News at 6! - November 2009

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Dear Families,

We are deep into the first term of school and we are pleased to report good news from the 6th grade.  Students are highly engaged, motivated and cohesive as a group. We look forward to Grandparents & Special Friends day this Friday, November 13. The first dance will be Friday, December 4. We will give our students a primer on dance etiquette and help them to be informed and prepared for their first dance.

Beginning December 2, we'll spend our Wednesday advisory periods learning how to knit. There are many reasons why this tradition has remained a hallmark of the winter season for the 6th grade. First it allows all the students to learn a craft that has been handed down through generations. As students learn about the early days of our country, this allows them to explore in an experiential way a craft from the colonial era .and beyond  Also, our students are in need of developing techniques which enhance focus and fine motor skills. Knitting is a superb skill to build strength in those areas. Many students are frustrated at first, which any of us who have tried knitting can attest to. However, with practice most come away with the ability to knit a simple scarf and may even embark on knitting a hat or two.

We are asking that each student bring a set of wooden  knitting needles (size 8-10) with a skein of yarn. A simple 4 ply worsted wool is best. Please bring these items to Ann in a large ziplock bag with your child's name  on the front. Sue Spooner has a few sets of needles that she is willing to sell for a good price, so please contact her for details.We also have some yarn and knitting needles on hand in Parallel Universe if you need some hints on what to buy.  Once your child brings the needles and yarn, we will cast on stitches to form the first row of what will become a scarf. The sooner you can get the skeins to us, the sooner we can prepare for our first advisory day of knitting on December 2. I'd appreciate having the sets by Friday, November 20. If there are any questions, or if you'd like to volunteer for knitting, please don't hesitate contacting Ann Fyfield or Trace Bennink.

Although 7th & 8th grade basketball begins in early December, 6th grade basketball does not commence until late January.  We will have both a boys team and a girls team.  We will keep everyone posted  via the daily bulletin, PEEK, website and this newsletter.

Please feel free to be in touch with any of us should you have questions.  Email is probably the best way to reach us quickly.

Best regards,

The 6th grade team

Math- Nagme

We completed our initial review of fraction arithmetic. We had our second test. Overall, the students performed well; some students plan to do retake tests before the Thanksgiving break.
They put their chef’s hat on to be the master chef of fractions. They developed the mathematical skills needed to be able to increase or decrease any receipe.
We will continue to practice arithmetic as we progress into the applied math units. The goal is for all students to master the arithmetic skills by June.

Humanities – Len & Ann    

We are deep into our study of first people as students worked both independently and in partners on their Adapting to Diverse Lands project.  The project has a number of components and the big challenge for 6th graders is staying organized and all caught up. Students have been allowed to pace themselves, with guidance from certain due dates, but it all comes due on Monday, November 16.  At that point when we will begin presentations in class and a sort of celebration of our learning. Coming soon will be first contact, explorers and not too long from now - the colonists. 6th graders took a geographic terms test recently.  Retakes for those who choose, or are chosen b the teachers will be in class on Thursday, November 14.

Science – Larry

Hopefully, all the paper skeletons have made it safely home, to be kept safe and sound in a closet, garage or under the bed for reference until May.  Our recent field trip to P.S.U. was a great success.  Thank you for the generous supply of snacks!  Your children were attentive and polite visitors to labs investigating nanotechnology, deep-sea geology and biology, and electron microscopy.   Following a short “Living Wise” unit on water and energy conservation, we will complete our study of the nervous system, concluding with a National Institutes of Health program on mental health.

Language Arts – Carter

Over the past month students in Language Arts have read and analyzed the second of two books for their Fantasy Literature Circles unit.  Selections have included books from the Maximum Ride and Percy Jackson series, among others. Most recently, they have put together art, website, PowerPoint, or acting projects interpreting the heroic journeys of the protagonists in their books. As writers, students have written their first major essay of the year: an autobiographical incident piece detailing one challenge that improved their lives. Students have also been writing poetry, whether for the yearlong Heroic Journey anthology (Self Portrait poem) or for the biweekly 6th Grade Poetry Box competition.

