Resources

March / April 2018 Updates

6th Grade

Beginning Instrumental Music: We had a wonderfully-successful concert and are now on to new music. With new music comes renewed excitement, and also some frustration. We’re talking about how that frustration spurs learning. To that end, we’re talking about and modeling good techniques for practicing and moving through any new music hurdles.


Advanced Instrumental Music: We had a wonderfully-successful concert and are now on to new music. With new music comes renewed excitement, and also some frustration. We’re talking about how that frustration spurs learning. To that end, we’re talking about and modeling good techniques for practicing and moving through any new music hurdles.


Acting: The acting students are exploring the collaborative aspect of acting. We have been performing as solo artists, duos, and large groups, to examine the benefits and challenges of each of these variations of acting.  The goal of this practice is to experience some of the foundational skills used in theatre; listening with intention to your peers, sharing your ideas thoughtfully and clearly, as well as learning to adapt one's own ideas to incorporate new thoughts or creative options. The students are also getting prepared to write their own  adaptations of children's picture books, which they will do in small collaborative teams. 

Vocal music: We will be taking time to fully evaluate individual and group performances from our recent concert. Students will look ahead to planning a song-choice project of their choosing for the end of the year. We are also starting fun new music for the spring that will give us opportunity to work on pop and Broadway-style singing techniques.  Our music theory learning will include combining the rhythm and solfege skills that we have learned and applying them to sight reading practice. 

Art: In 6th grade art, we just finished a multi-step project that started with a compositional collage which the students then traced to create a reference. This reduces the complexity of the collage images to simple lines. The tracing is then used to create a larger scale final drawing that the students can choose to finish with pen and ink or watercolor. We are now moving into our comic unit where the students begin by designing a character that they then must draw from different perspectives. Next week I will give a lesson on composition and sequencing a story in comic panels.

PE: Birdies are flying everywhere at SPARC. The students are currently involved in competitive games of Badminton. I am impressed with the improvement that all the students have made during the badminton unit. A couple of the classes are still in the process of finishing up their Fencing unit. Tennis will be our first unit in April - hopefully the weather will be nice so we can be outside.


Boys' Health and Wellness: A three week partner research activity, which includes slides and an oral presentation, has been our major work in March.  This project allows students to dive deeper into a topic of interest connected to units we’ve done this year so far. After this we will begin our two-week unit regarding puberty and human development. As always, an important part of our program is continued practice of mindfulness.

Girls' Health and Wellness: A three week partner research activity, which includes slides and an oral presentation, has been our top priority for a three week time period. Girls got to choose any of the topics we have studied so far. Thus, they are learning which particular foods are best for you, how media affects one’s self-esteem and image, what the deal is with gluten, among other questions they had. After this, we tackle the all-important theme of puberty. As always, an important part of our program is continued practice of mindfulness.


Science: During March and April, students will focus on their science projects. Students are currently narrowing down the focus of either a scientific question or engineering design goal. During the next few weeks we are also exploring various technologies in class, including micro:bits.  Students are encouraged to incorporate these technologies into their projects, if they are inspired!  Students will be put into research teams to delve into their projects. They will be guided through the process of making a materials list and budget, conducting background research and designing their projects. Data collection and construction of engineering design projects will take place in early April. Students will work on representing and analyzing their data in late April, as they prepare to present at Science Night, in May. 


French: For March and April in French class, students are learning different ways to talk about the classroom, shopping for school supplies, asking for what they need, and talking about prices and how much things cost. They will talk about classes and learn how to use adjectives to describe things. They will also learn how to tell time in French. We will build an understanding of nuanced grammar structures, like the gender of nouns, plurality, and articles. French 6 students will expand their communication skills as they tackle three of the four major verbs in these two months. They will memorize another dialogue to perform in front of the class. We will continue to watch Tintin in intervals and will add an additional film in April - Howl's Moving Castle. I'm sure it will be as popular with them as  Un Chat à Paris !


Mandarin: We will work on brush penship and learn some Chinese calligraphy techniques. This will begin with students’ practicing the basic strokes with brush pens on writing cloth. When they get good at controlling the brushes we will use real ink to write Chinese blessings to decorate the classroom with. We will also learn the unit on sports. The way we do it is to learn the vocabulary for sports first and then we will organize a mini-olympics. This will cover basketball, volleyball, soccer, football, pingpong, tennis, and some track and field events. Students will also learn to develop their e-lessons on quizlet.com. They will follow the CCTV Chinese learning series Growing up with Chinese.


