Week of June 16-20

Monday, June 16
With this being the last week of school, there is sure to be "grand finale" after "grand finale." Today, it was our last Weekend Update! We spent a few minutes going over the plan for the week. Then we prepped a bit more for our Mancala game project with the kindergartners before heading down to play with our buddies. It went great! We didn't get to Egypt as planned, so there may be a few adjustments when it comes to our Famous Egyptian Dinner Party skit, but for now we are on for tomorrow being an essay revision day, Wednesday being a Jeopardy day, Thursday being a "Let's go over Summer Reading and watch Zoe's slide show" day (not to mention a little skit prep) and then Friday being our final presentations and awarding of the Sky High passes for the Nome with the most travel points!

Tuesday, June 17
Things are ramping up or winding down, depending how you look at it! A majority of the sixth graders presented their Alphabiographies today, a work in progress for most of the year, that has finally come to completion. We'll formally share on Thursday. Then we switched gears and gave full effort to revising our compare/contrast essays with the majority of the students submitting their final copy before the end of the class. Yahoo!!! Those who still need to work on either (or both) assignment should do so tonight!

Wednesday, June 18
We started class by going over some ideas for making journaling while we are doing our summer reading as easy and meaningful as possible. The intention is not to overload students with work or interrupt the reading process; rather it is a way to get notes on paper so everyone can be active participants in our fall discussions. Suggestions for "journaling" included using post-it notes to mark pages and jot down impressions, writing down notes in the book itself if it's a purchased copy, or writing down thoughts and questions on a piece of paper or in a notebook as you are reading, after a chapter, after a single seating or even after finishing the whole book. Students are invited to email Ms. C-R over the summer if they have more questions about this journaling component. We then played an exciting and fast-paced game of Ancient Egyptian Jeopardy prepared by the various Nomes. Scores from the game will be shared Friday in preparation for finding out the grand prize winners for the battle up the Nile!

Thursday, June 19
We're gearing up for the last day of school. In addition to sharing our favorite entry from our Alphabiography, we were treated to an informative and inspiring slide show of Zoe's trip to Europe. Who knew how many cats she would encounter...or all the history and natural beauty! The bulk of class time was devoted to putting final touches on the Famous Egyptian Dinner Party Skits to be presented tomorrow. Nomes continue to work well together, so these skits are guaranteed to be thoughtful and creative!

Friday, June 20
Happy Last Day of School! We had less than an hour to pack in everything we wanted to accomplish on our final day of Humanities. The Famous Egyptian Dinner Party skits were awesome! Thanks to everyone for making them informative and entertaining. Following these noteworthy theatrical productions, final Nome points were tallied...and our Sapphires from Thebes took home the Sky High passes!!! Congratulations to all of the sixth graders for finishing up the year on a strong note, especially Leanne who was recognized for her clearly-written and well-organized compare/contrast essay. So much to celebrate! Before heading to the Key Ceremony, there were group hugs and some extra time to practice the "I Love Middle School" song (to the tune of "I Love Rock and Roll). A super way to end a sensational year!!!

Week of June 9-13

Monday, June 9
Our penultimate Weekend Update. Can you believe it?! Only one more Monday after today! Equally unbelievable is how awesome everyone has been with keeping up with the writing of the body paragraphs for their compare/contrast essays. Tomorrow will be devoted to talking about how to incorporate quotes and getting started on an introduction and conclusion with more time to write on Thursday. After we checked in about the essay, we put on our travel hats and sailed along the Nile. There are two remaining Nome challenges: preparing a jeopardy game and writing (and eventually presenting) a 5-10 minute dinner party skit featuring famous Egyptians.

Tuesday, June 10
It was Essay Time today! We discussed the structure and content of an introduction to a formal literary analysis and then tried our hands at composing our own. We also looked briefly at the purpose of a conclusion. Most of the period was devoted to writing time with a promise of 45 more minutes tomorrow and 45 more minutes on Thursday before the first draft will be due for teacher review.

Wednesday, June 11
More time for essay writing! We started by looking at ways to incorporate textual evidence (quotations) into our writing with the number one priority being not to leave a quote hanging, dangling, or hangling! Strive for the sandwich method: introduce the idea of the quote, then include the quote itself, and then write an explain of why the quote (or the idea it presents) is important. Then students had about 40 minutes of focused writing time, just long enough for several students to finish their essays and be ready for peer review. The rest will get to that magical place tomorrow. Then it was back to the Nile. Nomes corrected their Mummies for Dummies pages before working on either their Jeopardy game, their Famous Egyptian Dinner Party skit, or a little bit of both.

Thursday, June 12
Writing time and library time! What could be better? We spent the first part of class putting the finishing touches on the drafts of our compare/contrast essays. Many students turned them in while a few are going to use some time tonight and/or a few minutes tomorrow during class to get to the point when they can turn in something that includes an introduction and all body paragraphs at a minimum (the conclusion can wait if necessary). Then it was library time which was actually in our classroom as Safranit Molly joined us for an overview of this summer's reading program. Her inspirational slide show will be posted on the wiki resource page soon and sent to parents via email next week. Lots of great books to choose from. A reminder that a student must read at least one from the list of 20 (10 fiction and 10 non-fiction) and keep a journal recording thoughts about the book, specifically the theme of identity, as well as write down excerpts from the book that relate to this theme. Films are optional. See all the details on the attached documents.

Friday, June 13
So fun to celebrate our last Middle School Kabbalat Shabbat with lots of great announcements, an entertaining birthday pencil presentation, and a well-timed Mitzvot game perfect for today's date (get it? the date is 6-13 and then there are 613 mitzvot)! Then it was back to the classroom where we prepped for our Mancala game with our buddies on Monday (who knew that all of the sixth graders knew the same incorrect rules) and then back to Egypt where we focused on finishing our Jeopardy games and preparing for our Famous Egyptian Dinner Party skits for next week.

Week of June 2-6

Monday, June 2
It's hard to believe that today's Weekend Update was one of only three more Mondays!!! We reviewed our plans for making mancala games with the kindergartners for our last buddy activity before returning to the Nile. Lots of catch-up with projects such as the Mummies for Dummies page before learning more about Ancient Egyptian art, clothing, and food. The plan (when we return to class next week) will be to prepare a jeopardy game for another Nome featuring topics the three topics listed above plus mummies and pyramids. We are definitely getting closer to the end of our journey!!!

Tuesday, June 3
Today was all about writing. Students worked diligently on the body paragraphs of their compare/contrast essay. The hope is that they will have all of their body paragraphs completed by the start of class next Tuesday (June 10th). They should attempt to include relevant quotes from the books in their paragraphs (a minimum of three for the whole essay). We will talk about effective ways to "embed" quotes on Tuesday as well as review what an introduction and conclusion should look like for this kind of essay. The hope is to have a final draft completed by the end of class next Thursday. Thanks sixth graders for using your class time wisely!

Wednesday, June 4
NO SCHOOL--Shavuot

Thursday, June 5
NO SCHOOL--Shavuot

Friday, June 6
NO SCHOOL--Report Card Prep Day

Week of May 26- 30
Monday, May 26
NO SCHOOL--Memorial Day

Tuesday, May 27
Exploratory forms were distributed (they are due back by this Friday) before we launched into all the work needed to get ready to write our Compare/Contrast essay. In addition to reading over the sample essay and stopping to talk about topics such as thesis statements, organizational strategies including transitions, and the various ways to introduce or incorporate quotes, students used a special form to get their ideas down on paper (see below). The focus was on determining which categories from the hot pink sheet would be explored in the essay (remember the minimum is 3), whether the similarities or differences between The Giver and the Dystopian novel would be emphasized, and for which ideas would textual evidence (quotes) be used (again 3 is the minimum). Completing this form by Thursday will let us move on to the next stage--composing a thesis statement.

Wednesday, May 28
We went back to Egypt today. First we finished up the "Internal Ramp Theory" video from last Friday and then we worked on constructing our "Important" and "Interesting" pyramids on which we inscribed 3 important and 3 interesting facts we found in our reading about pyramids. We interrupted all the hard work we were doing on this to play a quick round of "Wrap that Mummy." Nomes did a great job wrapping a group member (or members) neatly and thoroughly with a modern mummy wrapping material--also known as toilet paper.

Thursday, May 29
Before we jumped into thesis statements and body paragraphs, we brainstormed on some possibilities for our final meeting time with our Kindergarten buddies which is to take place on Monday, June 9th. We will work out the details before we leave school next Tuesday for the long 5 day weekend! Then it was on to composing thesis statements for our compare/contrast essays. Each student shared a draft of their thesis with Ms. C-R (along with their notes about each of the major categories they will be addressing in their essay) before embarking on their body paragraphs. We will have more time to write in class next Tuesday and then the Tuesday after. A complete rough draft will be due at the end of the period on Thursday, June 12th and a final version due at the beginning of the period on Wednesday, June 18th. Time is a-ticking!!!

Friday, May 30
Today was noteworthy for several reasons. First it was the last ASKS of the year. Such a fun celebration! Next it was a fire drill that took us from the ballroom to the playground, up the stairs and then down again. Sixth graders are really good at fire drills. Then it was back to the classroom and back to Egypt. The third noteworthy occasion was when Ms. C-R wrapped up class about 45 minutes early. You'd think by the last month of school she would have the Friday scheduled down, but apparently not. So there was some rushing around with our Mummies for Dummies pages before we realized we had oodles of time to do research, write out our information, find an image and print out. There was even time to finish up Wednesday's pyramids and cut out our cartouches. Looking ahead, there will be some time on Monday to complete the mummy project before moving on to famous Egyptians.

Week of May 19-23
Monday, May 19
Per usual, we started with Weekend Update, one of the last of the year! Then it was a quick tutorial about the GoAnimate video builder before students got back on the Nile and learned about the different social groups of Ancient Egypt. They applied the information they learned to preparing an informative and entertaining video which we will watch on Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 20
We returned to the topic of color by first discussing its importance in The Giver and then looking at examples of color poems before trying our hand at writing our own. Resources included the papers we filled in from last Thursday's Color Roundabout and two fill-in-the-blank templates that can be found in The Giver section of the resource page. Then we quickly prepared for our last ASAP meeting with Austin (which was scheduled for 10:30am) before starting our review of the features of Dystopian Literature. On Thursday, we will continue going through the power-point (available on the resource page) as we get closer to starting our final major writing assignment of the year, our Compare-Contrast essay. Finally, students checked in with their Nomes about how to best prepare for tomorrow's group quiz over gods and goddesses.

Wednesday, May 21
A full day of all things Egypt starting with our group quiz over gods and goddesses, followed by the reading of an Egyptian creation myth, and then the viewing of the GoAnimate videos Nomes created on Monday about the different social classes of ancient Egypt. They are super fun to watch and very informative. Check them out on the Student Gallery page. Finally, Nome members started reading an information sheet on the pyramids of ancient Egypt with the plan to record 3 important and 3 interesting facts on their own "pyramids" on Friday.

