Never a dull moment in the Disco

It felt like I’ve started the first class of each Disco week this fall telling the students this: “So, this week we’re going to try something I’ve never done before and I’m going to be learning how to do it right along with you. I’ll have some ideas about how to get started, but I know you’ll discover some great tips to share with your classmates and me. It might get messy and we might experiment with solutions that won’t work, and do things that we’ll have to be taken apart, but I know that we can support each other learning new things.”

It’s not always easy to be experimental in this way. It becomes an act of vulnerability, especially as a teacher.  What if the whole project is a flop? What if the students aren’t ultimately successful with their challenge? What if I need help? Fortunately for all of us, these new explorations into our Discovery Center’s curriculum scope were engaging, hands-on learning experiences at their finest. Take a look:

2nd Grade Skeletons

The second graders practiced drawing and cutting out patterns to outfit their skeleton dolls with custom clothing. They also created personalized name plates for their dolls that were laser cut in the Disco. Finally, they engineered wood and wire to stabilize their skeletons. And while the creation of the skeletons has been an ongoing yearly project,  the depth of integration with the Disco and the classroom made this a truly collaborative and forward thinking challenge. The skeletons are currently residing upstairs if you’d like to have a closer look.

Third graders building paper circuits.


The third graders on the other hand, completed a project I’ve been curious about for years: that of paper circuits. Using an LED light, copper tape and a coin cell battery, the third graders designed parallel circuits to light up 2 LED lights as eyes for their skeleton or pumpkin faces.


The fourth grade teachers and I are hoping to expand the Ocean Day project (laser cut, arduino controlled, light up fish) we did last year by adding motion to the project. As a way to introduce the concepts of mechanical motion, we thought building an automata would provide a solid introduction to movement. Students were able to build their initial prototype using cardboard, foam, skewers and craft supplies. Once they had some time to experiment and engineer their creations, students were then given the opportunity to laser cut another automata or continue working on their original prototype. The results were truly inspired.

I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to explore pushing the boundaries of my own knowledge, meeting the interests of our students and collaborating with other teachers as part of the Discovery Center’s evolving scope and sequence. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.





November 14 Family Letter

November 14, 2018

Dear Families,

We have so much going on in Second Grade right now! I will try to be brief, yet cover most everything if I can!

First, thanks to parents who were able to join us for the trip to the museum: May and Jericho. We learned about local animals, their adaptations and characteristics. Our art teacher, Emily, joined us to help us sketch animals as well as list some that we observed.

Grandfriend’s Day is nearing! It is Tuesday, November 20th. Please RSVP using this electronic link if you haven’t already.

It really helps for planning purposes. Students will be sharing one of their small moment writing pieces, playing a game from one of our math work places and talking to their grandfriends about second grade!

Here are a couple of reminders for Grandfriend’s Day:

  • If grandfriends plans on leaving with the student prior to their dismissal time, they must check in with me and sign out in the front office.
  • If grandfriends are staying for the afternoon program, they need to leave at lunch to pick up their car to re-park at the church. The last shuttle will leave at 1:15.
  • Also, there will be no hot lunch

We will be paper maching our animal masks this Friday! The children are super excited about beginning this process. We first paper mache the human form, then shape to the totem animal, then paper mache again, then paint a base color, then paint details and lastly, add decorations! I will be asking families to help that are able for different steps of this process. Thanks to Kris, Darlene and Adrienne for volunteering to come in Friday for our first step.

This Friday is a half-day with noon dismissal. There is free aftercare until 3:00 pm.

I hope you all have a FANSTASTIC Thanksgiving if I don’t see you before.  Please let me know if you have questions or concerns about anything.

