Sunday, May 3, 2015

In the Home Stretch of 2014-2015

My intention was to use this blog to highlight the "AHA" moments of teaching. It was highjacked for a bit by PARCC ( like all of education seemed to be), but let's try to put the drama in perspective. It is over. The end of year PARCC was much less of an imposition and now we wait to see if the results are meaningful.

In the meantime lots of cool things are going on in room 304!

Grade 5 students are now firmly entrenched in our school culture. This time of year students raise money for Pennies for Patients program to fund Leukemia and Lymphoma research. The grade 5 kids have come up with so many new and original fundraising ideas while their homerooms compete to extract as much money as possible from each other;  a three on three soccer tournament, a dunk tank, sponsoring Elsa and Anna characters to come to the elementary school building, along with all the traditional raffles, bake sales etc. They raise a lot of money for a good cause, but also get to practice a lot of leadership, planning and collaboration skills.

In SS class we continue to pick units out of our textbook and then to supplement the reading with projects and activities to get deeper meaning and connections. Interestingly, this book splits Southwest  Asia (Middle East) into two different chapters ; Ch 18 : Arabian Peninsula and Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, which we studied earlier in the year,  and Ch17 ; Eastern Mediterranean (Turkey, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon).

We watch CNN student news. Many days they report on the activities of ISIS in the Middle East.

GREAT QUESTION posed by a student. " If ISIS thinks that Syria and Iraq should be one country (theirs) ... How come our textbook doesn't even say they are in the same region ? Umm.. book is 15 years old?, We westerners know less than we think we do about the real ethnic divides of the Middle East ? But that is clearly critical thinking and questioning at its best... And we are now in the process of doing comparing and contrasting work of Iraq and Syria.

And here is another ISIS connection gem from my grade 6 students :

We studied the Roman Empire for many weeks. Students did a project comparing the Roman Empire to the Modern World . They picked a thesis (it is the same, they are different) and supported their thesis with details from the cultures in topics of entertainment, military, government, religion, social structure, famous leaders, and art/architecture. They did a great job and we spent some time talking about how this great Roman Empire became so vast it was difficult to manage and that barbarians were able to topple it in the 5th century.

ANOTHER GREAT QUESTION : If we proved Roman Empire is so much like the USA, do you think that ISIS is like the barbarians and they plan to topple us ?

Sooooo.... more time spent with a very motivated question about ISIS and their goals. Rest easy, we found out that ISIS is very localized and organized and really only wants to control their own little corner of the Middle East.

I get my own little "world issue think tank" for a few more weeks with this extraordinary group of students. Then, as ever, I am optimistic that maybe this is the year I will become a full time school administrator... A few opportunities are in the mix right now. We shall see.