6th Grade Life

Vikan Middle School

Archive for September, 2013

Week of 9-9-13 (Flood Week!)

Reflections on Reading (part 1)

Waiting for picture time!!

Waiting for picture time!!

I hope this update finds you dry, comfortable and safe. What a week! It was nice to see the sun shinning again for a bit today! I couldn’t resist and played “The Storm is Over” by R. Kelly. I also used the flood and rain as a teaching moment. One of our science standards is about nature changing the Earth’s surface, how to prepare for a disaster and erosion. Well, I couldn’t have planned it any better! We took time to discuss and talk about what was happening around us. We discussed the way we prepare ourselves and make our community safe. We looked at what a thing as soft as water can do to hard things like rocks, soil and vegetation. Our read-aloud, Earthquake Terror, touches on the subject of floods (as the aftermath of an earthquake). It was a great opportunity to visualize what a flood is and what it does. For others, when life gives you lemons… you make lemonade. For teachers, when life gives you floods… you teach about it!!!! Hopefully discussing, looking and reflecting took some of the uneasiness away that we were all feeling.

Please check the Photos tab for our hands-on Plate Tectonics lab. What fun! What a mess! But hopefully the experiment deepened all students’ understanding of what is below us, and the cause of so many things on Earth.

We continue to do a lot of work with reading responses. Today we met with our reading partners and worked on lots of specific feedback. If you look at your child’s draft, it should be all marked up with great partner feedback. Students should be using the feedback they received in order to make their own reading responses stronger. We are getting better! Students are doing a better job understanding expectations.

I know some of the students are done reading their books and ready to move to a new one. Please use the list created for the students when it is time to pick their new book. The list was carefully prepared and I have noticed many students reading books that are not on the list. Let me know if you need help understanding it or if you need anew copy. It is important for students in 5th grade to read certain books in order to prepare themselves for 6th grade. At the very least, have your student discuss the book they want to read next with me, in case the book is not on the list.

Last comment about reading: You might have noticed your child’s careful reading of articles I send home. We have been practicing having “conversations” with the text. The idea is to read once to get acquainted, and then read again to have that conversation. During the conversation part, they read with a pencil. They ask questions and notice connections and ahas. They underline important parts and circle the words they don’t know. They use a dictionary to look the word up and create better meaning of what they are reading. When students do this, they understand the text better, and come better prepared to discuss the text in class the next day. Some students have been skipping the conversation part. Please check to make sure they are doing what they can do create meaning. This is an important step in their reading process and will help develop great habits for middle, high school and beyond!

I wish you all a wonderful weekend. May it be dry, may the sun shine and give you peace!

Thank you for sharing your children with me!

Ana Marlatt

P.S. – Remember that Thursday our classroom doors will open mornings at 7am. It was fun to see so many faces last Thursday, inspite the bad weather! We got a lot done…


Week of September 3rd

Reflections on Math

Playing the Dice Game!

Playing the Dice Game!

You probably have heard of the Common Core Standards. These are new standards for teaching that our state has adopted. I have started teaching to these new standards last year, and students have adapted well to the challenge. We do math first thing in the morning. I start with a quick review. I try and do this through games (ask your child about the dice game, or doing Table Graffiti). Then kids go to specials. When we return, I give a quick math lesson, and we move on with our routine. All students follow a Path. The Path is a document created by my previous teaching partner, and it follows the new Common Core Standards for math. Due to the fact that these standards are new, and our textbook is “old”, lessons do not follow a linear path. We jump around on the lesson sequence in order to follow the standards. I assign problems from our textbook. Students are free to move around the room, find a good working partner and complete the lesson as soon as they write a math goal for themselves. The goal takes in time how much work they have to complete and also the amount of time they have ¬†available that day. Some kids love listening to their music while working alone. Others love the conversation and learning that comes from working with friends. I walk around the room, checking, giving one-to-one instruction, and checking for completion. I have answer books that I make available to students. Students are supposed to check their answers every 3-4 problems, to make sure they are on the right track. If they discover that the problems are not being completed correctly, they should get me and ask for more instruction. Once all the assigned practice is completed, students need to take and pass a short quiz. Then they are ready to go to the next lesson. This is our math routine, and this is how YOU can help:

1. Make sure your child is not falling behind. Ask your child and check IC to make sure they are on track. I send Missing Assignment sheets home periodically. This is another way to engage in conversation with your child.

2. Remind your child to check every 3-4 problems. We want to avoid practicing the wrong way!

3. Remind your child that checking for correct word, asking for help, and following the routine will actually get them to the end faster! I have had problems with kids cutting corners and falling behind because they don’t want to follow the routine.

4. Every student must OWN their answer! If not, they take the quiz and they are not able to pass it.

After reviewing last year’s math scores on this group of kids, I can tell you we have strong math skills and understanding. My plan is to expand on their success, and the routine I established does that. It teaches students math skills, but also independence, time management, the habit of goal setting, teamwork and integrity. In life, developing math skills is necessary. But so is developing all of the others skills I mentioned. The “best skilled” people still need to learn how to get along with people, manage their time, etc.

You and I, together on this, will result in great success for your child! I look forward to our math mornings and to see continual growth in each and every kid.

Thursday Morning Time!!!!!! – My doors open for students every Thursday morning at 7:00 am starting this Thursday. This is a great time to come catch up, work on homework, ask for more help, read or anything else your child needs to do. This time is free to all and students are allowed to leave the classroom at 8:15 am to either go eat breakfast or play outside with the other kids (or they can stay and continue working until first bell). Please make use of this time and send your child when needed!

News from P.E. – On our PE day (Monday), our students will be doing a fitness test. Please make sure your child comes dressed appropriately, wears tennishoes and brings water. It should be a hot day again!

Thank you for your partnership and support, and thank you for sharing your children with me!