2012-2013 Weekly News #1

by Mrs. Nilsen on September 14th, 2012

Weekly News 9/10 - 9/14

Good afternoon parents, students, and community members.  Welcome to the weekly news blog, where we (myself...and in the future my students) share what we learned about this week as well as news and announcements for the upcoming days.  If you've never visited our blog before, take a moment to get acquainted with the navigation tools to the right.  There are key words if you're looking for a specific bit of information, or you can narrow the posts down to just "Science" if you only have me for one specific class.  For this first weekly news, all three (Homeroom, Science, and ELA) will be in this post.  We're 9 days into the school year and I already feel we've come so far!  In this entry you'll find important information about planners, homework, Engrade, Homework Club, Stop Motion video (including last years as a sample), our Scientific Method exploration, the date for the Science Fair, and more!

Things to know about...

Planners

YAY!!!!  Our planners came in yesterday!  I was so happy I was doing happy dances and even our students cheered when I told them the good news.  I'm so happy to have this organizing tool available to us again this year.  I believe that learning how to keep track of assignments and organization are such important tools for our Seniors to learn.  Parents - please help me and the other teachers truly implement our planners by following these daily steps:

1) Check your student's planner every night when they show it to you.  (It is their responsibility to show it to you...we're trying to build responsibility over time with our Seniors.)
2) Check to see that they're caught up on their homework.  
3) Sign or initial the planner on the far right hand corner.  

I will be doing periodic (probably weekly) planner checks for students.  To earn full points they have to have a) all of their learning goals, b) all of their homework written down, and c) their parent initial daily.  Please do not sign/initial days ahead of time as this is counterproductive to teaching our students responsibility.  Let me know if you have any questions about planners, signing/initialing, or where things are located in the student planner.  Thank you in advance for helping your student learn organization skills!

Homework

If your student is new to Middle School at MRA, they may be experiencing different amounts of homework than they have had in the past.  I try not to give homework on the weekends (although I will on occasion) and I will have homework multiple times throughout the week for all grades.  I expect more of students as they get older, so their work load will probably increase over time.  Please let me know if the workload of you or your student is unattainable.  I want students to be successful, but I also want to challenge them.  Finding the balance is part of the art of teaching.  I want students to be able to enjoy their childhood (as they are still children) but also prepare them for high school and beyond.  

Engrade

I'm so happy to say that we almost have every senior with an Engrade account for themselves and for their parents!  This is a great tool for us to be able to use to communicate academic success and struggles with each other.  Students can see what homework is due, the instructions for assignments given in class, what homework is missing and late, and even send us teachers questions if they are confused.  I've had lots of students using it to get clarification on an assignment already!

I gave (as a homework assignment) students the task of helping their parents set up an account. While I hold students responsible for their own work, I dislike the idea of holding them accountable for a task I've asked of their parents.  With that said, I have it as an assignment to ensure that they would actually TELL you about Engrade and we would be one step farther in getting our middle school digitally connected.  If you or your family has an issue communicating with Engrade, please let me know asap, as I'm starting to have students stay for Homework Club next week if accounts aren't up and running (unless I hear from parents specifically).  

Homework Club

Which brings me to Homework Club.  Let me clear up a few misunderstandings I've heard this week.  If you already know about Homework Club, feel free to skip ahead.

Homework Club (HC) is mostly an after school study hall.  With all the demands and things we're trying to accomplish with our students, we don't have very many opportunities for study halls.  We will have a few (mostly when students have big projects or a lot of homework) but we keep them to a minimum.  HC is part of our compromise to this problem.  We want students to be able to have a quiet, safe, supportive place to do work.  We rotate HC through the different Senior teacher's rooms and we all pop in and out to help any students who need it.  Computers are available to students (so if computer time is limited at home, HC could be a way to help).  

Anyone is welcome to come to homework club.  It is voluntary, optional, simply a quiet study place with teacher support.  

There are occasions where we will have HC as mandatory for students.  When students have late or missing work, we will send home a "Homework Club Slip" at least one day before HC to be signed by the parent and student.  If that upcoming HC day does not work for the family, the parent must provide another date at which the student can come.  (HC is on Tuesdays and Fridays from 3 - 4 pm. )  Even if the student shows up the following day with the missing/late assignment, they must still attend HC after they have been given an HC slip. 