Thursday, May 22
We returned to our color poems this morning. Students got back in the poetry-writing groove and came up with some really lovely creations which they printed out and turned in for our end-of-the-year bulletin board. Then it was all things "dystopian"! We finished going through our Dystopian Literature Power Point (see resource page under The Giver) which led to some enlightening discussions. We then reviewed the requirements for the Compare/Contrast essay and began reading over a sample essay in preparation for starting our own writing on Tuesday.

Friday, May 23
Our Grandfriends schedule made for a slightly shorter class period. We finished our discussion about Dystopian Literature before returning to Egypt for a viewing of a video about the Internal Ramp Theory of building the Great Pyramid. We made it through 40 of the 45 minutes until, sadly, the internet gave out on us; we'll watch the remaining few minutes next Wednesday. The video is available at the top of the resource page for those who weren't here or those who can't stand the suspense of waiting. Our class ended with a quick score update for our Nile simulation (it's still neck and neck) and a reminder about finishing up whatever Dystopian novel one is reading in order to choose the best one to compare to/contrast with The Giver. See homework page for more details.

Week of May 12- 16
Monday, May 12
Our morning started with a quick Weekend Update before we returned to the Nile. Our Egypt studies included looking at several maps of the Nomes of Ancient Egypt, reading a handout about hieroglyphics, learning about the purpose of a cartouche and the origin of its name, creating our own cartouches featuring our first names in hieroglyphics, learning the ins and outs of papyrus, and starting a related acrostic poem. Phew! Lots of cool resources to check out on the resource page including the maps mentioned above and a hieroglyphic typewriter.

Tuesday, May 13
We finally got to put our memories of our neighborhood on paper and then pull out the words and phrases we liked best to create a memory poem. It was amazing how absorbed we got in the process as all of us thought and wrote and edited and revised for over an hour. The results reflected this great effort. At the end of the period, we began to read an article from The Oregonian about a student who 40 years later wanted to apologize to his teacher. The article is part of our discussion of the purpose and meaning of apologies in The Giver. We will continue reading the article and discussing the topic on Thursday.

Wednesday, May 14
We were back to the Nile today with lots of little challenges. Our morning started with a viewing of a short Egypt video that focused, among other topics, on gods, goddesses, and the importance of tombs. See the resource page for the link. Then it was time to finish up the Papyrus acrostic, create Nome score cards, and prepare god and goddesses flash cards. The morning ended with a hieroglyphic contest during which Nomes worked together to solve the encoded message about the ancient pyramids of Egypt. The Nomes were focused and the competition fierce. Congratulations to the Sapphires of Thebes for finishing first.

Thursday, May 15
We returned to the apology article we started on Tuesday and discussed at length the power potential of apologies and how we can convey when we are truly sorry (rather than just saying "I'm sorry" out of habit). Then it was on to our Color Roundabout where we toured the room and let colors of paper inspire to write about objects, feelings, and memories. We will be using all that we wrote to compose Color Poems next week to highlight the significance of colors (or the lack of them) in The Giver. The grand finale' of the day was skyping with Elias in Spain; so excited that he will be returning to PJA as a 7th grader in the Fall.

Friday, May 16
Today was our last in-class Alphabiography day...and it was a good one--Hooray for letter "S." The entries for the remaining letters ("t" though "z") will be done at home from here on out, as well as editing of prior entries and any artwork and general "spiffying" up. The final project will be due the Tuesday of the last week of school (6/17). Speaking of "spiffying" up, the 6th graders then made their Memory Poems looks spiffy for posting on the bulletin board. We were back on the Nile before the half-way point of class--focusing on finishing up our gods/goddesses flash cards and getting a sneak peek at the GoAnimate project we're going to do Monday in order to teach everyone about the various roles in Egyptian society.

Week of May 5- 9
Monday, May 5
Following Weekend Update, we touched base about how much more question-asking we need to do for the ASAP Project and then got back on the Nile boat! Today's challenges included visually representing the most important of the 8 Common Behavior rules and then mastering a topic related to the Nile. These included Plants/Animals, Farming, Quarries/Mines, and Boats. Nomes worked incredibly quickly to not only learn the material but to develop a comprehensive, easy-to-follow oral summary highlighting at least three important and at least three interesting facts. Clever presentations ensued! Nice work Super Smart Egyptian Scholars!!!

Tuesday, May 6
We started class by playing a little guessing game with the responses we created to the Lois Lowry interview questions. Each sixth grader should be congratulated for tricking at least 3 classmates in to selecting his or her answer as the correct one. Isabella, Juliana, and Olivia F. managed to trick 10 classmates into thinking their responses were the ones written by Lois Lowry! The highlight of the day was attending the 4th through 8th grade Poetry Slam. Thank you Nayantara and Olivia J. for sharing your poetry with all of us.

Wednesday, May 7
It was back to Egypt today, with a little break to visit with our new friends in Texas and California. Our Egypt challenges today related to Monday's work. First Nomes compiled a single list of facts from the Nile presentations and identified which are important and which are just interesting. Nomes also did a collaboration assessment of their work on the Common Behavior poster and the fact-listing activity. They also played a guessing game related to the Common Behavior each of the other Nomes had visually represented and earned points for guessing correctly and being correctly "guessed." In between all of this was a 30 minute stint to visit once again with the students from Austin and Sacramento. Next up for our ASAP Project--a final all-group meeting. And up next for Egypt--hieroglyphics.

Thursday, May 8
Our morning started with watching a "60 Minutes" episode about superior autobiographical memory followed by an intriguing conversation about our perception of our own ability to remember things. Check out the links on the resource page to watch the video at home. We also read to "memory poems" that are sure to inspire our own writing next week. Then we had our last official visit to the library for the year; we will connect with Ms. Sloan one more time regarding summer reading, but this was her last opportunity to show us a fantastic research resource on OSLIS called the Gale Database.

Friday, May 9
NO SCHOOL--Teacher Inservice


Week of April 28-May 2
Monday, April 28
It's Monday which means time for Weekend Update (which included a little of a Pesach Break update as well). Then we checked in briefly with the successes and downfalls we encountered when trying to reach students from Austin and Sacramento as part of our ASAP Project inquiry last Friday. The hope is that this Friday's virtual get-together will go more smoothly. Then it was on to our Egypt unit and "There's No Place Like Nome" during which we played a crazy game of Headbands in order to get into Nome groups and begin our journey up the Nile. Finally, we brainstormed on possible interpretations of the ending of The Giver in preparation of our viewing of the play tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 29
Science and Humanities played a little switch-a-roo today in order to maximize instruction time given our field trip to see The Giver. Therefore, students met in room 204 for for only a few minutes in order to take attendance and go over a few quick reminders about choosing a Dystopian novel by this Thursday, what to do if you want to read a book not on the list (see homework page), how continuing to add to your "Rules" and "Rites of Passages" forms will help you when it comes time to discuss these elements of The Giver, and about next Tuesday's Poetry Slam (anyone interested in reciting an original poem should sign up Friday; if we have time for students to read poems written by another, that will be announced first thing Monday morning). Then the sixth graders headed off to the Science Lab...

Wednesday, April 30
We were back on the Nile to complete a few learning challenges. By the end of the period, the Nome members decided on their roles for each of the weeks of our Egypt unit, composed an assessment of how they collaborated on their first day of "traveling," shared these assessments orally (and answered follow-up questions), worked on decorating their travel hats, read through information about the Nile, and made a list of the most important or interesting facts about the Nile. Well done Nomes!!!

Thursday, May 1
After going over the requirements for the Independent Reading Card (see homework page) and handing out some forms that will be helpful in keeping track of important details from the Dystopian novel (see below), we had a full morning devoted to lively discussions about various aspects of The Giver. These included what we thought about Tuesday's play, what we thought happened at the end of the novel (and if our ideas about this changed), and what Lois Lowry thinks about various issues that her novel brings up. After hearing several of Lois Lowry's responses to readers' questions, we did our best at channeling the author and answering similar questions in her voice. Next week we will play a guessing game based on these responses.

Friday, May 2
A jam-packed day with collecting Independent Reading cards, writing Alphabiography "R," and returning to Egypt to complete tasks related to our lists of the top ten Nile River facts and correct behaviors. We then visited the 7th graders "Founding a Fiefdom" project to learn more about the Middle Ages and what our 6th graders can expect next year. Then it was back to the classroom to prepare with our virtual meetings with the students from Austin and Sacramento. The final part of the period was devoted to these conversations which proved informative and entertaining.

Week of April 21-25
Monday, April 21
NO SCHOOL--Pesach Break

Tuesday, April 22
NO SCHOOL--Pesach Break

Wednesday, April 23
NO SCHOOL--Pesach Break

Thursday, April 24
Welcome Back!!! Given that it's only a two day week, our Thursday looked a bit different than usual. We started with a vacation matching game where we each wrote something noteworthy we did during Pesach Break and then tried to guess who did what. Then with Mr. Blumberg's help, we prepared for tomorrow Google Hangout meetings with the students from Austin and Sacramento. Students were divided into groups and given a list of questions generated by all three schools. Their job was to choose some of their favorite questions and give some thought as to how best to gather information (survey, interview, etc). After taking a quick glance at the schedule for the last 8 weeks of school, we took a trip down memory lane focusing on a neighborhood we remember. We will be using these memory maps to compose special poems as part of our celebration of National Poetry Month as well as our reading of The Giver.

Friday, April 25
It's been a while since we had an ASKS, so today felt extra special. Congratulations to Zoe and Olivia F. for being recognized for their winning entries to the Letters About Literature contest. Then it was back to the classroom to prep a bit more for our ASAP Project before we took care of some important business including a Jeopardy game update and recognition of some noteworthy Conversation Sandwich writers. Congrats to Juliana and Zoe for your very thoughtful and thought-provoking conversations with your mothers! We next brainstormed on as many "Q" words as we could before writing our "Q" Alphabiography. Our Friday ended with time to verbally share with a partner about our memory maps of our neighborhoods. This will transform into a short written piece and ultimately a found poem!

Week of April 14-18
NO SCHOOL--Pesach Break

Week of April 7-11
Monday, April 7
Fourth Quarter started today...pretty unbelievable! Time does fly when you're having fun!!! After our morning ritual (Weekend Update), we watched more of the documentary "Louder Than a Bomb." We'll finish the movie tomorrow. Then schedules were distributed before sharing our findings from the Mesopotamia On-line Exhibit at the Oriental Museum at the University of Chicago. The students who presented made clear their solid command of the summarizing process. More will have the opportunity to share tomorrow before we launch into our reading of "The Epic of Gilgamesh."

