Friday, February 1, 2019

Move Up Day and The Bead Game

Earlier this week, we celebrated an annual SK tradition: Move Up Day. The 7-8s welcomed the 6s into our class for the day as a way to help them get acclimated and excited about next year. During project time, all of the kids played The Bean Game” (renamed “The Bead Game” for our purposes), which required them to work with a partner to divvy up their annual income by category, weighing different options for each category (housing, food, clothing, etc.) and prioritizing their limited income. We played two rounds of this game: once with twenty beads and again with thirteen beads. We then analyzed a pie chart that broke down national annual expenditures. Students were incredibly insightful during this game. One shared that it was easier to divide up her group’s income when they had fewer beads because they had fewer choices. Another group decided to combine their beads (pool their resources) and work together in order to get more of the things that they wanted. We will return to the concepts explored during this game as we move through this next project on financial literacy.













Tuesday, December 18, 2018

December -- See You in the Cosmos, Science Exhibits and Demonstrations


December 7, 2018

In English, students continued reading See You in the Cosmos and wrote reflections on Dr. Carl Sagan’s ideas about space exploration (that it is worth the investment because it reminds us, here on Earth, of what is possible). We’re excited that the author, Jack Cheng, will be visiting our class in January. 

In connection with their current science project, we also started working on expository writing and thinking about how to explain scientific concepts to a broad audience. We started by evaluating the text on exhibit placards at the museums we’ve visited and then worked to revise the sample text that Sam wrote for his example friction exhibit. We also practiced paraphrasing one another’s writing as preparation for their own exhibit placards (work that they’ll be starting in the next few weeks). 

Also during project time, Sam led the class in a few chemistry mini-lessons. We reviewed the parts of an atom and then started talking about chemical formulae and reactions. In conjunction with the presentations the students are preparing we’ll be going through mini-lessons on a variety of topics related to what they are presenting on. 

December 14, 2018



In English, students started a new approach to grammar work: sentence-composing through imitation of beloved authors. Over the course of the next few months, students will work on imitating the work of great writers in order to identify component parts of great sentences and then use those “tools” in their own writing. In terms of reading, we’re They have been digging in to See You in the Cosmos and writing responses to prompts based on the text. 

The eighth graders spent Thursday morning at Community High School and Friday afternoon at Huron High School. We have now visited seven schools (Greenhills, Steiner, WTMC, WiHi, ECA, Community, Huron) and will visit New School High in January. Eights are also starting individual shadow days at different high schools around the area.

In project time this week the students have been preparing for their demonstrations next week. Sam also continued the mini-lessons, including more with combustion and a brief talk about pressure. Mostly we’ve been researching and preparing for the performance--come see us on Wednesday for slime, flaming money, spinning wheels, and the like.

November -- Shakespeare then Science, Museums, Science Museums

November 2, 2018

It’s the week before the play and, “the play’s the thing,” or so we’ve heard. This week, students designed and created the backdrop, got their costumes organized, made and collected props, and put the prop table together. They’ve also been rehearsing daily. 

In English, after writing their first drafts of their essays on whose portrait should replace Shakespeare’s, they followed a peer editing protocol and worked in pairs to edit one another’s work. Then, today, they submitted their final drafts. The list of people they’ve chosen to replace Shakespeare’s portrait includes Banksy, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mary Wollstonecraft, Barack Obama, Charles Dickens, Hedy Lamarr, Sun Tzu, Mario Andretti, Malala Yousafzai, Alan Turing, George Lucas, Marie Curie, Emperor Norton, and Aristotle. 

While it’s hard to believe that we’re almost done with our first project of the year, it’s true. We’re moving on to our second project, which is the Summers-Knoll Museum of Science and Technology. To kick off the project, students participated in a friction lab during class on Thursday morning. This project “officially” starts next week (when we’re not rehearsing for the play). 



Jarod and Bryn collect friction data using a spring scale, paying extra attention that the scale is parallel to surface. 

