Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer 2014 News

Greetings, new and old members of The Gagner Gang! 

In the two weeks since school ended, I have been keeping a list of all of the things I need to tell you before we meet up again at the end of August. I figured a blog would be a neat way to have that conversation and start communicating a bit now before the year even begins.

In fact, blogging feels more current than my old method of parent communication, so I am going to try doing every weekly newsletter update as a blog post this year. Parents of sixth graders know that I dedicated a webpage on our classroom page to newsletters and then emailed a link to everyone once it was posted. I think blogging opens up a better dialogue, so let's give it a whirl. You will be able to comment and ask questions right on this page, as well as talk to me and each other about what's happening in Room 110. The students, because they all have school-issued Gmail accounts will be a part of this too. Neat, right? I will still email a link to the post as well as put a link on our Facebook page (like us now, if you haven't already) like I did last year.

Okay, here comes the news.

Summer Reading
At Step-Up Day, I issued a summer reading challenge to our class. It is outlined in this letter, which was printed on bright pink paper, and sent home on Friday, June 13th. Also sent home were some pre-stamped, pre-addressed postcards for students to send to me about the books they are/have been reading. As of right now, participation is pretty low in both of these activities, so I am wondering if it is because the website or user information isn't working for you or if it's something else. Why am I harping on this? Well, "Summer Slide" as teachers call it, is a real thing and kids who don't keep up some sort of academic activity during summer break can lose or undo months of the learning that takes place during the school year. Reading is usually the easiest way to prevent summer slide because it's pretty low-key and inexpensive and can be done just about anywhere. I really hope to hear from everyone this summer through one or both of these communication channels!

Books & Supplies

Speaking of reading, if your student needs a fresh new book, hop on over to to order a couple. Make sure you enter our class code (directions here) so that we earn points for free books thanks to your order. Books ordered from Scholastic are generally pretty inexpensive and there are tons of current titles in the $4-$8 range.

I sent home a note about supplies at Step-Up Day so that you could take advantage of summer sales and get this errand out of the way early if you so choose (read it here if it didn't make it to you). The list is pretty basic, but let me know if you have any questions.

Donors Choose

Our class is pretty active on Donors Choose, a charitable giving online program just for schools. Last year, we got one project fully funded (including 20 yoga mats and several magazine subscriptions for our class) and got about 25% of the way on another. When things got down to the wire on the second project, a generous group of parents teamed up to help get us three iPads; we raised the money for one with a dance and the parents chipped in for the other two. This summer, I have set up a Donors Choose project to help us set up a makerspace in our classroom. This will be the heart and soul of our Science program this year, so if you have a moment to learn about this goal and a few bucks to send our way, please visit our project page and make your contribution so that we can have these materials by the start of school. We already have about $100 worth of contributions, which is about 20% of the way to our goal!

Doing Some Summer Cleaning?
Once you check out our Donors Choose project page and learn a little bit about what we're going to be doing in our makerspace this year, you might feel compelled to help us turn your trash into our treasure. We are collecting all manner of gears, wires, switches, toggles, circuit boards, dead appliances, motors, old toys, tools, art supplies, batteries and other implements of mass science and design technology and creativity (see a list and other ideas in this post). If you have any of such gems that we could use for our makerspace, you can set them aside until August or arrange to meet me at MCS to drop them off. You'd be surprised what kinds of things are going to get our makerspace off the ground! Oh, and in case you missed it, here's what a makerspace looks like.

Summer Fun & Learning Opportunities
  • Russell Memorial "Fizz Bang Read" Summer Reading Program (free): 453-4471
Communication Challenge

Every newsletter, I would like to challenge you (students and parents) to ask me a question about what we do and why we do it. It can be connected to anything, but I will always give an option in case you need a prompt. This time, I would like to know what questions, comments, concerns, input, or ideas you have about the upcoming fifth or sixth grade year. Please post them in the comments below. I will reply to them and you can too!

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