Jon's Weekly Update 2-25-16

posted Feb 29, 2016, 12:19 PM by Cynthia Friedman

IMPORTANT DATES:\

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

Tues, March 1, 3:15-4:15:             TRUE Rehearsal

Thurs, March 3, 3:15-4:15:           TRUE Rehearsal

Tues, March 8, 3:15-4:15:              TRUE Rehearsal

Thurs, March 10, 3:15-4:15:         TRUE Rehearsal

Tues, March 15, 3:15-4:15:             TRUE Rehearsal

Thurs, March 17, 3:15-4:15:          TRUE Rehearsal

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

Sat, April 9, Time TBD:                 TRUE PERFORMANCE: Cozmic Pizza

Thurs, June 9, 6:30-8:30pm            8th Grade Graduation

Mon, June 13-Thurs, June 16         Middle School Adventure Trip--Florence

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Dear Middle School Family,

At 10:45am this Saturday, we'll be talking about the future of Ridgeline's Middle School Program in the Gym.  It's all good news, as far as we're concerned.  Carrie and I are excited to share it with you.  Hope to see you there!

Here's what we're up to in the Upstairs:

Communications

These new writing assignments are going well. The sentence work we've done so far this year has really paid off.  Writing to clearly express an opinion is an important skill.  Effectively integrating facts and others' opinions into your writing to strengthen your argument is Gold.  

The writing work we're doing with the Article of the Week and the Graph of the Week assignments is very pre-scripted, very formulaic and determined.  It's a lot of punctuation and extra words.  It's "please do what I show you" work right now.  There's not a lot of room for creativity while the students master this technical skill.  

We're walking through this together for now.  This is the opposite of busy-work.  It's very important that your student engage in these assignments in these early stages.  The habits we're forming with this work will help make writing these complex sentences feel more natural.  

I know it feels a little overwhelming right now, but these assignments are less work, and easier, in many ways, than the piecemeal writing work we've been doing up to now.  

Humanities

I've never been big on "teaching" information for the sake of information.  What we 'know' isn't as important as what we can do with what we know.  We started the "Making of America" unit building a common context for understanding the early years of the United States from 1600-1865.  Or early explorations left all of us with more questions than answers.  Which is as it should be.

This is where the learning truly began. Based on our explorations, students came up with questions of their own, and have spent the last two weeks digging through the internet to find answers.  The only real restriction has been the time period, the common theme, and their task to add to the depth of our collective understanding about life and the forming of the United States from 1600-1865.

They spent this week synthesizing all of their raw information into a narrative story that makes sense, and finding a ton of pictures to help clarify and enhance their story.  Next week, they'll be putting the finishing touches on narrated documentary 'videos' that we'll watch together in class the week of March 7-10.

Some of the Big Questions students pursued are simple, but important: Why was George Washington important?  What was the Underground Railroad?  Other questions are more complicated: How did David Walker's 'Appeal' in 1829 use the language of the 'Declaration of Independence' to challenge slavery as an institution?  Was Thomas Jefferson a hero or a villain?

The students have been working really hard putting these projects together.  The tech tools they're learning to master as part of the process will serve them for years to come.  It's been fun to see them exercise some of the skills they've learned in Maizzy's Media Literacy classes to evaluate the validity of the information their finding.

I've attached a 'flowchart' of the process I've been leading the students through, so you have a better idea of what we've been doing and how it all shapes up together.  Please know that I am very clear that all 44 students are in very different places in terms of how "easy" some of these tasks are.  Learning isn't easy, and true learning is interconnected and multi-faceted.  Complex.  Confusing at times.  A struggle.  Simplistic tasks only prepare students for simplistic performance.  

To learn to ride a horse, you have to get on the whole horse. 

The students' growth between the '1492 Projects' and these 'Making of America Projects' has been enormous.  I am so proud of them.  They sincerely care to do a good job.  They rise to the challenge.  Each of them in their own way, at their own pace.  We'll have one more of these BIG projects this year.

TRUE Happenings

What a week for ukulele.  We performed three times in five days.  The kids did an outstanding job.  I just bought a bunch of gear this week (with the "tuition" from the after school rehearsals) to make sure that we are heard at every show, no matter where we play.  So, if your boss is retiring, or your anniversary party needs something special, or your small business needs a live act: hit us up!  We have a full hour of music put together, we're inexpensive, and all the money goes directly into the middle school music program.  These kids LOVE to perform!

Middle School Adventure Trip 2016

It's official: The Middle School Adventure Trip will happen the last week of school, from Monday, June 13 to Thursday, June 16.  (Yes, the last day of school is Wednesday, June 15--the kids said, "Yes, please," about staying another night.  We're happy to accommodate.)

We reserved a campground at Sutton Lake, just north of Florence.  Thanks to funds from cookie sales last year, we estimate the cost of the Adventure Trip to be $60 per student (9 meals, camp fees for 3 nights, transportation, Sandboarding and other activities, all inclusive).  Scholarships are available.  Our goal is 100% participation.

We need 6 Parent Volunteers to make the trip happen.  Please let me know ASAP if you can commit to joining us for the four days.  We're going to have a BLAST.  We kept it close to home so we have less travel time, more fun time.  It will also make it easier for families who can only make time to join us for a day's activities.

See you Saturday!

Jon

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