In the next week, students will begin the Gender Literature Circles unit, during which they will read two more books and look, in particular, at the protagonists as representative boys or girls. They will be prompted to ask, Are boys and girls really like this today? How are heroic boys and girls different, and how are they the same? In a parallel unit, students will read several folktales by Jane Yolen in which the author deliberately upends gender stereotypes. They will then write fables that require them to also upend a gender stereotype. They will eventually work toward their final unit-ending projects before winter break, video skits that analyze contemporary gender roles in the middle school.
Woodshop – Tom

The last rotation of “rabbeteers” added  couple of new twists to the project.  Add strings and call it an instrument (Peter) or add ramps and call it marble roller coaster(Ian).  What’s next?  Tom

Music - Mark

In music we have learned a four part Jazz round and added our own dances to it. We’ve played the classroom instruments, notated rhythms using traditional pencil and paper and learned how to use GarageBand to compose music.

Chinese – Li-Ling Cheng

Students wrapped up the last unit, School Subjects, by creating a school schedule that reflected their ideal school days.  It was fun to see the wide rages of school schedules when this activity ended: some hoped to have a 6-day a week schedule while others wanted just three days a week; some wished to have 8 classes a day while others just 3.
We have moved onto a new unit since the first week of November: classroom objects.  The learning objectives of this unit include identifying the objects (furniture, equipment) in the classroom, and applying the language in functional contexts.  Interrogative, possessive and directional words are incorporated to increase the complexity of the language.  Our classroom page, Mandarin Chinese (6), at will be used to post audio files, handouts, or homework sheets.  Students will be prompted to visit the classroom page when a given assignment is posted.

The learning of fundamental Chinese characters continues to be a focus.  Students have tried to act as if “Chinese character doctors” to dissect the unit vocabularies which are overall more complicated in terms of their forms, with the fundamental one.  This practice allows students to see how Chinese characters are formed and therefore, to ease the transition into the learning of more complicated characters.
To help your child stay with the pace of the class, please monitor their homework assignments and encourage your child to use flash cards at home.  They are welcome to contact me either through phone calls or emails if they have questions about their learning.

Spanish – Spencer

We're wading our way steadily through articles, nouns, their genders and numbers.  Fascinating I know.  Actually, I love geeking out on grammar with the 6th graders and it's fun to see them try to put it into practice.  The next month will bring a full review of present tense conjugation and we will read a story called Pobre Ana before winter break.  TPR still has us standing on chairs and learning all at the same time.

Outdoor Program - Olivia

The Middle School Caving trip is coming this weekend!  This overnight trip to explore caves near Trout Lake, WA is a great first trip for students who have never been on an Outdoor Program trip. Outdoor Program trips are a great opportunity for students to make new friends, learn about the natural world around them, and develop leadership skills. On this trip we will spend the first day exploring several lava tube caves, winding our way through the underground twists and turns as a group. We will then spend the night in a rustic barn, recounting stories of the day's adventure. The next morning we will get up to spend a little more time in the caves before returning to Portland after lunch. This will be a relaxed adventure, and no previous experience in caves is necessary.

The trip cost is $30, which includes food, transportation, instruction, and helmet. The trip will be billed to your school account after the trip. Financial aid is available--talk to Olivia Miller or Financial Aid in Toad Hall.

Middle School Climbing Club

The Middle School Climbing Club will provide an excellent introduction to climbing. The club will meet Thursday afternoons from December 5th-February 25th to spend the afternoon climbing the walls at the Circuit Bouldering Gym. Both new and experienced climbers will have fun monkeying around with their friends.
The dates of the nine sessions at the Circuit Bouldering Gym, are 12/3, 12/10, 12/17, 1/7, 1/14, 1/21, 2/4, 2/18, and 2/25, from 3:15-5:45.
Cost covering transportation, instruction, and gym pass: $71 ($89 with shoes).

For more information on the cave trip or the climbing club,  please email Olivia Miller ( with questions or to sign up.