The 5th and 6th grade is the proud recipient of two grants this year! We received an Impact on Education Grant for $1200 to purchase an educator set of Sphero Balls to help round out our tech and coding classes this year. We also received a $3,000 grant from the City of Boulder’s Arts Commission to fund student marimba classes this spring.
Movement and S.T.E.A.M Rotation
Before Thanksgiving we began our Movement and STEAM (Science.Technology.Engineering. Art. and Movement) classes. Peter’s and Lynn’s classes are beginning the rotations with our boys working on basketball skills with Coach Job Brown from the Boulder Bulls and the YMCA program and our gals working with our own Julie Litt to creatively problem solve hands-on challenges in small group work. As we move into 2016, the gals will learn basketball and the boys will work on STEAM challenges. And, of course Rachel’s and Lauren’s classes will finish the year with the same rotations.
The Traveling Notebooks are now off in the world to be admired and assembled!
Our writing focus has now turned to a variety of projects. In some classrooms we’re working on poetry inspired by Rilke’s work Let this Darkness be a Belltower from Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29 using poetry as a way to help navigate challenging times. In our science classrooms, students are in the midst of research projects (see more about this below) and in social studies classes, students are working on Explorer’s logs in which a variety of writing genres will be used to convince “royalty” to find future voyages (see more on this below).
Rachel and Lauren’s students have been working on a research project for oral presentations to peers and visitors on December 17th and 18th. Students have selected topics to extend their knowledge of Earth Systems science. Our three week projects involve learning how to research and gather information that explains, engages and communicates importance, and invites the audience to look to the future. Research is then transformed into powerful communication using oral communication skills and visual literacy as students select images that are provoke inquiry and promote understanding and practice oral scripts. Finally, students practice and offer peer critiques before their final presentations and reflection. Our ‘mentor texts’ for this unit of inquiry have included watching and critiquing Ted Talks, Pecha Kucha presentations, and even watching a poet from the Marshall Islands deliver a poem at the COP21 meetings in Paris.
In reading, we continue with our read aloud of Fish in a Tree (Mullaly Hunt) and independent reading time whenever possible. Most of our in-class reading has been focused on comprehension work either for Fish in a Tree or the non-fiction reading that is necessary to support the content area writing being done in science and social studies.
Rachel’s math class has shown competence in adding decimal numbers. Students are correctly lining up place values and attending to accuracy. They have also shown competence in multiplying multidigit numbers using a variety of strategies. For the next two weeks, our focus will be division with multidigit numbers. We will begin with a new strategy called the “Big 7”. If you are unclear how your students are working out these problems, please let me know and we can go over the strategy. I have seen great success using this strategy in past years and look forward to sharing it with this group of students.
In Julie’s and Lynn’s math classes we have been using the standard multiplication algorithm (the method that many of us were taught when we were younger people) to multiply decimal numbers by multi-digit whole numbers. Students are also applying their understanding of place value, which was covered in previous lessons, to help estimate and reason about the placement of the decimal in the answer (product). We love word problems because it helps us apply what we’re learning to “real world” situations.
If you would like to watch some videos by other teachers who use the same math curriculum, please look for Merrie Hensley and Duane Habecker on youtube.com. We have listed some examples below. Your student should know the current module and lesson we are practicing.
Merrie Hensley videos:
Module 2, Lesson 10: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8TB9jdg4cg
Module 2, Lesson 11: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-B6CDqZjnY
Duane Habecker videos:
Module 2, Lesson 10: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzgtnQO_S0Q
Module 2, Lesson 11: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8D8MUUz70BA
Lauren’s math class has been wrapping up our unit in Prime Time, understanding how basic concepts are used to build more complex operations and skills. Students are building algebra skills by learning how to use the distributive property to solve word problems. We have been practicing and learning about study skills in preparation for our unit test on Tuesday. Following the test, students will use feedback to understand any concepts they’ve not yet mastered. They are regularly discussing math, digging into problem solving and supporting each other as a strong (fierce!) community of learners.
In Peter’s math class, our focus has been in two areas: One group just completed the unit on Comparing Bits and Pieces from the Connected Math Project curriculum--developing skills in using fractions, decimals, ratios and percents to measure and to compare quantities. After their unit test, they will begin activities to further develop an understanding of the four basic arithmetic operations with fractions, including mixed numbers. They will also describe strategies for using these operations when solving problems involving fractions. The second group, completed a study of ratios, proportions, and proportional reasoning and are now investigating negative numbers. Some skills and concepts we will cover include using appropriate notation to indicate positive and negative numbers and zero; comparing and order rational numbers and locate them on a number line; understanding the relationship between a number and its opposite (additive inverse); developing and using different models (number line, chip model) for representing addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division; and developing algorithms for adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing positive and negative numbers.
Students investigated climate in a variety of ways including matching graphs to statements, investigating the science behind a hip-hop video about climate change, and using blended learning resources collected by teachers to learn background information. They annotated non-fiction text to understand and ask questions about this complex topic. Students wrapped up their study of climate and our changing climate with skits demonstrating the positive and negative impacts of changing climate upon varied groups including alpine plants, Pacific islanders, sea turtles, Northern Europeans and polar animals.
As students work on culminating Earth Science projects during their language arts block, we’ve begun an inquiry into the human body each afternoon. Last week, students learned about the skeletal and muscular systems, learning anatomy, solving forensic bone mysteries, measuring muscles, and more. Homework included a flipped classroom approach for understanding joints, muscles and the skeletal system. On Wednesday, we hosted retired teacher, artist and biologist, Shaun Armour, who led students through interactive muscle anatomy lessons and anatomical drawings using grid enlargements and introducing a variety of shading techniques. Check out kids’ beautiful black and white renderings in the hallway. On Friday, students dissected chicken wings for a hands-on investigation into hinge & ball and socket joints, antagonistic muscle groups, muscles as levers and the interactions between skin, fascia, muscles, joints and bones. Next week we investigate the circulatory and respiratory systems, before we appropriately exit the human body with the digestive system...
What a great field trip we had to the Denver Art Museum this past week! Thanks to our students for doing such a great job listening to and learning from the docents who walked us through the Renaissance era paintings and the Spanish colonial collections. Our students asked such intriguing questions and brought back ideas to incorporate into their study of exploration ongoing presently in class as well as looking ahead to an art portraiture study they will be having with Kara in January. In class we have “set sail” on our study of exploration - focusing this past week on the motivations behind exploration and the benefits and drawbacks of such endeavors. Students have been trying their hands at making decisions based on actual voyages of explorers from the 1400-1600s to prepare them for their own “voyages.” In the weeks to come, students will be assembling their own Explorer’s Journals with a multitude of research based documents to present to “royalty” for the funding of future voyages.
In Spanish 1A we have been focusing our grammar and vocabulary work on a review of numbers, time, days of the week and months of the year. We are also continuing our reading of the novela Tumba and increasing our conversational comfort and skills by our daily conversations about this book and how it applies to our own lives. It’s always inspiring to see how students are putting the discrete grammatical pieces of language together to form more complete thinking.