Week of June 10

Monday, June 10
Whoa! Hard to believe this is the last Monday of 6th grade! We started class with a quick run-through of what is expected of the Alphabiographies which are due tomorrow. Students must create something, first and foremost, that they are proud of. They should have an entry for each letter of the English alphabet and each entry must be at least a couple of sentence. The hope is that there will be some short entries among many longer, more elaborate ones. Some can be fictional and some should be autobiographical--all should capture who you are (or have been) during 6th grade. Make sure it's in booklet form, has a spiffy cover, and does not exceed the regular paper size of 81/2 x 11. Then while some folks were busy sending documents home or printing out things, the rest read about Mummies. Tomorrow their Nomes will choose which topics they want to cover in the class Mummies for Dummies book. Finally, we watched the first half of the film about the secrets of the Rosetta Stone and very much enjoyed tracking young Champollion as he worked to break the code.

Tuesday, June 11
Congratulations to the ten students who did the right thing and submitted their Alphabiography, a year in the making, on time today! It was fun to hear some of the favorite entries. To those who did not have their work ready this morning, please make every effort to turn them in as soon as possible; they are late! We then learned even more about how deciphering the Rosetta Stone opened up the door to hieroglyphs by watching the remainder of the Egypt: Rediscovering a Lost World video. Then it was off to creating pages for the Mummies for Dummies book.

Wednesday, June 12
More Alphabiography sharing started our day, and then it was back to Egypt as Nomes produced their pages for our Mummies for Dummies book. It was wonderful to watch the students support each other as they created works that were informative, attractive, and error-free. For those groups who finished their pages early, there was time to prepare for tomorrow's big jeopardy game; this will give each Nome the opportunity to highlight all the fun facts they have learned about Ancient Egypt this year. Then it was time to read over teacher comments about the compare/contrast essays. Students are encouraged to see Ms. C-R regarding anything that wasn't clear about these evaluations. Overall, students have much to be proud of as these were thoughtful, intelligent works showing a definite understanding of the foundations of literary analysis. Finally, students were given a copy of the summer reading list along with descriptions of each title which can be found on the PJA website. It's never too early to start planning for what to read this summer!

Thursday, June 13
The penultimate day of school and the last "real" day of Humanities. We had fun hearing from the remaining Alphabiography presenters and then practicing the song for tomorrow's Key Ceremony; it's awesome! Putting on our travel hats, we made the last of our journey on the Nile starting with a score update followed by an end-of-the-unit Jeopardy game; see link below if you want to finish playing the game at home. Wow! These scholars know their stuff. Finally, it was time to recognize the Nome with the most number of points. Congratulations Un House (Zevi, Joaquin, Eli) from Akhetaten--a Nome in ancient times that rarely got the respect it deserved! Have a great time at Sky High!!!
Jeopardy Game link

Week of June 3

Monday, June 3
Back on the Nile, we celebrated the beginning of the penultimate week of school by creating crossword puzzles based on our "Pyramid" reading. We also carved out time to prepare for our guest presenter on Wednesday. Ellen Millender, Professor of Classics at Reed College, will be leading our students in a discussion of some ancient Egyptian literature. In order to be properly prepared, we read the excerpts that will be used in our discussion. The students are excited to see what a college-type seminar feels like and are encouraged to look over the excerpts once again before Wednesday's class.

Tuesday, June 4
Our morning began with a quick check of the adult edit homework. The majority of students felt that the feedback they got from a parent or grandparent was invaluable. Great job, Adults! Before spending time incorporating the suggestions shared in these edits, we did a short activity in which we read a compare/contrast essay and identified the thesis statement and where the paragraph breaks should be. This reminded us of the importance of staying organized and being sure that each body paragraph is about one topic only. Congratulations to all of the sixth graders for understanding these concepts and using their writing time wisely. For the student who finished early, he or she was encouraged to take on a peer edit which accomplishes two things: gives another example of a compare/contrast essay and helps out a classmate. Tomorrow we're in Egypt and then Thursday we are back on our laptops composing our conclusions. The final version of the essay is due at the beginning of the period on Friday.

Wednesday, June 5
After a bunch of reminders about bringing to school on Friday your library books and your copy of The Giver to turn in and an announcement about the end of school Key Ceremony (planning meeting during lunch on Friday), it was time for our Guest Presenter. Thank you to Professor Millender for guiding us through some intriguing pieces of Ancient Egyptian literature. We really felt like college students learning with and from each other. Congratulations students for being curious and respectful!

Thursday, June 6
Before we jumped into writing time, we reviewed the essay requirements (listed on the red paper) and briefly talked about what conclusions should and should not do. In a nutshell, for the purposes of this compare/contrast essay, a conclusion should restate the thesis statement in different words (and not necessarily in a single sentence) and summarize the major points; it is not a time to add new information. It can be short, although three sentences is the recommended minimum. We heard a student example of a particularly thoughtful conclusion and then moved on to devoting nearly an hour to working on our laptops. For most that meant writing a conclusion, but it also meant taking advantage of peer editing and doing whatever else is necessary to ready the essay for submission tomorrow.

Friday, June 7
As the end of the school year nears, there will be lots of "lasts." Today was significant in that the 6th graders turned in their LAST formal writing assignment of the year. Congratulations to all our our incredibly focused young people who have been able to focus on the task at hand despite summer vacation looming. We also make our way back to Egypt for a Pyramid Crossword Puzzle Extravaganza. Nomes filled out their own crossword puzzles in record time and then we switched puzzles for a real challenge. One important reminder: Don't forget to turn in The Giver book to Ms. C-R and any PJA library books to Ms. Sloan.

MAY 2013

Week of May 27
Monday, May 27
NO SCHOOL--Memorial Day

Tuesday, May 28
We were back on the Nile today. Nomes received a score update before finishing up their Cartouches and Papyrus Acrostics. Then it was time to watch a video about the internal ramp theory for the Great Pyramid. The video can be found on the resource page. We will learn more about the pyramids on Thursday, but for now students are encouraged to give thought to the plausibility of this relatively new theory. Finally, drafts of the compare/contrast essays were returned with comments. Students should look these over. In addition, if they have not completed at least half of their anticipated body paragraphs they should do some writing time tonight.

Wednesday, May 29
A great work day for all! After a quick tutorial about how to "embed" quotations in an essay and what to do with longer quotes (see resource page for specifics), students were given close to an hour to work on the body paragraphs of their essays. For tonight, students are encouraged to read over the Essay Requirements and Reminders about Writing Traits (see below). In addition, if a student has more than two body paragraphs to write, he or she should be doing some essay work at home tonight as we will only have about 45 more minutes of writing time on Friday before taking home a draft--minus a conclusion--to be edited by a parent over the weekend.

Thursday, May 30
We enjoyed our last Library Day by getting a preview of some of the great titles on the summer reading list. Thanks to Mrs. Sloan for preparing a tantalizing presentation! A final list of the options will be emailed to parents next week along with short descriptions of each of the titles and a letter explaining all the details. Stay tuned! Then it was "back in class" which is really code for "back on the Nile." We took just a few minutes to begin reading an informational packet about pyramids. On Monday, Nomes will have time to finish reading over the information and then will create a crossword puzzle for another Nome to complete. Today's travels ended with a "Mummies for Dummies" activity in which each Nome raced to be the first to wrap a classmate (or classmates)...in toilet paper. Be sure to check out the photos on the bulletin board outside the classroom.

Friday, May 31
After a few explanations about the Parent Review of the Compare/Contrast essay due this coming Tuesday, June 4th (see Homework for the form) and the Alphabiography Project due next Tuesday, June 11th, it was all about writing! For the most part, the students did a wonderful job of staying focused and writing diligently. The requests for help were especially impressive as in each instance students showed a real understanding of the assignment and a true commitment to doing their very best.

Week of May 20
Monday, May 20
As we gear up for the last few weeks of school, we are winding down with our morning rituals. Most likely today's journaling on our 5 days weekend will be one of the last of our Weekend Updates, so it's good to note that students were on task throughout the full 8 minutes of writing time! We then spent a few minutes looking ahead at what these next few weeks will entail. There have been a few tweaks to our Egypt unit schedule to make up for lost time and to allow time to work on our Compare/Contrast essay in class. Today we started by reading most of a sample essay (see Homework for the full document), identified the thesis statement, and began working on our own list of important points we hope to make in our essay. Homework is to finish up a very basic "outline" (again see Homework) which will be turned in at the beginning of the period tomorrow, reviewed to ensure it meets the requirements, and then used as an organizational device for the composing of body paragraphs and an introduction this Wednesday and Friday. Students are encouraged to give thought to how they will transfer documents to and from school in order to be prepared for any at-home work that will need to be done.

Tuesday, May 21
Celebrating was in order today as 6th graders earned the privilege of giving up the seating chart and sitting wherever they wanted. This big change went smoothly particularly because students were very busy traveling up the Nile with their Nome-mates. Before sailing, however, last night's homework (thesis statement and list of major points) was collected. We then read some information about hieroglyphics before the Nome Administrators were charged with communicating information including a not-so-secret challenge of writing Jeopardy-style questions about hieroglyphics and how to make name cartouches. It was a very productive day and, hopefully, a sign of all the good focus and positive work ethic to come during these last few weeks of school!

Wednesday, May 22
Today was a productive day for most of the 6th graders. We started class by discussing the strengths and weaknesses of some sample thesis statements and then used our improved understanding to strengthen our own thesis statements for our compare/contrast essay. Then it was about 50 minutes of writing time with the goal to compose two body paragraphs and include at least one quote from one of the novels by the beginning of the class Friday. Therefore, homework tonight and Thursday night is to work on those two body paragraphs (including at least one quote) and, if on a roll, launch into additional body paragraphs. We will spend Friday learning about how to include parts of quotes and/or longer quotes in our writing and work on the introduction.

Thursday, May 23
Class started with a reminder about next Thursday--it's our last Library day of the year, students who want to participate in the Book Swap that day must bring books to the library by Wednesday, and it's also the night of the Middle School Dance! Then it was on to an action-packed day on the Nile. First Nomes had a chance to show off what they learned about hieroglyphs in a Jeopardy-like challenge based on questions written on Tuesday. Then they worked together to develop a catchy Nome slogan and wrote it in English and in hieroglyphs on two sides of a paper pyramid. Finally, each Nome read about the importance of papyrus and began composing a super-informative acrostic based on their learning. More to come on Tuesday!

Friday, May 24
Because of the Grandfriends Day schedule and the end-of-the-day Talent Show, class was limited to just an hour which meant we had a quick introduction to introductions before students made a stab at composing their own. At the end of class, each student submitted for review a rough draft containing what they had for an intro and at least two body paragraphs. Next week, there will be more formal instruction on writing this compare/contrast essay and some solid in-class writing time. Students are encouraged, however, to use this long weekend to think more about their essay and if inspired (or feeling a little bit behind in the process) work on it at home Also encouraged this weekend, taking time to compose a few entries for their Alphabiography due Tuesday, June 11th.

Week of May 13
Monday, May 13
More fun times on the Nile! Students started by putting the finishing touches on their Go! Animate informational videos. We had a chance to watch them in class which helped us learn a little something about the various social classes of Ancient Egypt; they are now posted on the Student Gallery of this wiki. Students then had a chance to weigh in as to how each member of their group contributed to the final product. Next was a super competitive "Break the Code" with Nomes doing their best to decipher a secret hieroglyphic message. Next week we'll finish up our study of hieroglyphs and move on to pyramids.