On Friday, the eighth graders visited Rudolf Steiner High School. Steiner was the fifth stop on our high school tour (before this, we visited WIHI, ECA, WTMC, and Greenhills). While the eighth graders were on their visit, the seventh graders worked on finishing props and completing the setup of the stage for the final performances.

November 9, 2018 It will come as no surprise to know that this week, we focused almost exclusively on the play. Between tech/dress rehearsals, last minute fine-tuning of scenes, and many, many hours of practicing, the students performed Julius Ceasar to two highly receptive crowds on Thursday. They did an absolutely wonderful job and we could not be more proud of their dedication and persistence.

November 16, 2018 This week things are really getting going on our Museum of Science unit. We had two major field trips (to the Cranbrook Science Institute and the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum) that included evaluating exhibits and hands-on laboratory activities on Newton’s Law and Physical and Chemical changes respectively). At school the class has been working on brainstorming and initial models for a museum exhibit about friction; applying the knowledge they learned from the friction lab.

November 30, 2018 In English, students read “She Was Read Turtle Soup” by Lois Red Elk and discussed the concept of “coming of age” ceremonies. We also started reading about the Lakota Sioux and Johnson v. M’Intosh in order to develop a basis for understanding elements of the poem (and related broader social/political issues). We also started reading See You in the Cosmos, a middle grade novel by Detroit-based author Jack Cheng. In the book, young Alex is inspired by the Golden Record and Dr. Carl Sagan and sets off to create his own “golden iPod” to launch into space. As such, students are researching the original Golden Record and starting to think about what they might include on their own such “record” of life on Earth. For the Museum project, we had our last site visit, to the Imagination Station in Toledo. This completes the investigatory portion of the unit. We finished the week researching and selecting topics for the next phase of the project -- mini-lessons presentations, with tentative topics ranging from chemical reactions to energy transfer, pressure and a bit of neuropsychology. The lesson presentations are tentatively scheduled for Wednesday December 19th from 1:45 - 3:30.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Weekly overview - week of 10/29/18

It’s the week before the play and “the play’s the thing,” or so we’ve heard. This week, students designed and created the backdrop, got their costumes organized, made and collected props, and put the prop table together. They’ve also been rehearsing daily.

In English, after writing their first drafts of their essays on whose portrait should replace Shakespeare’s, they followed a peer editing protocol and worked in pairs to edit one another’s work. Then, today, they submitted their final drafts. The list of people they’ve chosen to replace Shakespeare’s portrait includes Banksy, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mary Wollstonecraft, Barack Obama, Charles Dickens, Hedy Lamarr, Sun Tzu, Mario Andretti, Malala Yousafzai, Alan Turing, George Lucas, Marie Curie, Emperor Norton, and Aristotle.

 

Eighth graders collect friction data using a spring scale, paying extra attention to ensure that the scale is parallel to surface.

While it’s hard to believe that we’re almost done with our first project of the year, it’s true. We’re moving on to our second project, which is the Summers-Knoll Museum of Science and Technology. To kick off the project, students participated in a friction lab during class on Thursday morning. This project “officially” starts next week (when we’re not rehearsing for the play).

On Friday, the eighth graders visited Rudolf Steiner High School. Steiner was the fifth stop on our high school tour (before this, we visited WIHI, ECA, WTMC, and Greenhills). While the eighth graders were on their visit, the seventh graders worked on finishing props and completing the setup of the stage for the final performances.


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October overview

week of October 15, 2018

While it was a short week, in theory, we made up for it by filling these four days with all sorts of activities.

In English, students started their first major essay of the year, inspired by a series of events at the University of Pennsylvania several years ago. In short, faculty at UPenn voted to replace a portrait of Shakespeare in order to demonstrate their commitment to a diversity of voices and the inclusion of multiple perspectives. However, time passed, and the portrait remained. In order to get the proverbial ball rolling, a group of students took down Shakespeare’s portrait and replaced it with one of Audre Lorde. After significant discussion, students were assigned the task of writing an essay about whose portrait they would choose to replace Shakespeare’s. If you see one of the 7-8s around, ask them about whose portrait should be hung instead. They’ll be working on these essays for the next two weeks.