Take care,




Opportunity for a performance at the RIO with ABBA-Solutely

Dear Families,
This organization contacted me looking for students who might want to perform with them at the Rio on Dec. 21.  If your child is interested, please let me know and I will help to organize.  I’m not familiar with this organization, so cannot recommend them directly, but it looks like a fun opportunity for those who are interested.
We represent An ABBA-Solutley Christmas Show, which performs on Friday, December 21 at the Rio Theatre. The show features internationally touring ABBA tribute, The ABBA Show.
We are interested in casting 10 – 15 outgoing children, ages 3 – 13, to sing on stage with the band.  Children must be able to sing, provide their own Christmas outfit and be available for the day of show schedule below. We would request three parent/adult supervisors to be present backstage to help supervise the children.
Day of Show Schedule
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm rehearsal at the Rio Theatre
6:30 pm – children return to venue dressed in Christmas outfits
7:30 pm – 9:30 pm show

The Rio Theatre to ‘take a chance’

on An ABBA-Solutely Christmas Show


SANTA CRUZ, CA (10/11/18) It’s the happiest time of the year, and now you can spend part of it with this tribute to ABBA — the Swedish pop song artisans responsible for some of the sweetest ear candy ever crafted. From “Dancing Queen,” “Waterloo,” “SOS” and “Take a Chance on Me” to “Voulez-Vous,” “Super Trouper,” “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” and many more — not to mention a seasonal sprinkling of Christmas music to celebrate the holidays — this concert promises to be exactly the kind of feel-good experience that pairs perfectly with this time of year. Enjoy An ABBA-Solutely Christmas Show at the Rio Theatre on Friday, December 21 at 7:30 pm, featuring nationally touring ABBA tribute, The ABBA Show.

ABBA-Solutely Christmas Show comes to the Rio Theatre on Friday, December 21at the Rio Theatre at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $40/$60 and may be purchased online at or on the night of the show at the box office. The Rio Theatre is located at 1205 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062. The show is family friendly and appropriate for all ages.


With Gratitude

Dear Course Two Families,

Thank you all for your support while I was out on medical leave. I am feeling so much better and I’m getting stronger daily. I spent some time last week reviewing the material that was covered in my absence and helped clarify some areas of confusion. Thank you to all of you and your students for your patience and understanding.


We are wrapping up our study of probability in the seventh grade course two.   Students have been pondering what probability means and how it is used in the world. We have explored simple probability, experimental and theoretical probability, what sample space means as well as independent and dependent events.  This week we are concluding our study and the students will be tested on the material. We will return to probability in the spring and explore more of the applications of the topic. As with most of the material covered in the CPM program the material spirals which allows students to return to concepts and deepen their understanding over time.


We have continued skills work in our daily warm ups which review skills they have previously learned. Some of the skills they are working on include calculating Greatest Common Factors, Least Common Multiples, fraction work and ratios.


Extra challenge work is available to students who are seeking more opportunities to expand their mathematical thinking. Weekly puzzlers are available which are short problem solving challenges. For those who want larger problems the monthly challenge problem is available. I try to meet with students working on these challenges to keep them motivated and thinking deeply about the problem. All students have the opportunity to work on either of these problems and will receive extra credit for their efforts.


This is a time of year to spend extra time with family and reflect on all we are grateful for. After having to be away from school for three weeks, it allowed me to reflect on how grateful I am for the amazing students I teach, the supportive families and the caring teachers and staff that enrich my life daily.

With Gratitude,


A Time of Gratitude

Dear Sixth Grade Families,

Thank you all for your support while I was out on medical leave. I am feeling so much better and I’m getting stronger daily. I spent some time last week reviewing the material that was covered in my absence and helped clarify some areas of confusion. Thank you to all of you and your students for your patience and understanding.


We are wrapping up our study of statistics in the sixth grade math classes. This study is done at this time of year to support the sixth graders as they approach the data analysis portion of the science fair. They learned various methods of graphically representing data; including dot plots, Venn diagrams, bar graphs, histograms, and box plots. In addition, they are using measures of central tendency; including the mean and median to analyze and compare data. They learned to compare the shape and spread of data both visually and through calculations of the Mean Absolute Deviation (MAD) and the Interquartile Range (IQR). Through this study they learned what makes a question a statistical question. We are wrapping up this statistical study and the students will be tested on the material the Tuesday following Thanksgiving break.


We have continued skills work in our daily warm ups which review skills they have previously learned. Some of the skills they are working on include rounding and comparing decimals as well as decimal operations.