Tuesday, May 14
Today was a special day for several reasons. One was our viewing of the amazing video about Superior Autobiographical Memory. Check out the resource page to re-watch the two-part 60 Minutes feature entitled "Endless Memory." Then Senora Rogers took over class in order to make up for lost Spanish time. This is the first time all year that the Humanities block has been broken up in such a way. As far as the upcoming long weekend goes, students should definitely be finishing up their Dystopian novel and filling in both the similarities and differences charts (see below). The "Be on the Lookout" handout will also come in handy in assessing how the Dystopian novel compares to The Giver. Remember, the more notes you have, the more prepared you will be for the beginning of the Compare/Contrast essay assignment which we will begin on Monday.

Wednesday, May 15
NO SCHOOL--Shavuot

Thursday, May 16
NO SCHOOL--Shavuot

Friday, May 17
NO SCHOOL--Teacher Work Day

Week of May 6
Monday, May 6
With only six more weeks left of school, it's good to know that most of the sixth graders are getting the hang of our Weekend Update ritual. Of course, they have had about 30 weeks of practice. After journaling about our weekend, we moved on to our Egypt adventure. After a brief score update and time for a Nome check-in, each group presented on a different topic related to the Nile River or other facets of life in Ancient Egypt. These presentations were incredibly informative and creative and, in general, reflected good collaboration among group members. We then took a look at a map of the Nile paying special attention to the six cataracts and the areas of Upper and Lower Egypt. The last 20 minutes were devoted to Nomes preparing Gods and Goddesses flashcards which they will be using to study for Friday's group quiz.

Tuesday, May 7
It was all about The Giver today: collecting completed packets, reading the last chapter aloud, discussing different hypotheses about the somewhat ambiguous ending, and starting to think ahead about the essay in which students will be comparing The Giver to their Dystopian novel. There is no doubt that Lois Lowry gave us a lot to think about in The Giver and we expect the same from our viewing of Gathering Blue on Thursday. Class ended with a rundown of reminders about the play including the need to wear school-appropriate clothes, bring a non-messy snack in a labeled bag, and the expectation that each and every student will represent the school in the best way possible!

Wednesday, May 8
Our travels on the Nile continued with a score check-in (it's neck in neck) and an opportunity for each of the Nomes to complete their Gods and Goddesses flashcards and begin studying from them. Then students had a look at the Go! Animate example in which Super Smart Egyptian Scholar Guy shared all he knows about the Artisans and Skilled Workers of Ancient Egypt. Check out the Student Gallery page to check it out. Once the details of how to use this super user-friendly website were reviewed, students were broken up into task groups with this week's Nobles studying the Nobles of Ancient Egypt, Administrators studying the Priests, Scribes studying the Scribes, and Laborers studying the Laborers. We ran out of time before students could read over their informational materials or start their Go! Animate presentations. Fortunately, we will have an opportunity on Friday to continue with this fun challenge!

Thursday, May 9
We enjoyed our field trip to the Winningstad Theater to see the Oregon Children's Theater production of Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue. We were lucky to have a few moments back at school to discuss the play before we went to lunch. There's lots to talk about it...more conversations to follow!

Friday, May 10
After the score update, Nomes got down to business putting in an impressive 15 minutes of studying for the Gods and Goddesses group quiz. The students then did an amazing job working together on the quiz without speaking a word; the fact that so many finished before the 10 minute mark speaks to the students' excellent preparation and spirit of cooperation. Then it was time to regroup for the Egyptian social class project. Most of the groups made it through the written material and were well on their way to producing an informational video using Go!Animate; a few hit some technological difficulties which we will resolve on Monday. All in all, though, a very successful day of doing the right thing!

APRIL 2013

Week of April 29
Monday, April 29
Today we started with Weekend Update and then moved on to Egypt. We prepared for our voyage on The Nile by dividing into adventure groups, choosing our ranks for the various cataract challenges, deciding on a Nome nickname, and creating travel hats. Students can expect that they will spending time on the river on most of the remaining Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays of this school year. They will earn group points for completing tasks related to various Egyptian topics as well as staying focused and working cooperatively. Congratulations Nomes for a great start to what is sure to be a super fun and informative journey!

Tuesday, April 30
We had a most productive (and lengthy) discussion about The Giver today. The importance of choice and memory were discussed with students recognizing making the wrong choice often leads to the most learning and that being able to recall painful memories can help us endure difficult circumstances. Of course, both choice and memory are fundamentally abolished for most people in The Giver. We also explored the idea of color and how it influences our memories and feelings. After our discussion, we had a Color Roundabout during which students looked at different colors of paper and commented on what the color made them think about, a memory it brought to mind, and a feeling or emotion it engendered. We ended the class by hearing a short "color poem." Even though today is the last day of National Poetry Month, we will be sure to revisit some of our "poems-in-progress" in May.

Wednesday, May 1
Our travels on the Nile began in earnest with several Nome challenges demanding hard work, focus, and cooperation. Nomes read about the Nile River and collectively composed a list of the Top Ten Most Important Facts, and then symbolically represented an Egyptian behavior standard (rule) which will be the basis of a guessing game the next time we go journeying. Some Nomes even got to start researching a topic about Egypt to share with the whole class on Friday. In addition, the Administrator for each Nome had the exciting opportunity to share with Ms. C-R the significance of the decorations on each travel hat and comment on the process that led the group to design their hats in the way they did. It was an exciting and productive day! Go Nile!!!

Thursday, May 2
It's been a while since we started a Thursday with a SCOT (Staying Current on Thursday), but today was a special day as we read a compelling story about apologies and the power of forgiveness. The themes of the article connected nicely with the use (and misuse) of the apology in The Giver. We then briefly discussed the questions from chapters 17-19 knowing that next Tuesday we can dig even deeper as everyone will have finished the book by then. Our class time concluded with students adding to their lists of Community Rules from the novel.

Friday, May 3
We were really rolling on the river today with three Nome challenges. First, students had to design a score card that included their Nome's name, their group's nickname, and some visual representation of their Nome. All Nome members needed to contribute in some way to the final product; students will be revealing their specific contributions on Monday and points will be awarded accordingly. Second, groups worked together to prepare a 3-5 minute presentation over a particular topic such as Egyptian clothing, the animals of the Nile, boats of the Nile, etc. These presentations will take place after only 5 more minutes of prep time on Monday. Third, Nome members were called up for a guessing game. They were to work together to match the symbolic representation of a Egyptian behavior with the written description of the rule. It was a productive day with some good focus and cooperation being exhibited by all of the Nomes.

Week of April 22
Monday, April 22
Our Monday started with a quick review of the Mesopotamia test. Students who have questions about their tests should make a plan to check in with Ms. C-R as soon as possible. We then took a few moments to discuss chapters 4-8 of The Giver. Our conversation will continue on Wednesday. Students were then given the questions for their Independent Reading Card (see homework page of this wiki); the expectation is that everyone will have chosen their Dystopian novel by the time they fill out this card tonight. We then went to the ballroom for a special treat. Visiting author Laurel Snyder talked about her growth as a writer and answered many student questions about her life as an author. We returned to class in time for snack and to receive the questions and vocabulary for chapters 9-11 of The Giver (due Wednesday).

Tuesday, April 23
After collecting the Independent Reading Cards detailing which Dystopian novel each student will read, we moved on to honoring Tali for doing such a great job on our last Independent Reading assignment, the Conversation Sandwiches. Then students completed self-reflection in which they wrote about the strengths they have shown in academics, effort, and citizenship for Humanities class. They also noted those areas in which they could improve and wrote down at least one goal in each category. Next it was on to poetry. After thinking about is poetry, we looked at a unique form of Found Poetry called Black-Out Poetry. Check out the resource page to learn more. With about 30 minutes of work time, students first finished up their Letters to the Editors and then tried their hands at Black-Out Poetry using pages from old books. Some also found time to work on their Memory Poems.

Wednesday, April 24
We celebrated National Seating Chart Day (not really) by "breaking the code" in order to find our new seats. We also took a few moments to prepare for our Nile journey next week by weighing in on who each of us works best with in order to come up with the very best groupings. We then discussed chapters 9-11 of The Giver. Students are asked to keep ALL of their worksheets from the novel in their blue folders so that they can submit these as one large packet at the end our unit. Then it was on to preparing for how we will compare The Giver with the Dystopian novel we are about to read (or have already started and, in some cases, finished). We quickly glanced at the "Be on the Lookout" handout; everyone is encouraged to read through it more closely at home this weekend. Finally, while we waited for the On-Line Text Chat with Lois Lowry to boot up, students started listing the laws they remember from the first 11 chapters of the novel. We will revisit this list next Tuesday. Check out the link above to see more about the Text Chat and PJA's question and Lois Lowry's response.

Thursday, April 25
NO SCHOOL--Conferences

Friday, April 26
NO SCHOOL--Conferences

Week of April 15
Monday, April 15
Students came to Humanities class after the Yom HaZikaron ceremony. We started with a Weekend Update which was a wild one that included reports on Spring Break, Passover Seders, and the weekends in April. Of course, there were also some silly prompts available (see links below) for those who had run out of things to write. Then, in preparation for our reading of The Giver, we began to explore the idea of memory by drawing maps of a neighborhood that holds memorable experiences for us. We discussed some of our memories with partners and then described in writing the most compelling recollection. Class ended with a quick self-reflection on our "Create Your Own Civilization" project and a reveal of scores from the Mesopotamia test that students took on Friday.

Tuesday, April 16
Finally, everyone had a chance to share their "Create Your Own Civilization" projects. What fun! Then each student evaluated another student's work making sure to pay compliments and offer suggestions. It was on to The Giver next. We started with an overview of the term utopia (and dystopia) and looked over the reading schedule before listening to the first few pages being read aloud. Unfortunately because 6th graders really struggled with staying focused during the sharing sessions, we were not able to go beyond the first few pages nor did we have time to fully examine the questions for chapters 1-3 or look carefully at the instructions for completing the vocabulary section. The handouts on the homework page contain all the relevant documents. Students should look them over tonight in preparation for asking clarifying questions tomorrow. Finally, the list of Dystopian novels was distributed. Students should plan on either checking out a book when we visit the PJA Library this Thursday or visit the public library or a bookstore in order to have a book in hand by next Tuesday, April 23.

Wednesday, April 17
A very productive Humanities class starting with important announcements regarding tomorrow's Day of Silence and Poem in Your Pocket Day. We then "Imagined" a utopia by writing down our own ideas about what a perfect society would look like and then listening to John Lennon's Imagine. Then it was work time with the priority finishing the Hammurabi Code Letter to the Editor and doing the cylinder seal art to go with. Then students could finish up other missing work, listen to a podcast about some more mature Dystopian novels (see resource page) or move forward with The Giver reading.

Thursday, April 18
Happy Last Day of Third Quarter! What an interesting and inspiring day. We are so proud of the many students who made today a "Day of Silence" in honor of the struggles faced by LCBT teens. It also happened to be "Poem in Your Pocket Day." Our Humanities class was mostly centered around a very thoughtful discussion about the first three chapters of The Giver and a review of the assigned questions and vocabulary. Then students could choose to go to the library to check out a Dystopian fiction book (must decide on a title by Tuesday), revise the Letter to the Editor (some were required to revise), start working on a Memory Poem based on their map from Monday, or get a head-start on the The Giver chapters 4-8.

