Students continue to move forward with their studies and research of the civil rights movement. Currently students are continuing to take background notes to learn some of the main people and events of the movement. They are also beginning to focus their chosen character research to writing an essay/script for their video project. Recently, students were provided a handout to focus their work to three main events of their choice to express the importance of their character’s involvement in civil rights. The form also provided a place to interpret their character’s most important contribution to civil rights. Students received a handout to create an outline for their essay. This essay will be used as a script for their character video. A great way to stay involved with your student is to ask them about their character and what they perceive about themselves. The students have discussed connections of the facts we are learning to the “Statement of Inquiry” and “Inquiry Questions” to further their IB work. Ask and see what they can share.

Language Arts

8th graders are proceeding with their personal narrative, a piece about a person who’s made a difference in their lives. This is a highly personal subject, and as such, can present special challenges. It requires students to take risks and be vulnerable, which I know is hard at any age, let alone 8th grade. Please know that I will work with students so that they are comfortable with not only their choice of subject but also their method of sharing. If you have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I promise that any struggles during this writing process will yield a huge payoff. These are without a doubt my favorite essays of 7th and 8th grade — they reveal more about the writer than his or her subject–and I can’t wait for you to read them!


We are continuing our study on factoring. In this chapter there are many different types of questions and students need to be able to recognize a problem and understand the possible ways to factor a polynomial or solve an equation. To help them with this process, we have constructed a “factoring foldable”. The foldable provides the students with the questions they should be asking themselves and the steps they need to take in order to complete any problem in this unit. If your child is having difficulty with this unit, it might be helpful for them to explain it to you using the foldable. It’s amazing how a student’s understanding of a concept/process improves when students have to think about what they are doing and explain it to someone else.

Keep in mind that we are quickly approaching the end of the first semester. I always like to spend some time reviewing the major concepts taught during the semester and have the students take a semester final exam. This exam will be given during the last week of January, so you should expect your child to be studying for this exam in the next few weeks.

Also, don’t forget that all teachers at Seven Peaks have office hours. Please use these office hours as a time to meet with us if you would like to check in and see how things are going. To sign up for office hours go to, click on the volunteer tab at the top of the page, and scroll down to Middle School Opportunities. There you will find the links to our office hours.


After returning from winter break, we began a unit on Simple and Compound Machines. In this unit, we learn about the 6 simple machines that humans use to make work easier. Challenge: can you name all 6 without looking them up? This unit is awesome for students who love to problem solve and create, as we end with an exciting project where students build their own Rube Goldberg machine. A Rube Goldberg machine is a complex, multi-step, chain-reaction based machine that accomplishes a simple task. Students work in groups and use recycled materials to create this machine during class. For two weeks, our classroom looks like a mad science laboratory with marble towers taped to the walls, intricate domino fall-lines all over the counters, and pulleys hanging off most cabinets. We will be holding an open house for students to show off their projects to friends and family members once projects are completed – date coming soon! I encourage all parents to come if they can – students work extremely hard on these projects to make them run smoothly, and it’s pretty amazing what they come up with!

Answer to Challenge Question: Lever, Screw, Wedge, Pulley, Wheel and Axle, Inclined Plane

Visual Arts

As a class we are now working on a self-portraits unit. We began the unit with students independently journaling in their process journals answering questions to help them distinguish what kind of self-portrait they would take. We took pictures during December and the students took those portraits into a photoshop program to work with the values and shading on their faces. From there, they have been working with a printed out a copy of their portrait, collaging over their face values with recycled magazine paper and whatever else they find to express themselves. We have been  spending time on valuing yourself and self-awareness throughout this lesson as well as developing a deeper understanding of color theory and collage techniques.


7th Grade students really enjoyed a lesson on the Wilfred Owen poem, “Dulce et decorum est,” and an investigation into propaganda posters of WWI. We followed with a discussion with really interesting insight from the students on the messages contained in the posters and how that might affect different populations; in particular, men and women.

