Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Looking Ahead to 2015-2016

Prologue
I've said it before and I'll say it again: fifth and sixth grade are where the magic happens. Ask anyone (Well, at least ask me: fifth grade was when I read Shakespeare for the first time and I was voted president of my sixth grade class.) My goal this year is to make everyone remember, or see for the first time, how fantastic these years are.

Did I mention that grown-ups and kids should be reading this together? Shoot. Well, you should be, so go get the other half or thirds of the equation. I'll wait. ... ...

Do you know how much I can get done in the three minutes it's taking you to find your reading buddy? Like, so much. One of the things I love doing is helping kids learn how to manage their time and their workload by using the gift of time (that's why it's called "the present," yuk, yuk). Anyone who says 24 hours in a day isn't enough is doing something wrong. I had a project manager who used to walk around the ad agency wringing his hands and kvetching that the day wasn't long enough for everything he needed to do. Dude, stop walking around, wringing your hands, and kvetching, duh.

Okay, you ready? Good. Did you start from the top? Go ahead. I made some funny jokes. You should check 'em out. ... ... Okay, now that we're really all on the same page, we can move along.

Returning families, either back from fifth grade or whose students are Gagner Gang Legacies and have had an older sibling on our team before, know this but I will offer everyone an inaugural word about me in case you are new to, or a bit removed from, this strange fire. Everything in Room 110 is turned up to 11. We have high energy, high expectations, and high impact. I am a former planner and publicist so I communicate a lot and often and I try to let you know exactly what we are up to and why. This blog and your inbox are going to be your informational IV drips... and make sure you get one of those wheelie stands for yours because we're always on the move.

I try to make my communications fun to read because they are often long. I love to write and mess around with language. It's totally my jam (hey, I'm a Comm major, what do you expect?) and I hope that everything I write for you is entertaining AND informative. Our game is only going to work if you agree to roll the dice and move your piece around the board with me. You can stay at Start, but it's not nearly as fun and, like everything, you will get out of our time together whatever you put into it. That's code for get off the bench and join the team--you're in center field, my friend! And THAT'S code for my real and true message: active communication and participation in our community by kids and grown-ups alike is the lifeblood of our time together. We're not here for a long time, we're here for a good time which is why we don't merely exist... we live.

Lastly, I want to make sure that you saw the bright pink letter that went home on Step Up Day (waaaay back on June 15th). Didn't get the memo? You can read it here and if the backpack hasn't been cleaned out since the end of school, I pity you fully because the banana in the bottom is ripe by now. But not so ripe as the wet socks from Field Days. I also want to call attention to our Facebook page, which is a private group where I post photos, announcements, and other items of interest to our families. Until Zuckerberg ponies up the "Adore, Honor & Cherish" button, "Like" will have to do, so if you haven't already and are a Facebook user, that thumbs up icon is a-waitin'.

Act I: In which our heroes begin their quest
Our field trip budget is slim this year, so it's time to get crafty. There is way too much cool stuff happening to let a little thing like money get in the way. #amiright The theatre gods and goddesses smiled upon us with the offerings in the Flynn's Student Matinee Series this year and we will attend two shows, both very relevant to our course of study. We'll see The Improvised Shakespeare Company perform on November 12th and A Midsummer Night's Dream on January 13th, the latter with Ms. Primo's class. We will be looking to families to cover the cost of the ticket to the show (usually $8-$12) so that we can use the field trip money for buses. The two Flynn shows will be the only "official" field trips we go on as part of the school day this year.

Which means we create a new category: "Excursions & Other Outings," a plot fiendish in its intricacies...

First up is that on August 15th, 16th, and 17th, the Bristol Gateway Players are putting up Much Ado About Nothing, one of, to my mind, Shakespeare's most fun and funny plays. I would like to host a Gagner Gang night on the 17th and open it up to families to join me on the green in Bristol (or wherever it is...) to see the show and get inoculated with the Bard bug. What do you think? Maybe we can bring a picnic dinner and get all "Shakespeare in the Park" up in here!