Tuesday, April 8
We enjoyed the last part of "Louder Than a Bomb." The competition was intense, but the poems were what really grabbed out attention!!! Keep in mind that PJA's Poetry Slam will be held the morning of May 6th. After the movie, we did a fast study of the "Epic of Gilgamesh" by comparing a couple of translations of the first part of the story, watching a cartoon version that focuses on the big plot points, and reading over an informational worksheet describing the history of this oldest story in the world (or at least the oldest story ever written down). Details about the "Epic of Gilgamesh" will definitely show up on Friday's Mesopotamia Jeopardy board.

Wednesday, April 9
Today was one of those thought-provoking days that makes you happy you came to Humanities. We finished presenting our summaries of our Mesopotamia artifacts before launching into a discussion of what a perfect world would look like with some inspiration from John Lennon's song "Imagine." We learned about the origins of the word "utopia" and then read Kurt Vonnegut's short story "Harrison Bergeron." The story takes a satirical and cynical look at what our world would look like if everyone was equal. This theme will reappear in our reading of The Giver which we start tomorrow. Finally, we took a few minutes to think about what poetry is by looking at a collection of poetry-related quotes. Despite some of the unsettling stuff brought up by our discussion of a non-perfect world, class ended on a positive note with our recognition of the power of poetry!

Thursday, April 10
Students started the morning by submitting their third Conversation Sandwich before we jumped into a Staying Current on Thursday (SCOT) article which wasn't all that current given that it was published in 1998 when a very well-preserved ziggurat was found in Borsippa, Iraq. Reading this helped us realize that we are still discovering items from ancient Mesopotamia and that our understanding of the civilization is constantly evolving. Next we shared which poetry quotes "spoke" to us, and in the process of discussing our favorites touched on many of the important qualities of poetry. This conversation is on-going, and one will be having more of after Pesach Break as our celebration of National Poetry Month continues. Then we read a few pages of The Giver during which we were introduced to Jonas, Lily, and Asher (talking a bit about the significance of their names). Students will continue reading through Pesach Break and will fill out two worksheets (the list of rules and the rites of passage) to the best of their abilities. Finally, we divided up in teams for Jeopardy and figured out who would be reviewing what for tomorrow's big competition.

Friday, April 11
What a fun MSKS! Everyone loved the Great Chametz Race of 5774!!! Now we're ready for Pesach! Then it was back to class for Alphabiography "P" followed by a fantastic game of Ancient Mesopotamia Jeopardy. The three teams--Super Cool Sumerians, House of Babylon, and Awesome Assyrians--demonstrated their outstanding knowledge and good sportsmanship throughout the game. A perfect way to end up our study of the world's first civilization (or at least the first civilization we have evidence for...thanks to the dry weather of the area). If you want to relive the excitement, you can find our Jeopardy board here.


Week of March 31-April 4
Monday, March 31
Weekend Update started our Monday, followed by Conversation Sandwiches being collected. We had time for a couple of pairs to share their ziggurat models as well as their summaries and slogans. Students then reviewed for tomorrow's map quiz before heading to the Used Book Sale to browse, talk literature, and choose something good to take home.

Tuesday, April 1
Congrats to the 6th grade geography stars! Nice work on the map quiz over the modern political borders of what was once ancient Mesopotamia. Then students spent some time channeling the Dr. Seuss character within them as they wrote postcards to their kindergarten buddies. The remaining pairs shared their ziggurat models, summaries, and slogans before we tackled a textbook review in the form of figuring out a secret message from Mesopotamia.

Wednesday, April 2
Thanks to Ms. Feinblatt for subbing today! Students got to explore the art of Mesopotamia using a great link from the Oriental Museum of the University of Chicago and work on their summarizing skills before returning to their secret message from Mesopotamia worksheet. The last 30 minutes of class were devoted to O-WOW! with a twist. Instead of reading Outstanding Writing on Wednesday, students watched a film about Outstanding Writing. "Louder than a Bomb" is a documentary about the world's largest poetry slam held in Chicago each year. We will watch the remainder of the movie next week.

Thursday, April 3
NO SCHOOL--Conferences

Friday, April 4
NO SCHOOL--Conferences

Week of March 24-28
Monday, March 24
We started our Monday with Weekend Update and then a spirited conversation about the state of chewing gum sales in America (sales have decreased 11% in the last four years). Then we got into the mood for the rest of our day by listening to the entertaining (and fairly inaccurate) song "Mesopotamia" by the B-52s. Good thing they are not teaching Humanities (pyramids in Mesopotamia--come on!). We reviewed the qualities we noted in our Letter to the Editor examples (see homework page for specifics) in preparation for our work time which started with each student finishing up his/her political map of the region and then led to deciding on one of Hammurabi's laws to agree or disagree with. Students used the last 20 minutes or so to begin crafting their own Letter to the Editor in which they try to incorporate the above-mentioned qualities.

Tuesday, March 25
Several brave 6th graders shared their Letters to the Editor this morning, making for a very rich discussion about how they effectively incorporated the features usually associated with this type of writing. Tonight's homework is to take the letter to the next level by adding details, coming up with a clever name, and formatting it with whatever font and size works best. Then we took a few moments to discuss what we would do with our kindergarten buddies tomorrow. The consensus was to combine two of their units of study (Dr. Seuss and letter writing) into one fun activity. Next it was Troubleshooting on Tuesday during which we reviewed the proper punctuation that goes with quotation marks and added a few more rules. A fun maze activity helped us reinforce our learning. Finally, we added the last 6 terms to our Mesopotamia Vocab list.

Wednesday, March 26
After collecting Letters to the Editor, the sixth graders prepared for their visit with their buddies. When the kindergartners arrived, they were ready with activities related to Dr. Seuss and some easy math games. The half hour flew by! Congratulations to all the students for bringing their energy and enthusiasm to their interactions with their buddies. The morning ended with a short discussion about the experience and an opportunity to begin reviewing for next Tuesday's political geography quiz.

Thursday, March 27
Today was mostly about Ziggurats. To get in the mood (and to determine our learning partners), we played "Find Your Match" with the letters that spell out "Ziggurat." Then we read information about ziggurats, wrote a short summary that was clear and basic enough that it would be appropriate for kindergarteners, built with legos or drew a model, and came up with a slogan. Students also used class time to create the decorative borders for their Letters to the Editor. All in all, a fun and productive day--a perfect way to launch into a 3 day weekend!

Friday, March 28
NO SCHOOL--Conference Prep

Week of March 17-21
Monday, March 17
Thanks to Mr. Eden for subbing this morning. The order of operations was (1) Weekend Update, (2) Museum Tour of Front Page Projects, (3) Begin Self-Evaluation, (4) Add to Mesopotamia Vocabulary List, (5) Study for Wednesday's Quiz. A very full and productive day!

Tuesday, March 18
Our morning started with students submitting their Front Page Project Self-Evaluations. We then spent some time brainstorming on topics we could include in our Conversation Sandwiches: characters, writing style, other books by the same author, and setting were all mentioned. Students were reminded to leave extra time if they are planning on transcribing an actual conversation (rather than communicating via email). Then students finished their cylinder seals and any spare time was used to study for tomorrow's map quiz. Finally, it was time for WWYD! What Would You Do if you were presented with the same issues that Hammurabi faced way back in Ancient Mesopotamia. Students rotated around the room leaving post-it responses to certain intriguing scenarios that were either legal (What happens if a man is unable to pay his debts?) and domestic (What should happen to a boy who slaps his father?).

Wednesday, March 19
Students did a great job on their quiz over the physical geography of Ancient Mesopotamia. Then we read a bit about Hammurabi's Code before continuing our discussion about WWYD (see above). After exploring ten of Hammurabi's rules, we skimmed through the other 272 to find the ones we most agreed with and those that just made us cringe in shock or disagreement. This comprehensive list can be found on the resource page. The hope was to come up with our top five and our bottom five. We will use this list to choose a topic for our upcoming Letter to the Editor.

Thursday, March 20
Our Staying Current on Thursday (SCOT) article highlighted an interesting exhibit at the Israel Museum--the oldest masks in the world created in the Fertile Crescent area approximately 9,000 years ago! Check out the resource page to learn more. Then we reviewed the requirements for the first Conversation Sandwich (which is due tomorrow). Moving on to maps, the graded physical geography quizzes were returned and then students began filling in the modern political geography of the area. More time will be given next week to finish labeling the 32 countries of the region and color in the boundaries to help with studying. Finally, everyone returned to their laptops to peruse more of Hammurabi's laws and then we discussed a few of the most unusual or confusing ones.

Friday, March 21
Class started with students turning in their first Conversation Sandwich (the next one will be due in 10 days on Monday, March 31). Then they composed their Alphabiography "O" entry. We spent more time talking about Hammurabi before looking at examples of Letters to the Editor. Over the weekend students should give some thought to which of Hammurabi's laws s/he strongly agrees or disagrees with so that on Monday we can begin crafting our own Letter to the Editor advocating for the law to remain a law or to be repealed.

Week of March 10-14
Monday, March 10
First it was Weekend Update and then it was Front Page Project--and that was pretty much it for our Monday! Students were focused on finishing up their articles, editing where necessary, and working on the lay out. Recommended homework is to finish all of the content tonight, so that the 45 minutes we have in class tomorrow can be devoted to laying out the page (and troubleshooting any of the tricky stuff that comes with doing the lay out).

Tuesday, March 11
The bulk of today was devoted to laying out the Newspaper Front Page Project and putting on the finishing touches. The sixth graders should be commended for using their time wisely! Then it was back to the textbook to learn a little bit more about the importance of farming in ancient Mesopotamia. A great class discussion ensued regarding the pros and cons of domesticating plants and animals. Finally, we learned that the word Mesopotamia means "land between two rivers." As we will see, the Tigris and Euphrates (and the fertile area around it) will play a significant role in the creation of what we know as this first civilization.

Wednesday, March 12
Such a significant morning as the majority of students presented their completed Front Page Projects (with pride, relief, happiness, etc)! Unfortunately, not everyone managed their timing for this project as well as they should have. We look forward to the remaining projects being submitted tomorrow (perhaps with a tad less fanfare). Then we read more about the Fertile Crescent; we will return soon to read more about the invention of irrigation. However, we took a slight detour and explored another important invention--cuneiform (meaning "wedge-shaped"). We tried our hands at writing our initials like a Babylonian and will use these to make our cylinder (signature) seals. Finally, students were reminded of the importance of starting their next Independent Reading book tonight. Homework is to fill out an Independent Reading Card; consult the homework page for the specifics.

Thursday, March 13
Thanks to those students who thought ahead and chose a "recommended" book (and began reading!) before today's deadline About half of the students turned in their Independent Reading Cards this morning while the others will be making up for lost time this weekend and turning in their (late) cards on Monday. Once that bit of business was out of the way, we read a short O-WOW! (yes, a wee bit late) by popular author James Patterson about the power of reading. Then we got all the instructions out of the way for 1. submitting late Front Page Projects, 2. carving our cuneiform initials into clay to make cylinder seals, and 3. how to access some decent resources for studying for the quiz over the physical geography of Ancient Mesopotamia. Then it was off to work--with most getting pretty close to finishing task #2. We wrapped up class by posing as a flash mob as we burst into room 206 and distributed old cylinder seals to the 7th graders.

