Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Working Together

The emphasis this week has been collaborative work in various forms. Chief among these was preparation for two separate formal debates regarding genetic modifications in salmon and mosquitoes. Students were divided into four teams and researched each topic before writing notes on arguments, counterarguments, and rebuttals. The class also spent time composing a list of good and bad habits in public speaking. The debates were held to great acclaim on Wednesday. In addition, students finished reading Nancy Farmer's House of the Scorpion and worked individually writing book reviews.

Collaboration was also key in our continued study of the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In this case, students were first given an assignment regarding a proposed classroom constitution. This work was completed individually. Next, each student brought a particular bit of expertise to bear on a full-class activity in which they exchanged information on a dozen debatable issues. The format of the activity requires that every student in the class get some information from every other student. This is sometimes referred to as a 'free market' activity, since the kids trade information and persuasive analysis with each other. The next step, after the holiday break, will be to pool opinions (just as in the American Constitutional Convention) and hammer out a finished product for the 7-8 homeroom.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Busy Week

Post-production week is always busy in the 7-8's domain. (We polished off this all-school project muscling the stage platforms back into the garage and filling out a reflective questionnaire.) In class, most of the truncated week was spent with reapplied attention to the US Constitution, but from a very different angle. This time, the kids were invited--independently--to create a proposed constitution for the class. The next step for this work will be to pool their proposals into a collective document on the whiteboard and begin to hash out a final version, using everyone's proposals as a starting point. The resultant debates should echo the clamorous and divided nature of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. We also looked at the long-term impacts of the Constitution as the document particularly pertained to slavery--an institution never mentioned by name in the document, but which is all over the place between the lines.

Speaking of debate, work in English and Language Arts focused on two formal debates to be held next week. The kids watched video of a middle school debate on a proposal to ban boxing. They picked apart arguments and differentiated between assertions and rebuttals. In coordination with thei work in science, the 7-8s worked in teams to prepare arguments and counterarguments regarding genetic engineering, salmon, and mosquitos. They also worked on written assignments pertaining to the public role of the Sonnet Bomber, an anonymous poet who has been leaving sonnets at various businesses around Ann Arbor. The 7-8s are writing sonnets and other formal poems to institutions and people they appreciate.

In math, we welcomed back Ed Feng, teaching probability and statistics through poker. The pre-algebra class continued their assignments and activities on inequalities. Most have moved forward to Chapter Four in our text. The algebra class kept up their studies of linear equations. Many of the 7-8s tested their mettle through timed assessments on the recently covered material. 

We wanted to go sledding in PE, but the weather was too cold, so we played babyball again upstairs--very raucous and delightful--and then did the opposite of raucous the next day: yoga.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The All-School Project: Myths of Everywhere

History & Society work at the 7-8 level continued to focus on three activities. 

Processing and analyzing the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights was our dominant conversation upstairs. Students looked at ways in which local civic institutions embody both the rights and responsibilities articulated in the document, with a particularly lively discussion on how the police force represents both. 

In addition, students reached the end of the Constitution and Bill of Rights anthology, completing their annotations and preparing for next week's activities. (For a deeper explanation of what annotations are, how they are used, and what students have actually written, keep an eye out for next week's classroom blog post.) 

Finally, we rehearsed the all-school play, Myths of Everywhere, four days out of five. Their sketch from Norse Mythology, Stolen Thunder, has been a source of great fun and growing stagecraft. The 7-8s also muscled the stage platforms into place, narrated two of the younger classes' scenes, supplied further scenes onstage, and came up with new comic ideas which we hope everyone will enjoy.

This week in math, the pre-algebra class began some lessons on inequalities. While many of the students are still focusing on perfecting previous work, many have moved forward to Chapter Four in our text. After learning about birthday lines last week, the algebra class continues their studies of linear equations.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Human Rights

It has been a busy week-plus in History and Society work in the seventh and eighth grade program. Our annotative work in the Constitution anthology has continued apace. The readings for the week have focused on the limitations of the Articles of Confederation, the work of Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and the struggle for compromise and ratification. We looked the concept of equality under the rule of law by examining a few sample cases pertinent to the Bill of Rights. Finally, we took some time to look at the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which later will form the basis for project work in the second semester. We also continued our work on mythology with rehearsals of tales from Canada, India, and Norway in advance of the performances of December 9 and 10.

In addition, this was a banner week in physical education. We played a variety of team games with a variety of balls (foursquare, soft little quaffles, soccer balls, and a giant yoga ball). The next day, we created games with stomp rockets and then played an original indoor game that the kids dubbed 'babyball'.