Friday, April 19
NO SCHOOL--conference prep for teachers

Week of April 8
Monday, April 8
Most of our Monday was devoted to catching up with past assignments and preparing for Friday's test over Mesopotamia. We began by collecting Conversation Sandwich #3 and then letting those students who just recently completed their Civilization Projects present to the class. We then read in our textbook about the various conquests and empires of Mesopotamian civilization. Those students who completed their Civilization Project and their vocabulary sheet moved on to the "Comparing the Ancient Civilizations of Mesopotamia" chart. This is something we will continue to work on in class tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 9
We spent half of our class time filling in the Sumer section of our "Comparing the Ancient Civilizations of Mesopotamia" chart and the other half using our textbook, vocab sheet, and Civilizations of Mesopotamia handouts over Sumer, Babylonia, and Assyria (and the chart) to study for Friday's test. There were still a few folks who had to devote their work time to finishing up Conversation Sandwiches or their Civilization Project but, fortunately, the number of lollygaggers has decreased dramatically.

Wednesday, April 10
The "O" in our O-WOW! today was for OLD as most scholars believe the "Epic of Gilgamesh" is the oldest recorded story. We read about the finding of the fragments that were pieced together to give us the general plot of the story as well as some of the major themes. We watched a short animated video and read several excerpts from a children's version of the story. We then invited Ms. Bailey to speak with the students about their behavior during yesterday's model lesson and reminded them that they are expected to positively represent PJA always, especially when there are guests. The last portion of the class was devoted to reviewing for Friday's test.

Thursday, April 11
Our "Comparing the Ancient Civilizations of Mesopotamia" chart is now complete! We spent the first part of our class reviewing what we had already included about Sumer and then filling in information about Babylonia and Assyria. Students then used class time to prepare for tomorrow's test. This includes answering all of the questions on the Study Guide, reading over the textbook pages, reading over the Epic of Gilgamesh and Hammurabi Code handouts, reviewing the content of the chart, and going over the vocabulary (either on the yellow sheet or quizlet). All of the crucial handouts can be found above or below. Those who had completed all of these tasks joined together for the last ten minutes to play Mesopotamia Jeopardy. Two fun versions can be found on the resources page.

Friday, April 12
Today was our test over our Mesopotamia unit...and students outdid themselves by remaining quiet and focused throughout the test-taking process! After turning in the test, students had a chance to mind their P's and Q's by composing two entries for their Alphabiography--one about a word that starts with "P" and one about a word that starts with "Q." Overall, a wonderfully successful day highlighting the amazing self-control each 6th grader can (and should) bring to Humanities each day.

Week of April 1
Monday, April 1 - Wednesday, April 3
Pesach Break

Thursday, April 4
It was great to be back at school after a enjoying break and especially wonderful to see the super progress the students made on their "Create Your Own Civilization" project. Those who needed some extra time to put on the finishing touches used a good portion of the morning to do so while those who had finished the project worked on their Hammurabi Code "Letters to the Editor." In addition, the graded geography quizzes were handed back. Our goal is to finish up our study of Mesopotamia next week, so students are encouraged to bring their most focused selves to class in order for us to get through all of the necessary material.

Friday, April 5
Our morning started with a sneak peek into next week's schedule as we prepare for the test over the Mesopotamia unit to occur on Friday, April 12th. Students are encouraged to start reviewing vocabulary which can be found on quizlet.com. Check out the resources page for the specifics.We then embarked on a two-part Alphabiography--"N" and "O." Students were surprising focused during our writing time and kept the good work ethic going as they transitioned into revising their Letters to the Editors and finishing up their vocabulary lists. Not everyone finished everything by the end of the class period...but good progress is being made!

MARCH 2013

Week of March 25
Pesach Break

Week of March 18
Monday, March 18
Our week started with a trip to the Used Book Sale where each student was able to select one book for free. We then headed back to the classroom to write our Weekend Update in our journals and then to learn about the "Create Your Own Civilization" project which will be the focus of the week. The project's specifications are listed in the document below.

Tuesday, March 19 - Friday, March 22
  • Students should be sure that they have a complete and accurate map of the Physical Geography of Mesopotamia from which to study for Friday's quiz. The key is available on the front board.
  • Students will be spending the bulk of the week working on their "Create Your Own Civilization" projects. Any student who finishes the project early can opt to do the "challenge option" and/or use extra class time to study for Friday's quiz. The hope is that everyone can finish his or her project by the end of class on Thursday and that the time available after taking Friday's quiz can be devoted to sharing.

Week of March 11
Monday, March 11
First we jumped into Weekend Update, and then we went over the requirements for this month's Independent Reading. See the documents below to get you on the right track for the first of three "conversation sandwiches" due this Friday. The Flight Behavior document document is an example of what needs to be submitted. Then it was a short introductory video about Mesopotamia (see resources page) and some textbook reading related to the innovations of this civilization. Students moved on to filling in their vocab sheets (using their textbook) and then tried their hand at writing like a Babylonian. The last 15 minutes were devoted to review of the physical geography of Mesopotamia; the quiz is tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 12
Students took advantage of a few minutes of review time before jumping into the quiz over the physical geography of Mesopotamia. They then moved on to the political map by starting to color in the individual countries. They will label this map tomorrow and have a quiz over this material next Friday, March 22nd. The class then took an ungraded comma quiz to assess their comma knowledge and then wrote a quick "Dear Ms. C-R" note reporting on their current attitude toward comma instruction. In this note students were asked to correctly use the comma after the greeting and closing and to put this same skill to use if they will be using email to compose Independent Reading "conversation sandwiches" for Friday. We then rolled out the clay for tomorrow's cylinder seal project before pulling out the laptops to get a head-start on the ziggurat homework. Definitely a very full day!

Wednesday, March 13
Ziggurat homework was collected first; then we got to hear from our remaining Newspaper Front Page presenters. Everyone should be recognized for going above and beyond on this project. Congratulations especially to Isaac V. for taking on a long and challenging book for this Independent Reading project (New Found Land by Allan Wolf) and for submitting a well-written, informative front page. It was then time for O-WOW! The challenge--write a Piku (instead of a Haiku) just in time for tomorrow's big Pi Day celebration. Then students continued working on their political maps of Mesopotamia by coloring in countries and labeling them neatly. Finally, it was cylinder seal time. Using the monograms created by the "Write Like a Bablyonian" program, students engraved the reverse image in clay to create their cylinder seals. There will be more time to work on the maps and clay projects tomorrow.

Thursday, March 14
Students turned in cards on which they had listed a law from Hammurabi's Code with which they strongly agreed and one with which they strongly disagreed. They then got a chance to weigh in on some other of the laws by reading a scenario and writing what they thought would be the most just consequence. We called this "Hammurabi's Code: WWYD (What Would You Do)?" An brief but interesting discussion ensured. Then it was work time; goals included finishing up the clay cylinder seals with the cuneiform monograms, coloring in and labeling the political map, and/or finishing up the Front Page Project self-evaluation. Finally, students were given a SCOT-NOT! Instead of "Staying Current on Thursday," they were looking at some surprising laws that were anything but current. They were encouraged to take home these funny laws from the past and share them with parents and siblings.

Friday, March 15
After turning in "Conversation Sandwiches" and "Self-Evaluations," it was time to talk "Letters to the Editor." We read about a proposed Oregon law to increase the penalty for texting while driving on the wiki (see resources for both an article and an editorial) and then looked at real "Letters to the Editor" for other states weighing in on this issue (see below). Quite clearly these kinds of letters are relatively short, share a strong opinion, usually include a personal experience, are conversational in tone, and can be quite clever. Occasionally they also contain facts and figures to further one's case. Students were charged with first writing their Alphabiography entry for the letter "M" and then starting to compose a "Letter to the Editor" as if they lived in Mesopotamia and were trying to rally the people to support or criticize a particular law from Hammurabi's Code. We will continue working on these letters on Monday.

Week of March 4
Monday, March 4
Harnessing all that post-weekend energy, we jumped right into Weekend Update followed by an opportunity to put all of the finishing touches on our Physical Geography of Mesopotamia maps; for many this got a bit tricky given the unique shape and placement of the Fertile Crescent and the surprisingly challenging spelling of words like "Mediterranean." Once students finished all elements of their maps (including getting a peer to review it for accuracy), they were free to decorate their Aggy Pets. These "herb gardens" will be a constant reminder throughout our study of Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt of the importance of agriculture in the development of civilizations. In preparation for tomorrow, students are encouraged to bring all of their questions about their Front Page Newspaper Project; the due date is this Friday, March 8th!

Tuesday, March 5
Our class started with a very productive discussion about the Newspaper Front Page Project including suggestions for layout. Thanks to Eli, there are some very workable templates available at the top of the resources page. However, students are still encouraged to use the old-fashioned cut & paste method if they find these templates difficult to work with. Then we moved on to another fascinating exploration of a lesser known comma rule: how to use commas with coordinate adjectives. Our conversation then turned to what makes a civilization and the children's book Weslandia started our exploration of this topic. We read a few more pages in our textbook about the importance of agriculture and finished our class with an announcement about the next set of book orders (due next Monday).

Wednesday, March 6
Our O-WOW! was Kurt Vonnegut's short story Harrison Bergeron. Like Kafka's The Metamorphosis from last week, Vonnegut's story explores the themes of what make us uniquely human and how modern society doesn't always work in our favor when it comes to promoting free and creative thinking. Speaking of free and creative thinking, the Newspaper Front Page projects are coming together nicely. We spent just a few minutes asking questions and sharing ideas in order to come up with the very best final product for Friday. Finally, students worked in small groups to put into order various phrases taken from dictionary definitions of the word "civilization." We will look more closely at these definitions tomorrow as we try to synthesize them into one overarching explanation of what a civilization is.

Thursday, March 7
Our "Staying Current on Thursday" article was a follow-up to our short discussion yesterday about the ongoing conflict in Sudan. Two students read the book A Long Walk to Water (about the Sudanese Civil War) for the Historical Fiction unit and wanted to know what the current situation is like. Today we spoke specifically about the arrest warrant the International Criminal Court has out for President Omar Al Bashir. See the section marked "Sudan in the News" on the resources page for more about the latest push to bring him to justice. We then studied the "civilization" definitions from yesterday, highlighted those concepts that were revealed in Tuesday's reading of Weslandia, and tried to create our own. Although it did take quite a bit to get these bright student settled into their work, once they started they displayed impressive results. We'll revisit these definitions at the end of our Mesopotamia unit to see how they match up with what we know about the first civilization. Finally, we read more about the physical geography of Mesopotamia, including the importance of the Tigris and Euphrates, and then double-checked our maps to make sure that everything was accurate for our Tuesday quiz over the region.

Friday, March 8
What an exciting day! The Front Page Projects turned out GREAT!!! We started class by putting on some finishing touches, filling out a fairly thorough self-evaluation form (see below), and then taking turns sharing our projects and what we liked best about them. Then we got a chance to tour the "Front Page Museum" and see for ourselves all the awesome creativity and effort that went into these projects. Then each student filled out a card indicating which book s/he will read next and who recommended it to him/her. The first written "conversation" between the recommender and recommendee will be due next Friday, March 15th. An example of what this could look like can be found below. Finally, students were offered some tips for preparing for next Tuesday's quiz over the physical geography of Mesopotamia.


Week of February 25
Monday, February 25
Our morning began with writing in our journals about our weekend, our Purim, or even our Taglit. Students then switched seats by breaking the codes based on rebuses of their names. We moved on to our next unit by reading about the significance of agriculture. Some of the students created Aggy Pets (similar to Chia Pets) which will be displayed in the classroom throughout our learning about Mesopotamia and Egypt; this will remind us of how important the domestication of plants and animals were to establishing these early civilizations. Our morning ended with students reading over the new and improved "Historical Fiction Newspaper Project" as well as the example Ms. C-R created last year after reading the book Isaac's Storm. Students compared the list of requirements with the example and noted what was included, what was missing, and what was extra. Homework is to finish this assignment (see homework for all the relevant documents).