Extra challenge work is available to students who are seeking more opportunities to expand their mathematical thinking. Weekly puzzlers are available which are short problem solving challenges. For those who want larger problems the monthly challenge problem is available. I try to meet with students working on these challenges to keep them motivated and thinking deeply about the problem. All students have the opportunity to work on either of these problems and will receive extra credit for their efforts.


This is a time of year to spend extra time with family and reflect on all we are grateful for. After having to be away from school for three weeks, it allowed me to reflect on how grateful I am for the amazing students I teach, the supportive families and the caring teachers and staff that enrich my life daily.

With Gratitude,



Dear Families,

Happy Tuesday!  This will be a short newsletter today.

Grandfriends Day is coming up soon. On Tuesday, November 20th, we will welcome grandfriends to our campus.   We welcome all grandfriends. We will be working in small inclusive groups, and with the whole group, and we will be sharing with everyone that day.

Goals from our Goal Setting Conferences are going home today in envelopes in the homework folder. The envelope is addressed to you, so that you can read the goals first and then share with your child. Some of the students wanted to read them today with me, and so some have discussed goals with me. I look forward to supporting your child, as we work together as a team, toward the accomplishment goals. We will check in on goals as the year goes on.

New spelling words are going home in today’s folder. We will have the usual spelling quiz on Thursday.

Reminder: This Friday is a minimum day. After school care is available.

Have a great day!


November 6, 2018

Dear Families,

What a fun week we’ve had. I hope you are beginning to recover from the excitement of Halloween. If you have any rotting pumpkins that you’d like to bring in, we’d love to study them! We’ve been wondering about seeds, decomposition, the ways in which size of pumpkin correlates to how fast they fall, how big their seeds are, and what makes them grow in different sizes and shapes. On Halloween day, we watched our first grade friends run an experiment- they dropped pumpkins (of different size) out the upstairs windows, and we watched them fall! It has since raised a lot of questions.

As we begin to really get deep into the school year, Becky and I continue to strive for a balance between emergent curriculum, kindergarten standards, foundational academic skills, and social practice. We are excited for these next few months of school, as we really begin to learn more about our families and our traditions, strengthening the community around us.

All this said, I’d love to welcome families into our classroom over November and December for “mini lessons”. We want to learn from YOU! Say, you know sign language, have a special family tradition, or you speak a language other than English, or you have some bandwidth to do a favorite art project, read a favorite book… the list goes on, PLEASE let me know. I will reach out to some of you (who I already know some about), but please let me know. The “talent” is never too small. The students love to have you in the classroom, love learning about one another, and it helps make everyone feel like they belong. Thank you for considering!

In order to maintain our daily routines, we’d be looking for these “mini lessons” to happen either Wednesday or Friday anytime between 11:25-11:45 or 2:10-2:30. These “lessons” can be anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes long depending on the activity. I can help figure out a “lesson plan” too!

We are very excited to start our VIP this week and thank you to Mosi for leading the way. During this time the VIP gets to practice sharing in front of a group and peers get to practice how to be whole body listeners, ask thoughtful questions, and give compliments. It is such a sweet time where we get to learn so much about each other and ‘fill each other’s buckets’ with love! Please see the updated handout I attached to our newsletter email for more details about your assigned week and what you can do to help prepare for this super exciting time.

It is that time of year when we are starting to feel comfortable with each other and sometimes this means we share lice. While it has NOT made it to Kindergarten, it has been making the rounds around campus. Please remember that it is common and I kindly ask that you be vigilant and check nightly. Please let me know if you find any ‘visitors’ so we can take the appropriate steps inside the classroom. Please remember there is no shame or stigma and thank you for your support.