Our next step is learning more of the history behind the first battles and then we will move on to the trench warfare skits and begin our WWI essay project. Students will learn the basics of new technologies including airplanes, chemical warfare, machine guns, submarines, and trench warfare. Each student will choose which one they want to research and then work toward the culminating five-paragraph essay. This work is fully supported by Mrs. Holdredge in her class. First, students learned how to write a “proper” five-paragraph essay, next, they will be supported in her class with the composition of the essay on WWI.

Language Arts

In class (and for a bit of homework at home when we don’t finish), the students are reading Private Peaceful, a contemporary novel by Michael Morpurgo set in WWI–it’s the perfect companion piece to the students’ WWI unit in Humanities. In our reading today, we saw a reference to the Battle of the Marnes, and before I could even form the question, the kids were clamoring to tell me about how they were just learning about that battle in Humanities today! I strongly believe that these kinds of cross-curricular connections make learning more meaningful for our students, and the fictional account of two brothers facing tough choices in times of war paint a picture that will linger in students’ minds long after our study is complete. In fact, I’ve had to caution the 8th graders against talking about the book with the 7th graders lest they spoil the ending for them. When they saw we were reading it, the 8th graders wanted to share how much they loved the book.


We are continuing our study of the coordinate plane and graphing linear equations. Last week we spent a few days reviewing the concepts we had gone over before Christmas break and then completed a quiz that Friday. All quizzes have been scored and the results are posted on Canvas. To view the results you can login to Canvas and open the grades tab. You will see an icon located next to the Graphing Quiz. This icon will open the rubric where you will see how your student performed on the two standards assessed on the quiz.

We are quickly approaching the end of the first semester. I always like to spend some time reviewing the major concepts taught during the semester and have the students take a semester final exam. This exam will be given during the last week of January, so you should expect your child to be studying for this exam in the next few weeks.

Remember to use designated office hours as a time to meet with us if you would like to check in and see how things are going. To sign up for office hours go to, click on the volunteer tab at the top of the page, and scroll down to Middle School Opportunities.


7th grade students have just begun our unit on Comparative Reproduction. In this unit we study two main things: 1) how scientists classify organisms and 2) how these organisms differ in their reproductive strategies. While students usually giggle at the idea of learning about reproduction, I found last year that they really enjoyed the unit as it involves a fun research project and an awesome dissection. This unit is also taught because it coincides with “My Future My Choice”, a healthy decision making curriculum put on throughout the state of Oregon and many other parts of the country. This curriculum doesn’t begin until mid-February, so I will be sending out an informational letter to parents in the coming weeks to answer any questions you may have. If you are curious about the curriculum or have any concerns, please feel free to stop by my room or send me an email. I’d be happy to talk with you about this curriculum and show you the lessons from the “My Future My Choice” book.

Visual Arts

In the 7th grade art room we have been diving into figure drawing! Figure drawing is a foundational skill in developing an artist. The class will work through a series of exercises to develop confidence in understanding the human figure and accurately representing its shapes with careful detail to the proportions and figure’s expression. The unit started with sketching on large sheets of paper with minimal instruction and has developed into the study of shapes, proportions, and measurements that lend themselves to the human form.

Language Arts & Humanities

We started 2017 with writing activities related to the new year. Students reflected on the trends and news stories of 2016 while making a personal time capsule of their memories. They made a list of the 20 things they hope to do in the new year and 17 things they don’t want to do (or would like to change from last year). It was so interesting to read their lists. Many students wanted to play more of their favorite sports or travel. They also want to do things like spend time with family, be a better friend, and try to help those in need. One student wrote in the don’t list: “Don’t judge people just by looking at them.” Another student wrote in the do list: “Be open-minded”. I feel fortunate to teach such passionate and compassionate young people who are so aware of how their actions affect others and who are hopeful that this will, indeed, be a year to grow.

Just as the snow set in, we began a reading unit on informational texts. Students are taking notes and annotating articles to find parts such as the topic, topic sentence, transitional sentence, and supporting details. This builds on our previous literary essay unit which also emphasized using details to support a claim. The texts are geared toward students’ interests and current events, and there will be a lot of opportunity for students to learn about topics of their choice. This will cross over into Humanities where we will soon begin reading about life in medieval times.

