Jon's Weekly Update 11-30-11

posted Nov 30, 2011, 9:51 AM by Cynthia Friedman

Dear Middle School Family,


It's hard to believe we're already running up against Winter Break.  The next three weeks are going to be full of challenging fun.  Please feed your students well and keep them healthy!  We're doing a lot of experiential small group work in class this Cycle that can't be replicated with a worksheet.  Their classmates are counting on them to be here!


Math is going great!  The kids are all struggling! Which is exactly what they should be doing.  If it's easy, they aren't learning.  Please encourage them to do their math work at school where Carrie and I (and their peers) can help them if they get frazzled.


The Biography Videos turned out well.  This is a powerful step in our writing curriculum.  The more the students have to read their writing, the better.  They BEGGED me to make this a live presentation (so they could wing it).  Not a chance.  I wanted them to wrestle with their scripts until they sounded right when they read them.  Writing is just speaking "write".  It's harder than math, by miles.  We'll get there.  We'll be doing a lot of scripted work this year.


We started our 'Bands' Simulation last week.  We divvied up Eugene into: Wetlands, Grasslands, Oak Savannah, Forest, and Riverlands.  The kids have been divided into groups, Bands, of 4.  As far as the students are concerned (for this project, for now) their Band of four are the only humans in existence in Eugene before any human technology existed.  Our Driving Question for this long-term project is: What does it take to survive?  We're going to grow their experience week by week through these seasons.  My Hidden (long-term) Agenda: Where does the need for "Government" (Social Organization) come from?  


Our textbook-based approach to Physical Science has not been going well.  I feel like the textbook is actually hindering the students' interest and engagement in this exciting, fun, and highly 'experiment-able' branch of Science.  We're ditching the textbook!  We're going to shift to a more hands-on approach to understanding.  We're going to slow down and really dig in, here--especially where the Scientific Process is concerned.  Please let me know if you'd like to volunteer to help us get our Science on!


Ukuleles are being strummed every morning (and being picked up and practiced at lunch time!).  We may not have Spanish this year, but we're building Music into our everyday.  If you happen to have an uke lying around the house un-strummed that you'd like to donate to our efforts, we could sure use it!  Right now, we've got 7 ukes we received from a grant by the Ukes for Schools program.  We just got another grant from Selco Credit Union to pay for strings, stands, and tuners.  Music is an absolutely fundamental, universal human experience (and a whole lot of fun).


Please be sure to check in with your student every Monday evening about where their grades are (look at JupiterGrades together!), and what their work plan for the week is.  Your Insistence! on this check-in could make all the difference, (especially if your student is wavering).  They want you to care about how they're doing in school.


This phase of Electives come to a close on December 16.  If you'd like to lead an elective starting in January, let me know!  The kids need some more adults to rock their brains!


I can't tell you how grateful we are to participate in all this learning and laughter.

Jon and Carrie