Since it has been well over a week since our last detailed blog, I have picked a few happenings from the last few weeks:

  • Social and Emotional:
    • I can do hard things!: Discussions & Read Alouds
    • Mindfulness with Glitter Jars
    • How do we say good morning?: Social Norms & Greeting Practice
  • Silkworms & Monarchs
    • Learning about the Life Cycles of Silkworms and Monarchs
    • How are they alike and how are they different?
    • Making teaching posters to share with big buddies
  • Energy & Sunlight Study
    • Design Challenge: Designing and Building Shade Structures for our Monsters
    • Ice Cube Observations (Sun vs. Shade)
    • Sprout Investigations
  • Sight Words: are, the, is, to, you
  • Math: Introduction to Tally Marks, 3-D Shapes, & Probability
  • Handwriting:
    • Wrapping up our Frog Jump Letters (B,D,R,P, M,N,E,F)
    • Writing Numbers 1-10


  • Phonological Awareness: Segmenting words & listening for initial, final, and middle sounds we hear in words.
  • Social and Emotional Learning: Resilience & How to Include Others
  • Specials: Music, PE/Movement, Life Lab, and Art
  • Launching the Writing Workshop: Let’s Celebrate (continued)
  • Bridges Math
    • Number Corner: Flat and Solid Shapes, Numbers Before and After, Combinations of 5
    • Unit 2, Module 4: 5 and Some More, Composing and Decomposing Shapes
  • November Finger Gym Centers
  • Handwriting: Starting Corner Capitals (H,K,L,U,V)
  • Family Study
    • What is a Family? Who is in your family- near and far? How do you help your family? What do you love about your family?
    • Making our Family Portraits (next 2 weeks)
  • Dramatic Play
    • We are in the process of adopting our class ‘pup’ from the shelter (snuggler).
    • The Grand Opening of our Vet Office is tomorrow! Be sure to come in and check it out. We had a TON of fun planning how to set up our office and making/collecting what we need to take care of our animal friends.
  • Observing the Life Cycle of the Silkworm & Monarch Butterflies


November Events

November 7 School Spirit Day: Pajama Day! Wear your pajamas and bring a snuggler to show your school spirit.

November 12        Veterans Day: No School

November 16 Field Trip to Natural Bridges 10:10-11:45am /Half Day of School (Teacher Inservice) Please note that we have changed this field trip from November 9th to November 16th. Please let me know if you can drive your child and other students.

November 20      “Grand-Friends Day” comes up quick! Please feel free to spread the good news to the special person(s) you would like to invite. We will be inviting grandparents, special family members and friends into our classroom on this day and we wanted to make sure your “Grandfriends” have enough time to plan ahead.  Please RSVP here

November 21-23   NO SCHOOL: Thanksgiving Break

December 7   First Friday

December 20 Starlight Sing 6:30-7:45pm


Have a lovely evening and see you tomorrow in your ‘jammies.’




The 1st Grade Learning Zone- 11/5/18

Hello Families,

Is it really possible that November is here, and that the weather is changing, and that the days are really getting shorter? I guess so! “Unbelievable”! (a phrase I use often with the babes-ask them how to say it ‘Italian’ style).

I hope you all enjoyed your weekend, and especially the ‘extra’ hour of sleep. I sure did!

I have great news about our long awaited community art project. The Alieta Andre inspired community portrait is now complete and is hanging in the classroom above the science table. It turned out amazing and is an epic original that is sure to be a hit at the auction (start saving now).

The work that went into this creation took patience and focus as the children studied the various tools, techniques, and style of this young abstract artist, Alieta Andre. They applied their learning to this project and completed it in layers. The process took about 5 weeks and when they were done, were amazed and proud of their hard work. They exclaimed how beautiful their art was and claimed the title artist, just like Alieta. They even expressed confidence in selling their work, just like she does (the auction is coming soon and how impressed they will be when they realize that their painting truly will bring in money for the school). Don’t be surprised if your child wants to turn a spare room into an art studio. Here are some snaps of the process.


In addition to this beautiful art, much has happened over these past 4 weeks in the ‘Learning Zone’. Here are a few bullet points of what has transpired this past month and what is to come in November:

  • Halloween was fun and the children looked adorable in their costumes. They got to experience pumpkins in ways the at they never expected. The measured them, weighed them, counted their seeds, and got to experience a pumpkin drop to test their hypothesis of ‘which size pumpkin would fall faster-a small one or a big one?’ They performed their rap ‘Bat’ poem at the parade and had an all around busy ‘All Hallows Eve’.


  • Dia de los Muertos was celebrated on November 2nd, as we placed pictures of our loved ones who’ve passed away, on the altar. We shared our stories with each other and felt the love for all of our ancestors. There are no words to describe the empathy that was being shared….it was simply beautiful!