Tuesday, February 26
We started our day by going over the "in's and out's" of the Historical Fictional Newspaper Project. Students did an awesome job recognizing which elements were included and which were missing from the example they were given yesterday. Tonight's homework will be to come up with a mock-up of the front page lay-out on an 11 x 17 piece of paper; this will help ensure that each student has all of the required elements. We then learned about the comma rule related to non-essential information and what makes an appositive. Finally, students spent the last 15 minutes of class labeling a physical map of ancient Mesopotamia and the areas surrounding it.

Wednesday, February 27
Our class started with some announcements about the timeline for the Newspaper Front Page Project. Tomorrow students will submit a draft of their plot summary for teacher approval. We will then take class time to move ahead with the "setting" and "character" article. Specifics about how the layout will be done (on the computer or by hand) will be revealed this Friday and the entire project will be due at the end of next week (March 8th). Students will also need to decide on their next Independent Reading book by next Friday. Since it is a book that must be recommended by someone they know, it is important to confirm before next Friday that the "recommender" is willing to answer questions either in writing or in person regarding their impressions of the book. We then jumped into a unique O-WOW! The short excerpt from Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis got us all thinking about how essential the creative spirit is to being human. Clearly part of Gregor Samsa's issue with waking up as a cockroach was his despair at the drudgery of daily life. We then traded "layouts" so that students could get confirmation that they included all of the required elements. These were then submitted for teacher approval as well. Finally, students wisely used the last 45 minutes of class to work on their plot summaries

Thursday, February 28
Our "Staying Current on Thursday" article was about how parts of the brains of London cabdrivers have increased in size due to their need to memorize locations and be adept at spatial positioning. We discussed how this relates to the human evolutionary changes that have occurred over time. We then went over the expectations for the Setting article for the Newspaper Project. Students should use it as an opportunity to highlight all that they learned about the time period and location/s of their historical fiction novel. Once again, the students wisely used the last 45 minutes of class to work on their Setting articles.

Friday, March 1
"L" was the letter of the day for our Alphabiography. That opened up the writing doors for topics like "life, "love," and "learning." We then went over more Historical Fiction Newspaper Front Page details including options for layout. Students may opt to print out the various parts of the paper, cut them up with scissors, and glue them on an 11 x 17 piece of paper similar to Ms. C-R's example OR they can access a possible template for Pages or Word by checking out the options on the top of the resources page OR they can develop their own template as long as it fits the 11 x 17 size. All the remaining work, including the final lay-out, must be done at home. Students should plan on emailing final projects to Ms. C-R who will arrange to have them printed out on the copier as it can handle this large size; she can also make a copy of any document that uses the "old school" cut and paste method to give it a more professional finish. The project is due next Friday, March 8...and working on it will be the only Humanities homework from now until next Friday. Fortunately, once everyone settled down, they got in almost 40 more minutes of solid work time.

Week of February 18
Monday, February 18
NO SCHOOL--Presidents' Day

Tuesday, February 19
It was great to have everyone back and ready to learn after our awesome Taglit week! We started with a little Independent Reading check-in. Students wrote down the title of their Historical Fiction book, listed the approximate date they finished reading it, gave it a 1 to 5 rating, and then in two sentences or more explained why it earned this rating. We then perused the Historical Fiction Newspaper Project document to get a sense of what we should be thinking about now that we have finished our reading. More information about this project will be shared over the course of the week; as they say, "stay tuned!" We then spent quite some time reviewing the comma rule related to using coordinating conjunctions with two or more independent clauses. We practiced finding these seven words (and, or, for, nor, so, yet, but) in a paragraph and then determining if each one was being used as a coordinating conjunction or not. Homework will be to compose an original paragraph of six or more sentences in which at least six examples of the seven magic words (and, or, for, nor, so, yet, but) are used. Tomorrow students will trade papers, highlight any of the seven words they find, and insert commas where necessary. The last 25 minutes were devoted to our Cave Painting Web Tour or creating our own form of cave art.

Wednesday, February 20
Thanks to all of those students who took their time with last night's homework which involved composing a paragraph of at least six sentences using at least six of the conjunctions (and, or, for, nor, so, yet, but) minus any commas. We traded papers and put into practice all we had learned during yesterday's Troubleshooting on Tuesday lesson. Most of us are getting the hang of when to use commas before coordinating conjunctions and hopefully will be able to apply these newly learned skills in our own writing. We then moved back into our Human Origins unit and brainstormed an extensive list of those characteristics that separate us from earlier species. Creativity and imagination were at the top of the list which led us nicely into another brainstorming session...this time focused on what we would expect to see, hear, and feel when entering a cave. Our O-WOW! was a poem about what a cave painter must have been thinking and doing 40,000 years ago. Tomorrow we will merge the poem's concepts with some of the words associated with our "cave" senses to create something special. The last 15 minutes were devoted to Cave Painting Web Tour work and/or drawings of cave art; unfortunately there was not as much time as students would have liked due to lots of wasted minutes during our earlier activities and discussion.

Thursday, February 21
Our class started with an Independent Reading update. Specifically, we will be embarking on our Historical Fiction Newspaper Project next Tuesday. That means any student who cannot imagine how the book s/he read will fit into this assignment or simply would prefer reading another novel may choose something new and read it by next Tuesday. Students were informed that their next Independent Reading selection will be "free choice" with a twist, meaning that they can choose anything appropriate for their grade level as long as it has been recommended to them by a friend, teacher, parent, cousin, etc. Choices don't need to be made until next Friday, March 1st, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to start thinking about it now. We then visited the library where Ms. Sloan asked each student to write a few sentences about his or her favorite book for a special Bookspeak bulletin board. Then everyone had time to browse and check out books. We returned to the classroom for a viewing of an except from the video "The Cave of Forgotten Dreams" about the Chauvet Cave and then finished up the class by discussing what might have motivated early humans to draw on the walls of caves--one of the big unanswered questions of all time!

Friday, February 22

Week of February 11
Monday, February 11

Week of February 4
Monday, February 4
Happy Second Semester. We honored the importance of today (the half-way mark of the year) by having a heart-to-heart about classroom expectations. As everyone (yes, everyone) is still struggling with being consistently attentive and respectful, students were asked to "own up" in writing to the ways they both positively and negatively impact the class behavior. They were then asked to brainstorm on how we should proceed to ensure the best possible learning environment. From there, we switched gears entirely and got out of the class and into the field to collect cave painting debris in the PJA hallways. These were little pieces of crumbled paper clues that when puzzled together formed important documents of the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How of prehistoric cave painting. A fascinating discussion ensued regarding the differences between making tools and making art. Finally, students cleaned out their binders putting most of the Humanities papers from first semester in a folder to take home and made room for their Imaginative Autobiography evaluation (finally!).

Tuesday, February 5
A great day starting with Troubleshooting on Tuesday featuring some more comma fun... and then moving on to work time. Students could either finish their Blabberized Early Human Species project or start their cave explorations using the worksheet below as their guide. Toward the end of class, everyone was reminded to prepare for more African country research tomorrow by carefully reading over the list of questions and by bringing their Multnomah Country library card. Finally, students were given their Jewish Book Month Book Review evaluations to read over and take home.

Wednesday, February 6
We started our day with a short story O-WOW! called "The Boy and the Painted Cave." As we read, we highlighted some attention-grabbing POWs (Particulary Outstanding Words) which we will discuss at a later date when we focus on "Word Choice" for our next writing assignment. Then we went over some of the ways to collect information about our African Countries (beyond the Multnomah County Library sites) including focusing on internet sites that end in .gov, .org, or .edu. Everyone got on their laptops for about an hour worth of thoughtful research with the end goal of answering at least one question per theme of geography. Anyone who did not accomplish this goal will have to do some extra research on their own tonight so that he or she will be ready to create an informational poster in class tomorrow.

Thursday, February 7
The substitute teacher, Ms. Nemer, supervised students researching their African countries and then the poster project on which they will display the information they learned about the five themes of geography. Poster work will continue tomorrow (Friday).

Friday, February 8
After students were given a short update on when to expect information to be posted about our next Independent Reading project (look on this wiki site starting Sunday, February 10, at 8 pm to learn more about the Front Page Newspaper Project), they received their Book Commercial evaluations. Congratulations to Sam for being recognized by his peers for delivering an informative work in the form of a highly entertaining movie! The African country experts then returned to their Five Themes of Geography posters. Most were able to finish before the end of the period and the few who didn't will have some time after we get back from Taglit.


Week of January 28
Monday, January 28
After our Monday ritual of writing a journal entry about our weekend (aka Weekend Update), those who haven't "blabberized" or needed to "re-blabberize" tried to make magic happen on their laptops. Unfortunately, the site was not cooperative and we once again had to abandon the project; we will try again later this week. Then the whole class took some time to review for tomorrow's African countries quiz before embarking on our last theme of geography--PLACE. We started to brainstorm on some of the physical (natural) features of Portland and some of the human (man-made) features and will revisit the concept tomorrow in preparation for Wednesday's research on the geography of an African country. That means Wednesday is the day for everyone to make sure they have taken care of their library card issues.

Tuesday, January 29
Students did a fabulous job with their African Countries Geography Quiz--in most cases they demonstrated solid preparation and in all cases they were quiet and focused while taking the quiz. Results will be shared at the start of the class tomorrow. We then did some comma rule review before revisiting PLACE--the fifth (and last) theme of geography. Students worked alone or in pairs to identify physical (natural) features and human-made structures in photos from places around the world. They will get to put their knowledge about the Themes of Geography to use tomorrow when each student is assigned an African country to research. Our time together ended with a brief "Rick Steves" video about the Lascaux Caves in France (and its replica). The video can be viewed by going to the Resource page and clicking on the cave image. Unfortunately the great class behavior demonstrated at the start of the period deteriorated as things progressed. The hope is that the students can maintain their focus as we embark on our African country research and learn more about Cave Paintings.

Wednesday, January 30
We started class with students receiving back their African Countries quizzes. There are an impressive number of Sixth Grade Geography Know-It-Alls. Well done! We then welcomed our school Librarian, Ms. Sloan, to help us navigate the great resources on the Multnomah County Library site so that we could do a little African country research. Students were assigned a country and encouraged to answer as many questions as they could from the Themes of Geography Questionnaire (see pdf below). For many it was a challenge given the wide range of topics covered by the questions and the varying amounts of information available. The class ended with each student sharing one surprising fact he or she learned and then copying down the questions for tonight's Independent Reading card assignment.

Thursday, January 31
We had a smaller than usual crowd given that some of our 6th graders were off preparing for today's production of Alice in Wonderland. Those of us who stayed behind began by turning in our Independent Reading Cards (the last homework assignment of first semester) and were treated to a viewing of a few excerpts from the BBC Production Walking with Caveman. It was great to get a visual for what life might have been like for early human species. It also gave us a chance to talk about the advantages of bipedalism (walking on two legs), if it's better to be a specialist or a generalist when it comes to hunting for food, how the climate relates to our appearance, and why the increased size of the whites of the eyes of humans is considered an evolutionary advantage. We then migrated on two legs to the ballroom for the play!

Friday, February 1
NO SCHOOL--Report Card Prep.