Friday, March 14

Week of March 3-7
Monday, March 3
As is the Monday custom, we started with journaling about our weekend. Then we completed some textbook work (pp. 55-61) which will allow us to move on to Mesopotamia in earnest tomorrow. Much of the period was devoted to working on the Historical Fiction Newspaper Front Page Project articles. The plan for homework is to continue the work began in class (writing the second major article--either plot summary, setting, or character) but to limit the time devoted to this task to a maximum of 30 minutes. There will be approximately 25 minutes of writing time in class tomorrow which combined with tonight's work time should be enough to generate a second article for teacher feedback.

Tuesday, March 4
Well, it's a little embarrassing to hand back an assessment almost two months after an assignment is submitted. But as they say, "Better late than never." Today students received feedback on their Jewish Book Month book reviews. All of the students should be recognized for their thoughtful writing; the final publication is really great! Congratulations to Sophia for composing a review that was thorough in terms of both plot summary and review; she also distinguished herself by including quotes from the text and describing why she chose them. Then it was on to a pesky punctuation issue with our Troubleshooting on Tuesday. Students reviewed where to place commas and periods at the end of a quote (always inside the quote marks), where to place colons and semicolons (always outside or after the quote marks), and where to place exclamation marks and question marks (it depends which part of the sentence is a question or needs to be emphasized). This might come up with the Newspaper Front Page Project, so it was good to get it out of the way! Then we watched the brief Mesopotamia video (the one we watched prior to going to the Hallie Ford Museum exhibit in December) to remind ourselves of all we are about to learn. The remaining 30 minutes of the period were devoted to working on our Newspaper Front Page Projects.

Wednesday, March 5
Today's O-WOW! was a short editorial from a 2008 edition of The Oregonian entitled "Adam and Eve Were Webfeet" about an archeological find placing human communities in Oregon nearly 15,000 years ago. Not only was the content interesting, but the writing was outstanding! Then it was on to learning about Early Farmers by reading a chapter in our textbook and writing down relevant vocabulary. Finally, we began labeling our physical map of Mesopotamia. We shaded in the area of the Fertile Crescent and will continue to add more physical features tomorrow.

Thursday, March 6
Class started with a chance to submit the latest and the greatest Front Page Project article/s. Students will receive these back tomorrow with teacher feedback. Next it was on to filling out a yearbook survey and then going over the next Independent Reading assignment requirements (see document below). We had just a little bit of time to work on our physical map of Mesopotamia before we were due in the library. Ms. Sloan shared many of her favorite books which works perfectly with our next Independent Reading category--a book recommended by another.

Friday, March 7
We had a very enjoyable Middle School Kabbalat Shabbat during which the 6th graders' King David Animation Projects were shown. Yasher Koach 6th graders! Then back in the classroom we did a little Front Page check-in, making sure everyone knows what they should be working on this weekend. In order to keep homework manageable next week, it is recommended that each student finishes up at least two more articles/features/extras and brings these (along with the three articles that have already been submitted--character, setting, plot summary) to class on Monday so we can give time to lay-out. Finishing two articles/features/extras this weekend in the MINIMUM! Students are encouraged to get more out of their way depending on how much free time they have this weekend. Alphabiography "N" was next and then we concluded with everyone finishing up the labeling of their physical map of Mesopotamia.


Week of February 24-28
Monday, February 24
So great to reconnect after our big Taglit week. Class started with some journaling about the past two weekends and/or Taglit. Then each student shared his or her favorite Taglit experience. What a great week of learning and fun! Next, in order to wrap up our studies of Human Origins, we watched excerpts from the BBC production "Walking with Cavemen" and discussed topics such as the advantages of bipedalism and what developments came about as a result of early humans' strong need for food for growing brains. We will watch the final scene of the movie tomorrow. The last part of class was devoted to the Historical Fiction Newspaper Front Page Project. All students should have finished reading their Historical Fiction novel by today. In order to prepare for the project, we reviewed the gold requirement sheet and then started filling out a check list (Requirement "Match") based on our reading of an example created by Ms. C-R. See homework page for all of the relevant documents.

Tuesday, February 25
It was back to Troubleshooting on Tuesday (TOT) with our fifth comma rule--using commas after introductory words, phrases, and clauses. Then we watched the final scene of the "Walking with Cavemen" video which we followed with an excellent discussion about how humans being able to control fire changed life as they knew it. The remainder of the class centered around our Historical Fiction Newspaper Front Page Project. We went over the Requirement Match worksheet and then students shared which of the articles they were going to include. Tomorrow we're on to the layout!

Wednesday, February 26
Our morning began with a formal written Taglit Reflection that will be used to craft future offerings. Then it was time for our O-WOW! Today's featured writing was hot off the press--the Sixth Grade Humanities Jewish Book Month Book Review publication! While we took about 10 minutes to peruse the writing, this was clearly not enough to make it through all of the reviews. Students are encouraged to read the rest at their leisure. We then wrapped up our study of Inherit the Wind with great group discussions. Finally, we got started on our Historical Fiction Newspaper Front Page Project layout knowing that we will tweak it as needed to fit the various articles which we will begin writing tomorrow.

Thursday, February 27
Lots of interesting Staying Current on Thursday articles--one about John Scopes, one about 1,000,000 year old footsteps in Britain, and one about evidence of 300,000 year old campfires in Israel. These can be found on the resource page. Also there is the reading of Weslandia, a fun children's book that got us thinking about what it takes to make a civilization. Then student reviewed each other's front page layouts to make sure all requirements were included. The remaining half hour was devoted to writing time during which students chose to work on one of the required articles (plot summary, setting, or character). Homework tonight is to finish up the article and bring a printed out version to class tomorrow for teacher feedback.

Friday, February 28
We started with a brief return to our SCOT from yesterday. Check out the 300,000 year old campfire article and the cool (and a little creepy) Faces of our Ancestors photos. We then collected the first set of front page articles for teacher feedback and went over the timeline for completing this project. The goal is to submit a draft of the second main article on Tuesday, March 4th and the third main article on Thursday, March 5th. All other articles should be written at home. There will be some time for layout work on Monday, March 10th and then, hopefully, the final draft will be due on Tuesday, March 11th. Per our Friday ritual, we tackled Alphabiography "M" next with a brief interruption to make an Aggy Pet in honor of the importance of agriculture in the formation of Mesopotamia, the first civilization.

Week of February 17-21
Monday, February 17
NO SCHOOL--Presidents' Day

Tuesday, February 18

Wednesday, February 19

Thursday, February 20

Friday, February 21

Week of February 10-14
Monday, February 10
NO SCHOOL--Snow Day!

Tuesday, February 11
It was great fun to share some of our snow stories as we got back into the groove of school! So therefore, even though it was Tuesday, we started with Weekend/Snow Days Update in our journals followed by a Historical Fiction check-in. It sounds like most students are making good progress through their books. As the deadline for finishing a book isn't until after Taglit, there is plenty of time to tackle another book or two and have a choice as to which to use for the Newspaper Front Page Project. Then we needed to tend to some unfinished business from last week. Some students took their African country quiz while others went straight to work on their Early Human Species speeches. By the end of the period most had moved on to animating their speeches with Blabberize.

Wednesday, February 12
We started with "Staying Current on Wednesday" in order to honor the 205th birthday of Charles Darwin. There is an interesting documentary about his theory of natural selection, some personal details about his life, and his global importance that you can access on the resources page. Take a look if you have time! We then had about 25 minutes of work time (African country quiz, Blabberize, textbook work, etc.) before we played paleoanthropologists. In small groups we creatively collected cave painting clues and then shared our findings. We will continue tomorrow learning all we can about cave paintings!

Thursday, February 13
After checking off that the front page of our textbook worksheet was complete, we returned to our cave painting studies. First we read the remaining groups' pieced together clues, so by the end we had the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of cave painting. Then it was all about using the internet to learn even more. We toured both Chauvet and Lascaux Caves in France and answered questions about the things that we found most interesting. Some students even had time to check out the Rick Steves' tour of the replica of the Lascaux Cave on the resources page. Since we had SCOW yesterday, it seemed only fitting to have O-WOT! today. We ended the class with story time, "Boy of the Painted Cave" by Justin Denzel.

Friday, February 14
Our morning started with All School Kabbalat Shabbat with our buddies and then some homework check-ins. Students submitted their Cave Painting Web Search worksheets and their Book Reviews edited for publication. Then it was all about the "L" entry for our Alphabiography. As we wrap up our Human Origins unit, we had a Being Human Roundabout where student groups visited different stations which centered on the benefits of walking upright, how humans have expressed themselves, unique body shapes and sizes, and stone age tools. Lots of good learning before we break for a wonderful week of Taglit!

Week of February 3-7
Monday, February 3
Second semester is off to a great start! We began with our usual Weekend Update, then moved on to some seriously needed binder tidying. Then it was back to "Inherit the Wind" as we watched the last 30 minutes of the movie production (including the climactic scene in which Drummond puts Brady on the stand). We will continue our discussion about plot, characters, and the meaning of some of the most famous lines later this week. We ended today's class by taking a sneak peek of some "talking" early human species as a way to get ready for our upcoming research project and then began filling out First Semester Self-Reflections.

Tuesday, February 4
After a little reminder about the importance of keeping up with homework and a discussion about the myriad of ways to deal with a homework assignment that is missing in action or unclear, last night's homework (the 1st Semester Self-Reflection) was collected. Then it was on to Troubleshooting on Tuesday (TOT). We took a hiatus, but it's baaaack! Given that the recently submitted Book Reviews contained numerous errors with commas with coordinating conjunctions, more review time was given to this rule. Check out the TOT link on the resource page for more practice. Our Early Human Species research came next. Students took notes from the Smithsonian's Human Origins website. Tomorrow they will use those notes to craft a one minute speech told from the perspective of the species itself. And then it will be time for some Blabberize-magic as students animate their species to deliver their speech.

Wednesday, February 5
Hooray for Taglit! We started the day with Betsy Bailey sharing a little info about Taglit coming to a school near you in two short weeks! Remember preferences are due (with the $35 fee) by this Friday. Then it was back to our Human Origins research and a quick tutorial on how to use Blabberize. Students did a great job wrapping up their research and embarking on their speeches in which they include the material they learned. Tomorrow it's on to Blabberize. Class concluded with a short peek into the words of H. L. Mencken. This is the journalist on which E. K. Hornbeck in Inherit the Wind is based. Click on this link to read Mencken's coverage of the Scopes Trial for the Baltimore Evening Sun.