HC is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn how to better meet deadlines, to have a quiet space to work with computer access, and to receive help from a teacher if needed on an assignment, project, or concept.  It is something we gladly offer and I thank you for respecting our time by picking up students as close to 4 as possible.  

Classes 

Now to the good stuff! Note: (these bits will be in different blog posts in the future to cut down on what you have to read if you're just in one of Mrs. Nilsen's classes)  

Science

In Science this week we've all been learning about the Scientific Method!  For some students this is a refresher, but for others the concepts are new and potentially difficult.  Students worked in groups to become experts on one of the steps of the Scientific Method.  This week students have been giving brief presentations with the poster their group created and teaching each other the different components of Scientific Inquiry.  Students have had good insights, been learning how to take good notes in a science class, and teaching each other.  Next week we dive into our scientific equipment and working in small groups on an experiment from Purpose to Conclusion. Stay tuned to find out what we discover!

(P.S. - The Science fair will be the day before Parent/Teacher Conferences in March!  Mark you calendars now for March 20th!)

English/Language Arts

In ELA we've been getting used to our schedule, learning rules and expectations of Mrs. Nilsen's library, and beginning our Stop Motion project.  If you don't know what a stop motion video is, you're in for a treat.  Here's the one my Homeroom made last year:
This fun artistic project is our first writing project for the year.  Yes, writing!  We've been learning about how writing is in EVERYTHING and how it is such an important skill for life.  We discussed the essential question, "Why do writers write," and realized that there are as many reasons for writing as there are types of writing. Students worked this week on their "Storyboard" (a short draft of what their part of the stop motion video will look like with pictures and written descriptions).  As they will not be doing the drawing for their own part, they have to be very specific and give lots of details for this project to work.  We'll start filming next week!  Exciting!

Homeroom

In homeroom we've jumped right into Community Meetings and are getting to know one another.  We greet each member every morning (from handshakes to playing "zoo"...you'll have to ask your student if you want to know!) to make sure that all feel welcomed into our space.  We've about learned all of the names and once we do, we'll move on to the next phase of our Community Meeting.  Check our the Homeroom page to learn more about Community Meeting in general.

We're also starting our Portfolio project!  This is one of my favorite parts of being in the MRA community.  I think that Portfolios are a fantastic way for students to learn all about how they learn, what content knowledge they've gained, and what skills they master over the course of a year.  The growth Portfolios can show is incredible.  Be on the look out for more information about Portfolios in the future!  I'll let you know as soon as we set our Portfolio Showcase date so you can make sure to mark your calendars!

Upcoming:

 
Monday, September 17th
     – No School, Teacher Planning Day
 
Tuesday, September 18th
     – Subway Lunch orders due – Please pay separate from your pizza order.
     – 6th Grade ELA starts filming Stop Motion Video - Please have all video/picture release forms back by this day if not before.  (It was in the very first letter I sent home to families.)

Wednesday, September 19th
     – Subway Lunch
     – Early Release @ 1:00 pm
     – Mascot submissions are due on this day
 
Thursday, September 20th
     – Pizza lunch orders dues – Please pay separate from your Subway order
 
Friday, September 21st
     – Pizza Lunch
     – Paperwork and Parent Booster Survey due date
 

 Dates Coming Up – More Info to Come!
 
·         October 2nd , 3:15 p.m.: MRA Booster Meeting at MRA
·         October 4th: Parent Math Night
·         October 5th:  Jogathon and HoopAThon
·         October 9th, 6:30 p.m.: MRA Board Meeting
·         Week of October 15th: Book Fair
·         October 19th: No School State Wide Inservice
·         October 20th : Harvest Festival
·         T-Shirt Sale: MRA t-shirts are uniform approved. We will be selling shirts with the MRA Logo and the new mascot in October

Phew.  That was a long weekly news.  I promise they won't all be this long.  I hope you can tell how much I'm loving this second week of school and all of the wonderful students we have here at MRA.  It's such a pleasure to be working with all of you, parents, students, and community members.  Comment below with any questions, concerns, or comments.  You can always email me as well.  Enjoy your weekend!

- Mrs. Nilsen


Posted in 6th Grade ELA Updates, Homeroom Updates, Science Updates    Tagged with Planners, Planners, Homework, Engrade, Homework club, Stop motion video, Community


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