Week of January 21
Monday, January 21
NO SCHOOL--Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Tuesday, January 22
Today we were treated to the grand finale' of Book Commercials. Thank you Eli and Lev for your presentations. We also talked briefly about the timeline for the next Independent Reading assignment: Books need to be chosen by this Friday, some reading is to be done over this weekend, and an Independent Reading card completed by next Tuesday, January 29th; the deadline for finishing the book is Tuesday, February 19th. Students then took a few moments to finish up their Self-Evaluations before embarking on more Early Human Species research. By the end of the period, most students had completed their "scripts" and some even "blabberized" them. Homework includes putting on the final touches of the script so that all the remaining recording can be done in class tomorrow. Students also need to fill out the African Countries request form which was handed out at the end of class. Please see the homework page for all the details.

Wednesday, January 23
We began with an IMPORTANT REMINDER about getting a Multnomah County Library card which will enable each student to get on some wonderful research sites. Please bring your library card number (and password) OR get a replacement card if you have lost your card OR fill out the blue form you were given; remember parents need to sign the back. Students were then introduced to a great resource for reviewing the locations of the countries of Africa. Check out the first entry on the resource page and click on the Country Tutorial (second column). The rest of the class was devoted to work time--either "Blabberizing" the early human species, looking through the stash of Historical Fiction books, or practicing African geography on the above mentioned website. Students should be congratulated for a productive day.

Thursday, January 24
After getting straight who was missing which homework assignments (there have been a lot of absences as of late), we launched into our regular lesson starting with each student listing the countries in Africa they felt that they could correctly identify on a blank map. The goal was ten, but many students had already mastered far more than that. Students will be asked to identify at least 25 of the 54 countries on a geography quiz next Tuesday, January 29th. Then it was on to the Scroll O' Compliments, an opportunity for students to give positive feedback to their peers for their excellent Book Commercials. Finally, students read an informational piece about how scientists date archeological finds and answered a set of related questions.

Friday, January 25
A busy day starting with our newest Alphabiography entry featuring the letter "K." We then took some time to add to our Book Commercial compliments from yesterday by offering specific suggestions for improvement to our peers. This "suggestion box" activity was followed by a short work time--the tasks at hand included working on the Human Species Project, watching the already complete "Blabberized" versions (which can be found on the Student Gallery page), choosing a Historical Fiction book for the next Independent Reading unit, or practicing where African countries are located (see Resource page). We had a little setback with the Blabberize website, but otherwise students were moving forward in preparation for next week--the final week of the first semester. WOW!

Week of January 14
Monday, January 14
We started our Monday with our regular ritual of journaling about our weekend and then spent a few moments talking about strategies for making sure that our Book Commercial are done on time. From there, we revisited the Geography theme of Human-Environment (H-E) interaction by discussing how things like building a dam or planting hazelnut trees can both positively and negatively impact our environment. We further discussed how what we do to our natural environment always modifies (changes) it in some way. Often we make changes to our environment because we depend on our natural resources (like planting a grove of hazelnuts to eat or sell) or we adapt to nature (by choosing to plant hazelnuts instead of oranges because of our climate). Understanding when we modify, depend on, or adapt to our natural environment helps us better understand this theme. Finally, instructions were shared for the Early Human Species Research Project. The plan was to have students use their laptops to start the process but, unfortunately, everyone was having a particularly hard time settling down today so instructions that should have taken 10 minutes took 25. Let's hope for a better day tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 15
What is O-WOT! you ask? It's Outstanding Writing on Tuesday! Because our Wednesday will be filled with Book Commercial presentations, we moved our O-WOW! to today. What a perfect time to reveal the Sixth Grade Book Review and to read aloud Lily's review of The Diary of Anne Frank, one of the many outstanding examples of student writing to be found in this soon-to-be-released publication. We then enjoyed 5 fabulous Book Commercials; thank you Roni, Tali, Abby M., Lily and Joaquin for starting us off so strong! Students finished up their textbook work and then moved on to research their Early Human Species.

Wednesday, January 16
It was all about Book Commercials today (after the start of class was slightly delayed by a fire drill). Thanks to today's presenters: Ryan, William, Sofia, Zevi, and Isaac R.

Thursday, January 17
First an announcement about the Moment Magazine Publish a Kid Contest (see the contest page for more details) then a trip to the Library to learn about on-line research resources in preparation for a Africa country geography project that will be coming to a Humanities classroom near you (probably some time next week). We returned to the classroom for three Book Commercials (thank you Ishaan, Mitchell, and Joshua) and then had some time to continue our Early Human Species Research on our laptops. A really good day! Thanks Students for giving your best effort to the Library substitute teacher, for giving the presenters your full attention, and for settling down and quickly getting to your research task.

Friday, January 18
A great day filled to the brim with six memorable Book Commercials. Thank you Isaac V., Jesse, Sam, Abby G., Karly, and Seth! In the few minutes we had at the end of class, students were reminded about filling out their Book Commercial Self-Evaluation forms with care, leaving the last question to answer on Tuesday once all of the presentations have been given. Finally, the next Independent Reading list (Historical Fiction) was shared; students are encouraged to look at the list carefully over the weekend in order to choose a book by the end of next week--the deadline for reading the book is Tuesday, February 19th. (pdf's of self-evaluation and reading list can be found on the homework page of this wiki)

Week of January 7
Monday, January 7
How wonderful to see everyone back at school after an enjoyable two week break. We started class by journaling about our vacation, so instead of "Weekend Update" it was "Two Week Update." It was then time to "Break the Code" in order to find out the new seating chart. Being able to add up the number of days until one's next birthday was key. We then read more of the trial scene in Inherit the Wind. Finally, tonight's homework (the "December Independent Reading Check-In" worksheet) was distributed and students began to fill it in before class was dismissed.

Tuesday, January 8
Students submitted their December Independent Reading Check-In (homework from last night) at the start of class and then asked clarifying questions about the Book Commercial requirement. At the end of class we determined the schedule for next week's presentations. In between both of these activities, we started our next Troubleshooting on Tuesday unit on commas and watched the famous Inherit the Wind scene in which Drummond examines Brady on the stand.

Wednesday, January 9
It was very exciting to finally finish reading Inherit the Wind followed by watching the final scene of the movie. What made it extra exciting were the many insightful comments about the characters, lines of text, and issues that came up in the play! We then took some time to check out a website devoted to all things Scopes Trial related. Students were encouraged to first check out some of H. L. Mencken's articles about the trial as part of our O-WOW! and then tool around the site to find other special treasures (things that were especially interesting) to share with the rest of the class.

Thursday, January 10
Students worked independently for the first part of the period. They read a portion of the "People of Stone Age" chapter in our textbook and defined terms and answered questions on the Early Humans Textbook Review worksheet. We then went over the "First Footsteps" portion of this assignment before reading our SCOT (Staying Current on Thursday) for the week--an article about the Piltdown Man hoax of 1912. The final part of class was devoted to defining and discussing the third theme of Geography--Human-Environment Interaction. We will continue our discussion about how humans affect their environment tomorrow.

Friday, January 11
We spent the first few moments of class talking about strategies for preparing for next week's Book Commercial. The first group of students will be presenting on Tuesday. Students will notice that now on the wiki (under resources) there is the script posted that Ms. C-R read from when she gave her Power Point on The Tiger's Wife. This was her starting point for preparing the presentation and might be a good thing to look over as you are getting everything set for next week. You are all welcome to contact Ms. C-R via email over the weekend (ecohn-rozansky@pjaproud.org) with any questions and/or send her a sample of what you're working on to make sure that you're on the right track and that it works on her computer. After our Book Commercial conversation, we made sure our Outlook mail accounts worked properly (there have been some issues) before jumping into our "J" Alphabiography entries. Then those students who did not finish up yesterday's textbook review did so while the rest embarked on researching their assigned Early Human Species. Our exploration of the Smithsonian site will continue on Monday and then we will move on to writing a summary of our research in first person and using this to voice our animated species.


Week of December 24

Week of December 31

Week of December 17
Monday, December 17
The morning started with the submission of our second big writing assignment of the year--The New York Times inspired Book Review of our Jewish Book Month book! A few students ran into some technical difficulties and were not able turn in their assignments; the plan is for them to work out all the glitches and get them in tomorrow. Then it was all about Weeekend Update (and learning a bit about a jogging emu). After journaling, we jumped in to our reading of the play Inherit the Wind. Because there is so much historical material to glean from this fictional account of the Scopes "Monkey" Trial, students were divided into pairs and asked to become experts on certain relevant concepts or people (such as The Butler Act, Darwin's Origins of the Species and William Jennings Bryan). They read short explanations of these different topics and prepared a written summary. As we encounter these ideas or individuals during our reading, our resident "experts" will jump in and fill us in. Then we popped open those books and began reading the play aloud with our various student actors demonstrating, among other things, their very amusing Southern accents!

Tuesday, December 18
No Troubleshooting on Tuesday today to allow more time to get through our themes of geography and to read Inherit the Wind! We started class by reviewing the theme of Movement, specifically the changing population of Oregon and how we can track who moves in and who moves out. We also defined important terms related to movement: immigrant, emigrant, and refugee. Then we moved on to the them of Region which is defined as an area with at least one common characteristic that makes it different from the surrounding areas. We looked at the categories of Physical, Regions, Cultural, and Political Regions and tried our hand at choosing the sub-categories that fit in each. Finally, we returned to Inherit the Wind, first by watching a short excerpt from the 1965 film version and then by reading aloud the play.

Wednesday, December 19
Our class started with some reminders about missing work. While most students have turned in their revised Imaginative Autobiographies, a few have not; conversely only a few have emailed Ms. C-R their revised Book Reviews, most have not. YIKES! The homework for today is to make sure those documents get turned in and/or emailed. Then we moved on to a twist on our usual O-WOW! In preparation for students to be working on their Book Commercials (due the week of January 15), Ms. C-R arranged for a tiger to deliver the introduction to her example and then delivered a power point herself. Then students had the privilege of watching another example prepared last year by Ben M. Check out ALL of these Book Commercial examples on the resource page of this wiki. Finally, we read a good 45 minutes of Inherit the Wind; we've met the colorful characters of Brady and Hornbeck...Henry Drummond is next.

Thursday, December 20
Today's Staying Current on Thursday was an article entitled "Yoga Class Draws a Religious Protest" from the New York Times. Reading about this controversy was a great way to get students thinking about modern day First Amendment issues and the tension that is inherent in our nation's Separation of Church and State. Click on the article to read all about and keep the discussion going! A highlight of our day was a trip to the library to learn about Ms. Sloan's guesses for this year's Newberry Award. There are so many great books out there just waiting to be read and the students enjoyed hearing about some of Ms. Sloan's favorites just in time for Winter Break. Finally, we watched a short excerpt from the movie Inherit the Wind [when Hornbeck (played by Gene Kelly) welcomes Drummond (played by Spencer Tracy) to "Heavenly Hillsboro"] and then continued on with our reading of the play.

Friday, December 21
Congratulations to the sixth graders for their great behavior at Kabbalat Shabbat! One good thing led to another as the students took seriously their time on their laptops to compose their "I" Alphabiography entries. Then we moved on to Inherit the Wind, reading a portion of the play and watching the scene in which the lawyers (Brady and Drummond) select their jury members. We ended class by reciting together Reverend Brown's inflammatory speech and Brady's famous reminder that "He that troubleth his own house... shall inherit the wind." Can't wait to return in January to read the rest of the play and make sense of this important line!

Week of December 10
Monday, December 10
With Chanukah starting on Saturday evening, students had a little something special to add to their Weekend Update. We then took some time to review Independent Reading and Book Commercial requirements. For tonight's homework, students are asked to document what they are reading NOW, not necessarily the title for which they hope to do their book commercial.We enjoyed viewing another section of the Journey of Man film; the class remained appropriately behaved for this installment which means tomorrow we'll get to watch more. Yay Sixth Graders! Our morning wrapped up with reviewing some of the major concepts introduced in the film including the "Quantum Leap" in human brainpower that occurred approximately 50,000 years ago.