On Thursday morning, we played a rousing game of “rhetorical devices in Julius Caesar” Jeopardy (linked here so you, too, can play along at home). The primarily eighth grade English class created the game for the primarily seventh grade English class to play. It was an adventure for all and now, the seventh graders want to make their own game for the eighth graders.  

On Tuesday, we had another visit from former SK teacher and Head of School (and veteran actor/director), Joanna Hastings. Joanna worked with students on their lines and helped them block scenes. On Wednesday, we welcomed Tyrone and Ash, professional actors from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, who joined us for acting lessons and games. On Thursday, we welcomed local actor/theater consultant Kelsea Kerkes, for additional work on blocking and rehearsing. We were also lucky enough to have both Clara Ashwood and Krista Dragun come in to help us with choreography and stage combat.








On Friday, the eighth graders spent the afternoon at Early College Alliance (ECA) at Eastern Michigan University, one of the local early college programs. This was the third school on our tour of high schools so far this year.

week of October 9, 2018

How is it already Friday? It’s been a wonderful week here in 7-8. We’re so deep into our Shakespeare studies that you’re likely to hear the 7-8s throwing the occasional “thou” or “whence” into their everyday speech. In English, we started the week with close readings of both funeral speeches (Antony and Brutus) and analysis of the different persuasive techniques employed by both. As the week progressed, we studied a variety of rhetorical devices and worked to both identify them in the text of the play and in other famous speeches, movies, or slogans throughout history. The English class of mostly eighth graders (early morning group) is busy preparing a Jeopardy-inspired game for the class of mostly seventh graders (later morning group) to play as a way to assess our understanding of the different rhetorical devices.

Our afternoons have been consumed by rehearsals. We welcomed Joanna Hastings to our class this week to help students with strategies to memorize their lines. We also welcomed Kelsea Kerkes back for scene blocking and acting lessons. How lucky we all are to be supported by such generous and skilled actors. Next week, we’ll welcome a group of actors in residence from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, an opportunity about which we are super excited.

The eighth graders ended the week with our second high school visit of the year: Washtenaw Technical Middle College (WTMC). We were led around the campus by SK alumni and got to visit an English class. Meanwhile, while the 8s were on their visit, Sam took the 7s to the Scrap Box, Goodwill, and Salvation Army on a hunt for costumes and props. Students came back with a few items and a better vision of what we have and what we want. Stay tuned for prop/costume item requests in the next few weeks.

week of October 1, 2018

This week, we continued our work with Julius Caesar and are moving increasingly from the text to the proverbial stage. After learning the definition of iambic pentameter and practicing scanning text in order to identify the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line, students practiced writing their own ten syllable lines (with a bit of flexibility on the stress patterns). Once everyone had writing a few lines, we combined each person’s individual lines into two collective blank verse poem. As you can imagine, this was quite entertaining (although we’re not sure that Shakespeare would have found it has funny, although I’d like to think he would have appreciated it).

We returned to the characterization work that we started during the first week of school in order to reevaluate characteristics of the major characters in the play. In pairs or small groups, students came up with symbols to represent their characters (for example, Brutus as a kitchen knife, Caesar as a lion, and Cassius as a viper). It’s interesting to see how the students’ understanding of the characters has changed (and deepened) since we started reading the play.






We also focused on the concept of a motif in literature and set about to find and analyze different motifs from Julius Caesar. Examples included sickness, gender roles, blood, and the supernatural. After mapping out our own associations with the words, students then did some independent research to learn about the associations that Shakespeare’s original audience, in Elizabethan England, might have had with each of the motifs.