Thursday, February 6
Staying Current on Thursday (SCOT) was the Creationism/Evolution debate between Bill Nye (the Science Guy) and Ken Ham (the founder of the Creation Museum) that aired on PBS on Tuesday. Check out this link to watch excerpts or the whole debate. We also got some clarification about the difference between Hominid and Hominin as explained on the Australian Museum website. Then it was back to our Early Human Species project. Despite some hiccups with the Blabberize site, students were able to craft their speeches, work on their posters, and start the Blabberize process. Some ambitious African scholars used the class time to take their quiz over African countries/territories while the rest will take on this challenge tomorrow.

Friday, February 7
NO SCHOOL--Snow Day!


Week of January 27-31
Monday, January 27
Our morning started with our usual Weekend Update but then became most unique when we skyped former PJA student Elias (who will be returning to the class as a 7th grader). So much fun to learn about Elias's life in Spain and to update him on our life here!!! There wasn't much time for other Humanities work, but Independent Reading Cards were collected and then we took a few minutes to return to "Inherit the Wind" to wrap up Scene I and embark on the trial in Scene II.

Tuesday, January 28
Finally...a heavy-duty "Inherit the Wind" day. We got to dig deep into our reading of Scene II and watch the film version of the beginning of the trial as well. Most importantly, we got to the part that references the title of the play and had a great discussion about what it means to "inherit the wind." Then Book Commercial evaluations were distributed and Olivia J. celebrated by her peers for her great work on this assignment ("Yasher Koach!") We then took a few moments to look over the Historical Fiction Front Page Project. Even though this is something we won't work on until after students read their books (deadline is Monday, February 24), it could be helpful to know what is required while doing the reading. Finally, African Country Research forms were passed back for corrections. Please bring them tomorrow so we can draw in the flag and prepare them for posting on the walls.

Wednesday, January 29
It was an acronym swap-out; we sacrificed our usual O-WOW! for the LA LA ASAP Project (Learning A Lot About Austin, Sacramento, And Portland). This was our opportunity to flash back to our great skype conversation with the students from Austin and Sacramento. First as a class we brainstormed on some questions we had for the other schools and then we generated even more questions while working in small groups. It's going to be great to start working with the other students as we attempt to satisfy our curiosities about their school and their Jewish communities in general. We then returned to our African Country Research. After corrections were made on the information sheets, students colored their flags, and then traced the outlines of their countries. Soon they will begin learning the location of many of the 55 countries. Lots of fun games to help with this process can be found at the bottom of the resource page.

Thursday, January 30
After collecting the additional LA LA ASAP Project questions, we jumped into this weeks SCOT which revolved around proposed legislation in Indiana that would allow creationism to be taught in public schools. Check out the SCOT section of the resource page to read more. In addition, we explored an interesting map of where currently creationism is being taught in schools (also found on the resource page). Then we read from the trial scene in "Inherit the Wind" and watched the movie of the incredible twist when Drummond puts Brady on the stand! Finally, we used our atlases to locate all of the countries/territories of Africa in order to prepare for next Thursday's quiz. Happy End of the First Semester everyone!!!

Friday, January 31
NO SCHOOL--Report Card Prep Day

Week of January 20-24
Monday, January 20

Tuesday, January 21
With not having school yesterday, we pretended today was Monday and started our morning with Weekend Update. After journaling, we gave feedback to our peers regarding last week's Book Commercials. Students enjoyed adding to the Scroll o' Compliments which included two suggestions as well. Then we finished researching our "Become the Expert" topics from "Inherit the Wind" before reading aloud more of the play.

Wednesday, January 22
Today was filled with "quasi" activities and assignments. First we learned that "quasi" means "apparently, but not really." A synonym would be "kinda." So we started with an O-WOW! kinda. We didn't read any Outstanding Writing on Wednesday like we usually do but chose outstanding writing to read for our Historical Fiction unit. Students looked through the library's collection of the Historical Fiction books and chose one or two to read. The goal is to choose a book for sure by this Friday, fill out an Independent Reading Card over the weekend, and finish the book/s by the Monday after Taglit (February 24th). We then spent some time sharing our lists of the ways humans differ from other animals (last night's homework). This will become especially relevant when we embark on our Early Human Species Project next week. It was back to "Inherit the Wind" as we watched a few scenes from the movie. Tomorrow we get to the trial! Finally, students took a quasi-quiz over Latitude and Longitude. From this we could assess whether more instructional time is needed on this topic, so students could get teacher help but not peer help to make sure the "quiz" is an accurate assessment. Anyone who did not finish the quiz could do so tonight for homework.

Thursday, January 23
Our morning started by collecting the Latitude/Longitude quizzes for those who did not finish them in class yesterday. Then it was back to Culturegrams to continue our African country research. For those who did not finish answering all the questions in class, take time at home tonight to do so. Then for SCOT (Staying Current on Thursday), it was a quick peak at two articles related to an interesting controversy--should yoga be taught in public school or are the religious origins of yoga significant enough to see this as a violation of church versus state? The case recently was decided near San Diego, California. Check out the SCOT section of the resource page to learn more about the issues. Finally, we read a short selection from "Inherit the Wind" featuring Hornbeck and Rachel. On Monday, we will jump into the trial scene for sure!

Friday, January 24
After collecting homework (the African Country Research and the list of how humans differ from other animals that was due on Wednesday), we made our way to the ballroom for a most meaningful MLK commemoration. Our middle school choir sang beautifully and all the classes did an incredible job presenting songs that connected with Dr. King's hopes and dreams for our world. A truly inspiring morning! Upon returning to our classroom, we jumped in to Alphabiography "K." This was followed by some Independent Reading related details such as listing questions for tonight's homework (fill in an Independent Reading card for the Historical Fiction book you are reading) and taking a second index card to use for note-taking about the various historical details that come up while reading.

Week of January 13-17
Monday, January 13
Per usual, we began our Monday with Weekend Update. Then it was on to a Book Commercial check-in. Our first group presents tomorrow so we took some time to make sure everyone is feeling confident about their preparations. Then, after much delay, Imaginative Autobiographies were returned. We spent quite a bit of time looking at noteworthy excerpts from each student's writing and discussing why these worked so well. Just like on their peer reviews, the 6th graders showed themselves to be insightful and supportive. Students were given about 5 minutes to read over the teacher feedback before putting them in their binders for further review at home. Class ended with a brief glimpse into the play "Inherit the Wind" which we will begin to read in earnest tomorrow after the Book Commercial presentations.

Tuesday, January 14
Book Commercials began today! Thanks to Cassie, Olivia J. Zach, and Isabella for their thoughtful and creative presentations. We then jumped into our reading of "Inherit the Wind." Per usual, it was hard not to slip into our goofiest Southern accents when playing the parts of the people of Hillsboro. Tomorrow will be a repeat performance--great Book Commercials followed by great drama!

Wednesday, January 15
The magic of Book Commercials continued today with four more stellar projects. Thank you Basia, Hannah, Sophia, and Lydia! Then it was back to our reading of "Inherit the Wind." We finally met up with the larger than life Matthew Harrison Brady (a fictional version of the real William Jennings Bryan). With so much "real" history in the play, we ended class with students working by themselves or in pairs to research a person or idea presented in the play so that they can be the experts and explain their significance when we come to the parts in our reading when they are mentioned.

Thursday, January 16
Another lovely day of learning about literature from our Book Commercial presenters. Thanks to Juliana, Isabel, Olivia F., and Leanne! We then dug into our African Country Research using one of the best resources out there: Culturegrams. We will resume our "treasure hunt" for facts and our "tooling around" some time next week. In the meantime, students are encouraged to check out all the great info on Culturegrams from their home computers. Just log on to the Multnomah Country Library site with your library card number and password and choose "research tools" under the "research" pull down menu to get to this incredible site. You'll be happy you did!

Friday, January 17
We enjoyed the last three Book Commercials today! Thank you Zoe, Nayantara, and Dina. Before we embarked on our laptops for Alphabiography entries "I" and "J," students were given the list for the next Independent Reading assignment--Historical Fiction. Check out the homework page to learn more about the list as well as the deadlines for choosing a book and reading it. The final project for this reading will be to create a front page of a newspaper that reveals some of the most interesting historical information gleaned from the reading. We will have plenty of time to talk about the details of this project, but it is good to know going into the reading that students must pay attention to the historical information as much as the plot, characters, etc. The remaining class time was devoted to Alphabiographies and finishing Book Commercial Self Evaluations.

Week of January 6-10
Monday, January 6
Welcome to our sixteenth week of school and our first in 2014! Students were excited to write in their journals about their two week break and to then share verbally a highlight. We then spent some time wrapping up our Global Literacy unit by labeling a world map with continents, oceans, the equator, arctic circle, Tropic of Cancer, etc. There will be a quick quiz later this week to ensure everyone is "in the know" before we embark on our Human Origins studies; knowing where the landmasses and oceans are located will help as we traces our journey from Africa. We then reviewed the requirements for the Book Commercial (due next week) and started filling our our Independent Reading Check-In worksheet (see homework). Finally we received back edited copies of our Book Reviews. Tomorrow will be devoted to revising these reviews.

Tuesday, January 7
Today was a very productive work day in Humanities. After announcements regarding a great volunteer opportunity on MLK Day, Yearbook banner art, and the Letters About Literature contest deadline this Friday, students spent the period revising their Jewish Book Month Book Reviews. Once finished, students should upload their document on My Big Campus using the schoolwork feature. For those who finished early, there was finishing work to do on the Stained Glass Future project or studying to do on the World Map we labeled yesterday.

Wednesday, January 8
With our book reviews submitted, our stained glass "future" projects finished, and our preparation for our world map quiz almost complete, today was the perfect day to start our new unit of study: Human Origins. To learn about some of the latest scientific perspectives regarding where humans came from, we turned to geneticist Spencer Wells and the film "Journey of Man." We will continue to watch tomorrow and Friday before exploring other important topics such as the significance of cave paintings, early human species, and the evolutionism/creationism controversy. We then had a chance to hear 8th grader Ori's winning entry to last year's Letters About Literature contest as part of our O-WOW! The deadline has been extended to Tuesday, January 21. Check out the contest page on this wiki to learn more. Finally, we touched base about Book Commercials which are due next week. It looks like everyone has a plan as described in their Independent Reading Check-In they submitted yesterday. Tomorrow we will decide on who will present when.

Thursday, January 9
We got to spend more time with geneticist Spencer Wells as we watched the second installment of "Journey of Man." For our "Staying Current on Thursday" (SCOT), we took a glimpse at some resources related to the Genographic Project and video clips of Spencer Wells appearing on a couple of talk shows. Check out the resource page for all the links. The last 20 minutes of class were devoted to reviewing for the World Map quiz and, when ready, taking it. Congratulations to our 6th graders for doing a great job labeling their world maps!

