Language Arts, Elsa Foote and Math, Makalani Hovey-Vicknair
Our first full week in Language Arts and Math has been all about continuing to establish a strong sense of belonging and community as a class. As the three new staff members on the 7th & 8th-grade team, our goal has been to get to know our students, while also sharing aspects of our teaching philosophies with them. A central belief we both hold is that students do best in school when they have a “growth mindset.” Dr. Carol Dweck, a professor known for her research on the mindset psychological trait, shared her research findings which revealed that, “students’ mindsets—how they perceive their abilities—played a key role in their motivation and achievement, and we found that if we changed students’ mindsets, we could boost their achievement.” To work towards establishing a growth mindset, students attempted a seemingly impossible “Paper Challenge” in Language Arts as a means of understanding the value of struggling and persevering through difficult tasks. We look forward to continuing to build each students’ capacity to change the way they think about learning and their abilities.
In mathematics, students actively participated in numerous challenges that required perseverance, collaboration, and open minds while they explored different paths to problem solving. Within this week of inspirational maths (yes, the “s” is deliberate), students explored what qualities and behaviors contribute to successful collaboration and teamwork. We will continue to work towards successful group practices where EVERYONE experiences productivity and a sense of belonging. We look forward to continuing to build each students’ capacity to change the way they think about learning and their abilities.
Next week in Language Arts students will refresh their memory on literary elements with a short story mini-unit, before we dive into our first novel: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
It will also be a big week for our mathematicians because we begin to dive into the curriculum and continue to stretch our minds and explore concepts in a deeper and more meaningful manner.
Humanities with Greg Conrad
The students took on a design challenge to build a better classroom Monday with the aid and direction of Deb Asato. The intent is for students to take ownership in their learning by working to transform our classroom space into an environment that supports student needs AND fits within the restraints of space and budget. This is a work in progress that will hopefully lead to different seating and desks in our classroom.
Our class is beginning to settle in and we have begun our first unit of study – “Freedom, Equality, and Tolerance.” The idea behind this unit is investigating human rights both past and present and will provide many options and choices for students to take their own direction.
We will be using facinghistory.org for our unit, providing lesson plans to explore past and present events in human rights. At this time I am looking to create a project that is student-centered with an end product of a video. I plan to use the design lab and the expertise of both Mr. Lenz and Mr. Seehausen, both of whom have provided ideas and support.
Starting Friday, students will investigate current events on a weekly basis during our Friday class period. We’ll start with the basics and move toward more specific investigations as we progress with fluid discussions and debates that students have specific interest in.
With the new direction in Humanities connecting to and utilizing design thinking and the design lab, I will be “looping” the 7th and 8th grade classes. This simply means both 7th and 8th grade students will be exploring the same units at their grade level.
My first teaching period extends from Monday, September 11 through Friday, October 13.
SEL with Amy Parks
Upper School started their Social Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons on Fridays. SEL is the process of developing the fundamental life skills needed to effectively and ethically handle ourselves, our relationships, and our work, in other words, developing the whole child. Our first lessons focused on the science behind SEL and the connection between our breath and our brains. We watched Dr. Dan Seigel show us his hand model representation of our brain/body connection and the need to be able to calm ourselves. You can see it here: Dan Seigel Hand
Students practiced communication, trust, and patience with many movement activities such as untangling themselves from a group knot, supporting each other in partner activities and learning to power through a challenging activity as they drew a star while looking at it only through a mirror. The focus is caring for ourselves and caring for others.
Benefits mentioned by students at the end of class were feeling more calm and connected! We will continue to build community, compassion for ourselves and others, and learn ways to stay focused as emotional or difficult things come up in their lives.