  • The ‘Kind is Cool’ Award: This month our very own Olivia Chester took the ‘Kind is Cool’ award for exhibiting extraordinary kindness. She helped a friend navigate through some really difficult feelings and by relating to her experience, helped this friend calm down and successfully participate in conflict resolution. It was quite a beautiful scene to witness. Congratulations Olivia!

  • Zaq reads to the class. This is always and anticipated time of the year. The children love when our Head of School comes into the classroom and reads to them. He always picks a great book that has relevance to their lives.

  • Family Culture Share: We LOVE ‘Family Culture Shares’! They truly are making this already close community of friends, an even closer one! The children look forward to Fridays just for these shares and they are enjoying learning about each others special families.


‘We had Kellen, Olivia, and Ihan share this month and they were spectacular!’

  • Featured Author: We sadly say goodbye to our buddy Mo Willems, but will never say goodbye to reading Piggy & Elephant or Pigeon books. We had to make room for our new featured author, one in which I am sure the children will fall in love with, the late Gerald Mc Dermott. He was a wonderful author and illustrator who wrote folk tales from around the world. He is definitely one of my favorites, especially around this time of year!

  • Featured Artist: We all knew that we were going to have to say goodbye to our adored Alieta Andre, but not to worry…our new artist of focus is going to be Autumn de Forrest, a child artist who lives right here in North America (our new continent of study) in Las Vegas, Nevada. She is known for her ‘oil pull art’ and pop style creations. The children will surely enjoy learning about her style of art, tools, and techniques.
  • Featured Continent: Yes its true, as we are bidding farewell to all of Octobers features, we are also saying ‘so long’ to Australia. We sure had fun learning about the outback and viewing the landscapes and landmarks of this remarkable continent. In saying goodbye to Australia, we did so properly…with Kristin (Kiana’s mama) playing Australian music for us and leading us in song and dance. The children enjoyed this celebratory ceremony.This month we will be traveling to another fascinating place…North America, where we will view its beautiful landscapes and landmarks. We will also learn some fun facts too!


‘Maeta pointing out North America on our map.’      Kristin playing Australian music for the kiddos.’

  • Mathematics: Our new Unit 2 focus is ‘Developing Strategies with Dice & Dominoes’. This unit will highlight the importance of instant recognition of dots on dominoes & dice, and will emphasize fact families (part, part, whole). We will be practicing addition and subtraction by writing equations and solving story problems. We will also continue counting by 5’s & 10’s to emphasize counting large quantities, as opposed to counting one by one. We are gathering strategies to help us become better and more efficient mathematicians.

‘Here they are making ‘Double Flap Dot Cards’.

  • Reading, Reading Nooks, & Language Arts: Reading is happening and our guided reading groups are going well. The children are spending time each day honing in on the different strategies that will help them become confident readers, not to mention, better spellers too. The reading nook pictures are pouring in (thank you very much) and the children are happy to share their special reading places. These nooks are helping children take charge of their own reading and are promoting ‘reading time’ routines. Keep them coming! Today we sent home their first ‘reading goal’ to focus on; ‘Chunky Monkey’. This strategy will help remind them to use the chunk families to sound out words. Please post this goal in their reading nook along with their snap word list and November Calendar (which also went home today). They will be surrounded by words and numbers and days of the week, and will soon become more comfortable and familiar with these important 1st grade curriculum tools.


just a few of our reading nook pictures’

  • Snap Words– We will begin ‘snap words’ list #3
    • would
    • other
    • into
    • two
    • could
    • been
    • who
    • people
    • only
    • find
  • Chunks Spelling- This months chunks are: ap, un, ed, & op. Below is a view of the chunks we have studied thus far
    • at
    • ot
    • et
    • ug
    • ip
    • ig
    • in
    • og
    • am
    • it

‘What digraphs can you use to spell the mystery words hidden around the room’

You can have your child make a list of words that have these chunks in them and ask them how many words they can come up with. Learning is always more meaningful when it is memorable and fun.

On another note, we are picking books for our reading book bags and will be reminding children of their  ‘reading goals’ as they read independently.

