Thursday, February 25, 2016

PA and TD for the Week of 2-29

I hope to see many of you at Stem Night on Friday from 6:30-8:00!  Some of the 5th grade PA students will be showing how you can look at your own cheek cells under a microscope along with a few other specimens.  Here is what we will be working on next week in class...

Kindergarten Talent Development did a great job with reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing last week, and we will continue our reading this week.  Fudgie thinks he's a dog in one chapter, and he tries to fly in another.  We should have a lot of laughs together!

First Grade Talent Development will be designing their own robots in class this week based on our reading from last week. The animal robot will need to have a meaningful purpose that can help people.  This is going to be a lot of fun.

Second Grade Talent Development will continue our odyssey through Ancient Greece this week.  Teams of kids are creating a family tree of the 12 Olympians, and we will begin to create the 13th Olympian that each student will design on their own.  

3PA will finish up their tomb designs and share them with the group to start off the week, and then we will be reading about daily life in Ancient Egypt.  We will be reading about a typical day for an Egyptian farmer and comparing it to a typical day for an Egyptian nobleman.  Then, we will move into the system of writing used in Ancient Egypt, hieroglyphics. The kids will be reading about the history of this written language, and then we will create our own cartouche, or a big oval with our names written in hieroglyphics.  

4PA will continue our research on a neurological disorder, and I will share the options for the presentations.  This work is going very well and the students have been finding a lot of great information.  The key part of the presentation will be to humanize the disorder by telling the group stories of people living with the disorder, not just a list of facts.  The kids and I have been talking about what it means to be a storyteller and how to weave facts into a narrative that will be engaging for the audience.  

5PA will be completing their work on the "color, symbol, and image" activity based on their autobiographies this week, and everyone will be checking out a work of fiction by the author of their autobiographies.  The kids are going to read the novels, annotate them, and then prepare for a Socratic Seminar focused on how the life of the author is reflected in their writing.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

NASA Challenge

 The Star Trek Replicator Challenge is being offered by NASA and The ASME Foundation.  The launch video is a great introduction to the challenge, which invites students to “design a non-edible, food related product for astronauts to 3d print in the year 2050.”  The contest opened on 2/16/16, and will close on 5/1/16.  You can find rules and specific guidelines (which are a bit intimidating) on the official challenge website.

Two Other Invention Challenges
The 2016 Annual Invent It Challenge, sponsored by Spark!Lab, invites participants from 5-21 years of age to submit an idea for a solution to a real-world health problem.  The deadline for submissions is 3/18/16.  Click on the above link for more details.
Invent It Challenge
Imagination Foundation (the wonderful organization behind Global Cardboard Challenge and many other great activities for kids) has teamed up with AT&T to offer the Inventor’s Challenge.  According to their site, “we invite kids of all ages around the United States to invent a solution to a challenge faced by their school or community.” (I’m not certain if they literally mean all ages, as I couldn’t find actual age restrictions on their site.)  Submissions are due by 3/11/16.  Visit the site for more information and register to receive a free download of the “Playbook” with ideas and suggestions for participation.
Inventor Challenge

Sunday, February 21, 2016

PA and TD for the Week of 2-22

Kindergarten Talent Development will begin a novel study this week.  We will be reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume.  The story is about the adventures of two brothers, Peter and Fudge, living in New York, trying to fly, and accidentally eating a turtle.  It is filled with humor and I'm sure the kids will love reading it together.  The kids will be recording facts about the story elements and characters as we read.

First Grade Talent Development is going to have an awesome week reading about robotics.  I have three articles about three different robots, a robotic cockroach, a robotic jellyfish, and a robotic penguin.  We will discuss what they were created for, how they can help people, and yes the kids will also be designing their own animal robot next week!

Second Grade Talent Development will be continuing our investigation of the 12 Olympian God and Goddesses of Ancient Greece.  This week, the kids will begin a project where they will create their own 13th Olympian God or Goddess.  I'm looking forward to seeing their creative sides shine this week.

Third Grade PA will be finishing up our exploration of The Valley of the Kings this week.  Now that the kids have explored the tombs in the Pyramids and the Valley of the Kings, and learned how and why they were built, it's time to design their own Ancient Egyptian tomb!  We will start this project this week.

Fourth Grade PA will be working on our neurology research all week long. 

Fifth Grade PA students need to finish reading and annotating their autobiographies by the beginning of PA on Friday.  The kids will have time in class on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday to read and annotate.  Wednesday is a Capstone Day, and on Friday, teams of students will be working on a "Visible Thinking" strategy called color, symbol, image in teams using their author's life story as the focus.  