Tuesday, December 11
After our usual Troubleshooting on Tuesday (we're still "troubleshooting" quotation marks and the all punctuation surrounding them) we moved on to our viewing of Journey of Man. In addition to a quick education about genetics, the students had a chance to hear more about the journey into India and Europe during the Last Ice Age, as well as the explanations for why our skin is lighter than our African ancestors. The "oohs" and "aahs" that came when our scientist host separated a strand of DNA from blood and the questions that followed our film-watching indicated that everyone is still fascinated by this excellent documentary. Tomorrow the plan is to use our class time to revise our Book Review and then return to the movie on Thursday.

Wednesday, December 12
We started class with a special O-WOW! A Book Review written by a former sixth grader about Jerry Spinelli's Milkweed was read. The hope was that the personal, conversational tone, beautiful writing style and deep insights would inspire excellent revisions among our current sixth graders. Congratulations to the class for taking this all in, accepting the copious teacher comments on their drafts, and getting to work! The bulk of the period involved revising on the laptops. However, we took a few moments at the end of class to allow each student to weigh in about how helpful the teacher comments are when it comes to getting Humanities writing assignments back for revision. These heartfelt sentiments will certainly be considered when I respond to your future work; thanks to everyone for the wonderful honesty!

Thursday, December 13
After a few important announcements, including the postponement of the due date for the Book Review (it is now due on Monday, December 17th...at the latest), we went down a different path for our Staying Current on Thursday (SCOT). Students worked alone or in pairs to peruse recent issues of National Geographic Magazine looking for articles that relate to our sixth grade Humanities curriculum. They contributed to a master list of interesting articles from which we will pull from for future Thursdays. We then enjoyed another fascinating excerpt of Journey of Man. The hope is to finish the movie tomorrow and then embark on our Human Origins unit and our in-class reading of the play Inherit the Wind at the start of next week.

Friday, December 14
We enjoyed the last part of the Journey of Man film. Students asked excellent questions and made keen observations--many relevant to what we will be studying in our Human Origins unit. We also watched a short TV interview with geneticist Spencer Wells. It can be found on the resources page of this wiki. Our class ended with our "H" entry of our Alphabiography. Thanks to all the sixth graders for creating a quiet atmosphere for creative thought and writing.

Week of December 3
Monday, December 3
Our Monday started as it usually does (with Weekend Update) and then we made our way to the library to browse the Book Fair offerings. Students have free choice for their December Independent Reading book--the only requirements are that the book is appropriate for school and is something they have not read before. A book card with the student's choice and how much progress he or she has made will be due next Tuesday, December 11th, and the deadline for completing the book will be Monday, January 7th (the day we return from Winter Break). Ultimately, each student will be creating a commercial for his/her book. More on that in a couple of weeks. After the library, we looked at one more example of a New York Times book review and then set off to begin writing our own. Students had approximately 25 minutes to begin typing on their laptops--some using the time more wisely than others. The plan is to use about 40 minutes of class time each day this week to work on the review with the final draft being due this Friday, so it is imperative that students think about what they plan to write outside of school and come to Humanities ready to be a focused writer. Finally, Imaginative Autobiographies for those who turned in their work after Thanksgiving Break (the option #2 folks) were returned for a final revision which is due next Monday and those who had already received back their work with teacher comments (the option #1 folks) turned in their final (!!!) copy...finally!

Tuesday, December 4
Our Troubleshooting on Tuesday topic was how to punctuate when using quotation marks. This will be important as students work on incorporating quotes from their Jewish Book Month books into their reviews. And while on the subject of book reviews, we spent some quality time working on them today during class. Kudos to most everyone who used the 40 minutes of laptop time constructively. Finally, we revisited the geographical theme of "Movement" and brainstormed on the kind of questions we could ask ourselves when researching a particular place in order to learn more about how people, products and information move from one place to another.

Wednesday, December 5
O-WOW! (Outstanding Writing on Wednesday) was of our own making today as we took good similes about our future and made them OUTSTANDING! Fancy writing and work on the "stained glass" project followed. Be on the lookout for a full display featuring the students' writing and art centered on what they envision their future to be. The rest of the period was devoted to working on the Jewish Book Month book reviews. Everyone is making progress. The hope is to maximize our writing time tomorrow in order to have a solid draft to turn in on Friday.

Thursday, December 6
Today's SCOT was a way for us to start thinking about our Human Origins unit. The National Geographic Genographic project involves genetic research pointing to human origins in Africa. Check out our resources page to learn more about the project itself and some related articles. The hope is that tomorrow we can begin watching the Journey of Man, a film that tries to answer the question "Where do we all come from?" In order to make our movie viewing successful, students spent time writing down ideas for ensuring a quiet and focused atmosphere. We then used the rest of the period to work on our book reviews. These are coming along nicely. Tomorrow students will only have about 20 minutes to work on their reviews before printing out their rough draft for some teacher feedback. Any students who have fallen behind on this writing assignment should use tonight to do some writing at home!

Friday, December 7
We jumped into writing on our laptops in order to maximize our time to add to or edit our book reviews. Regardless of where each student is in the writing process, the class was asked to tend to the formatting of the assignment and print out their work. Each student then wrote a short note to Ms. C-R asking her to focus on up to three elements of the book review when reading over the draft and giving feedback. Then it was time for the Journey of Man. Once we moved beyond some technological setbacks, we were able to learn a bit about how genetics can transport us back in time shedding light on our human origins. The class behavior was first rate ensuring that on Monday we will be another "Learn From a Movie" Day. Finally, students were given their Book Commercial assignment sheets to look over this weekend.


Week of November 26
Monday, November 26
Students came back ready for action. Their excellent classroom behavior allowed us to move quickly through today's material. We started with ten minutes of journal writing. Instead of Weekend Update, it was the super-sized version as students wrote about their week off from school. We then reviewed our end-of-first-quarter commitments in preparation for our second quarter which starts today. Ms. C-R spoke some about what came up in conferences including parents' desire to see all of the homework assignments in one place so they could be a support at home. The plan is to use the planner more regularly! Part two of the Purple Packet Presentations took place next as the remaining students submitted their Imaginative Autobiographies for a teacher edit. Those who turned in their papers prior to Break got them back with comments and will take the week to make revisions. We spent the next part of the period brainstorming on similes that fit with our vision of our future and will be creating a representative art piece during class tomorrow. Finally, we learned about one of the themes of geography--movement--and went on a scavenger hunt finding different products in the class that came from other countries (#2 on the Movement worksheet).

Tuesday, November 27
After collecting yesterday's "Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down" homework, we returned to our Themes of Geography work and our hunt for imported items in the classroom. We then brainstormed on ways that information is transported from one place to another; our collective list was definitely creative and, ultimately, quite lengthy. Next we read a short article about different patterns of movement including cyclic (regular), periodic (temporary), and migration (permanent). The article also described the process of diffusion when ideas, values, or inventions go from one culture to another, transforming in some way. This was the case with, of all things, the yo-yo! Class ended with students writing about the simile they selected to represent their future and then sketching the idea for tomorrow's "stained glass" art project.

Wednesday, November 28
Today's O-WOW! took us into the world of "Reviews." As students prepare to write their reviews of their Jewish Book Month books, they will read several examples of book reviews that appeared in The New York Times. First, though, we read a review of last year's movie "New Year's Eve" that appeared in The Oregonian. The movie was totally panned; in reading it we learned some of the essential of reviewing: revealing a personal connection, writing with honesty and being specific! We then used examples from Monday's "Thumbs Up & Thumbs Down" activity to talk about what specificity looks like when talking about books. Students worked in small groups to verbally discuss the major points they hope to make in their written reviews and tonight are to find examples from the text to support these opinions. Tomorrow we will read a synopsis, promotion and review of last year's Muppet Movie and figure out which one is which. The last part of class was devoted to drawing the simile chosen yesterday on a piece of acetate for the Stained Glass Future project.

Thursday, November 29
We started off the day with a real treat-- the seventh graders Ancient Greece Wax Museum; the sixth graders can hardly wait for this fun project next year. When we returned to class, we had a mini-SCOT (Staying Current on Thursday). As we will be learning about Ancient Egypt later in the year, we took a few moments to talk about what is going on in modern Egypt and the recent developments with the government there. Then we read our first example of a New York Times book review (The Invention of Hugo Cabret) as inspiration for the book reviews we will begin writing on Monday. More examples to come... For homework, students are to read the three pieces about the Muppets Movie, decide which is a promotion (advertisement), synopsis (summary) and review (opinion), and explain why you think so; all of this should be written on a separate piece of paper. Finally, students worked on finishing up the art portion of their Stained Glass Future projects.

Friday, November 30
We had a chance to read another New York Times book review today. This one about Catching Fire from the Hunger Games Trilogy. Students noted similarities between this review and the one about The Invention of Hugo Cabret that we read yesterday, especially the conversational tone, the personal perspective, the intertwining of opinion and plot synopsis, and the seamless use of quotes from the text itself. We then started reading the guidelines for writing a book review and students were asked to finish reading this document as homework in order to be prepared to begin writing on Monday. We ended the period with our Alphabiography writing--letter G.

Week of November 19

Week of November 12
Monday, November 12

Tuesday, November 13
After a three-day weekend, it was important to check in with students about the progress they're making with their Imaginative Autobiographies. Some are near the end of the process while others feel like they are just getting into it. Thus, two options are available:
  • Option 1: Turn in a final draft this Friday, November 16 (the advantage is that students will not have the assignment hanging over their heads during Thanksgiving Break and that they will receive their teacher evaluation of their work upon their return)
  • Option 2: Turn in a final draft on Monday, November 26 (the advantage is that students will have more time to work on the assignment--but it is during their vacation and they will be a slight delay in receiving their teacher evaluation of their work)
Each student needs to choose what is best for him or her!
In other happenings, we reviewed the correct (and, yes, slightly boring) formatting for all formal writing assignments and read over a few examples of conclusions. Then it was writing time. The period ended with each student printing out a copy of what s/he had written so far and attaching a yellow "Parent (or other Adult) Edit" form to the assignment. The "Parent Edit" is due at the start of the period on Thursday. Parents should receive an email with details by the end of today.

Wednesday, November 14
Today there were many O-WOWs! That's because it was a day for each student to read a classmate's Imaginative Autobiography draft and peer edit it. Lots of good feedback was offered as sixth graders first read through a peer's work without making any marks and then went back through a second time to write down specific proofreading (conventions) and editing (ideas/content) suggestions. Tomorrow after Library time, students will have their final in-class opportunity to work on this assignment on their laptops; the focus will be on using the feedback from both the "Parent Edit" and the "Peer Edit" to help them with the revision process.

Thursday, November 15
After checking in about the progress students are making with their Imaginative Autobiographies, we visited the library to learn more about the Letter About Literature contest. Check out the Contest page of this wiki for more info. Students also had a few minutes to browse at the 5th Grade Circle Projects on display in the library; this brought back sweet memories for many of them. The Scholastic Book Fair is also coming our way: December 3-6. Back in the classroom, students tried to settle down and do some serious revising of their Autobiographies using the Parent and Peer Edits. By the end of the class, several efficient writers had completed their assignment and submitted an entire packet of related prewriting and drafts. The hope is that many other students will power through their writing tonight and submit their final draft as described in Option 1 listed above on November 13.

