News at 6

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News at Six
October 2009
Up and Running . . .
The school year is off to a great start! Although learning the ropes of a new school or grade level can be challenging, we are impressed with our students. Sixth graders have adjusted well to life in the middle school: finding their classes, using their agendas, meeting new friends, and figuring out their teachers and varied schedules. We had a wonderful two days of Discovery Days followed by our Campus Day activities topped of by bowling. 30-sixth graders participated in last Friday’s soccer jamboree. Many are engaged in school sports teams or Robotics, not to mention numerous other after school activities. Our getting-to-know-you groupings have just changed and the new groups will continue until winter break. Then we will stir the pot again and regroup. The goal is for each student to be in class with as many of the other 6th graders as we can manage. 
We enjoyed seeing so many of you at Back-to-School Night two weeks ago. You win awards for your patience with all the sitting and listening. Get to know you conferences are on October 16. Please be thinking about your best insights and advice to pass on to us in working with your child. We appreciate your wisdom and experience.
These newsletters will be available periodically and will contain short updates about what is happening in your child’s classes, learning tips and pointers, upcoming events, and calendar dates for planning ahead. Additionally, we encourage you to contact any of us, anytime - email is probably the best route for a speedy response. Note too that you can always contact Chris Bell in the office – she always knows what is going on. Finally, feel free to explore the school’s website where many teachers have their own classroom pages with a more full picture of curriculum and other bits and pieces of pertinent information.
We are delighted to be working with your students this year.
Len, Ann, Carter, Larry, Nagme & Kristin
Notes from the Team…
·        Math – Nagme Karamustafaoglu
The sixth graders are off to a great start in math. We have practiced place value, number systems, order of operations, greatest common factor and least common multiple. While practicing Roman Numerals, we explored different numeric systems that were used in history by different civilizations. We created our own numeral system and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of other systems in the class. By practicing order of operations we understood meanings of operations and how they related to each other. Our next units will be fractions, decimals and percentages. The students just had their first test. You might ask them about it.
Practicing with workbooks is an excellent way of learning incrementally and progressively. Therefore, I have ordered workbooks not only to master their arithmetic skills but also to improve their fundamental problem-solving skills.
·        Humanities – Len Carr & Ann Fyfield
We started the year with some autobiographical and biographical exercise. These turned to conversations about who am I? We have written poems, short written pieces and reflective entries in our composition books. Sprinkled upon all of this has been a healthy and important dose of study skills. We have examined questions such as: How do we best learn? What is active listening? What are some organization strategies? Additionally, we have spent several days examining current events, which will continue sporadically as time allows. We have just begun the reading of our text The History of US – First Americans, by Joy Hakim. We will read this in class, sometimes with the aid of (similar to a book on tape.) For many students, this is their first experience with formal textbook reading, so we will spend time practicing and becoming proficient in the process of nonfiction reading, notably previewing text, reading for important details, and summarizing for overall understanding.  Soon we will embark on a small project examining the various regions across our nation focusing on indigenous people and how they lived. We inaugurated our sketchbooks by doing event mapping and used them during Discovery Days. Sketchbooks are a three-year project. They are used in many different subjects and on all trips - so expect to see them in use over the course of your student’s years in the Middle School
  • Language Arts – Carter Latendresse
We devoted the first few weeks of class to establishing several processes and systems: the Writer’s Notebook composition book was used for both Language Arts and Humanities, and the Writer’s Notebook grammar text was often resourced. The portfolios and the homework agendas were also initiated and revisited on a daily basis. In addition, Daisy Steele came in for a weeklong seminar on all things computer: explaining the server, our school security system, how to use flash drives and email, and how to post and reply to a Wiki discussion in Moodle. For the first few assignments, students learned how to recognize the Heroic Journey as a literary trope by watching and analyzing the film Mulan. They also began writing poetry for the 6th Grade Poetry Box and for the yearlong Heroic Journey Anthology that will be bound in the spring. In addition, students read in small literature circle groups at least one volume in a fantasy genre series. Many students took the opportunity to read at least two books in the series. Over the next few weeks, students will continue to work in literature circle groups to produce a final project based on their readings and analyses. As writers, students will also write the year’s first essay, an autobiographical incident.
·        Science – Larry Hurst
We are about half way through the paper skeleton construction and assembly process in the science classroom. The goal is to have each student’s skeleton hanging in a hallway at home in time to excite any Halloween visitors or Day of the Dead celebrants.   In late October we’ll briefly cover the “Living Wise” energy and water conservation program provided by the Energy Trust of Oregon. In November, after a test on the bones and organs, we will concentrate on the nervous system to study the brain and mental health.
  • Spanish – Spencer White
Spanish students are being challenged with faster vocabulary acquisition and the introduction of some grammar concepts. They are expected to be able to recognize the words we cover using TPR (total physical response)!   We have been working on more efficient skills for vocabulary acquisition, including the use of mnemonic devices to commit words to long term memory. We are learning Spanish, initially, through the use of TPRS (Total Physical Response Storytelling). I suspect your children have already been giving you commands in Spanish to do crazy things at home! Homework is given 2-3 nights of the week and is expected to take them under 30 minutes to complete. If your child is experiencing difficulty please let me know - ( Next week students will do a mini-country study and produce a mini-report with Alison Ward as their substitute. I will be venturing to Guatemala for the week of Oct. 12-16 on a research trip. 
  • Chinese – Li-Ling Cheng
The Sixth Grade Chinese class is off to a wonderful start. Since the school year began, the students have worked on characters, pinyin phonetics, classroom expressions and basic greetings, and are studying School Subjects/ Days/Time at this time. Students are often asked to work in groups to create skits using the expressions they have been learning, or complete reading assignments through cooperative learning. 
During the regular 5-school day weeks, the building blocks in Chinese character is the theme on Mondays. This is an adjustment from last year's curriculum. I hope this will help students ease the transition into writing more complicated characters later. Depending upon student's readiness and background, they are encouraged to challenge themselves from recognizing the character, to know the phonetics, to write the characters without visual clues. Students who are ready to take even more challenges can learn words, a combination of the characters being studies at the time. Please remind your child to use flash cards at home to help them get ready for the character quizzes. After this unit, Classroom Objects will be the new theme.
·        Français 6ième – Monique Bessette
The year has started off very well! We have practiced formal and informal greetings, learned to talk about other people, where they¹re from, their nationalities, have touched on the world of “feminine” and “masculine”, and will have numbers up to 1000 covered very soon! Our first test on Unité 1 will be the week of October 5th. Next come family and Š food!
 The students seem to be getting more and more comfortable with using the School Planner on a daily basis as well as the website that allows them to review the sounds, spelling, and meaning of all that we cover in the textbook. 