  • Printing, Sentence Structure & Writing Workshop: Printing letters in correct letter formation has become an expectation in this class. All of the children have become more comfortable and fluid in their writing skills and know that we are looking for this this penmanship in the work.Sentence structure has also been acquired with the children know that sentences always begin with a capital, always leave space between words, and always end with punctuation.


  • Writing Workshop– Writers are learning that ‘when writers are done, they’ve only just begun’. Children are understanding that a good writer goes back and rereads his/her work and edits and revises. They are adding detail to their stories and are making them ‘like real published books’. We will be having a ‘publishing party’ this month and will have the children’s books on display in the library.


  • November Words of the Week: This months ‘words of the week’  will be:

11/5- slangwanger

11/12- gobbledygook

11/18- balderdash

11/24- balderdash (cont. short week)

Here are the words we have had thus far: shenanigans, hornswoggle, bamboozle, rapscallion, collywobbles, & doppleganger.

  • Science: SUGAR! We will be spending time studying ‘grams of sugar’ and the effects of too much sugar in the system! We did our first sugar demonstration and it was absorbed with interest and fascination. The children learned just how many grams of sugar are in 1 teaspoon (4 grams in one teaspoon) and just how much added sugar a 7 year old child should be ingesting daily (12 grams). We measured various common food products, ones in which we all eat in a day, such as yogurt, cereal, and juice and found some interesting results. These teaspoons were added to a jar and compared to a jar filled with just 12 grams (3 teaspoons). This visual showed the difference between what we should be ingesting opposed to what we are really ingesting. This never gets old!  It was shocking and the children couldn’t believe their eyes.  They learned about nutritional labels and where the sugar information is. You can support this learning at home by showing your child the nutritional labels of foods in their cupboard, or at the grocery store.


  • Pumpkin Science: We spent much time in October studying pumpkins and asking questions about their size, weight, color, and seed count. Who knew that the more stripes on a pumpkin, the more seeds it will have?

  • Fun science….did you say water can walk? Why of course! The children hypothesized what would happen if we filled every other glass full of colored water and added a paper towel in between. We asked whether they thought the water would travel to the next cup, and if so what, why, and how? They were fascinated by what color if any would spill over to the next cup.

  • Mindfulness, Growth Mindset and the Brain: This says it all!


  • Growth Mindset Focus: Resilience
  • Brain quote of the week:I am resilient and learn from my mistakes’
  • Compassion-it Challenge: Self- Compassion


  • Explore Time & Design Lab: Building and exploration continues to happen and the children are becoming more intentional about what they are engineering. Below is a variation of cars….

“Play is the highest form of research” ~ Albert Einstein ( he was also an advocate of mistake making!)

  • Important Dates:
    • Tuesday, November 20th – Grand-friends Day
    • Monday, November 11th – No School Veterans day
    • Wednesday, November 25th-27th- Thanksgiving Break

This is it for now, but stay tuned….

Enjoy your week.

Jonnie & Nichole

An Update

Hello All!

On Thursday of last week, Ana took the group over to Patty’s sixth grade Spanish class to practice their Spanish conversation skills. Children discussed their Dia Des Los Muertos dioramas in Spanish while they also listened to the sixth graders share information about the important elements of the ofrenda. It was fabulous listening to the students engaged in speaking only Spanish. They did a great job!

After lunch on Friday, I walked into the sweetest fifth grade surprise! The children had set up the back table with a bouquet of flowers, homemade cards, cookies, and even handcrafted jewelry. Although the gifts were sweet and beautiful, the absolute best part was the sheer look of joy on all of the children’s faces for having done something so kind. This class is a lovely group of children who really care about each other. Thank you for raising such sweet children and being a part of this wonderful community!

We continue to work on our writers workshop stories. They are coming along nicely. This week we focused heavily on word choice. We used the thesaurus to find synonyms and have started a descriptive word wall. It is our hope to finish rough drafts within the next couple of weeks in order to begin editing and revising.