Friday, November 16
Some fun celebratory stuff for the last day of the first quarter as well as some thoughtful reflection. Those students who completed their final draft of their Imaginative Autobiography submitted their work by participating in the little known ancient ritual of the Purple Packet Presentation Ceremony. The other students who bring their completed work on Monday, November 26th will have the same opportunity to present their plump packets publicly. Then everyone spent some time evaluating their Middle School experiences thus far, their commitment to the class brit, and their work in Humanities. Their responses will be shared with parents at conferences. Class culminated with another little known ritual..Breaking the Code. This is the way students learned about their new seats for the new quarter. The hope is that a week break from school, this new seating arrangement, and some meaningful introspection will lead to a classroom environment that truly honors learning and respect for next quarter and the quarters to come!

Week of November 5
Monday, November 5
After submitting the Independent Reading Cards for Jewish Book Month, students wrote their Weekend Updates in their journals. A good portion of class time was devoted to going over suggested review strategies for tomorrow's Global Literacy test and giving students the opportunity to ask last-minute clarifying questions. Then, as part of the pre-writing for our Imaginative Autobiographies, students tackled a Quick Listing activity. Using Your Personal Past, the 20 Years From Now Cluster, and the Quick Listing, students will be creating a timeline from which to structure their writing. The hope is to formally introduce the assignment tomorrow and start composing!

Tuesday, November 6
A big day in Humanities...and for our country! Students took their first major test of the year over our Global Literacy unit. From the conversations overheard prior to the test, the sixth graders were tremendously well-prepared and excited to share all that they had learned. They were focused and serious throughout the test-taking process. Congratulations to all for putting forth full effort! After the test, students worked on their Quick Listing and Timeline before the PJA polls opened. We ended the class by having the students take part in a mock presidential election sponsored by the 8th Grade.

Wednesday, November 7
We spent the first part of the period reviewing the requirements for the Imaginative Autobiography. This was followed by reading a fictional autobiography by a humor writer named Hugh Gallagher who about 20 years ago won a high school writing award with his piece. The hope is that students will not only create interesting, well written "memories" of their lives from birth to about age 30, but also have fun with this assignment. Kudos to all of the sixth graders who were able to keep the room relatively quiet for our 35 minutes of writing on our laptops; because of this, everyone was able to make a great start! The period ended with students finding out their Global Literacy test scores. Congratulations to Lily and Seth for earning 100% on the Challenge Version!!! We will go over these tests more in depth in the next few days.

Thursday, November 8
Our SCOT (Staying Current on Thursday) today relates to one of the themes of Geography we soon will be exploring--movement, specifically the idea that the sharing of information (as well as the sharing of people and products) is part of what makes a particular place unique. You can read about the bicycle ladies bringing the Internet to the small villages of Bangladesh by going to the resource page of this wiki. We then moved on to a super conversation about what makes for a good introduction using the document below as our catalyst. Student buckled down and wrote diligently for the remaining 35 minutes of the period. The introduction and body paragraphs will be due at the start of the period on Tuesday. With time in class tomorrow, it is possible that some students may not need the upcoming 3 day weekend to finish the task. Overall, one of our best days this year. Thank you sixth graders for revving up your brilliant writing minds and dialing back the talking that often gets in the way of a productive class period!

Friday, November 9
Another successful writing day thanks to the impressive focus of our sixth graders! Overheard in the classroom while we worked: "Can I just keep writing? I'm on a roll." Because the students used their time so constructively, it is up to them how they would like to get ahead this weekend. Each student either sent a copy of his/her document to his/her school email account to access at home or made a copy of the document on a thumb drive. The goal is to have a rough draft finished by the end of the period on Tuesday (including introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion--which we will talk about at the start of class). For some sixth graders that means more writing this weekend; for others it means lots of thinking and planning but no actual writing.


Week of October 29
Monday, October 29
So fun to get back together after a great week at Field School! Students started class with Weekend Update. They were challenged to journal for a full ten minutes about how they spent their weekend recovering from five days of Field School fun. We then took the opportunity to share our Book Talk impressions. Each student received at least seven student generated notes complimenting him or her on the Book Talk's content, delivery, organization, or selection and explanation of props. Tomorrow we will focus on providing suggestions for future oral presentations. Students then received a teacher-generated narrative evaluation for their Summer Reading Book Cover Project. We then moved on to our Global Literacy notes. In addition to defining absolute and relative location, we labeled our world maps with the seven continents and the five oceans. Later in the week we will label even more, including the Equator, Prime Meridian, Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, etc.

Tuesday, October 30
Our Troubleshooting on Tuesday involved a slightly more challenging editing exercise. Issues such as spelling out numbers, properly punctuating the names of cities and states, and capitalizing words such as "world" (no capital) and "Pacific" (yes capital) kept us on our toes. Students then reviewed this wiki site to see where the Jewish Book Month list of books can be found (see the October 15th listing under homework) and some interesting contests that are currently under way (click on contests to learn more). Each sixth grader then moved on to playing "Book Talk Critic" and "Mail Deliverer" by writing constructive feedback and delivering these comments to the relevant person's "mailbox." Finally, as a class we brainstormed on categories related to our future such as family life, occupations, schooling, hobbies, and travel. Tonight's homework will be to prepare a pre-writing cluster centered around the idea of what life will be like for us twenty years from now. See homework for a helpful template to get things started...

Wednesday, October 31
Once again the students offered insightful comments about why the writing in Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is so outstanding. This made for a truly illuminating O-WOW! Then, after collecting homework (Your Personal Past and 20 Years From Now Cluster) we played a fun game of Tri-Bond where each student had a card with a word on it and then had to find the other two students in class with related words. What does a photograph, a basketball, and a rifle have in common? They are all "shot." What about the connection between peanut, finger, and fly? They all are words that can have "butter" in front of them. These groupings led us to our "Where in the World" interview teams where each student served as an interviewer, interviewee, and observer. The last part of class was devoted to looking at the study guide for our Global Literacy test (to take place next Tuesday) and filling in some of the vocabulary using Quizlet (see resources).

Thursday, November 1
Today's SCOT (Staying Current on Thursday) was taken from a regular feature in the Saturday edition of The Oregonian. Beginning next week, we will post around the classroom these updates about lesser known scientific and geographical world events so that we can all stay current. We then used the remainder of the class to prepare for our Global Literacy test. This included using our textbook to define some map terms, revisiting Quizlet for globe terms, and using on-line resources to review latitude/longitude concepts and other Global Literacy terminology.

Friday, November 2
We started with a Jewish Book Month check-in to see who is reading what. Students are required to fill out an Independent Reading Card due on Monday. All the details can be found on the homework page. We then took some time to get up-close-and-personal with the many globes in room. Group members helped each other locate the equator, Prime Meridian, International Date Line, Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, Arctic Circle, Antarctic Circle, North Pole and South Pole. Laptops were needed for the final two assignments of the class: writing an "F" Alphabiography entry and doing some Global Literacy review. With the test scheduled for Tuesday, it is imperative that students have their note-taking sheets filled in correctly and that they are using their pink study guides to organize their review.

Week of October 22

Week of October 15

Monday, October 15
Finally, a Monday! Journaling about our weekend started our class, followed by a discussion related to what an attentive audience members looks like and does in preparation for tomorrow's Book Talks. Students have been challenged to come up with an acronym that helps us remember the basics: eye contact, leaning toward the speaker, no talking, nodding, etc. The goal is for each and every one of us to be especially respectful and supportive during these talks and to carry these behaviors into all of our classes. We then took a tour through the wiki...first encountering the next Independent Reading book list (see today's homework for the specifics) and then focusing on the latitude and longitude explanations and practices listed on the resource page. Students used their laptops to explore the various sites during the last 25 minutes of the period.

Tuesday, October 16
What an exciting day! The focus was on our first set of Book Talks...first by reviewing the many creative acronyms students came up with to reflect what is expected of them as an attentive and supportive audience member and then to the presentations themselves. Congratulations to all of the exceptional first day presenters and the audience members who made them feel so comfortable. After each presentation, audience members jotted down a compliment, suggestion, and question to share with the presenter after Field School. They also took a few moments at the end of all of the presentations to reflect on their own behavior as an audience member and make some resolutions for how they would bring even more focus and more attention and more supportive body language to class tomorrow. Finally, we spent the remaining time doing our Troubleshooting on Tuesday editing practice--this time in pairs. Through these assignments, students are learning about hard and fast proofreading rules and those that allow for more flexibility.

Wednesday, October 17
After a few quick reminders about emergency kits (they were due weeks ago!), Bitstrips (our subscription is about to run out, so finish up your comic this week), and signed Humanities updates (those were due on Monday), students embarked on Round 2 of the Book Talks. Congratulations to all of our second day presenters and the generally respectful audience members. Unfortunately some of the talks ran longer than they should have and there were some issues with the class not settling down during transitions. As a result, we were unable to hear from all of today's presenters. Book Talks will resume tomorrow before and after we visit the library. and the expectation is that all student (presenters and audience members) will do everything they can to keep us on track and moving forward.

Thursday, October 18
Our morning began with a Book Talk postponed from yesterday (delivered in a wonderful British accent, no less) then a trip to the library where we learned more about this year's ORCA (Oregon Reader's Choice Award) nominees. The students were excited to vote for books in the Junior Division (grades 4-6) as well as read the nominated titles in the Intermediate Division (grades 7 and 8). Check out the ORCA website to see the video presentations (called Prezis) for each of the divisions. We then returned to the classroom for four more Book Talks. It was an exciting day to be a Humanities teacher as the sixth graders' passion for good literature was evident in and out of the classroom!

Friday, October 19
Today we celebrated the Grand Finale' of our Book Talks! Our final five students presented. Then we took a few minutes to finish up our self-reflections making sure to be as specific as possible. The final part of the class session was devoted to laptop work time. First any student who had not finished his or her Bitstrip comic took time to do so; then all students wrote their latest Friday Alphabiography (FAB) for the letter "E."

Week of October 8

Monday, October 8


Tuesday, October 9


Wednesday, October 10
Our O-WOW! today was a teacher's favorite--excerpts from Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Students read through a few especially descriptive paragraphs and highlighted the words or phrases that stood out as examples of exceptional writing. We are focusing on the language we use to describe what we like about certain writing in the hope that in naming these features we will begin to incorporate them into our own writing. We then divided into our South Pole Exploration teams and discussed more in depth the supplies that would be needed on our journey. The class ended with looking at photographs and other information related to the Admundson and Scott expedition on the resource page of the class wiki.

Thursday, October 11
An unusual SCOT (Staying Current on Thursday) because today's news was OLD news and had to do with a man named SCOTT...that's Robert Falcon Scott, the British explorer who died returning from the South Pole. Take a look at the link below to see some of the articles that came out after the fateful South Pole voyages of Scott and Norway's Roald Admundsen. We then shared some ideas for how to best prepare for our Book Talks and came up with a schedule for who will be presenting when. The rest of the period was devoted to work time (filling in "Your Personal Past" worksheet and coloring the continents on the "World Map") and the distribution of a six week update for each student detailing his or her Humanities homework record, quiz score, independent reading plan, etc.