         Music – Mark Pritchard

We have just begun the second rotation of Arts and   in music we’re going to sing a four part jazzy round, add instrumental parts and a dance as well!
We'll learn to use GarageBand (a music composition program) and compose pieces using both GarageBand and classroom instruments. We'll work on rhythm and notating music using pencil and paper. Students will burn their compositions to a CD and bring them home for you to hear.
·        Studio Arts – Dale Rawls
In the studio we have been working with light source, shading, experimenting with gray scale and contour line. In the second half of the rotation we explore color through color mixing and combining drawing and color in paintings.
  • Woodshop – Tom Tucker
First round of rabbeted boxes is nearly complete. There are toolboxes, octagonal boxes, painted and carved boxs, wooden containers of every size and description. Good work!
Drama – Deirdre Atkinson
The first Sixth grade drama rotations are off to a grand start with wonderfully enthusiastic and talented young performers. During this fall rotation, sixth graders learn basic theatre and performance skills through games, exercises and a short theatrical sketch. Our first group of actors performed Tuesday, October 6 at morning assembly. Parents are always invited to our performances and we hope to see you there!
  • P.E. – Hedy Jackson, Brian Gant, Carrie Blank, John Hamilton
The sixth graders have been taking an enthusiastic approach to all of our new skill and fitness activities as well as the fitness testing that we have been involved with to this point in the year.  We should anticipate some positive results coming in the next few weeks as we head into our second round of testing at the track.  With the extra training and experience the students have gotten through a variety of campus cross country running and running games, many of them will exceed the previous marks they had achieved just a few weeks ago. This will really help us reinforce the fact that when we focus our efforts and energy on any given task we can accomplish positive results.
Study Hall – Monday and Thursday 3:30-4:30
This year study hall takes place in Parallel Universe. We are fortunate to have upper school students available to help our students during study hall. Our learning specialist, Ann Fyfield, supervises and also can give one-on-one tips and pointers for those who need her assistance. It’s a quiet place to go on Mondays and Thursdays while waiting for a game to start, or to get work done before going home. We recommend it!
If Monday or Thursday won't work for your child, please consider talking with a teacher or calling Ann about referrals for Upper School peer tutors. This year we have a great crop of junior and senior students eager to help Middle School students with any subject from foreign language to math and English. The students are inexpensive ($10.00 per hour) and can work within a tight middle schooler's schedule. Call Ann Fyfield with any questions about this program.
Looking Ahead …
Oct. 9              In-service Day - No School
Oct. 14            Halloween Rummage Sale (Beehive deck 2:30- 4:00)
Oct .16            Parent Conferences - No School
Oct. 21            Service Learning (our first of the year, by C&C) )groups)         
Nov. 4             6th grade helps set up the Rummage Sale
Nov. 5             Rummage Pre-Sale (buses available)
Nov.6-8           Rummage Sale and no homework weekend
Nov 18            Service Learning
Nov. 13           Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day
Nov. 23-27      Thanksgiving Break