Friday, January 10
We enjoyed our first Middle School Kabbalat Shabbat (MSKS) of 2014 before returning to class to watch the end of the "Journey of Man" movie. The last 20 minutes of class were devoted to the world map quiz (either taking it for the first time or tweaking the labeling that was done earlier this week) and/or Alphabiography "I." The hope is that we can all catch up with our Alphabiography next Friday and get back on track with an entry each week.


Week of December 16-20
Monday, December 16
Per usual, our Monday started with Weekend Update, followed by some time to work on our Stained Glass Future projects. Then the weekend's homework, Independent Reading Cards, were collected. It was on to Book Commercial information next. First Ms. C-R shared her example for the novel The Tiger's Wife. See resources for all the pieces of this presentation including an attention-grabbing intro by a tiger and the power point that was used (along with its script). Then we went over the requirements (see below) and ended with another example, this time from a student (see resources once again). Tomorrow we will see one more student example before spending the bulk of the period working on our Book Reviews. Finally, students were reminded of the importance of bringing layers for our Field Trip on Wednesday as we will be traveling in warm cars and walking in the cold (and possibly rainy) outdoors. In addition, they should bring bag lunches that don't contain anything that needs to be microwaved.

Tuesday, December 17
Our morning started with a few last minute Field Trip reminders (wear comfortable shoes, layer for warmth and rain, and bring a snack and lunch) before we watched another example of an attention-grabbing Book Commercial. Then it was on to writing! Students maximized their laptop time to compose an informational and opinion-heavy review of their Jewish Book Month book. The complete first draft of the review is due this Thursday (if you want to get it off your plate) or Friday.

Wednesday, December 18
We thoroughly enjoyed today's trip to Salem! Lots to admire and learn from at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. We can't wait to start our study of Mesopotamia in 2014 knowing all that there is to learn about this very unique civilization. Next it was on to the state capitol where we ate lunch and then, thanks to Sophia's dad, had a great tour of some key places including the House and Senate chambers and the governor's outer office. Thanks to everyone, especially our parent drivers (Bob Gitelson, Susan Jacobs, and Heidi Greenwald) who helped make this a fun, informative, and worry-free day!

Thursday, December 19
As we prepare for our Winter Break, we had lots of loose ends to tie up. First and foremost was creating thank you cards for the parents who made yesterday's field trip so successful. We also talked briefly about the significance of Mesopotamia and the fact that with the advent of writing (cuneiform) we have much more documentation of what this civilization was like which is one of the reasons we study it so closely. We also took a virtual tour of the Eco Globe in Salem; so sorry we could not go there in person. Then it was on to Latitude and Longitude review. This proved tricky, but by the end of the period most of the 6th graders had a good idea about how we determine location based on this information. Check out this link for some fast-paced over-the-break practice.

Friday, December 20
Today we celebrated the last day of Humanities in 2013 by attending a spirited ASKS (All School Kabbalat Shabbat), playing a Monster Mash game with our kindergarten buddies, submitting drafts of our book reviews, finishing up our Stained Glass Future projects, and working on Alphabiography "I." Over Winter Break, sixth graders are to read, relax, and enjoy! When we come back, we'll jump into our Book Commercials, revise our Book Reviews, and embark on our studies of Early Humans. Can't wait!

Week of December 9-13

Monday, December 9
Despite the cold weather, we were all present and accounted for and ready to write about our weekend in our journals. That helped us slide into our Monday morning routine. We then reviewed latitude and longitude followed by some group work related to globe terms such as the Prime Meridian, the International Dateline, the Antarctic and Arctic Circle, and the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. Next, we stayed in groups to "dissect" an example of a New York Times Book Review (see below). Class ended with a challenge for each student to think of a symbol of his or her future; we will be doing an art project related to this symbol later this week.

Tuesday, December 10
The comma fun continued with our practice of setting off non-essential information (including appositives) into sentences. By the end of our review, we recognized how tricky this could get as sometimes we interpret "essential" information differently. We will practice this skill next week when we look more closely at how non-essential information can act as an "interrupter." Then it was back to our Catching Fire book review. We looked at how synopsis and review are often intertwined within paragraphs. Next we read a review of The Invention of Hugo Cabret and worked in our book review groups to answer questions that will help us see some of the distinctive features of the New York Times Book Review style. Finally, we briefly discussed our homework which consists of deciding on a symbol of our future, writing a two or three sentence explanation of this symbol's connection to our future, and then sketching in pencil a version of this symbol on a half piece of paper in preparation for our "stained glass" art project.

Wednesday, December 11
We started class by discussing the review of Hugo Cabret and then read through our third example of a New York Times Book Review, this one for the book Wildwood. Homework tonight, in addition to reading over the "Writing a Book Review" worksheet, is to highlight any words, phrases, or sentences that qualify as "review" (opinion) in this article. See homework page for details and documents. We then began work on our stained glass future art project. We spent the last few minutes of today's class in an important middle school meeting in which we were reminded of the high expectations we have for behavior when a substitute teacher is present. Tomorrow we'll hear from our guest from the Multnomah County Library system, so don't forget to bring your library card!

Thursday, December 12
Half our class was devoted to starting our Book Reviews and half was devoted to hearing from our guest librarian. To start, we quickly reviewed the suggestions listed on the "Writing a Book Review" handout (see below), got a little extra inspiration from hearing some opening sentences from previous 6th graders' book reviews, and then pulled out our laptops and got to work. Then Kate from the Multnomah County Library system came to share with us a glimpse into the MANY resources the library website provides including homework help, language tutorials, music downloads, and ebooks. Take some time to check out the many offerings at www.multcolib.org.

Friday, December 13
Our Friday started with some serious FUN at Middle School Kabbalat Shabbat; then it was back to the classroom for some serious WORK! After reminding students what needs to be included on their Independent Reading Card (see homework page for details), we pulled out the laptops to compose our Alphabiography "H" entry and then continue our Book Review writing. We will return to the Book Review assignment next week. The final 20 minutes of class were devoted to our Stained Glass Future project (also to be continued next week).

Week of December 2-6
Monday, December 2
It was so great to see everyone this morning! We started our day with our Monday ritual of Weekend Update. Students had lots to say about their week off from school. Then we reviewed the schedule for finishing up our Imaginative Autobiographies--writing (revision) day tomorrow, peer editing day on Wednesday, and final version due at the start of the period on Friday. As we move toward wrapping up our Global Literacy unit, we checked out an informational website about Latitude and Longitude and then finished the day by listing what we liked and didn't like about the Jewish Book Month book we read in order to prepare for the book review we eventually will write. Homework tonight is to finish up this "Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down" worksheet.

Tuesday, December 3
Lots of announcements to start our day--about emergency kits, library cards, a new Bitstrips app, and a photo shoot on Friday. We then collected "Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down" homework. Next was Troubleshooting on Tuesday (TOT) which was all about Comma Rule #4 (how to set off nonessential information). Then it was time to revise our Imaginative Autobiographies. The goal is to finish revising tonight, print out a copy, peer edit tomorrow, and then put on the finishing touches so the final draft can be submitted (with pomp and circumstance) on Friday!

Wednesday, December 4
Our morning began with a test-drive of our Multnomah County Library cards. We will be building on our log-in skills next Thursday when a visiting librarian will be sharing with us many of the exciting resources that are available to us. Then it was all about "Peer Review." The 6th graders were incredibly focused peer reviewers; they read their classmates' Imaginative Autobiographies with care and offered many thoughtful and constructive suggestions. Any students who want more feedback can partner up for additional reviews using the document below.

Thursday, December 5
We played a crazy game of Tri-Bond in order to determine our Book Review groups. The real stumper of the game was what word goes with chocolate, wood, and potato. Thankfully someone figured out it was "chip," or we'd still be playing! The groups then looked at three articles about The Muppets (the movie that came out in 2011). Together we discussed which article was a promotion, which was a synopsis, and which was a review. This information will help us write our reviews of our Jewish Book Month books next week. We finished class by going on line to practice our latitude and longitude skills. By the end of the review, everyone felt pretty confident. Then we embarked on a timed practice which was a less confident-building undertaking.

Friday, December 6
Things went a little sideways this morning with our surprise snowfall, but we were able to pull it together for a fun Middle School Kabbalat Shabbat and a very successful Friday in Humanities. In class we got costumed up for our 20 Year Reunion, took pictures, and shared our stories of what we've been up to all these years. We also had the distinct pleasure of presenting our Imaginative Autobiography paper-clipped packets with pride. Finally, we took a few minutes to clean out our binders, a task that we will continue on Monday.


Week of November 25-29
Monday, November 25
NO SCHOOL--Conference

Tuesday, November 26
NO SCHOOL--Conference

Wednesday, Nov. 27-Friday, Nov. 29
NO SCHOOL--Thanksgiving Break

Week of November 18-22
Monday, November 18
Journaling about our weekend was the first order of business, followed by a reminder about our Northwest Academy Pen Pals (writing them back is optional) and our Imaginative Autobiography (finishing writing all of the paragraphs except the conclusion is tonight's homework). We spent most of the morning researching details about Amundsen's successful trek to the South Pole and compiling a list of the top ten coolest facts about the journey. To read more about this 1911 event, check out the bottom of the resources page.

Tuesday, November 19
Yesterday parents received an email about the necessity of obtaining a working Multnomah County Library card, so today we started off by going over what needs to be done in order to ensure each student has one by the time they return from Thanksgiving Break. For those who have never had a card from the Multnomah Library system, the application form is below. Please return it to school by this Thursday, November 21st. Then, we made our way back to our Imaginative Autobiographies by first looking at examples of concluding paragraphs and then trying our hand at writing our own. Those students who had completed their entire Imaginative Autobiography draft, traded with a classmate to do a Peer Review (see homework for a copy of this document). The rest will bring in a copy tomorrow (or print it out at the start of the period) in order to prepare for the Parent Review (also found on homework page) which is due on Friday. We spent the last 15 minutes of class working with Mr. Hyde on how to properly upload documents on to our My Big Campus drive.

Wednesday, November 20
We prepared a Parent Review packet (review form and most recent draft of the Imaginative Autobiography) to go home today. Students should keep their parents on track by making sure they get the packet, understand the process, and ensure it gets finished and returned by the start of class this Friday. Then we did some comma rule review (TOW--Troubleshooting on Wednesday--instead of TOT). We then moved on to our cool facts about Amundsen's successful expedition to the South Pole. Finally, using an article from National Geographic called "South Pole Race--How did the Expeditions Compare," we created categories of comparison such as teams, route, weather, and transportation.

Thursday, November 21
After announcements about homework (remind your parents to finish theirs), we returned for the final leg of our South Pole visit, which really meant that we wrapped up our study by looking at some of the newer Antarctic resources posted on this wiki and then creating our charts comparing Amundsen and Scott's 1911 expeditions. Students are encouraged to get a head start on the "First Quarter plus two weeks Reflection" or at least ponder the questions before coming to class tomorrow (see homework for the documents) and, of course, to keep reading their Jewish Book Month book due Monday, December 2.

