Hello families! Many things cooking here in Room 173. As we continue to build our community & get to know one another, our projects & related learning continue to take shape as we keep throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks. Here's where we are right now:
Singapore Math: We're up & running with the program, about to have our first unit assessment. The first few weeks of (re)introduction to the curriculum have given us a pretty good sense of where the students are in their mathematical understanding, as well as a clearer plan for how quickly we can push through the 5th grade curriculum and get a jump start on the 6th grade materials. We're going to be fine-tuning our pace and assignment loads over the next couple of weeks; expect to see weekly assignments, often broken into daily chunks but with the option to move forward independently. Please check the class website for daily assignments if you have any questions, and please know that it is of utmost importance to your child's success that they complete their assignments as given & on time.
Applied Math: This is what we call all of the other math-related learning that's taking place outside of the scope & sequence of the Singapore program. For a couple of weeks, we were looking at how we collect, aggregate, and organize data in ways that allow us to glean & communicate meaning; this translated into a series of bar graphs representing the frequency of letters as they appear in the names of students in our class. This week we're continuing to discuss principles of scale & proportion as they are applied through human figure drawing. This skill set will serve us well in several contexts, including our character development for NaNoWriMo (more on that momentarily) and our documentation of our "Propose-a-Pose" project (also more momentarily).
Language Arts: Following the successful completion of our "I Am/iamb" poems and illuminated letters, we're swinging back to our study of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." So far we've learned all about cadence, meter, and scansion, not to mention greatly expanding our vocabulary (as well as our vocabulary study skills). We're going to be continuing this process, now with a very clear & rapidly approaching goal in mind. For the upcoming holiday season, we will be studying the cultural practices & traditions surrounding Dia de los Muertos and Samhain, culminating in a very special class event. We'll be collaborating with Ms. Nelson, our Performance Arts teacher, to make detailed papier mache skull masks (to be decorated in the style & spirit of the chemical elements chosen for study by each student); these will be worn for a dramatic reading of "The Raven" set to take pace during our Monday Assembly on November 2nd. Additionally, we'll be taking video of the individual students reading the poem, then slicing/dicing/splicing it into a cohesive reading that we can upload & share with the world. We're hoping to have the time to train interested students on the video editing software available to us, ideally opening up this avenue of communication & presentation for future class use.
SPECIAL EVENT!! Somehow, the class managed to talk me into having an overnight event at the school (I know, it took a lot of arm twisting). So, here's what we're thinking: next Friday (October 30th) we simply stay at school once the regular academic day is done. We'll be working on our masks & presentations, recording our readings of "The Raven," engaging in some subdued celebrations in the spirit of Dia de los Muertos and Samhain, further exploring the works of Poe and other classic horror writers, officially kicking off our participation in NaNoWriMo, and maybe even getting some sleep eventually. We'll get up Saturday morning, make some breakfast, and then send everyone home mid-morning. Please look out for some permission forms in the next day or two, as we'll need them back ASAP. We'll also need parent volunteers, as many as we can get. If you're available (and crazy enough) to spend the night with us, terrific; if you can't spend the night, a few hours in the afternoon/evening/morning would also be a huge help. You can respond to this email with your availability and/or fill out the form that will accompany the permission forms.
And while we're on the topic, let's talk about...ANOTHER SPECIAL EVENT!! We've been presented with the amazing opportunity to attend a free rehearsal performance of Origins: Life and the Universe (http://www.astrobioconcert.com/) at Benaroya Hall on Thursday, November 5th. But there's a bit of a catch. The performance runs from 1:30pm-3:30pm, which puts our return past the end of the school day (not to mention being well outside the time range in which we can get SPS buses for field trips). So, we have an unconventional solution (shock!) that will hopefully work for all families. We will board the Metro bus (Rt 120) around 12:45 to head downtown for the performance. Afterward, we'll get back on the bus and return to STEM around 4:30. At this point, I will continue to provide supervision until you're able to come pick up your child (hopefully by 6:00, though we can make arrangements if necessary). Permission forms coming home soon. We'll certainly need a few volunteers for this as well, whether you can ride the bus with us from school or meet us downtown. Also, if anyone has connections high up in Metro, please let me know; I'd like to see the Metro become a more common and accessible option for school field trips, and we need some partners over there to make that happen.
NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month is November and will soon be upon us. I wasn't originally planning on NNWM for this class, but where they're taking their Elemental character development makes it a logical way to go. As we spend some time over the next week and a half fleshing out our plans, we'll let you know what the month is going to look like. First and foremost I'd like us to take weekly trips to parks, libraries, and other locales conducive to creative writing; there will be (yet another!) field trip permission form coming home soon that will cover this month's worth of field learning opportunities.
On the subject of paperwork, many of you know my feelings when it comes to round after round of forms to send home, fill out, and return. Try asking your child "what does Mr. Gluck hate more than anything else in the world?" (the answer should be "paperwork," or depending on the amount of extended learning I've given that day, possibly "children"). I'm working to redesign some forms to streamline the process as much as possible. For example, the aforementioned weekly Metro trips in November will all be covered on the same form. Field trip forms typically require all medical & contact info as well; I'll be collecting that once, and then sending home a "short form" version of the permission slip from that point forward. If your contact or medical information ever changes, please be sure to let me know ASAP.
Tangentially wandering over to walking field trips, we had our first excursion to the Delridge Branch of Seattle Public Library last week. The good news is that we're nearly at 100% library card ownership! The bad news is that some of those cards have standing fines on the accounts that are preventing some of the kids from checking out books. I highly recommend logging in to the SPL website (www.spl.org) and managing the account from there. If there is a financial issue preventing you from clearing the fines, please let me know and we can likely work something out with the friendly neighborhood librarians. In general, we'll be going to the library every other Tuesday, and we'll post the dates on the class calendar (on the class website).
Mindfulness: Ask your kids about our breathing exercises, our Stone-Tree-Bear sequence, and our new "Propose-a-Pose" program; I'm interested to know what pieces of our practice they're bringing home & sharing. You might hopefully see them this week trying to balance on one leg while facing the sole of their raised foot and the palms of their hands in opposite directions. Or better yet, join us some morning (Monday-Thursday, 930ish) and see what it's all about. Be prepared to fall over. A lot. And laugh while you're doing it.
Outdoor Education: What began as extended lunch recess has morphed into much more. The original idea was to give the kids an adequate amount of time (a full 30 minutes) after lunch to transform some of their potential energy to kinetic, followed by an uninterrupted afternoon work period (skipping the mid-afternoon 15 minute recess). Due to some challenges of this year's school-wide schedule, we've been heading up to the field for organized games. Through games like Zombie Tag and Predator & Prey, we're learning collaborative strategy development, problem solving, conflict resolution, alternative communication, and a whole host of other skill sets that directly transfer to our studies in the classroom. It is really amazing to see how quickly this community has found its balance, and that's reflected clearly in both the quantity & quality of learning that we've been able to accomplish in just the first month of school.
The aforementioned challenge of the school schedule has also presented up with an interesting opportunity. The primary (K-2) students come on the playground immediately after the 3rd-5th graders, and we've noticed that the younger students could benefit from the presence & guidance of some of their older peers. We're working towards developing a Recess Buddies program, where our 5th graders will give up one of their 15 minute recess blocks once a week to serve the school in this mentorship role. More on this as it develops.
All this, and I've barely scratched the surface of our STEM project work! Well, to avoid adding another 5 pages to this update, I'll attempt to be brief (and probably fail spectacularly). We're studying the elements! And the Periodic Table! The students have each selected an element to study, and much of our work will center around this specialization. Over the course of the next few months we'll be honing our research skills as well as learning what it means to develop a scientific & historical contextual narrative, telling stories instead of just listing facts. This will culminate in a series of podcasts, videos, multimedia presentations, and who knows what else. I'm particularly looking forward to the stories that they'll be writing for NaNoWriMo around their pseudonymous characters (what will happen when Palladium Pug faces off against the Oxygen Octopus??!!) and the costume design & fabrication that we appear to be heading toward. Really, I'm just trying to stay out of the way so that the students have the space to take their ideas and run with them. There's obviously so much more to this than I have the energy to describe (and that you have the patience to read); head on over to mrglucksclass.net for daily updates in greater detail.
I'm sure I'm forgetting a dozen things that I wanted to communicate, but those will just have to wait until next time (i.e., when I remember them 5 minutes after sending this email). Until then, as always, please feel free to come to me with any questions, comments, concerns, etc., and keep an eye out for permission forms coming home this week!
Thank you for all of your ongoing support.