Spanish: We are finishing our chapter on food and restaurants.  Learning about some cultural differences around food and meals has been interesting.  We are continuing to expand usage of all three types of regular verbs; -AR, -ER, -IR.  Singing the song “Escribirte la canción” has been a challenge but some of us have gotten quite good at it.  Next chapter will focus on family relationships and we will make and present our family tree in class.  We will be starting to learn and work with irregular verbs like Tener, to have.  Our next song “Echame la culpa” promises to stretch pronunciation skills.  Also, we will look at some unique family celebrations in Hispanic cultures.


Technology: In addition to integrating Micro:bit programming in 6th grade science classes this month, students in tech class are researching topics of interest around the themes of digital citizenship: cyberbullying, screen time limits, cell phone use, recommended gaming and YouTube strategies and more. They are charged with creating a multimedia presentation of their work such as a podcast, iMovie, infographics or an interactive display. 


Pre-Algebra Prep: We are finishing up our work with ratios and are relating it to the concept of percent which is really just a ratio with a denominator of 100!  Following that we move onto all operations with integers where we will combine positive and negative values with earlier studied topics such as order of operations and the distributive property.  


Pre-Algebra: The pre-algebra students are learning about writing equations in one variable and how to solve linear equations using inverse operations. Learning how to decipher and translate word problems into linear equations is also a focus this month. How to write, solve and graph inequalities is also part of this unit. 


Humanities: Humanities students have been putting the finishing touches on their essays on Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy. Essay themes range from culture clash to women's rights to loyalty, and more. Ask your student to read her or his piece out loud for you, which is an ideal way to open a conversation about writing and critical thinking. Many have asked what our next book will be, and in this case, students will choose their own book(s) as part of our Spring Reading Challenge, which continues through March 21st. All students are required read at least one book during this time, and avid readers have the chance to read two (or more!), which makes them eligible for a special reading celebration in the library after Spring Break. Meanwhile, we'll be investigating the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia in class. Students will have the opportunity to pick a related topic that interests them, develop research questions, locate relevant information, and share their findings. Finally, we look forward to visiting fellow students at the Muslim Educational Trust on Tuesday, March 20th as part of our study of Islam. Please feel free to reach out to your child's Humanities teacher with any questions. 


Library Skills: We will continue to learn skills related to analyzing the validity of a given website -- shortcuts and more in-depth approaches. We’ll also be developing skills to build up searches: search terms, search strings, as well as Boolean operators, to help students winnow their search results so they sift through less information. The students are also looking at the publishing cycle in news reporting to help them in their decision making process when looking for credible and relevant information when doing research.

7th Grade

Instrumental Music: Students were very proud of their most-recent concert! They’re finishing up their transcription projects as well. We’re doing quite a bit of sight-reading until spring break. Sight-reading (playing music for the very first time) requires students to utilize a lot of previously-gained skills like counting rhythms precisely, placing air in the right spot for best tone, moving fingers quickly, etc. It can be difficult, so we practice it! They’ll be getting new music as well, so definitely have things in their folder to work on at home!


Acting: The students have just finished the critique and evaluation of their improvisational performances that happened before conferences. I've introduced a juggling unit which we use to consciously explore the concept of multitasking in performance, asking ourselves the question; how we can move through space with awareness of the environment while performing an action? We are also learning new long and short form improvisational exercises to expand our library in preparation for performances that will come up at the end of the year.


Vocal music: We will be taking time to fully evaluate individual and group performances from our recent concert. Students will look ahead to planning a song-choice project of their choosing for the end of the year. We are also starting fun new music for the spring that will give us opportunity to work on pop and Broadway-style singing techniques.  Our music theory learning will include more sight reading practice, basic composing skills, and an introduction to accidentals and key signatures. 


Art: Students have been working on different aspects of Modern Art, they have explored “chance” as a material, emotive drawing in response to music, and play as a response to ideas. They combined these explorations into a composition and then created a watercolor painting based off their work. When this is finished they will start working on Dadaist found-object assemblage sculptures. 


History: Our newest unit is about Government. The students have been exploring the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, and the structure of the U.S. Government. Students will be asked to find a topic that they want to dig deeper into for a speech project. Through the research process, students will be encouraged to focus in on a specific aspect of the broader topic, ask a question, and seek answers. The end product of this process will be a 3-5 minute speech given in front of the class. 


