Sunday, April 5, 2015

Behold, Sycorax & Caliban!

Welcome our new buddies Sycorax & Caliban!
Ask your Shakespeare scholar which play inspired these names.
I must eat my dinner.
This island's mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou takest from me. When thou camest first,
Thou strokedst me and madest much of me, wouldst give me
Water with berries in't, and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night: and then I loved thee
And show'd thee all the qualities o' the isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile:
Cursed be I that did so! All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Which first was mine own king: and here you sty me
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me 

The rest o' the island. (Act I, Scene II, 481-495)

Room 110 got some new friends on Saturday morning when Mr. Gagner and I trekked down our mud-pit of a road to greet two oscars that Mrs. Huizenga's nephew was looking to get rid of. The gang had already picked out names courtesy of The Tempest; though we can confirm neither that the two are related nor whether one is male and one is female, I think the monikers are pretty cool. Our Aquarium Group has been researching the breed and getting the new aquarium (courtesy of Ms. McLane by way of the Wolak's) set up. The readying process involved Aquarium Group members learning that hungry oscars need to fly solo when it comes to inter-species roommates! Students also figured out how many gallons the tank holds by converting cubic inches to gallons (we knew that the fish had been living in a 55 gallon tank and wanted to be sure that the one we had would be big enough). The conversations and planning that went into this were exactly the kinds of things that the SCR&P groups should be having.

As you'll recall, the purpose of this project time is to get the students involved in the day-to-day planning, maintenance, and decision-making of materials and systems that keep our classroom going. Usually, this stuff is left to the teacher, but it's important that the students get a sense of how space and resource management works, too. As with the new aquarium and its denizens, this was seen last week when the Tech Group learned how to track packages online and follow the class's order of littleBits circuit systems from California to Vermont. When the littleBits arrived, the Tech Group learned how to read a packing slip and check that the order was correctly fulfilled. We then talked about reading directions before tearing open all of the pieces and parts so that we learn what we can do with the new materials. This proved to be time well-spent when the Tech Group learned how to use the littleBits to turn on plug-in items like my desk lamp off and on remotely with the iPad in a matter of minutes. Very cool stuff.

Not to be outdone, the Feng Shui Group was charged with finding a spot for Sycorax and Caliban's new digs, which involved relocating furniture and making decisions about the layout of common spaces in the room. The team determined that the aquarium needed to be near an outlet, which involved moving a bookcase that students use for additional storage of materials. To find a spot, the team needed to measure and think about traffic patterns. When they determined that the bookshelf would fit behind the front door but block the light switch, they realized they could remove the MDF backing of the shelf, anchor it to the wall, and it would be a superb spot. This group spent Thursday morning with tape measures, hammers, and screwdrivers in hand, which was really neat to watch.

This past week, we finished our Math SBAC assessments! Many thanks to Ms. Yerrick who made this entire (and entirely new) undertaking smooth and seamless. Make-up tests for students who missed sessions are also done, so we are really moving right along. This coming week, we have one English/Language Arts test and next week we have a few more. By the time Tax Day rolls around, the SBACs will be in our rear view mirror. Yee-haw!

We concluded the Readathon last week as well, ending on a wet note with the soaking of Mr. Irish, Mrs. Knox, and Ms. Perlee at our closing ceremony! The Gagner Gang came in second place for highest average reading minutes, losing by just two minutes to the screamin' demons in Ms. Way's room. Several Gang members went home with raffle prizes, the drawings for which they were entered in due to their fantastic participation and performance. I was really glad to see and be a part of so much great reading. Most everyone was super motivated to do their part for our team and it showed!

Coming up this week, we will dig into "The Scottish Play"  in earnest with a class-wide exploration and Readers' Theatre and wade deeper into our Civil Rights unit, which we started to check out last week thanks to the wonderful PBS film Soundtrack to A Revolution, which explored how popular and folk music empowered those in the fight for equality of civil rights in the 50s and 60s. Last week, we played around with making tableaux after the first half of the movie. Students in groups chose a subject or scene and then created a living painting for the rest of the class to interpret. These were very powerful and started everyone thinking about the power of facial and physical expression. In Shakespeare's day, actors were one step up from dirt farmers, so costumes, props, sets (and due respect!) were limited. Learning how to convey emotion and a sense of place and time with minimal scaffolding was essential. The kids really dug this exercise and it bodes well for our continued study of the Bard and his treasures.

Many of you have been keeping up with the budget goings-on in ANESU and locally at MCS. The discussion and revote could mean the potential for three 5/6 classrooms next year. This means that parents of this year's fifth graders should take time to fill out the placement form that went home within the past couple of weeks. Ordinarily, there isn't much change--except in extenuating circumstances--for the younger grade in a multiage looping classroom and students simply come back for a second year with the same teacher. Should we be afforded the opportunity to have three smaller--as opposed to two large--5/6 classrooms, we will need to create a third class of sixth graders from the existing two classes of fifth graders. Please keep your eyes and ears open for budgetary news and take the time to complete the placement form to provide input if you so desire.

Speaking of next year, here is a letter for parents regarding the accelerated Math program for incoming seventh graders next year at Mount Abe.

Upcoming Dates:

  • Tuesday 4/7 - between 12:30-2:30pm - English computer test (5/6 together)
  • Monday 4/13 - between 12:30-2:30pm - English classroom activity (5/6 separately)
  • Tuesday 4/14 - between 12:30-2:30pm - English performance task, part 1 (5/6 separately)
  • Wednesday 4/15 - between 12:30-2:30pm - English performance task, part 2 (5/6 separately)
April 9th - All School Meeting hosted by Ms. McLane's class (Spirit Day on 4/10 is inside out day)
April 17th - Spring Break Friday!
April 20th-24th - April Break (can I get a hallelujah?!)
May 6th - Mount Abe presentation for 6th graders (MCS @ 9am)
May 7th - Mount Abe Parent Info Night (MCS @ 7pm)
May 8th - Teacher In-Service (no school for student)
May 26th - Memorial Day (no school)
June 4th - MCS Mini- Makerfaire
June 8th-9th - Camp Common Ground Trip
June 16th - Last Day..?

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