Humanities

Students have embarked into our next unit of study – the Civil Rights movement. In this unit students have selected and will be researching one specific character from the era. The project will culminate with a video created by each individual student. We have begun research and more directions and details will be presented as we move forward. This is always a great unit to teach and relates in many ways to their lives and futures. Beyond the history of the era, I stress the importance of tolerance and acceptance in their own lives of others’ differences.

I have asked students to watch and read current media to be on the lookout for current events relating to our studies. I’d like them to bring in the article or information as an extension to our historical lessons; these current events help bring the importance and continued push for equality to their lives.

The holidays are nearly here, I will stress in class the importance of staying on task and completing work with the anticipation of heading off on break. Please support this importance at home so we all have a great final week before vacation time.

Have a great winter break, looking forward to this week as well as our return to class after the new year.

Language Arts

The 8th graders have been reading and analyzing The Rock and The River, a realistic fiction novel set in 1968 Chicago, the content of which connects directly to their Civil Rights study in Humanities. Obviously, the book is a vehicle for discussing the issues faced by Americans in the 1960s, but it has also resonated with this class on a personal level, and the students have been sharing, with surprising candor, their viewpoints and opinions on a host of issues faced by teenagers today.

Early on in the book, a metaphor of the Civil Rights movement caught our attention: “Father would say, you get enough people to lean, and the wall will move.” A few days ago, I came another wall metaphor in an article on parenting and I immediately thought of our recent 8th grade discussions. From the article:

Kids need us to be a wall. A wall of support that doesn’t withdraw or abandon them. Even when the pressure of…sports, new classes, and changing friendships cause our kids withdraw from us—often hurting us in the process—they need us to be the adult who stays steady…Help teenagers have multiple walls—not just you. As a parent, you can’t be the only wall for your child. Our research continues to showcase the importance of young people having a team of adults who combine to form a fortress of support.

With a middle schooler of my own this year, I know that they don’t always share, that they aren’t always pleasant, that they push us away at the very moments they need us the most, that while we love them unconditionally, they aren’t always at their most lovable. So I just wanted to you to know that we teachers see them, we hear them, and we are part of your team.

To read the full article, “What Teenagers Need From Us More Than (Almost) Anything Else,” click here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-teenagers-need-from-us-more-than-almost-anything_us_57e9b4c0e4b095bd8969fdbf?kwp_0=242151&kwp_4=934128&kwp_1=451022

Science

8th graders are continuing our unit on forces and motion during our 3 week period between Thanksgiving and Winter Break. We’ve started off our unit learning about the concept of density, and began with a fun density challenge lab to create your own density column using 7 liquids. The picture shows our most successful density column – nice job Ryan, Laken, and Ashlyn! After learning what density is and how to calculate it, we explored Archimedes’ principle and are now immersed in our IB Criterion B and C Assessment based around it. Students are challenged to design their own experiment based on Archimedes’ discovery that determines the exact density of an object. This assessment provides students an opportunity to practice an independent inquiry lab, and prepares them for the more intense lab requirements of the AP programs at Summit and Mountain View, or the IB program at Bend High.

Math

December is one of my favorite months of the year. I love the snow, the lights, seeing the kids so excited about the holidays, winter break, snowboarding, but as a teacher I’m always looking forward to December because that’s when my 8th grader students learn about the quadratic formula. It doesn’t sound that fun does it? However, to help the students remember the formula we will be singing math carols throughout the school next week. One of the carols we sing is the Quadratic Formula Song, which we sing to the tune of Jingle Bells. Most students enjoy the day off of doing math, not realizing that they are actually learning something in the process. Of all the lessons I’ve taught over the past 16 years, the most memorable concept for my former students is the quadratic formula. When I run into former students whom I haven’t seen in years they are always excited to tell me they still know the quadratic formula and break out in song. So if you are in need of some holiday music this break, just find a group of 8th graders and have them sing some math carols for you. You won’t be disappointed! (Sorry no pictures or video yet)

Humanities

Students recently completed our first unit and have compiled their work in a “portfolio.” After my review I will be sending home for parents to admire the work completed. Students also learned the big ideas behind political cartoons culminating in their cartoon of choice and an expository paragraph explaining their meaning and intent. The focus on learning the history of the unit was summarizing information and placing it in a well-composed expository paragraph. This style of writing is important and used often in many ways. Great work by all.

We are now beginning our next unit on World War I. Students viewed and analyzed images, facts, and language in a short video clip to kick off the unit. This is one of the new strategies I learned at Columbia – video immersion. The main project for World War I is a 5-paragraph essay. This will be directly supported in Language Arts class by Mrs. Holdredge and students’ first opportunity to put in place how to write this style essay after having been taught in her class.

The holidays are nearly here, I will stress in class the importance of staying on task and completing work with the anticipation of heading off on break. Please support this importance at home so we all have a great final week before vacation time.

Have a great break, looking forward to this week as well as our return to class after the new year. Happy and safe New Year.

