Jon's Update 2-13-2020

posted Feb 13, 2020, 2:41 PM by Cynthia Friedman
Important Dates
Tues & Thurs 3:10-4:00 pm TRUE Rehearsals
Sun, 2/16, 11-11:45am TRUE Performance Asian Celebration, Lane County Fairground
Mon, 2/17 **NO SCHOOL: President's Day
Mon-Mon, 3/23-3/30 **NO SCHOOL: Spring Break
Tues, 3/31 Classes Resume

Dear Middle School Family,

Things are really picking up in the back of Building B. We have just made the leap into large projects in both Humanities and Communications. There are clear steps in the process along the way for both subjects, and it's going to require some attention to detail for the students to stay on top of their work. Please check in and see how they're doing. The steps are very clearly laid out in Jupiter Ed, with instructions and links to all the things they need. We are getting much stricter about deadlines in order to keep the students on track.


This week, we are digging in to our second batch of Humanities projects, seeking answers to the BIG question of the year, "How should humans live together?" We've watched Crash Course World History videos, sprinting from the beginning of the Common Era and the Silk Road, through the rise and fall of the Roman Empire to the spread of Islam to the Crusades to the kingdoms of Sub-Saharan Africa to the Mongols. We wrapped things up right around 1450 C.E.

A lot of humanity happened in 1500 years! (And a lot of inhumanity!) This week, students are digging through their notes from the last two weeks, looking for a topic of great personal interest that will help provide some insight into how humans should live together. There's no easy answer, of course, but we sure have made a lot of attempts at making it work.

During the last week of February, the students will compile their findings on Project Boards, sharing three key lessons they learned from some person, movement, religion, civilization... human attempt in history. We'll hold a Gallery Exhibit after school on Friday, February 28, if you would like to come in and see what they came up with.


This week, the students turned in their first official Writing Project of the year. We made some changes a couple of weeks ago, expanding our writing program to include more options, more free choice, and more fun. Students have one more big Writing Project this term, and will have three each term, starting in March (six more this year).

Each term, each student will write an Argumentative Essay (based on an issue they choose), a Responsive Essay (essentially an AOW about an article they choose from a large selection), and a Creative Work (for now, a short story). Rather than coach the students one on one, as we've been doing with the Article of the Week, I'm meeting with the students in small groups of five.

Students are required to attend two lessons for each Writing Project. In the first lesson, students bring their beginning ideas about their project to the group. (I've provided a template to help them organize their ideas.) Students explain their Writing Project and their ideas with the group, and we help troubleshoot and make suggestions for each student as a team. Each student goes back to get started on the actual Writing Project with a bunch of notes and ideas, and a clear path for moving forward.

After they write and edit a draft they're feeling good about, students sign up for their second lesson. In the second lesson, they each bring six copies of their Writing Project, and the rest of the group makes editing notes directly on the page while each student reads their piece. Then we discuss the content of their work, and make suggestions not just for clerical editing, but for improving the clarity and impact of their ideas and content. Each student goes back to do their final editing with notes from 5 other pairs of eyes.

It's been a lot of fun, so far. The groups are just the right size that everyone is engaged in the process, and is enjoying hearing their classmates' work. I'm really enjoying the respectful way the students are engaging in each other's ideas, and sincerely working to help each other improve their writing.

Whew! Lots going on. As I said, please check in with your student, and don't hesitate to reach out to me via email if you have any questions or concerns. Sooner is always better than later.

Take care,
Jon and Maizzy