Thursday, February 11, 2016

PA and TD for the Week of 2-15

There is no school on Monday because of the President's day holiday, and no school on Tuesday for parent teacher conferences. 

Kindergarten Talent Development will be headed to the LMC this week to talk about making good book choices. 

First Grade Talent Development will be continuing our research on an inspirational person this week. 

Second Grade Talent Development will move forward with our research on the 12 Olympian Gods of Ancient Greece during our time together. 

Third Grade PA is going to begin exploring The Valley of the Kings in Ancient Egypt.  The kids will be selecting a few different tombs to explore, specifically the artifacts left behind, the artistic and architectural features of the tomb, and what they tell us about the king or queen's life.  The students will be using a great site, The Theban Mapping Project for this assignment. 

Fourth Grade PA will continue our exploratory research on a neurological disorder this week, and all of the students will be selecting the one they will be using for their research project and presentations. Everyone has a rubric for this project with all of the required components at school.

Fifth Grade PA all had a Capstone check in with me last week, and the projects are all progressing nicely.  This week we will switch gears and begin reading and annotating an autobiography written by an author.  The kids will be reading about the author's life, and then selecting a work of fiction written by the author to see how their personal experiences are reflected in the characters and stories they crafted, and how writing can be seen as a system with different inputs and outputs.  I'd like the kids to read about the books I have available, below, for this project before class on Wednesday so everyone can choose a book that they find interesting. 

The Girl from Yamhill, Beverly Cleary
Rationale: A Girl from Yamhill operates on many levels: as a straightforward recounting of the events in the life of a fairly ordinary child, as a psychological study of a young girl and her relationship with her mother, as the development of a writer, and as a history of American life in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Any one of these accounts can serve as an example of a system. One prominent example deals with Beverly’s discontent with the choices of books available to children during the early 20th century. As a child, Beverly found books to be boring and unrealistic. Most books written for boys and girls were either trying very hard to teach them important lessons, or were so far-fetched that nothing like that could ever possibly happen in real-life. She decided to change the system that she perceived as being dysfunctional. Ultimately, her honest and authentic depiction of childhood (input), resulted in a positive systematic change (output). Providing an appealing literary choice for young adults ultimately motivated children to read, and inspired many other authors to write literature for children.

Childtimes, Eloise Greenfield
Rationale: In many ways, Childtimes is a chronicle of the African-American family, and African-American women in particular, as seen through the eyes of three women. The narration and dialogue of the book reflect African-American culture from just after the Civil War almost to the eve of the Civil Rights movement. Through the examination of 3 consecutive generations within the same family system, we can clearly see how historical events, and social attitudes and norms of the time (input), impacted the relationships, decisions and perspectives (interactions) of the members. As a result (output), generations of African-Americans continue to learn and benefit from their cultural ancestors, and young readers come to learn about the daily prejudice and discrimination to which African Americans were routinely subjected during this period. The question of how and why systems change over time, and are often replaced by something new, is a powerful theme of systematic change.

How I Came to Be a Writer, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Rationale: Phyllis Naylor’s writing journey began when she was just a little girl, asking her parents to read aloud to her. Her father would act out voices as he read Huckleberry Finn, and her mother kept reading great books out loud well into her children’s teen years.  Naylor describes the journey of moving from writing short pieces to writing a whole novel — understanding that this transition is a struggle for many writers. She explains to the reader that at first she made the mistake of “trying to throw in everything but the kitchen sink,” which caught the attention of an astute editor, who asked her to revise it. She rewrote the whole book following the editor’s suggestions for improvement, and What the Gulls Were Singing became her first published novel in 1967. In How I Came to Be a Writer, Naylor illustrates the long and sometimes arduous process of writing a novel (system). She provides insights into how difficult the process can be (inputs, interactions), how failures and successes are handled (output),and why individuals keep trying even when rejection slips keep piling up (continuous cycle).

A Day of Pleasure, Isaac B. Singer
Rationale: A Day of Pleasure is not only about a series of incidents and adventures of a young boy growing up in Warsaw, Poland during the 1930’s, it is about growing up itself. In Singer’s memoir, one can sense the hopes, fears, aspirations, difficulties, disappointments, and encouragements that are all a part of the growing up process. It also examines the conflicts caused by a deeply religious upbringing-Singer’s father and maternal grandfather were both rabbis-and the conflict Isaac faces as he tries to strike balance in his life. Having a father who is a rabbi brings with it certain expectations, many of which are difficult to achieve in a secular world. This scenario serves as an effective example of how over time, human systems adapt, change in prominence, or are replaced.