Language Arts

When I was in graduate school, an English professor told my class that “The best writers are re-writers.” And we all groaned in dismay. As they finalize their character analysis essays (due Monday the 12th), the 7th graders are probably feeling the same way I did those many years ago, but they are too polite to complain…much, anyway.    : )

A common tendency, especially in adolescents, is to fire off a draft and call it done. The real struggle of writing, though, is what comes next: the reviewing and re-writing, and reviewing and re-writing again, and repeating as needed. It’s not for the faint of heart. It may mean adding more, changing directions, and the worst, deleting something they spent a long time writing. It requires persistence, grit, and thick skin. If you want to help at home, ask them to read a paragraph aloud to you, or ask if you can read it aloud to them–it’s a simple, non-confrontational way for parents to get involved and students to hear problem areas that need fixing.

One of my favorite aspects of teaching at Seven Peaks is that I see the kids for two years. I witness their growth from this very first essay in 7th grade all the way through their final paper as seasoned 8th graders, ready to leave our nest and be successful high school students.  

Science

Welcome back! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving break. Seventh graders have begun a quick review unit on cell structure and function. While this unit is short, it provides a meaningful foundation for our next two units: Comparative Reproduction and Genetics. This unit also provides multiple opportunities for students to use scientific technology, like microscopes. Last week, students learned how to use compound light microscopes to look at prepared slides, and practiced focusing on the various objective lenses. Students also made a wet mount slide of their cheek cells and of onion cells to examine under a microscope. I loved seeing the students looking like little miniature scientists with their microscopes and becoming excited about the things they saw on their slides!

Math

We are continuing our study of the coordinate plane and will be getting into graphing linear equations this week. The material we are covering these two weeks before break can be very challenging for some students. The calculations required to complete the work is fairly easy, however each problem involves multiple steps in order to complete and students can sometimes become overwhelmed with the process. This is the beginning of what math will become. As we continue to practice and discuss the concepts, the students’ anxiety tends to dissipate and they evolve from fearful, hesitant math students to very confident mathematicians. They begin to look at math problems as challenges instead of insurmountable obstacles. By the time they enter 8th grade, they have the confidence to face almost any problem I place in front of them. What a joy it is to have these students for two years because I am lucky enough to see the growth in each one of them and how far they have come since the beginning of their 7th grade year.

Language Arts & Humanities

In our Literary Essay unit, students are learning to read critically, looking for clues an author has left. As Stephen King once said, “Good books don’t give up their secrets all at once.” Students read a short story and took notes about how the character was revealed. Then in a reading group, they each took a turn sharing their observations. This week students wrote an essay about one character. I am so proud of the extensive work students are putting into their writing. Writing is hard and the only way to get better is to write more!

Science & Math

We have now started two new units since returning from Thanksgiving break. In math, we have started solving one-step equations. All the students are doing a great job of understanding this concept. Next week we will get a start on solving two-step equations. It would be great for your child to teach you how to solve the equations. If they can teach the concept, they truly understand the concept.

In science, we started the Plate Tectonics unit. At the moment we are studying earthquakes and will be doing a few hands on activities next week involving earthquakes and engineering (keep an eye out for pictures). Let me know if you have any questions or would like to help out.

Wow! It has been a busy couple of weeks as we head into the final stretch before our holiday break!

One of the highlights from Science this week was our grand EGGSperiment.  The kids have been studying cells. As we delved into the parts of cells and their roles, we zoomed in on the cell membrane and its role of regulating what gets into, and out of, the cell.

Our EGGSperiment involved using an egg to represent the cell. The egg had been soaked in vinegar, which dissolves the hard part of the shell, leaving only a spongy “membrane”. The kids measured the mass of the egg and made observations about its size and color. Next, the students soaked the eggs overnight in a variety of consumable liquids such as pop, syrup, ketchup and gatorade.

Finally, with much excitement, the kids reEGGSamined their “cells”. They measured the mass and made more observations about how the membrane did, or didn’t, regulate the entrance and exit of certain substances, such as glucose and water. Connections were then made between the experiment and the real-life functions of plant and animal cells. Overall, we thought the EGGSperiment was EGGS-Cell-ent!

The fourth grade is busy preparing for our Middle Ages Holiday Celebration on Friday, December 16.  We have been studying Europe in the Middle Ages since November in Core Knowledge and this is an excellent way to for the class to show what they have learned in an active and creative way.  For our Holiday celebration, all students first chose their top three roles which consisted of:

  • Master of Ceremonies
  • Knights/Jousting
  • Jesters
  • Troubadours
  • Biography of a Famous Middle Ages Character
  • Cooks
  • Minstrels- Middle Ages poetry
  • Acrobats
  • Play  

Now, we are beginning to create our speeches and skits for the festival. Plus, the cooking group is planning, then will prepare a traditional holiday meal with a few of our amazing parent volunteers. Finally, we will invite all of our 4th families to come and join us for our celebration. This is an authentic celebration. In the Middle Ages, December marked a time where most of the year’s hard agricultural work (farming) had been completed, people could start to relax in anticipation of Christmas. The Lord of the Manor would invite all living on his land to the castle to take part in this great celebration–a Christmas Court, full of food and entertainment. This is one of the highlights of the 4th grade year.  Each child tends to choose a role that is in direct alignment with their personality. It is a real treat to watch the festival in action, it is quite entertaining.

