Jon's Weekly Update 2-18-16

posted Feb 18, 2016, 12:05 PM by Cynthia Friedman

IMPORTANT DATES:

Friday, Feb 19 5:45-6:15:         TRUE PERFORMANCE: Ridgeline Pasta Dinner

Sunday, Feb 21 10-11am:          TRUE PERFORMANCE: Asian Celebration

Tues, February 9, 3:15-4:15:     TRUE Rehearsal

Wed., Feb 24, 2:30pm-4:15pm:  TRUE PERFORMANCE: Junction City Assisted Living

Thurs, Feb 25, 3:15-4:15:           **NO TRUE Rehearsal***

Sat, Feb 27, 10:30am-11:30am     Future of Ridgeline's Middle School Meeting

Mon, March 21-Fri, March 25    NO SCHOOL: SPRING BREAK

 

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Dear Middle School Family,

 

The Ukulele Performance Season is upon us.  Hope we see you at the Pasta Dinner this Friday, and at the Asian Celebration at the Fairgrounds on Sunday.  Our performance group includes 23 students this year! (Our biggest yet.) And we've been working hard to put together a full 50 minute set for Sunday.  The kids sound great.  It's going to be a blast.

 

Humanities

We are in the thick of research for our "Making of America" projects.  Students are doing independent research on a topic of their choosing to help deepen our communal understanding of the growth of the colonies into the United States, and the role of Slavery in its foundation and development.

 

Students will be putting together Voiceover Slideshow Videos for their final presentations.  Kind of like the Ken Burns documentaries.  We started work on these projects last week, and there are many steps to help them develop their project along the way.

 

There is a lot of little work to do to put together the final project.  Please check in with your student about their progress (have them show you in Google Docs), and let me know if you have any questions.  We are committing a full 4 weeks to the development of these projects!  We are wrapping up week 2 this week.  Slow and steady wins the race!

 

Communications

This week, I've made a couple of dramatic and positive changes to our Communications work.  The students' foundational sentence-writing ability has really come along.  We're moving on from workshopping sentences and paragraphs to more structured composition of writing.

 

Specifically, I've dropped some of the shorter writing assignments, and entirely changed the format of the "Article of the Week" assignment.  The articles I'll be choosing for the rest of the year will be directly connected to the work we're doing in class (in Humanities, Science, Personal World, or Media Literacy).  Rather than having a series of questions to help them analyze and respond to the articles, the students will annotate the articles to demonstrate their "Close Reading" of each article, and use their notes to compose a one page (250+ word) response to the article.  

 

I'll be working very closely with them over the next couple of weeks to help them master the language of responding to an article using evidence from the text.  It's a fun and valuable process that is going to prove absolutely valuable in high school and beyond.

 

(Kelly Gallagher is the master teacher I'm borrowing this activity from, incidentally.  One of the most fascinating parts of the way the students will be annotating the text is by "marking their confusion."  Gallagher argues that the biggest barrier our students face, when reading news articles, is their lack of life experience.  They literally lack the context to understand a lot of what they read.  

 

It's more than just vocabulary.  Simply knowing where Syria is on the map would help students better understand Iraq's, Europe's, and Russia's involvement in the current conflict in Syria for example.  By taking note of, instead of glossing over, information in an article we don't have enough experience to understand, we truly take control of our reading and learning.  Super cool stuff.)

 

We're also going to be starting another short writing activity each week called, "Graph of the Week."  Students will be given two to three infographics (charts, graphs, etc.) on a specific topic.  They're job will be to analyze the information, and interpret what the infographics collectively communicate.  (And also examine any bias or misrepresentation present in the information.)  This will also be a short, and invaluable, writing assignment.  Just 200 words.

 

As the school year progresses, and the students' prowess and comfort level increases, we'll start to put these two assignments together and do longer, more detailed "informed opinion" pieces, quoting multiple sources.  

 

It seems daunting, I know, but so did playing the ukulele!

 

So much good stuff going on.

 

Have a great weekend,

Jon

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