Friday, November 22
We had a couple of monumental events occur this morning. We started be enjoying our second Middle School Kabbalat Shabbat Celebration which was really fun, followed by a visit to the 7th grade Greek Wax Museum which was awesome. We also found time in class to submit the first full drafts of our Imaginative Autobiographies, reflect some on the learning we've done thus far this year, and compose an Alphabiography entry for "G." It was a great way to wrap things up as we head into a one week break!

Week of November 11-15
Monday, November 11
NO SCHOOL--Veteran's Day

Tuesday, November 12
Welcome Back 6th Graders! It was so great to have the students back in the classroom and to hear all about their fun adventures at Outdoor School. Our morning started with the traditional "Weekend Update." Students were invited to write about their 3 day weekend and/or their experiences at Outdoor School. Then it was time to share 2nd Quarter schedules. It's unbelievable that we're already a fourth of the way through the school year. Next it was Troubleshooting on Tuesday. We revisited Comma Rule #3 including all of the exceptions to the rule. Finally, we returned to the South Pole with each group finishing up their supply list. Tomorrow we'll learn more about what made Amundson's trek to the South Pole a success and what led Robert Scott and his team to tragedy.

Wednesday, November 13
Our morning started by collecting Independent Reading Cards. Students have chosen a wide variety of literature to read for Jewish Book Month. Then we moved on to our O-WOW! which was all about what makes for a good first paragraph. Students read through five examples of introductions to autobiographies and commented on their strengths and weaknesses. Then it was off to the laptops for over a half hour of writing time! The goal for tonight's homework is to finish either the introduction OR at least half of the body paragraphs of the Imaginative Autobiography.

Thursday, November 14
A pretty interesting Staying Current on Thursday (SCOT) today regarding the spotting of an extremely rare mammal in Vietnam. Check out this link to see the saola. Then we reviewed the due dates for the different components of the Imaginative Autobiography. Looking ahead, the full draft will be due next Wednesday and a review by an adult next Friday. We didn't have a ton of writing time today because of our visit to the Library, so tonight it is all about making sure we each have an introduction and at least half of our body paragraphs (to age 15 more of less). In Library, we learned about the Letters about Literature contest and heard some of the winning entries from last year. Students are encouraged to enter (the deadline is January 10th), and both Ms. Sloan and Ms. C-R are available for help and support.

Friday, November 15
Today was all about writing (and a little South Pole action). First students wrote their Alphabiography "F" entries. There was so much to say: Friends, Family, Food, Fun, Finland, Flugelhorn...they all welcomed commentary. Then we spent the bulk of the period writing more body paragraphs for our Imaginative Autobiographies. The plan is to have everything written minus the conclusion by the beginning of the period on Tuesday. Before we called it a day, we took a sneak peek at how Amundson's trip to the South Pole differed from Scott's. More to come about that on Monday!

Week of November 4-8


Week of Oct. 28-Nov. 1
Monday, October 28
Class started with checking off the Quick Listing homework before jumping into Weekend Update. We then spent the bulk of the period making sure we have everything we need to prepare for Thursday's Global Literacy test. This included finishing up our conversation about Alfred Wegener and his Continental Drift Theory as well as exploring Quizlet.com to access a solid definition of the term "continent." See homework section for log in info. We then looked over the pink study guide and matched it to the information we have on our blue note-taking form; now everyone knows what to study. On Wednesday, students will have to decide if they are going to opt for the regular or challenge version. Our class concluded with us compiling a timeline list based on "Your Personal Past," "Future Web," and "Quick Listing." We will add to this timeline tomorrow making sure to include both the big and small events that will make our Imaginative Autobiography believable.

Tuesday, October 29
Our upcoming Imaginative Autobiography assignment was the focus of the first half of class. We began by reading over the assignment's requirements, asked clarifying questions, and then added to our timelines so we will be prepared to start the writing of our body paragraphs after the Global Literacy test on Thursday. We then prepared for tomorrow's visit with our buddies by brainstorming on what makes a kindergartner want to listen to someone read a book. Then each student chose a book and read it to him or herself in order to be sure it met the mark. Finally, it was Troubleshooting on Tuesday (TOT)...the comma fun continued with the review of rule #3 and a short practice of coordinating conjunctions and when commas are needed and when they are not.

Wednesday, October 30
Class started with students stating their preference regarding the upcoming Global Literacy Test--regular version or challenge version? We then shared the strategies we are using to help us prepare for Thursday's tests. Lots of great ideas came up; hopefully we can learn from each other and study effectively. We then continued our Troubleshooting on Tuesday worksheet in order to strengthen our understanding of the comma rule involving coordinating conjunctions and independent clauses. Next it was time to practice our reading so we could be prepared for our Buddy visit. We arrived at the Kindergarten room ready for action. We had such fun reading to our buddies and playing with them outside.

Thursday, October 31
After a few minutes of review time, we jumped into test-taking mode followed by an opportunity to start composing Imaginative Autobiography paragraphs on our laptops. Congratulations to all for being focused during both the test and the writing. We concluded class with a quick SCOT (Staying Current on Thursday) related to recent studies involving our capacity for remembering things from when we were young. Check out the resource page for the link.

Friday, November 1
We enjoyed more time with our buddies at ASKS and then returned to the classroom for lots of last minute learning before everyone went off to Outdoor School. Humanities started with students sharing their choices for November Independent Reading (a book with Jewish content in honor of Jewish Book Month). Then we worked on our next Alphabiography entry (E). During that time, Global Literacy test results were given to students. Then we were off to the South Pole working in small groups to determine which supplies we should pack. When we return from Outdoor School, we will be learning much more about the first successful journey to the South Pole in December of 1911. Finally, pen pal letters were shared and school photos and ID cards were distributed.

Week of October 21-25
Monday, October 21
Per usual, our Monday started with Weekend Update. We then touched base regarding the Book Talks which begin tomorrow. Can't wait ! From the good questions being asked, it seems that everyone is on track. Then we learned about Map Projections including Mercator, Peters, Goode's, and Robinson. We also found out that National Geographic favors the amusingly named Winkel Tripel Projection. We ended class by brainstorming on topics for our Future Web, an idea generating activity that will help us write our Imaginative Autobiographies later this week.

Tuesday, October 22
We enjoyed Book Talks from Olivia J., Basia, Zach, Isabella, and Olivia F!!! We then read letters from our Outdoor School pen pals and wrote responses. We ran out of time to tackle our Troubleshooting on Tuesday topic for the day--Comma Rule #3. Stay tuned for T.O.T tomorrow (which we'll have to call T.O.W.).

Wednesday, October 23
Another great set of Book Talks thanks to Sophia, Dina, Cassie, and Hannah! We returned to the Troubleshooting on Tuesday that was planned for yesterday. This included reviewing the first two comma rules (that pesky comma after the state and after the year when listing geographical locations or dates is still tripping up some of us). Then we moved on to how to use commas with coordinating conjunctions that connect independent clauses. After talking about nouns and verbs (subjects and predicates), we got into groups and brainstormed on acronyms or mnemonics to remember the seven coordinating conjunctions:
and, or, for, nor, so, yet, but. Finally, we watched a short video about Alfred Wegener the creator of the Continental Drift Theory (aka Supercontinent or Pangea). Check out the resource page to see it again. We'll continue our learning about Wegener and his theory tomorrow.

Thursday, October 24
Hurray for a wonderful final day of Book Talks. Thank you to Juliana, Isabel, Lydia, Leanne, and Nayantara, and thanks to each and every student for putting heart into their presentations! We filled our our self-reflections, revisited our Webs of our Future, and then tackled the puzzling topic of Pangea by trying to fit together the various landmasses that Wegener believed comprised the Supercontinent some 220 million years ago. Hints included paying attention to similarities between the flora and fauna of the regions and the labeling of the following landmasses: Africa, South American, Australia, Antarctica, and India.

Friday, October 25
Class started with students providing their Future Webs for check off. While everyone turned in something, it does look like a few students should revisit their web/cluster this weekend to add even more information about their imagined future. Then it was on to writing the "D" entry for our Alphabiography followed by a quick overview of the Independent Reading List for November. Students are to decide on their book by next Friday, November 1; fill out their Independent Reading Card for homework on Tuesday, November 12 (after Outdoor School); and finish their reading by the Monday after Thanksgiving Break, November 2. The bulk of today's class was devoted to offering friendly peer feedback of our Book Talks. The teacher evaluations will be distributed at the beginning of next week. Finally, instructions were given for the Quick Listing activity (this weekend's homework), and the study guide for next Thursday's Global Literacy test was distributed. All documents mentioned above can be found in the homework section of this wiki.

Week of October 14-18
Monday, October 14
Our morning began with Weekend Update followed by a check-in about homework and how teachers want to hear back from students regarding any homework issues including if it is regularly taking more than 60 minutes to complete assignments each night. Then we finished our Continents by the Number worksheet and designed our own atlas "challenge" for other students; we'll attempt to answer these tomorrow. We concluded today's Global Literacy work by looking closely at maps and globes and determining the advantages of each.

Tuesday, October 15
Today was packed with lots of learning starting with Troubleshooting on Tuesday (TOT) which included a review of last week's comma rule involving dates, geographical locations, and addresses, as well as the introduction of the comma rule related to punctuating three or more items in a series. Now we know what the Oxford comma is (aka Harvard comma, series comma, or serial comma). Then we discussed our Oceans handout paying particular attention to the newer Southern Ocean. The morning continued with taking on the Atlas challenges set up by our classmates and ended with a brief mention of the Imaginative Autobiography which we will begin next week. Tonight's homework (due Thursday) is the first part of the idea-generating process for this assignment.

Wednesday, October 16
Today's O-WOW was the O-WOW of O-WOW's!!! We took some time to read some excerpts from Maya Angelou's autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and talk about why her writing is outstanding. Then we continued filling out our Global Literacy note taking sheet and will continue our discussion about maps vs. globes tomorrow. The final part of our class was devoted to our upcoming Book Talks. First, Ms. C-R modeled what a Book Talk could look like and explained her process for preparing. Students asked questions and then signed up for next week's presentations.

Thursday, October 17
Thanks goes to Mr. Hyde for helping us take screen shots of our Bitstrip avatars so we can include these with our letters to our Outdoor School pen pals next week. We then pretended it was Friday (since tomorrow sixth graders will be spending 1st and 2nd periods with Ms. Morton in Science) and got cracking on our Alphabiography C. Then it was back to our maps and globes. We had fun trying to estimate the shortest distances between two locations on a globe and then confirming our guesses by using yarn as a measuring tool. We also tried imagining what locations were opposite the state of Kansas and had some people in China while others ended up in the Indian Ocean. Regardless of what our answers were, it was clear that a globe makes it much easier to determine the most efficient routes from one place to another which is one of its many advantages over a flat map.