Today we spent some time revisiting our charter, discussing primarily the specific actions each of us do to ensure we feel proud, safe, accepted, confident, joyful, and inspired. We had conversations about the importance of being kind and inclusive in order to feel accepted. It was quite insightful. Another interesting topic that came up was our physical safety. When I asked what it meant to feel safe at school, one student said feeling safe from dangerous people who may come on campus was important. Up until today, I had not shared my plan with the students should a code red lock down take place. Because the children asked, we went over the plan. They all seemed very at ease, and even happy to know that we had a plan. I made it very clear that while teaching them is my job, their safety is my number one job.

We have some field trip dates confirmed. Thursday December 6th, we will visit Longs Marine Lab and our Marin trip Monday April 22- Wednesday the 24th.

Lastly, I handed back the Unit One pre and post assessments. Please ask your child to see these. It’s amazing how much the children learned in the first unit. Everyone showed so much growth and should be very proud. We’ve started Unit Two, which focuses on fractions.

Busy, busy…

Dear Families,

It has been a busy couple of months in the 6th grade Humanities classroom!

September was full of becoming accustomed to routines, getting used to navigating the ways of middle school, and settling into 6th grade! Our whole-school formal assessments are done (ERB and WrAP), and we are rolling into deeper work now that students are comfortable and know what to expect.

IDENTITY: First Domain of Social Justice Standards

In October, we began examining identity: there are some pieces of our identities that we choose as well as some which are given to us, some that we can see, and some we cannot. We noticed how we can sometimes make assumptions about people’s identities without truly knowing who they are, how they choose to identify. We noted common identity markers that are sometimes visible such as gender, race, ethnicity, age, and class, as well as those that we often do not see, like personal interests, family, and traditions. Using this background knowledge about how we become who we are can help us to approach others with more empathy, supporting our understanding of how societies can be inclusive and responsive to all, all the way from the microcosm of the classroom to how we behave as a nation in the world. We will continue with this work throughout the year.

HISTORY: From Hunting and Gathering to Agricultural Revolution

Students studied Paleolithic people’s way of life, and their possible impact on the natural environment around them. We analyzed mankind’s use of natural resources in California in our more recent history, comparing it to scientific theories of mastodon extinction. (You can ask them about tuna and mastodon.) We focused on the hunting and gathering aspect of these early social groups, and what they may have been communicating in ancient art. We have now shifted our focus to the Agricultural Revolution and the ways surplus food production and irrigation techniques changed the ways people live. Our shift into examining the Fertile Crescent and the rivers that fed it will allow us to make connections across the past and the present.


We completed reading the novel A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park.

It is based on a true story about Salva Dut, a “Lost Boy” from South Sudan, who came to the United States as a refugee (after being in camps in Ethiopia and Kenya for most of his youth) and created the organization Water for South Sudan. They provide clean water to the people of South Sudan by raising funds and installing wells. Students learned that the struggles to access clean water are not something for the history books, but a current, real world issue. They were reflective of their own access to water, and we also discussed who in our own city may not have access to water (for drinking, bathing, washing) and what that struggle must feel like.

We are almost done with a teacher read-aloud book, Because of Mr. Terupt, by Rob Buyea. This novel has been great fun for us to process as a class, and I invite you to ask them about Mr. Terupt, Alexia, Danielle, Anna, Jessica, Peter, Luke, Jeffrey, James and the Collaborative Classroom! The story is written from several perspectives and offers a concrete example of how one event can have many different interpretations, all of which are true to the person telling their side of the story!  

NOVEMBER: National Novel Writing Month (affectionately known as NaNoWriMo)!

In the past few weeks students have developed further understanding of plot, using more complex academic language like “inciting incident” and “denouement”. They have also learned about character archetypes and types of conflict. We have had healthy debates about these literary elements as we discuss favorites like Harry Potter, Shrek, Star Wars, and more; students should feel more comfortable when it comes time to articulate written literary analysis in essay form after this shared analysis. For now, students are going to BE WRITERS this month, taking what they know about narrative and channeling into a story of their very own. NaNoWriMo provides an opportunity for sustained creative writing, whereby students have to do some planning to develop a plot and characters in order to write a novel. Feel free to ask them what their story is going to be about now, and how their work is progressing over the month. Maybe you want to write a novel this month, too?