PE:  We started the speedminton unit and are finishing it up by playing a doubles tournament.  Also, the heart rate unit has been introduced.  We will be talking about output and workload as it relates to being physically active.   The idea is that we will be using polar heart rate sensors during regular units.  Lastly, I will be introducing the second semester project.  This project will also provide the students to lead a class in a made up activity/game or introduce a sport that is played outside of the US borders.   


Boys' Health and Wellness:  We just finished a presentation on topics that related to leading a “Healthy lifestyle”.  Next, we will be diving into the notion of “masculinity”.  We will explore how action toys and video games have changed over the years and if this has any influence on boyhood.  Within this unit we will take a closer look at leadership and how it is perceived in different cultures and gender.


Girls' Health and Wellness: The students have been talking with me about gender representation in the media and discussing how that representation affects them. Now we are going to explore women who are using their power for good in the world. The girls will pick a person to learn about and share with the rest of the class. I really encourage them to seek beyond the women they already know, so that they can learn about the many different ways in which we can all use our power for good. We’ve also been working on mindfulness with Ms. McEnroe. We try to use our time after mindfulness to talk about ways to create healthy habits for our whole self. 


Science: Students are launching into their student driven Science Inquiry project that has traditionally been referred to as Science Research.  Students began their brainstorming and exploration of topics that interest them last week and will be working steadily throughout March and April.  In March, students will suggest research ideas and we will select approximately 8 projects per class to be explored in groups of 2-3 students.  After designing their testing methods, we will order supplies over spring break.  The month of April will be devoted to collecting and analyzing data then designing a presentation in a visual and oral form.  The results of their work will be showcased at Science Night on May 2 at 6:30pm.


French: This month in French class, we just wrapped up the French film classic, "Jean de Florette" and they can't wait for the sequel! During March and April, we continue to build skills in listening, reading, speaking and writing. For these months, we really dive into Unit 6, when students will learn different ways to talk about clothing, stores, and grocery shopping. The culture sections in the book are now in French, which will help build their reading skills. They will learn to quantify food and drinks, and will broaden their use of adverbs. We will continue to build on nuanced grammar structures such as saying "these" versus "the" or "some". French 7 students will also expand their communication skills with three new verbs/conjugations. They will choose things to "sell" and we'll have a (2D) flea market in class. And if I want to avoid a class coup, we'll be watching the sequel to Jean de Florette before too long.

 

Mandarin: We will work on brush penship and learn some Chinese calligraphy techniques. This will begin with students’ practicing the basic strokes with brush pens on writing cloth. When they get good at controlling the brushes we will use real ink to write Chinese blessings to decorate the classroom with. We will also learn the unit on jobs. The way we do it is to learn the vocabulary for different occupations first and then we will organize a job fair. Students will compose their resume and learn to present themselves with a slide. They will also engage in a Yellowstone National Park summer guide job interview to ask and answer questions about themselves, their education and life experiences. Students will also learn to develop their e-lessons on quizlet.com. They will follow the CCTV Chinese learning series Happy Chinese.


Spanish: We have been working on direct object pronouns (DOPs) for a few weeks now. Once mastered, they make speaking so much easier! Instead of saying, “I made the cake yesterday and brought the cake to the market to give the cake to Susie” you will be able to replace “cake” with “it”. Of course we will be doing lots of practise with DOPs – from singing an adorable children’s song to reading Green Eggs and Ham to a mini project creating a Craigslist ad. This DOPs unit really signals the beginning of the more complicated and challenging aspects of Spanish language learning. It is really important that students check in with me if there are any lingering doubts or questions about the grammar we have covered this year. As with everything involved in learning a language, it’s all about scaffolding – learning one piece to be able to move to the second piece, like the rungs of a ladder. Next year’s grammar is built entirely upon what has been learned this year, so it is extremely important to have a solid grasp of the material now! In April we will start informal commands, which is always a lot of fun to command others to do something! Besides playing everyone's favourite game, Simon Says, students will also present skits. Each skit involves parents leaving for a weekend and giving their children instructions on how to maintain the house. 


Pre Algebra: Graphing linear functions is the focus of this month. Students will explore different ways to solve and graph linear functions using a table of values, slope-intercept, point-slope, and standard form. They also will learn to interpret real life problems through graphing.  


Algebra: In March, we learn how to add and subtract polynomials; we also learn four different methods for multiplying polynomials. We then reverse the process and learn several different methods for factoring polynomials. In April, we will dive into quadratics - first by graphing and then solving quadratic equations using five different methods including the famous quadratic formula. We then wrap up our quadratics unit with a project involving tossed objects, stop-motion video capture, and graphing using Desmos.com.