In rehearsal news, we welcomed three guest consultants to work with us this week. On Wednesday, Kelsea Kerkes (SK camp staff alum, EMU theater arts alum, all around awesome teacher/actor) joined us to work on how to express a character’s motivation and how to think about that which one’s character is bringing to the stage. Kelsea will join us weekly to work on the play. We were also delighted to welcome Clara Ashwood (of SK preschool fame) to work with two of our students on battle choreography. On Friday, SK alum and current WTMC ninth grader, Maddy Pritts, came back to help block scenes with our students. We are tremendously grateful for all of this community support and we’re getting excited to share our show with everyone.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Weekly overview - week of 9/24/18

What a week! It’s been a flurry of Julius Caesar work, Shakespeare explorations, and some eighth grade/preschool/kindergarten bonding.  In Caesar news, we held auditions for the largest roles, assigned parts, and distributed scripts this week. Actors are starting to learn their lines, the tech crew is mapping out lighting ideas, the costumers are brainstorming ideas, and the production artists are creating posters. Our prop manager is also putting together a list of all items we’ll need for our production. If you are a parent or community member and are interested in helping with props or costumes, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Sam or Rachel.

In English, to continue to work to answer our overarching question of why we still read Shakespeare, we learned about the First Folio and how Shakespeare’s work has endured over time. Thanks to the wonder of technology (and the Folger Shakespeare Library), we were able to “leaf through” a digitized First Folio and learn about the printing process that made such books possible. This also helped us to understand why there are slight differences in different publications of the same text (much to our collective frustration).

Students also tried their hand at scene writing as we imagined the conversation during which Brutus told Portia of the conspirators’ plans. Since this conversation takes place off-stage, we have to imagine, based on what we know of the characters and their relationships, how it would have transpired.

At the end of the week, as a continuation of our study of connotation and how our own emotional response to words helps us to make meaning of them, we examined the real-time captions of the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings on three different news networks. Through close examination of the words, we were able to consider how much can be said in only a few words and how the words we use shape our understanding of events. For example, we talked about how Casca’s interpretation of Caesar’s crown offering would have been very different than that of someone who would have wanted Caesar to accept the crown. We ended the discussion with a journal entry on the ways in which Dr. Ford is similar to Brutus (and the theme of personal sacrifice for what one believes to be the greater good).

Friday, September 21, 2018

Weekly overview - week of 9/17/18

During this busy week, we continued our study of Julius Caesar and looked more closely at elements of plot, including character motivations, types of obstacles, and types of conflict. Students are working in small groups to create “scenelets” in which they’ll act out different parts of Act I in order to identify these three elements of plot. On Wednesday and Thursday, Sam led discussions on the political climate of Shakespeare, including looking at classic historical literary criticism. We did this in order to put this play into a social, political, and historical context and emphasize what Shakespeare’s audience would have understood as the difference between regicide and tyrannicide. Students took a comprehension quiz on Act I as a way to assess learning and identify points in need of further study. Next week, we’ll continue with our study of Act II. At the end the week, we examined an article about a production of Caesar in New York City during the summer of 2017 that cast Caesar to resemble Trump. This led to class discussions about what it means to be “artistically risky” and the idea of the play as a cautionary tale. The students continue to be thoughtful and insightful in their interpretation of the play.

We will soon begin to work on our own production of Julius Caesar, which we’ll perform on November 8 (at 2pm for the school and 6pm for the larger community). Stay tuned for more details on that exciting aspect of this project.

In other news, on Thursday mornings, while our eighth graders meet with Rachel to discuss high school plans and upcoming visits, Sam has been taking the seventh graders to spend time with the preschoolers and the kindergarteners. This big kid/little kid buddy program is off to a great start and we’re looking forward to continuing it throughout the year (and getting the eighth graders in on the fun soon, too).







On the other end of the spectrum, our eighth graders went on their first high school visit this Friday. We spent the afternoon at WIHI (Washtenaw International High School), where we sat in on classes, took a brief tour, and met with the principal, Ms. Do, to talk about the school. We also got to meet with some of our beloved SK alumni and hear about their experiences in high school.