Friday, December 27, 2013

Odyssey Moments

I asked the middle school members of the Odyssey cast to write some favorite moments up on one of the whiteboards upstairs. Below is a their jumbled list. I have purposefully dropped them in here out of chronological order--I like the impressionistic nature it gives. It interests me that, without prompting, the kids included virtually every speaking part and scene in the play.

Telemachus, to Penelope: 
And now, Mother, go to your room.

Circe, to Polites et al:
I’m holding out for a hero.

Eurycleia dragging in Odysseus to reunite with Penelope.


Give me back my flower!

Penelope, to the suitors:
Get out. Get out. GET OUT.

Odysseus, to Eurylochus:
Killer of hope.

Antinous, re Odysseus in disguise:
Did someone leave the gates of the graveyard open?

Antinous, Eurymachus, and Amphinomus die.

Eurycleia, to Penelope:

Eurymachus, to Odysseus in disguise:
What--get out--I’m eating!

Antiphus, re Cyclops:
He likes us. He thinks we’re friends. Big dumb animal.

Circe, to Odysseus:
Are you sure it isn’t a WO-man you’re looking for?

The sadness of Land of the Dead: Anticleia walking in circles, Tiresias' still vision.

Telemachus, to Amphinomus:
Never as uncomfortable as now, I’ll bet.

Zeus, to the pantheon:
ZEUS HAS SPOKEN. All the gods shall agree.

Amphinomus, to Antinous:
You’re drunk. We don’t eat horse. Do we?

Halitherses, describing Odysseus in the shipwreck:
Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.

Odysseus, to Elpenos:
You'll do as I say, or you'll join it.

Elpenos, opening the bag of winds:
One last--GOT IT!

Eurybates, re Eurylochus and Helios' cattle:
He’s right. He’s so right.

Polyphemos, to Odysseus:
Gods! Ha! Cyclops toots in gods' faces.

Circe, to Odysseus:
You’ll tear my HEART out if you leave.

Eurylochus, re Circe:
She’s beautiful . . . . . so beautiful . . . . .

One of the kindergarten sheep, having failed to convince Polyphemos to eat one of Antiphus' bones, shrugs and starts gnawing on it herself.

How Math Is Working

The middle school math program at Summers-Knoll invites students to stretch their mathematical muscles with three different groups over the course of a given week, and with a consistent cast of mentors giving instruction and offering one-on-one support.

On Mondays and Thursdays, students in the middle school are divided into three small groups, loosely ability-based. These groups of approximately ten students apiece have a forty-five minute math lesson with Sam Hirschman, who orients each lesson toward the particular needs, goals, and interests of each of the three groups.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, all thirty MS students have math for an hour in the morning, under the supervision of Sam, Jason, and me. Generally speaking, Sam will teach a lesson and work with the students he feels need the most support--or the strongest challenge. Jason takes younger students for interactive work time in his room. Upstairs, I gather about a dozen students--the precise roster can change from week to week, depending on the kids' needs. In the project rooms, I convene and facilitate work with a few small groups of two to four students. Each group takes a few minutes to first articulate strengths and weaknesses in particular areas, and to set explicit goals for the day's work. The common area upstairs is designated a Silent Work Space. Some kids are assigned to this space for individual work; others request it.

Wednesdays find the seventh and eighth graders in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) with Jason and Sam, exploring scientific topics, often with a mathematical bent. The featured topic during the Identity theme has been genetics. While that class convenes, I take the fifth and sixth graders for close readings and activities in humanities, all based on the Identity coursepack. In the afternoons, we trade, so the older kids have humanities then, while the younger students have STEM time.

Thus each student has math every day, but with varying orientations, partners, and objectives. The program has enough variety to keep the days from getting stale, but enough consistency--in teacher support, space, and subject matter--to keep progress strong.

January Projects and Exhibitions

Throughout January, we will be working on the next round of projects, these built around the theme of Identity. The Exhibitions, scheduled for the last two weeks of the month, will feature these projects. Here is a sample of what our seventh and eighth graders are presently planning.

  • a totem pole, populated with figures who symbolize key values of Summers-Knoll, carved in consultation with area artists, and secured on SK property
  • a pamphlet targeted to teens explaining online identity theft, researched with assistance from the Ann Arbor Police Department
  • also in collaboration with the AAPD, a unit of lessons on criminal detection, to be taught to Elaine's first and second grade class
  • a new statistical model accounting for regional differences when calculating the poverty line in the United States, developed with support from the U of M Economics department
  • two illustrated children's books: the first, entitled Foggy Lenses, will examine the influence of concepts such as race and class upon our perceptions of people; the other will explore the concept of a fourth dimension, casting the shadows we call the third dimension
  • a mural, to be painted in the stairwell leading up to the seventh and eighth grade space, showing the ways in which identities are manifested at SK and elsewhere
  • a short film of interviews with Holocaust survivors in southeastern Michigan, supported with footage from the Holocaust Museum in Oakland County
While this is not an exhaustive list, and not all topics have yet been transformed into projects, these should give a sense of the degree to which our middle school projects are increasingly oriented toward partnerships with mentors in the community beyond Summers-Knoll.