Math & Science

We are continuing in solving equations. Students are doing a great job and I am very proud of them. I am going to enroll the 6th grade class in a national problem-solving contest through Noetic Learning. The competition is on Thursday, April 6th. It is a paper/pencil test in which students are given 45 minutes to complete 20 problem-solving questions. Throughout each week we will be going over different problems to help prepare students. If you would like to do more outside of class Noetic Learning has a challenge math section and for a small fee you can access different problems to help your child think about math in different ways. If you have any questions about Noetic Learning you can access their website or you can ask me.  

In 6th Grade Science, we are continuing with our plate tectonics unit but we are taking a little detour. We are taking some time to do earthquakes and engineering labs. Our students have enjoyed designing and constructing structures based on earthquake safety requirements while staying within their materials budget. Students were only given two materials and they had to design a structure in 20 minutes that was at least 30 cm in height, withstand a 15 second shake test and hold a 150 g rice bag. The students did a great job.

Visual Arts

In the art room students have been busy on a functional and fun ceramic project. We are creating the coolest mugs ever! Our theme is based on creating “characters” on our mugs. These can be scary monsters or cute characters. We have looked at art that shows good character development and what it takes to draw creative, expressive characters, then learn how to make that into a 3-dimensional creation! We were inspired by the artist somewhat local artist James Derosso. You may have seen some of his art at local craft bazaars around town. Enjoy his creative characters here!

Research tells us that students learn best when they are given choices, and when they are working in their  “Zone of Proximal Development”, which is that sweet spot just at the edge of what the student can do independently. In 5th grade math, we embrace these principles during our Math Workshop. Each day, after the new concept has been introduced, students make their choices…With whom will they work? Where? On what math task? Students develop independence, and begin to know themselves as learners, pushing themselves to take academic risks and taking responsibility for their learning. Step into our Math Workshop, and you will see students writing problems for each other on whiteboards, playing focused games, solving problems on, or trying the Enrichment activity. While some students are working on grade level division problems, others are inventing new algorithms, making up story problems, or trying dividends with many digits. It’s our favorite part of math!

In other academic news, readers are continuing to analyze themes. Writers are choosing a controversial topic of personal interest, which they will then research and write an argument supporting their position. Historians are immersing themselves in the ancient cultures of the Maya, the Aztec and the Inca civilizations. Ask them to tell you about their religious practices!

In 4th grade, I have been meeting one on one with all students over the last week to go over Reading and Writing goals. We have just completed our Opinion Writing Unit of Study and our first Reading Unit of Study: Reading Intensely and Interpreting Characters. During our meetings I am giving students individualized feedback on their areas of strength and weakness. Goals range from reading punctuation accurately to elaborating the most important part of your writing piece. Celebrations range from supporting your reasoning with examples from the text to using paragraphs correctly.  Each child is an individual learner with diverse strengths and needs that are being met by our comprehensive literacy and writing programs.

We have been reviewing our unit on mental addition. The Unit 6 test was given before break and several students needed review of missed concepts. One activity that helps increase student participation and retention of material is a structure called “Quiz, Quiz, Trade.” This is a Kagan structure, one of many structures that students are taught in the classroom to help increase engagement and learning. The structure works like this: each student receives a flashcard with a math problem written on the front. He/she must solve it and write the answer on the back. Then, once the entire class is ready with their card, each student stands up and walks around the room with the card in the air. Two students pair up and quiz each other on their card. If the card is answered correctly, the two students high five each other and switch cards before moving on to find another partner. If the card is answered incorrectly, one must gently encourage the other and give strategy hints until the problem is solved. Students continue walking around and pairing up with students/cards until the class has been quizzed on the majority of cards.

What’s unique about this structure is that it is a fun, engaging alternative to a paper/pencil review before the test. Students enjoy being in the “driver seat” as the teacher and helping their peers master learned concepts. Whenever I tell students we’re going to do this activity, there’s an audible “yes!!” shouted in excitement. They love it!