English: In March, English 7 will finish reading Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and each student will produce a formal piece of writing based on the book. The class also will begin a poetry unit which will culminate with each student learning a poem by heart* and reciting it for the class (probably in the first week of May). Finally, after Spring Vacation in April, English 7 will read Romeo and Juliet. All the reading of the play will take place in class, and homework assignments will be primarily creative and analytical writing assignments. 


*Some thoughts that sum up the rationale behind learning poetry by heart:


Ted Hughes in a 1988 letter to the British Secretary of State for Education on the special place of poetry in the education of children:

“What kids need is a headfull [sic] of songs that are not songs but blocks of refined and achieved and exemplary language.”  [When that happens, children have] “the guardian angel installed behind the tongue.” (Taken from an article in The Economist, November 24, 2007)


Robert Frost:

“People keep saying it’s not good

To learn things by heart.

But pretty things well said—

It’s nice to have them in your head.”


For further reading on the subject of leaning poetry by heart, here is a recent piece from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/26/opinion/sunday/memorize-poems-poetry-education.html?ref=todayspaper

Technology:  The technology students have been learning to code using various code snippets as short “recipes”  that they can then manipulate and edit to create new programs.  We are now breaking into small groups of two or three students as we use the Micro:bit chips as the core components of small engineering projects.   Some students are creating simple robots, some students musical instruments, some students are building cardboard “radios”,  all of them are having fun as they learn about the integration of software and hardware.


Religion: Throughout March and April, our 7th Grade Religion class will focus on important characters that appear in early stories within the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian faiths and the parallels that those characters have in pop culture.  We also explore key figures within religious stories that are commonly forgotten because of their gender, class, or ethnicity.  Finally, we’ll learn about the prophets found in Jewish and Christian writings, what they had to say about social justice in their time, and how their ideas relate to our time.  Students will then create an icon of a modern-day prophet of their choice.

8th Grade

Eighth Grade Inquiry Project/Project X: To learn more about what is happening for Project X in March and April, check out the OES Project X Blog https://oesprojectx.wordpress.com/ 


Instrumental Music: Students were proud of their wonderful concert! With a schedule shift, service learning, Project X deep dive then spring break, I won’t see one section of 8th grade instrumental music for a month! Both groups will be getting new music this week, and the hope is that they do spend some time in evenings or on the weekends to begin to learn the new music (this message is approved by the 8th grade team of teachers!)  After spring break, we’ll do some sight-reading then dive into new music!


Acting: The students have just finished the evaluation and critique of the performances that happened just before conferences this year. We have been using improvisation as a tool to explore some of the concepts that came up during our critique, most importantly to expand our understanding of the Creative Choice.  Once we get back from  Spring Break the students will dive right into breaking  into our new performance groups and making  selections for our upcoming performances which are coming up at the end of the year. I am encouraging the students to work with actors they haven't had a chance to work with before, and choose material that  is outside of their comfort zone.


Vocal music:


Art: Students have been working on watercolor and acrylic painting projects based on individual ideas. When we return from break we will start our Ceramics Unit. Students will have the opportunity to throw pots on the pottery wheel, and build a hand-built sculpture with coil, slab, and pinch techniques. 

 

History: When we return from Spring Break, students will be debating controversial statements about World War II.  Each student will have the opportunity to debate and judge.  Our next unit is the Cold War.  For the assessment, students will be writing an in depth research paper about one aspect of the Cold War.  


PE: When we return from Spring Break, students will learn the the skills of fencing. They will also be exposed for the first time to our new weight room.  Students will learn the proper technique of weight lifting and how to use the fitness equipment. 


Boys' Health and Wellness: We will continue our explorations of social norms, identity, meaning and purpose. As part of that work, we’ll maintain our mindfulness practices. We'll also start to explore art as both individual expression and as a tool for creating collective meaning.


Girls' Health and Wellness: We will continue to practice our physical skills expanding to wrist escapes and chokehold escapes. We recently spent time highlighting women’s history to put in perspective the progress that has been made for women, and the pioneers who had the courage to pave those paths. We are also practicing the three step model, talking through safety planning, and learning about true vs. false statistics related to women’s safety. 


Science: We will be starting a unit on technology, programming, robotics, and electromagnetism. Electricity is involved in so many of our daily tasks and in most of our modern society, but it’s often hidden from us and not easily understood. So we’ll aim to understand what it is and what it can do at a basic level. With the basics of electricity and magnetism under our belts, we’ll dive into programming and robotics so that we can see some of what those little electrons can do for us. Big thanks to Jenny Futrell who is helping run this as a project based unit.