Friday, October 12

Week of October 1

Monday, October 1

Tuesday, October 2

Wednesday, October 3
We've done the O-WOW! thing (Outstanding Writing on Wednesday) and this morning we did the E-WOW! thing (Example of Writing on Wednesday); students read Ms. C-R's short autobiographical work entitled "Five Stages of Grief (or Why I Hate Moles)." Soon students will be composing their own "Imaginative Autobiographies" in which they will share past experiences and predictions about their future. The key will be to include both the small and large events that shape and reflect who they are. Ms. C-R's mole story was a small example of the important role that family and community play in her life. We then went over last week's proofreading quiz. A discussion about the symbolism of the Olympic rings and the importance of Alfred Wegener and his Continental Drift theory followed as we returned to our Global Literacy notes. Finally, the homework assignment entitled "Dear Ms. C-R" about the progress we have made with our Independent Reading was introduced; the letter will be due this Friday, October 5.

Thursday, October 4
Today's SCOT (Staying Current on Thursday) was about a recently found fossil of a newly identified dinosaur. Check out the resource page to learn more and to see a rather startling picture of what scientists believed this creature looked like. We then tried our hands at creating a map of Pangea using fossil evidence as our clues. Students also watched a short video about Alfred Wegener and a computer generated representation of how the continents were once connected, how they exist now, and what is predicted for the future. We were surprised to learn that scientist expect the Horn of Africa to break away from the rest of the continent...but not for another 50 million years! Both videos can be found on the resource page. Our class ended with an introduction to our Imaginative Autobiography project; we'll start by brainstorming on incidents from our past. We read through "Your Personal Past" worksheet to get our brains thinking about the big and small events we have experienced in our lives thus far and will write them down on this form next week.

Friday, October 5
Students began class by submitting their "Dear Ms. C-R" homework and then asking clarifying questions about the Book Talk due the week of October 16th. We then moved on to our Friday AlphaBiography (FAB) the letter of the day--D! The remainder of the period was devoted to our "Race to the End of the Earth" simulation in which student teams are hoping to create a packing list that will guarantee survival on an adventure to the South Pole. The process began by reviewing all the possible items that could be taken on this treacherous Antarctic journey. On Wednesday we will reconvene and the real decision making will begin.


Week of September 24
Monday, September 24
We began our morning with Weekend Update. It was wonderful to see so many students writing with fervor about their weekend (or a prompt inspired short story) for the full ten minutes of journaling...and then begging for more time. Be still the Humanities teacher's heart! Students then worked together to complete a "Meet Your Atlas" worksheet; using the class set of atlases, they ranked each continent's highest peak, longest river, biggest lake, and most populated city. We then went over the requirements for the Independent Reading card (tonight's homework) and took a glimpse at Bitstrips, the computer program we will be using to create our school memory pages.

Tuesday, September 25
Students tried their hands at another proofreading exercise for Troubleshooting on Tuesday. There will be a quiz over the proofreading symbols this Friday. We then spent some time talking about the Sixth Grade Brit that the students helped create. Students are asked to review the document with their parents and sign it as a way of indicating their understanding of what is expected of them as middle school learners. We then moved on to our graphic memoir activity. Using Bitstrips, each student began designing a comic strip of a special school memory. We had lots of fun and are looking forward to working on this project again on Thursday.

Wednesday, September 26

Thursday, September 27
It was great to see that so many students remembered to bring back their Brit signed by themselves and their parents. For those who have not had an opportunity to go over the document, the hope is that there will be time tonight and that all of the sixth graders will have submitted a signed copy by tomorrow. The teachers are referring to this commitment regularly in class, so it is imperative that each student is familiar with its content. Staying Current on Thursday related to the drilling into Antarctica's Lake Vostok that took place in February. Students read an article and watched a short video about this significant historical, biological, and geological event. Check out the resources page to see both the article and the video. We then spent about 30 minutes working on our Bitstrips comics followed by a Continent vs. Island discussion. Insightful student comments and questions came out of this discussion. Well done!

Friday, September 28
Our Friday morning started with "Cracking the Code," a fun way for students to find their place in the new seating chart arrangement. The hope is that these new seats will facilitate the students' focus and commitment to learning. Then we took a few minutes to review proofreading symbols before our first Humanities quiz of the year. Students then took the quiz; they should be congratulated for staying quiet and on-task for the entire duration of the quiz. The last part of class was devoted to our Friday Alphabiography (FAB). This week's letter: C.

Week of September 17
Monday, September 17

Tuesday, September 18

Wednesday, September 19
Today's O-WOW! was the excerpt from "All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten." Students appreciated author Robert Fulghum's clever approach of using the familiarity of kindergarten experiences to relate to big life lessons. We then took some time to re-look at the amazing Book Cover Projects before they are posted on the bulletin board. Our conversation then turned to identifying the similarities between the literary pieces we read last week: The Circuit and American Born Chinese. Working in small groups, students were able to generate impressive lists of the many significant connections. Finally, we discussed the definition of "continent" and the different ways that our global community categorizes these land masses.

Thursday, September 20
After collecting last night's homework (the paragraph describing a first day of school experience), we reviewed the Book Talk requirements. We then proceeded to the library to meet Mrs. Sloan, the new librarian, and hear about some of the titles on our Autobiography/Memoir Independent Reading list. Upon our return to the classroom, we looked at Ms. C-R's example of her "First Day of School" graphic memoir page as inspiration for tonight's homework which is to create a similar 3-6 cell/panel comic strip related to our "First Day of School" memory; it should be a rough draft as the final work will be done on our laptops next week. Looking at an excerpt from the graphic memoir Kampung Boy helped further jump start our creativity. Finally, we took time for our "Staying Current on Thursday" article: a short piece from Stanford Magazine about a group of 800 maps being donated to the University all with California displayed as an island!

Friday, September 21
We started off class by writing our second installment for FAB (Friday AlphaBiography). The letter "B" inspired all sorts of ideas for writing such as birth, brothers, baseball and bronchitis. Just as with "A," students were encouraged to write about an experience, point of view, passion, or philosophy that speaks to who they are and what they value. We continue to increase our efficiency when it comes to using our laptops--definitely a work in progress. Then small teams were assigned for the "Continent Guessing Game." Which Continent is the largest, has the highest population, the most countries and the most Jews? The sixth graders did a wonderful job working together to come to consensus on their guesses and were surprised by some of the answers. Next week we will look at the geological features of the continents--which one has the highest peak, the biggest lake, etc.

Week of September 10
Monday, September 10
Students began class by journaling. The expectation is that each Monday they will share in writing what they did over the weekend. This will help promote their fluency and give me insight into their lives outside of school. If there ever is a weekend that just doesn't lend itself to a full ten minutes of writing, students have the option of choosing a prompt from a list instead. We then collected homework and moved on to learning about proofreading symbols by making flashcards. Students will be putting their knowledge to work tomorrow as we embark on our first Troubleshooting on Tuesday editing activity and then again next week when we review our classmates' writing. Finally, students were introduced to the Summer Reading Book Cover Project and began getting their paper ready to complete the project at home. It is due this Friday, September 14th.

Tuesday, September 11
We started the class with our Tuesday Edit, an opportunity to use our prior proofreading knowledge in conjunction with the symbols that were introduced yesterday. We then moved to Book Cover Project work time. Students are making good progress getting the pieces in place. The goal is to have at least two sections of the project finished by tomorrow whether it be the front cover illustration, back cover summary, inside flap "what I learned" piece, or the back flap "award" explanation. Tomorrow during class we will have time to meet with the other middle school students and get good "critic" quotes. For more information about the project, see the homework section of the wiki. We finished class by embarking on our Global Literacy unit. We examined the differences between globes and maps and listed the advantages of each on our Global Literacy note taking sheet.

Wednesday, September 12
Our class began with the first of what will hopefully be many wonderful O-WOWs! O-WOW stands for Outstanding Writing On Wednesday. It is the weekly ritual that gives us a chance to read examples of excellent writing and "dissect" what makes it so great. We read an excerpt from Francisco Jimenez's Circuit, a collection of short stories about the author's experiences growing up as the child of migrant farm workers in California. The students loved the clean writing style, the compelling story line, and the adept use of figurative language and symbolism. Then each student gathered with others who had read the same Summer Reading book and shared impressions. After an unexpected fire drill, students returned to Humanities to finish reading Jimenez's story and to check-in briefly about progress being made on the Book Cover Project.

Thursday, September 13
We began our Thursday ritual of reading about events in the world (particularly those that overlap with our curriculum) with "Staying Current on Thursday." Today we read an excerpt from an August article in The New York Times about the hopefulness surrounding South Sudan's independence last summer and the reality of the situation there now. Students are encouraged to bring in articles relevant to world geography, the study of maps and globes, and early humans, as well as any information they come across that relates to the area once known as Mesopotamia, modern day Egypt, and modern day China. Then we studied different map projections taking notes to help us remember the unique features of each. After students posed for their school pictures, they read an excerpt from American Born Chinese which they will compare and contrast with The Circuit during class tomorrow.

Friday, September 14
This morning's guest star was Mrs. Blattner helping us navigate "Pages" on our laptops. Once we all got the hang of the program, we used it for word processing. Our first assignment: FAB (Friday Alpha-Biography). The inspiration letter was "A" and students chose a word that begins with "a" and then typed a personal memory or a philosophy of life that related to the word. We will add to these each Friday until we have made it through all 26 letters (this will probably be some time in late April). We then took a quick glance at the list of Autobiographies and Memoirs from which we will choose our first Independent Reading Book. We will revisit the list next week when we make our way to the PJA Library for book talks and check out time. However, any student who wants to get a head start can track down a title at his or her local library over the weekend and begin reading. We then took an equally quick glance at the completed Book Covers before our class time ran out. We will have a chance when we return from Rosh Hashanah to take another tour of these wonderfully creative projects!

Week of September 3
Monday, September 3

Tuesday, September 4
Sixth Grade Orientation and Tie Dye Party

Wednesday, September 5
Welcome to Middle School!!! Students started the class learning a bit about what to expect in Humanities...and how the phrase "Making Connections" is so central to what we will do this year. For our first activity, each student made a connection between an item pulled from a "Sparkly Bag o' Fun" and summer vacation. How does a paper cup or an eraser relate to a summer experience? We'll find out soon as their first homework assignment will be to put their ideas in writing and compose a Summer Vacation-Grab Bag paragraph due tomorrow. We also spent some of the morning reviewing middle school details (such as planners, binders, snack time, etc.) and organizing supplies and lockers. A great first day!

Thursday, September 6
Students began the day by doing a written reflection on their first impressions of middle school. In general, our sixth graders enjoy moving about the school, having different teachers throughout the day, and feeling older and more independent. After collecting the Summer Vacation-Grab Bag paragraphs, we broke into groups and "puzzled" out different definitions of Humanities and how the "U" ("You" as in each of us as individuals) is so important to our learning in Humanities. We then took a few moments to familiarize ourselves with our planners. Each student is encouraged to figure out the best way to use the planner in order to stay organized. Finally the "What in the World Do You Know about...Ms. C-R?" questionnaire was handed out and for homework students will complete their guesses and then come up with their own ten statements remembering the 4/6 rule (either 4 need to be true and 6 need to be false OR 6 need to be true and 4 need to be false). Another great day with a super group of kids!

Friday, September 7
Class began with sharing guesses from the "What in the World Do You Know about Ms. C-R?" questionnaire. Students were most shocked to hear that Ms. C-R hates roller coasters and loves staying for the credits after a movie. They also learned about her trip on the Goodyear Blimp and the "gift basket of death" she received for winning a "Why I Hate Moles" essay contest. Next, they tried to guess the truths and lies that their classmates wrote. We then brainstormed a list of qualities a middle school student should have and each student chose either one that reflects a quality currently possessed or one that is hoped for. Finally students began their "How Do I Compare?" questionnaire which includes drawing connections between themselves and animals, colors, and foods, as well as finding personal descriptors that best fit their different roles in school.