The Invisible Thread, Uchiko Uchida
Rationale: The first part of the book relates events typical of Uchida’s background and how these events influenced the person she became. Each chapter is a collection of memories around a theme or event—what Sundays were like in the Japanese community, her parents’ history, family vacations, a visit to Japan. Any one of these events offer a glimpse into a system, it’s members (elements), their interactions (family and community), and what these systems are able to produce (outputs). The second part of the book describes Uchida’s struggle, within herself, to feel accepted and comfortable in both her ancestral and modern-day worlds. How these systems change over time, and in some cases, are replaced by others, is a common theme when examining immigration and assimilation into a new culture.

The Lost Garden, Laurence Yep
Rationale: The Last Garden, is an autobiography of a Chinese-American boy raised in a black neighborhood, a child too American to fit into Chinatown, and too Chinese to fit in anywhere else. This novel is a fitting together of Yep's own puzzle pieces of his life, sometimes even having to join or reinvent the pieces. Some of the most notable figures in this book are his hardworking parents, owners of a grocery store, and the drudgery and energy involved in successfully managing the store.

Boy, Roald Dahl
Rationale:  Dahl’s first autobiography describes the author’s life from birth until leaving school, focusing on living conditions in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s, the public school system at the time, and how his childhood experiences led him to writing as a career. The public school system in Britain during the early 1920’s is a fascinating study. Identifying the critical components of this system, responding to the question of whether or not this system was productive (and why), and the making a comparative analysis of Britain’s public school system and our own, will lead to a better understanding of systems and change.

Knots in My Yo-Yo String: The Autobiography of a Kid, Jerry Spinelli

Rationale: Throughout Spinelli’s reminiscing, he points out the influences that ultimately turned him into a writer (connect to system of writing). He also encourages kids to create stories by drawing on their own experiences. Comparisons of Spinelli’s system of writing and their own can be drawn.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

PA and TD for the Week of 2-8

PA testing is over, so our normal schedule is back!!!  Here is what we will be working on this week. 

Kindergarten Talent Development will be reading a wordless picture book by David Wiesner titled Free Fall.  The story is about a boy who falls into a book while dreaming.  We will be mapping out the details in the story, then we will draw things we all dream about, and finally we will go to the LMC to find a book that looks like our dreams to read and talk about. 

First Grade Talent Development will be using Pebble Go, an online database of stories, facts, and biographies, to do some research on an inspirational person that they have never heard about before. It's always fun to learn about something completely new!

Second Grade Talent Development will begin a unit on Ancient Greece this week.  The kids and I will be learning about the concept of a system, the elements in a system, and the inputs and outputs of different systems.  I will be introducing the 12 Olympian Gods of Ancient Greece, and the students will begin doing some research on the mythology of this amazing civilization. 

3PA will be exploring a book about how the pyramids were constructed in Ancient Egypt this week.  Last week, we watched most of a documentary film that provided great background knowledge about these structures.  The students each took about 4 pages of notes with facts and details we learned.  This week, we will compare what we saw last week with a text about this wonder of the ancient world.  We also have a special guest coming to class this week. There just happens to be a Fulbright scholar from Egypt visiting Naperville for a semester at North Central College. Egyptian Scholar, Maha Mourad, will be coming to Brookdale on Tuesday to speak with the kids about Ancient Egyptian society and religion.

4PA will begin a research project on a neurological disorder this week in class. Each student will be exploring three of the disorders I have under the "4PA Neuroscience Links" tab on the website, and then selecting one to use for an in depth research project and presentation that we will be working on during PA for the next few weeks.

5PA will have the whole week to work on their Capstone projects. I have arranged "Capstone Conferences" with each student so we can check in and set goals for the next few weeks.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

5th Grade Transition Meeting

Save the Date -- Project Arrow PTA: 5th Grade to Middle School Transition Night 2/17/16

Based on the success of our High School Transition night, we are hosting a 5th-grade-to-Middle School PA transition night. The format will be similar to the HS Transition night's format. We'll have a panel of students and parents answering questions.

We are close to confirming the date, but wanted to give you a heads-up. The plan is to host this event at Still Middle School on Wednesday, February 17th at 7:00 pm.

As soon as we confirm the date/time, we will send out a formal invitation. Given that the facility is smaller than the space at a high school auditorium, we'll need everybody to reserve a spot.

Thanks, as always, for your support. 

Kind regards,
Greg Smith
President: Project Arrow PTA

My Wish for my Students