about how to turn those observations into supported conclusions.  In meeting with Heidi, my students got to hear first hand about the real tools, tasks and processes used by someone actively engaged in the same kind of research.

Authenticity in projects:
Supports and promotes intrinsic motivation through clarity and meaningfulness of task--the students know WHY they are doing what they are doing.
Enhances comprehension and life skills through interaction with the actual tools and processes used by professionals in the field. 

Authenticity in projects is core to what we do at SK, and one of the reasons I love teaching here.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Weekly Update -- Week 13

Sam's Homeroom:
We're getting into the meat of of study of mythology and the stars. This week everyone selected a myth from around the world to read and think about. On Tuesday, the class visited with Mrs. Carpenter's class. The students paired off and the 5/6s read their selected myth to the 1/2s. 

Sophie reads to Mila
Folu reads Femi the myth of Thor's Wedding
Lucas and Andrew

Our constellation/mythology writing project got going this week as well. Each student made their own asterism. Starting with one of the brightest stars in the sky, the found other starts to complete an image, then brainstormed about characters, setting, and potential conflict. 

Additionally, a lot of our homeroom time was spent working on the Ecosystem Card Game project for science class. In small groups the students are researching the flora and fauna of specific biomes to make a card game based on the game "Into the Forest" that we've played a couple of time in science class.

On Friday, we presented the Kindergarten Ethnography project at the Morning Meeting. (My next blog post goes into a lot more detail about that project.)
Addie, Mark and Sophie work on their Australian Rainforest Card Game

Sam's 5/6 Math Group:
This week we dug deeply into multiplying fractions. The activity asked students to find an answer to a straightforward problem (the first one was "What is 2/3 of a group of 1/2") using a pictorial model (drawing) and also to create a story problem that could be represented that way. The students spent most of Tuesday developing their own strategies, including figuring out algorithms and using pictorial models. On Thursday, we learned a specific technique using rectangular arrays and went over some of the story problems the class had written.