The 3rd graders have been engaged with rigorous reading! We have been immersed in strategies for reading nonfiction texts. One important idea we learned in regards to reading narrative nonfiction is the importance of tuning into key details that connect to the main “thread” running through the story. This was pretty sophisticated stuff, but we were able to make this visible by connecting key details in a shared text by using pieces of yarn as the “thread.” As you can see from the picture, the 3rd graders discovered that there were two “threads” running through the biography of Ezra Jack Keats.

Character education is an integral part of creating a culture of compassion, empathy and kindness. Last week in 3rd grade, we began focusing on forgiveness and managing emotions. Next week, we will talk more about breath and body, and ways we can calm down before taking action. You will see you child come home on Monday with their glitter jar. Be sure to ask them about it! For more information on empathy education in the classrooms, click here.

The areas we will focus on in the coming weeks include: *Attention  *Breath and Body  *Caring  *Depending on Other People  *Emotions  *Forgiveness. In addition, the 3rd graders will continue noticing acts of kindness from their peers and add links (of kindness) to our kindness chain. Our hope is to have the chain circle the classroom with kindness!

Second Graders love meeting with their 5th grade reading buddy every Friday, as this partnership develops leadership, teamwork, respect, and trust. Just as important it is for Second Graders to have peers to look up to, it’s also important for them to partner with younger students, so that they can be in the leadership role. To encourage this, we have been reading with Junior Kindergarteners the past two weeks, and what a joy it has been to watch the class welcome the little ones into our reading zone! Last week, students practiced reading their story with intonation to their PK buddy. Today, students explained what “Literary Language” is, and sitting together with their PK buddy, listened to Owl Moon and discussed special language used within the story.

In math, we are wrapping up our Unit on Mental Addition. Students have been busy adding tens/ones mentally, on a hundreds chart, and solving number patterns. They’ve gone deeper by creating posters to display multiple ways of solving equations such as 43+56. This last week before break we will be exploring coding with various activities.

ART:

It’s already December and a new year is just around the corner. In art class we have been working hard and learning all about the elements of art and the life and style of some well-known artists. In November, our 2nd graders learned about two revolutionary artists, Henri Rousseau and Pablo Picasso. After studying Rousseau, students spent a good amount of time creating their own wild collage jungles, learning how to draw animals, creating foliage and playing with color to create their art. Moving onto Picasso, one of Rousseau’s first fans, the 2nd graders pared his wild colorful style with our study of the art element, form. Inspired by Picasso, students created their own 3D portrait sculptures using wood pieces and paint. Looking forward, we will start the new year off with a unit on portraits, move onto a project connected with their in-class unit on Egypt, and begin working on the collaborative piece for our annual school celebration/auction. If you are interested in helping with this particular project I would be most grateful! Please contact me at csantucci@sevenpeaksschool.org.

Second grade art meets from 1-1:45 on Monday and Wednesdays.

The last few weeks we have been busy! We have been getting out and about with two field trips! One to the Family Kitchen where the kids had the opportunity to help brighten someone’s day by decorating placemats for Tuesday’s lunch service. They also made colorful cards that were put in sack lunches for homeless Veterans. Service learning is something that I feel is so important! Not only does it give the kids a sense of a world outside their own, but it helps create empathy for those that are less fortunate or different than what they are used to. The kids were able to learn about the types of families that visit the family kitchen and the types of services that the kitchen offers. It was a great and meaningful trip. I look forward to continuing to partner with Family Kitchen in 2017 to provide colorful place mats, cards, and student-made decorations throughout the year.

We ventured out to the High Desert Museum where the kids learned all about the states of matter and how a catalysis is needed in order to increase the rate of changing matter. We did experiments, made ice cream and played with Gak and Oobleck to bring the states of matter to life!

We had an exciting week in reading where we focused on having reading discussions and how to share what we read with others. We had a “reading walk about” where we shared our love of non-fiction. We also worked on retelling and how to decide what’s important when sharing information about books. It was great to see the kids set new reading goals this week and learn more about what goals students had and what their plan was to reach them. I love having the first graders involved in goal setting and I know this helps them be more active in the learning process.

ART:

I can’t believe it’s already December and a new year is just around the corner. In November, First Graders explored texture in Art. What is visual texture? How do artists create it and how does it affect the way we look at a painting? We finished November off with some fun with clay, talking about the art element, form, and how clay is a medium which works well with sculpture. We will finish this year off with some seasonal art. In January, we will begin a unit on portraits, create some art connected with the class unit on Greece, and learn about and create a class mural. In the middle of all this, we will begin working on a collaborative piece for the annual school celebration/auction. If you are interested in helping with this particular project I would be most grateful! Please contact me at csantucci@sevenpeaksschool.org.

First Grade meets from 1:45-2:35 on Tuesday and Thursday. We’d all love to have you stop in anytime. Happy Holidays!