Newsletter 29 – 4/25/16

Weekly Highlights

Though we spent some mornings this week doing ISTEP+ testing online, it certainly wasn’t the focus of our week. We started new project work in P3. We are studying contemporary issues and comparing them with issues in the past. We’ve loosely categorized them into four groups – conflict/war, power/privilege, disease/health, and economics.

In writers workshop, we’ve finished up all of our revision strategies and are moving onto our last stage of this process before we PUBLISH! These pieces have been under our fingers for two months and we are excited to see the final drafts.

In our community, we’ve been noticing that it might be time to re-consider our classroom agreements. After all, we started as incoming 5th and 6th graders and we now have almost 6th & 7th graders (ahh!). On Friday, we met in CPR groups to think about the following questions:

  • Do our current agreements still serve us? If no, which ones should be changed/altered/eliminated? What agreements?
  • How could our structures adapt as we mature? For example, should our workshops be more blended (Readers/Writers)? Dismissal? Room Rescue? CPR? Stations?
  • How do we (peer-to-peer) hold each other accountable when the agreements aren’t followed?

The conversation was insightful and we are excited to implement some of the suggestions. One piece that came up was to have more field trips as we approach the end of the year (let us know if you have ideas – local is preferable). We are also going to blend readers and writers workshop work as we move into our next unit – Biography! A lasting suggestion was that maybe we have trouble holding each other accountable because we don’t trust the integrity of our peers  and we should do a more focused study on integrity. Woohoo!


Not sure if any of you are big This American Life listeners, but Ms. Kalei was listening to this episode on Middle School last week and felt some connections. It isn’t necessarily kid-appropriate, but you may find some of the content interesting or helpful.

As we near the end of the year, we are running through all of the supplies you sent in in August. If you are able to – we are in need of invisible tape, post-its, and kleenex.

Questions to Ask Your Child at Home

  • What do you think about the classroom agreements – do they need to change?
  • What are you thinking about the read aloud The Giver? How are you seeing it connect to the “real” world?

Newsletter 28 – 4/18/16

Weekly Highlights

Thanks to all who were able to join us for our celebration of Rwanda books. We appreciated seeing so many of you!

This past week, we worked a lot on writers workshop. We had several days of long writing sessions, re-wrote our leads, and began integrating revision work into online drafts (if applicable). On Fresh Grade, some kids reflected on the most challenging work and the most helpful work in this unit.

In P3 this week, we did a full-on medieval simulation. It was oh, so much fun. We had two kings (Kalei & Jim) and they were able to collect, rent, taxes, issue proclamations, etc. The villagers (kids) chose to either build or farm, and earned coins (pennies) by doing so. Kids were so excited about this work – except for when the pneumonic plague hit the villages and wiped out more than half our class. There was also a battle simulation outside to show the differences in preparedness of knights (who got dodgeballs) and villagers (who got paper balls).

In CPR this week, we have been talking about dependence, agency, and continue to do work with social-issue-problem-solving.

In readers workshop, we are continuing to read The Giver. We’ve been discussing symbolism, metaphor, along with whether we believe the setting (the “community”) is a utopia. Very interesting perspectives have come out in discussion & in Giver Book Clubs.

Up & coming is ISTEP this week and next week. We have sessions almost every day – all testing will be online. If you’re able to contribute gum and mints, we would appreciate it!

We will eventually have a publishing party for the pieces kids have been working on in writers, but it is delayed during testing. We thought it would be this week – but now it looks more like next week. We will keep you updated!

Newsletter 27 – 4/11/16

Weekly Highlights

In P3 this week we split into groups to study the texts Castle and Cathedral by David Macauley. Kids were focused on Maslows Hierarchy of Need as they read through the text, thinking about how people in medieval times met their varying needs.

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In writers workshop this week, we cut up our pieces – literally! We talked about how we can rearrange the different sections of our writing to help it make better sense to the reader. We practiced with some paragraphs from Brian Selznick’s latest book, The Marvels.

download (9)In readers workshop, we started book clubs. Kids have very little in class time to read for these book clubs and so they are going to need to do most of their work at home! Kids are participating in two book clubs – one with The Giver (our read aloud) and another with a book they selected. We’ve been talking a lot this week about the psychological setting.

This Friday we’ll be celebrating our Books and Beyond Project at Rhinos from 1:00-2:30! Families are welcome to join us for this celebration.

We will be having a publishing party next week – likely Friday. We’ll touch base with a specific time as we get a greater sense of where writers are in the workshop process.

Newsletter 26 – 4/1/16

Is it already APRIL?

This week we watched Wall-E and used it as a way to analyze our agreements and the work we’ve been doing in writers workshop. Here are some questions kids were thinking about…

  • What are the “on the surface” struggles? (what are the problems the characters have to solve?)
  • What are the ”under the surface” struggles? (what big themes are suggested in the movie?)
    • How do the film creators show and tell you these struggles?
    • How do these struggles impact you as a viewer?
  • How do the characters assume/show goodwill (or how do they not)?
  • How do the characters take risks?
  • How do they learn from these risks?
  • When/where are there examples of equity and justice?
  • How do the characters create fun?
  • How do characters build each other up?

While we were watching, we were asking kids what they thought the themes of the movie were. Their answers were absolutely *amazing*. They said things like “it’s about how technology forces us away from human interaction” and “it’s about taking care of and preserving our environment.” They talked about how “technology was taking over everything and people weren’t thinking for themselves,” and how “all the people on the ship are just the same – there is nothing special about any of them.”

That was just the beginning of our week.

We started some work with book clubs that are focused on community. The titles that made it are

  • Wringer
  • Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone
  • The Hunger Games
  • The Tale of Despereaux
  • The Jumbies
  • Among the Hidden
  • The City of Ember

We also launched a two-week revision unit. The goal is to totally rework a piece of writing – one of the two drafts students generated before spring break.

With all that good work going on, it was a lovely time for us to have a group of teachers from Vermont observing and asking questions of kids throughout the week. Kids were so articulate and sophisticated in their responses to the work they were doing.

Last little tidbits…

  • The theme of CPR this week was “diversity,” we’ve been talking about in-group and out-group dynamics
  • We are running a tad low on snack
  • Thank you to all who donated/are letting us borrow copies of Harry Potter
  • New passions begin Monday (!!!)
  • We have started a 10 minute math practice time every day in the mornings