Week of October 7-11
Monday, October 7
After Weekend Update, we did a little check-in regarding planners, independent reading, and Friday's summer reading celebration. We also briefly went over the formatting of a type-written assignment in preparation for submitting the Flickr image reflection. Then it was work time with a list of items to complete:
  1. Flickr image with tweet (due TODAY)
  2. Flickr image written reflection (due TOMORROW)
  3. Bitstrips (due next MONDAY)
  4. Alphabiography "A" (ongoing; we will start letter "B" this Thursday)

Tuesday, October 8
We moved away from proofreading skills for our Troubleshooting on Tuesday ritual and into the murky world of comma usage. We started with the rules associated with addresses, geographical locations, and dates. We will build on these comma skills throughout the year. Then the "Dear Ms. C-R" assignment was introduced. This is homework for tonight and Wednesday night, due on Thursday at the beginning of the period. See the homework page for all the details. Finally, we revisited Continents by the Numbers, reviewing some details about how different countries categorize the number of continents and then playing a guessing game related to how the continents are ranked in terms of land mass, population (both general and Jewish), and number of countries.

Wednesday, October 9
Our O-WOW! was a sweet poem called "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." Next week we will launch into our Imaginative Autobiography project in which we will share some of our childhood memories (and invent our future), so reflecting back on what we learned in kindergarten seems like a good place to start. Students then filled out "Speech Bubbles" about books they love for the Library bulletin board. Next, we devoted 40 minutes to working on our Bitstrips comics; those who didn't finish should work on it over the long weekend. Finally, we said "hello" to our atlases and tried our hand at finding information about each continent's highest peak. We will continue to build on our atlas skills tomorrow.

Thursday, October 10
After collecting the students "Dear Ms. C-R" letters, we took a look at a National Geographic map called "Mapping a World Without Ice" as part of our Staying Current on Thursday (SCOT) ritual. An interesting discussion about the future of our ice coverage, oceans, and coastlines ensued. Then students wrote their second Alphabiography entry for the letter "B." We finished class by revisiting our atlases and then viewing a film about how globes are made.

Friday, October 11
NO SCHOOL--Statewide Inservice


Week of Sept. 30-Oct. 4
Monday, September 30
We were able to get back into the school groove by starting with some journaling. After Weekend Update, we talked briefly about Independent Reading and clarified information about our upcoming Book Talk #1 (due Oct. 22, 23, or 24). Then it was on to our Summer Reading Flickr Project for which each student is finding an image that connects to the activism displayed in his/her summer reading book. This is a lesson that combines symbolism, activism, and an understanding of copyright laws. Tomorrow we will use class time to write about the images we selected.

Tuesday, October 1
After our Troubleshooting on Tuesday editing exercise (inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's whose birthday is tomorrow), we briefly discussed the Continents or Island? concept and then moved on to writing about the Flickr images we selected for our Summer Reading Project. While it took about ten minutes for students to settle down and get in the writing groove, they were able to maximize the remaining class time and begin creating a piece that reflected the three elements required of the assignment. See the homework page for specifics. There will be time in class tomorrow to build on their successes and continue writing.

Wednesday, October 2
Our O-WOW! today was the amusing college essay written by humorist Hugh Gallagher way back in 1989. Check it out along with a recent interview with Gallagher on the resource page. We then ranked our interests in certain issues as preparation for our guest speakers on Friday. The remaining part of the class was devoted to making sure our Flickr image documents were formatted correctly, followed by additional time for adding to our written piece. Once again, see the homework page for specifics about this writing assignment.

Thursday, October 3
  1. We packed a lot in today and survived it all, even the tech mishaps like not being able to post our documents on My Big Campus. We did accomplish the following:
  2. For Stay Current on Thursday (SCOT) we took a quick peek at the new island (maybe a mud volcano) in the Indian Ocean as a result of the recent earthquake in Pakistan (check out the resources page to learn more).
  3. For our Flick'r project, most student successfully added a Tweet and printed out the document (those who didn't or finish will have another time to work on this); For our Library visit, we learned about the ORCA nominees
  4. For our Picture Day, we smiled!

Friday, October 4
What a special day!
  • MSKS (Middle School Kabbalat Shabbat)
  • Summer Reading Celebration and Advocacy Symposium

Week of September 23-27
Monday, September 23
Our Monday started with a quick Weekend Update followed by checking off the weekend's homework (writing a paragraph about a first day of school memory). We chatted briefly about Independent Reading. I am delighted to report that most of the students have selected their books; those who have not will do so in the next 24 hours. All will fill out an Independent Reading Card for tomorrow night's homework. Then we finally finished our "What I Bring to Middle School" project; the suitcases look awesome! Our class ended with some brainstorming on our Summer Reading project (finding an image that represents the kind of advocacy included in the book) and then a brief intro to transforming the first day of school paragraph into a page from one's graphic memoir. See the Student Gallery for some of Ms. C-R's examples.

Tuesday, September 24
Students had another opportunity to show off their proofreading skills with Troubleshooting on Tuesday (TOT). This led to an interesting discussion about Banned Books Week. See resource page for more about this important topic. Next, we continued our brainstorming on images that best symbolize the advocacy represented in our summer reading books; our sixth graders should be recognized for thinking outside the box on this one! Then it was all about getting to know our comic strip making program: Bitstrips for School. We started with creating avatars and then moved on to designing our first day of school pages from our imagined graphic memoirs. We will return to this tomorrow, but students may choose to work on this at home as well.

Wednesday, September 25
After collecting Independent Reading cards, we read the VERY famous "Why I Hate Moles" essay entitled "The Five Stages of Grief." Click on the link and search for the 2007 runner ups to check it out a second time. Then it was on to our first Geography lesson...finally! We explored the different ways people classify the continents noting that it is can vary from country to country. This will lead us into future conversations about islands vs. continents as well as the super-continent Pangea. Then we returned to our page from our graphic memoir as we continued our work on Bitstrips for School. A few reminders:
  1. students who have not gotten their Autobiography or Memoir book MUST do so this weekend...and begin reading
  2. students should decide on an image that best represents the activism displayed in their summer reading books and think about all they can write about the connection between the image and the book...we will be searching for images and writing about it on Monday
  3. we will only have about 40 more minutes of in-class Bitstrips time...therefore, consider doing some tooling around this weekend

Thursday, September 26
NO SCHOOL--Shemini Atzeret

Friday, September 27
NO SCHOOL--Simchat Torah

Week of September 16-20
Monday, September 16
Our second week of school started with the introduction of our first morning ritual--Monday's Weekend Update. This is the journaling activity that we will use to start off each week. Students can either write about what they did over the weekend or choose from two prompts. Then everyone showed off their great study strategies by acing the proofreading symbol quiz. The quiz was followed by reading another first day of school excerpt; this time it was from the graphic novel American Born Chinese. Our morning concluded with us brainstorming about the qualities necessary to be a successful middle school student. Tomorrow we will do an art project related to this qualities.

Tuesday, September 17
It's hard to believe that we've only been in school a week and already had to devote most of our class time to catching up with lessons and activities we weren't able to finish; there is just so much going on as we get to know each other and get used to the Humanities routine. We started class with our Tuesday ritual--Troubleshooting on Tuesday (TOT). This will be our opportunity to address issues that come up in our writing. Today it was all about proofreading practice, but we'll be moving on to comma rules and commonly confused words. Then we had a chance to guess the Truth and Lies of our classmates (and stump the teacher), go over yesterday's proofreading quiz (well done, sixth graders), and brainstorm some more about the qualities we need to bring to Middle School to be successful. Tomorrow we'll finally get to the art piece related to this idea sharing. Finally the first Independent Reading list was distributed; students will be choosing an autobiography or memoir to read. Check out the list on the homework page and make your choice by Tuesday, September 24.

Wednesday, September 18
Today was our introduction to Wednesday's morning ritual: O-WOW! It's Outstanding Writing on Wednesday...and it's fun!!! We read an excerpt from Francisco Jimenez's The Circuit about his first days at school. This was good preparation for our own trip down memory lane (and our weekend homework). Students appreciated Jimenez's descriptive language and the emotional pull of his story. Then we got a glimpse into what our Friday ritual will be (something we won't see for ourselves for several weeks as we have so many Fridays off). Alphabiography will be our time to write about our lives as it connects to the different letters of the alphabet. We got on our laptops and tackled "A" today. Before the period was out, our librarian Ms. Sloan came to describe a wonderful opportunity for 5th-8th graders: the Newbery Club. Avid readers are encouraged to join in this weekly get-together!

Thursday, September 19

Friday, September 20

Week of September 9-13
Monday, September 9
What a wonderful first day of school thanks to a wonderful group of sixth graders! We dusted off our brain cells by inventing connections between everyday objects and our summer experiences and then put our organizational skills to the test by creating a happy binder and an equally happy locker., recognizing that both are works in progress. Tomorrow we will attempt to answer the pressing question, "What is Humanities?" which, of course, will take more than a day to answer...more like a lifetime!

Tuesday, September 10
Hooray for the second day of school! We started the class journaling about our first day of school, went over the features of this wiki, filled out summer reading cards, and then put together the pieces of the Humanities puzzle in the hopes of learning what it is as a class, a field of study, and a way of thinking. Visit the resource page to check out the varied definitions we explored as well as the course description for the year. We concluded with a brief reminder about the "I am like a..." paragraph due on Thursday.

Wednesday, September 11
The third day of school is always the perfect time to revisit all those first day (or two) things such as the expectations for using planners, homework, the wiki, and independent reading. So that is how we started our day! I am happy to report that sixth graders are acclimating quickly to all things middle school. Students then learned a little more about their teacher with "What in the World Do You Know About Ms. C-R," followed by an opportunity to write their own truths and lies. Then it was on to the differences between editing and proofreading and the creation of a set of flashcards for learning proofreading symbols and abbreviations.

Thursday, September 12
We started our class with several volunteers reading aloud their thoughtful and creative "I am like a..." paragraphs. Then students decided on which of their personal similes they want published on the bulletin board; a few have opted to add a little more to their writing to make it bulletin board worthy and will be bringing in their revised versions on Monday. We then read a short excerpt from the graphic novel Kampung Boy to get us thinking about how authors visually represent their memories from their childhood as this is something we will be doing in the next few weeks. Then it was on to reviewing proofreading symbols and putting them into action by "marking up" a short paragraph littered with errors. Students should review the symbols for Monday's quiz.

Friday, September 13
Friday the 13th was hardly unlucky; in fact we had a fun and meaningful half-day starting with a spirited All School Kabbalat Shabbat (ASKS) and then, in preparation for Yom Kippur, some time to think deeply about who we've been in the past and who we hope to become in the future. Then we changed gears...from sins to pins...and made our way to Sunset Bowl where we bowled and cheered and generally had lots of fun hanging out with our middle school pals! A perfect ending to a truly enjoyable first week of school.