This Week’s News

As you know, the students have been working diligently to strengthen their writing skills, participating in daily writing mini-lessons and writing much free verse poetry.  The students were curious about the expectation that they write nearly a poem a day, and one student asked the purpose of writing so much poetry.  It is a valid question.  Students are being asked to write so much poetry at the beginning of the year because by its nature, poetry is generally shorter than prose, so allows for students to practice new strategies, techniques, and skills without the demand of writing pages of prose.  So far, every child has worked to revise at least two free verse poems. Students selected their strongest pieces to publish, and the first set of these poems is posted—alphabetically— for you to read and enjoy.

In class, we have been discussing critical thinking and the importance of maintaining a nonjudgmental stance when others share their thinking. Sometimes in life (and in school), there are many possible ways of perceiving things. Strong critical thinking skills will help students navigate the world. Critical thinking may perhaps be best understood as the ability of thinkers to take charge of their own thinking. This requires that they develop sound criteria and standards for analyzing and assessing their own thinking and routinely use those criteria and standards to improve its quality. A critical thinker asks pertinent questions, assesses statements and arguments, is able to admit a lack of understanding or information, has a sense of curiosity, is interested in finding new solutions, is able to clearly define a set of criteria for analyzing ideas, is willing to examine beliefs, assumptions, and opinions and weigh them against facts, listens carefully to others and is able to give feedback, sees that critical thinking is a lifelong process of self-assessment, suspends judgment until all facts have been gathered and considered, looks for evidence to support assumptions and beliefs, is able to adjust opinions when new facts are found, looks for proof, examines problems closely, and is able to reject information that is incorrect or irrelevant. Students will be working to hone their critical thinking skills throughout the year.

Healthy for Life Tip of the Week

healthy for life


The Old Adobe Union School District has partnered with St. Joseph Health System and the Petaluma Education Foundation to support and encourage healthy lifestyles.  Included in this partnership are weekly tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  The first tip is below.


Think Inside the Lunch Box

The start of school is a great time to do a “lunch makeover.” Take five minutes on the weekend to plan your lunch meals and make a shopping list. This will pay big nutritional dividends. Here are some ideas or create your own.

  • Ready-to-eat foods are more likely to be eaten.  Example: peel and segment an orange instead of a whole orange.
  • Use a cookie cutter to cut up sandwiches into fun shapes.
  • Dips: try hummus instead of high fat chip dips.
  • Crunch textures: provide whole wheat crackers and raw veggies.
  • A variety of fruits and veggies will provide a colorful rainbow of nutrients.
  • Let kids plan a lunch: Have the kids help make a shopping list, buy the foods, and let them prepare their lunch … remember to keep it healthy!
  • Wraps: search the refrigerator for leftover meat and the cupboard for beans and make a healthy wrap. Try whole wheat or corn wraps and bread to add whole grains.
  • Fruits make a great dessert.
  • Recipe idea: Chicken or Tuna salad: combine 1 small can of water packed chicken/tuna with a small amount of low fat mayo or plain yogurt, celery, and shredded carrots (can also use leftover chicken or fish). Other veggies can be also added.


This Week’s News

As you know, we began our writing instruction the very first day of school with the study of poetry. We have been writing free verse poetry because of its flexibility and the ease of its form, since it has very few rules, relying on line breaks and word choice to guide the reader. In free verse poetry, there are no set rules: no specific rhyming scheme, syllable count, metric pattern, line arrangement, or theme. The poet is “free” to write however s/he wants. Students now have written between five and seven free verse poems (some students have written more). Students have especially been focusing to incorporate new strategies and rules from their daily writing mini-lessons. Soon students will select a few of their poems to publish on the class website.  Stay tuned!

Transitioning from an algorithm-driven math program to one that emphasizes concept-building and critical thinking has provided challenge.  Essential to greater mathematical understanding is the ability of students to manage the disequilibrium that arises as they move from beginning stages of understanding to greater mastery.  Perseverance and stamina are required so that students push through frustration and/or bewilderment rather than giving up when success isn’t instantaneous or at the first sign of demanding academic content.

Additionally, this year, there are times when students will work in small groups to accomplish academic tasks.  Working with a group can be extremely challenging and learning to do so successfully is an important skill.  Randy Pausch, who was an innovative professor at Carnegie Mellon, developed some excellent tips for working with groups.  He designed these for his college students, but they are equally applicable to many group situations.  Your students will be discussing these tips, which are as follows:

Tips for Working Successfully in a Group

by Randy Pausch, for the Building Virtual Worlds course at Carnegie Mellon, Spring 1998, and adapted slightly for Old Adobe’s sixth grade students

Meet people properly.  It all starts with the introduction.  Then, exchange contact information, and make sure you know how to pronounce everyone’s names.

Find things you have in common.   You can almost always find something in common with another person, and starting from that baseline, it’s much easier to then address issues where you have differences.  This is why cities like professional sports teams, which are socially galvanizing forces that cut across boundaries of race and wealth.  If nothing else, you probably have in common things like the weather.

Make meeting conditions good.  Have a large surface to write on, and make sure there aren’t lots of distractions.  Make sure no one is hungry, cold, or tired.

Let everyone talk.  Even if you think what they’re saying is stupid.  Cutting someone off is rude, and not worth whatever small time gain you might make.  Don’t finish someone’s sentences for him or her; they can do it for themselves.  And remember: talking louder or faster doesn’t make your idea any better.

Check your egos at the door.  When you discuss ideas, immediately label them and write them down.  The labels should be descriptive of the idea, not the originator: “the troll bridge story,” not “Jane’s story.”

Praise each other.  Find something nice to say, even if it’s a stretch.  Even the worst of ideas has a silver lining inside it, if you just look hard enough.  Focus on the good, praise it, and then raise any objections or concerns you have about the rest of it.

Put it in writing. Always write down who is responsible for what, by when.  Be concrete and establish accountability.  Also, remember that “politics is when you have more than two people” – with that in mind, always communicate all ideas to all members of the group.  This rule should never be violated; don’t try to guess what your group mates might or might not want to hear about.

Be open and honest.  Talk with your group members if there’s a problem, and talk with me if you think you need help.  Working cooperatively and productively in a group is a challenge.  If we all go into it knowing that’s an issue, we should be comfortable discussing problems when they arise. Be forgiving when people make mistakes, but don’t be afraid to raise the issues respectfully when they come up,

Avoid conflict at all costs. When stress occurs and tempers flare, take a short break. Clear your heads, apologize, and take another stab at it.  Apologize for upsetting your peers, even if you think someone else was primarily at fault; the goal is to work together, not start a legal battle over whose transgressions were worse. It takes two to have an argument, so be the peacemaker.

Phrase alternatives as questions.  Instead of “I think we should do A, not B,” try “What if we did A, instead of B?”  That allows people to offer comments, rather than defend one choice.

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