Next is the Champlain Mini Makerfaire, which I encouraged kids to attend last year on their own and a few did. Ms. Pierpont and I worked at the ticket booth as volunteers so that we could get a peek at a real, live makerfaire and quickly decided that everyone in the world needed to check it out. The event is September 26th and 27th at the Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms. Ms. Pierpont, Ms. Primo, and I are volunteering once again from 9:30am-12:30pm on Saturday. We will be joined by my friend Mrs. Zavadil, of BES's Team Zavadil, a 5th/6th class that the Gagner Gang communicates with often via Twitter (did you click the hashtag above) because our goal is to keep our two classes connected through making this year! I would love for as many kids and families as possible to meet me after my shift to poke around, make stuff, and get inspired. There is a cost to get into the event, but as I recall, it's pretty nominal when you wedge it up against the amount of quality time to be had.

Last (so far, at least) is that we study the Revolutionary War this year and a trip to Fort Ticonderoga would be a totally rad addition to the unit. Mr. Gagner and I went two years ago to scout it out and I decided then and there that every kid who learns about American history in some way needs to go there, if for nothing more than to run through the woods surrounding the fort and pretend to battle Red Coats. #bestdayever

So, I was thinking about a Saturday trip for whoever is game. We could load up the minivans (okay, and even my Audi... if your shoes are clean), drive over the bridge in West Addison, and make a cool day of it. Student admission for a self-guided field trip is $6 per student with one free teacher/parent chaperone for every five students. Additional chaperones are $13 each. I snagged a stack of 10% off coupons from a rest area when Mr. Gagner and I went out and about on one of our day trips last month, so maybe we could use those to defer a bit of the cost. The fort closes to the public on October 19th this year and I know we have weekend sports schedules to work around, but it would be a pretty sweet adventure. Fort Ti is a magical place for sure. What say you?

Let me know how you feel (see above re: frequent communication, paragraph 6, lines 7-9) about the excursion parts of the scheme as they are coming up first in the summer and fall and will require a little bit of logistical finagling. Thankfully, that's my specialty.

Act II: In which our heroes are bestowed a gift
Any solid team worth its weight needs a proper kit (noun definition #7 for those non-Anglophiles in the crowd) for public appearances and, if we're going to do all of this galavanting, then we need the world to know that we are a pack. I've been playing around with a tight design that incorporates all of our smarty-pants plans for the year that's no doubt going to get people talking. Right now, it's looking like $9 a shirt and I can pay for half of the total. Grown-ups are going to want one too, and the more we buy, the cheaper they will be.


The design is killer and, if you don't already know the reference, once you Google it, you're going to see how flipping perfect it is for us this year (and, one could argue, always).

Act III: In which our heroes read, read, read!
On June 15th, I issued a summer reading challenge that would help students participate in the Russell Memorial Library summer reading program to get a free book next June and also potentially help them lighten their reading homework load for the coming year. (Though really, who wants to not read every night? I still haven't found anyone...) I have also set up a Goodreads account for the class and a goal to read 100 books by end of year as a community. I totally think we can nail that goal and will be looking for those summer reading logs to add to our Goodreads page. Students will also get access to our class Goodreads account so that they can post books they read as they finish. We will count our read aloud selections along with the total. If this year's class is like last year's class, I suspect we will get to 100 books by around the second week in October.

Act IV: In which our heroes Dumpster dive (well, not really)
As I mentioned in Act I, my hope is to use making and our makerspace to keep inspired fires burning for kids all year. Last year, I scoured recycle bins and salvage yards looking for goodies for students to craft with, take apart and use as weapons of mass creation. In doing this, I realized that just because I think those bags that onions come in are cool, it doesn't mean that everyone else does too. This year, I am asking students to curate their own maker stashes by collecting things from around their rooms, homes, parents' work, yard, farm, garden, etc., etc. Please save cool stuff you find and think about how you can use it for our makerspace challenges, Genius Hour activities, and the ways that we will integrate making across the content areas. That tofu container and that cracker box are totally a future Conestoga wagon powered by a balloon motor. See? Now you're getting it.

Epilogue
I'm going to let that be it for a while now. Though, as soon as I hit "publish" I always start a new file for the next missive. In August, I will be peeling back the curtain to the chocolate factory and letting everyone in on curriculum, scheduling, and other assorted standards-based plans laced with assorted treats, trickery, and cerebral swashbuckling. For now, I bet you'd really like to just let your brain take a nap.

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