French: We started the month building on their work with the past tense, le passé composé. We ended February with an exploration of Black Americans who lived or spent time in Paris, and students presented their person/movement to the class using the past tense. We are currently spending a week learning and practicing the imparfait mode, which really rounds out their ability to talk about things in the past. When I see them next, in April, they write their French postcard composition. Then we dive into Unit 9 to learn French vocabulary for the face, parts of the body, health, and illness. This unit's material provides an excellent opportunity for kids to write an original dialogue between a doctor and a difficult patient (or vice versa!). Students will also begin to work with the useful (and challenging) imperative mode -- giving orders and telling people what to do.


Mandarin: We will work on brush penship and learn some Chinese calligraphy techniques. This will begin with students’ practicing the basic strokes with brush pens on writing cloth. When they get good at controlling the brushes we will use real ink to write Chinese blessings to decorate the classroom with. We will also learn the unit on jobs. The way we do it is to learn the vocabulary for different occupations first and then we will organize a job fair. Students will compose their resume and learn to present themselves with a slide. They will also engage in a Yellowstone National Park summer guide job interview to ask and answer questions about themselves, their education and life experiences. Students will also learn to develop their e-lessons on quizlet.com. They will follow the CCTV Chinese learning series Happy Chinese.


Spanish: We just finished our reflexives unit which, once again, lacks an English equivalent. However, what’s really nice about this unit is that it’s not a new tense! Reflexives are simply a different type of verb, so we get the opportunity to practise all the tenses while using them. We’ve been using a lot of children’s books for reading and listening comprehension, as well as great vocabulary and grammar practice. We read Froggy Se Viste (Froggy gets dressed) and watched the Mexican version of Sesame Street’s “Rubber Ducky” song that Ernie sings. In April we will move into our penultimate unit of the year - the future tense (i.e. "I WILL get good grades this year."). Students really enjoy this grammar piece as the conjugations are pretty intuitive and quite easy compared to what we've already learned this year in other tenses. It's also very concrete in terms of usage. We have a chance to do some fun activities and projects based around what we will or won’t do. Soon we will be reading all of the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie books. In small groups, students will take turns reading aloud one of the books and answering questions about plot and sequencing of events. After they will begin writing their own “If You Give a...” style short story.


Geometry: We have started our study of circles and all the related angle and segment relationships.  In early April there is an OES math placement test which looks mainly at their algebra skills. Students have an optional review packet they can work on.  Then we will move onto right triangles and all the really cool qualities they have including the basic trigonometry ratios.  


Algebra: In March, we learned about exponential functions and their graphs. Specifically, we looked at similarities and differences between exponential growth and decay, and we applied what we learned to real-life word problems involving population growth, the depreciation of a car’s value, and the population of endangered species. In April, we will do a project involving the unlikely combination of M&Ms and endangered rhinoceroses (hint: both exhibit exponential decay). After we wrap up exponential functions, we will begin the next unit on polynomials and factoring.

 

English: Students in English 8 will be completing their Profiles from a Global Perspective articles in preparation for submitting those to be printed and assembled in a book by the end of the year. Our review of comics via MAUS will also conclude with a portfolio project that helps students explore comics as a medium of storytelling, tying it to their book bundle reading and study of World War II in history. 

Physical Computing and Coding: Current students have been introduced to the relationship between sensors, coding and actuators. This group of students during the third quarter has had a two week hiatus to work with their Project X cohorts. The four sessions of the Physical Computing course that remain after spring break will be spent devising, building and testing projects to showcase their understanding and application of the concepts and practices that have been introduced so far. In the middle of April and new set of students will begin the course with an introduction to the cycle of Input-->Process-->Output that underpins the field of physical computing. They will also have a chance to experiment with makey-makey input control boards and block coding. 


Religion: During March and April our 8th Grade Religion class will continue to design and lead our weekly chapels, with a particular emphasis on the Christian season of Lent, the power of student voice, and the call to love one’s neighbor.  We will also focus on how stories act as a way to remember, honor, and connect people and communities, particularly after tragedy.  As April approaches we’ll dive deeply into the meanings and traditions of the Jewish festival of Passover and the Christian holy days of Easter.  Lastly,  we'll reflect on the past two months of chapel and offer our ideas, advice, and guidance to the next group of students who will lead chapel next quarter.