Thursday, January 19, 2012

I have not told half of what I saw. ~Marco Polo

Hello families--

Believe it or not, yesterday marked the halfway point in the 2011-2012 school year. Where does the time go? . . .

As I stated in my earlier blog, this week we've been learning abo
ut Marco Polo--explorer, merchant, and storyteller extraordinaire. This marks the latest in a series of activities that will be used to complete the students' "Explorers Notebooks." For my 6th graders, the short map activity I assigned is due tomorrow. For grade 5, it will be due at our next class, which is on Tuesday, January 24th. Students, please look at the links below for help in completing your maps. The third link is just cool--it takes you on a visual and auditory journey from Venice to China--how better to understand the great beauty, mystery, and dangers of the Silk Road? In case you're unfamiliar with links, simply click on the "different colored" words below. (They're also underlined.)

This interactive map showing Marco Polo's journey will help you to complete your map activity. You can also look at this map and decide if it is more helpful to you. Color his journey TO China in one color, and his journey HOME in another color.

I encour
age you to visit this National Geographic site and join "explorers" as they recreate Marco Polo's exploration -- tracing his route from Venice to Iraq, Afghanistan, and China. It's a multimedia presentation with video, audio, and photographs that introduce you to the lands and people he encountered. Wicked cool!

Some people who hadn't completed Viking Longships yet had an opportunity to do so this week as well as any other unfinished work in Social Studies. Some people are beginning to falter in terms of completing work in a timely manner. This late work is documented as such and loses points -- ultimately impacting report cards. Now's the time to notice these behaviors and fix them!

For 6th grade, we're finishing Unit 15 in Spelling, Grammar, and Vocabulary. I have to say, some people are not studying for Friday's tests--and a tests are weighted heavily. A word to the wise, guys!

In Language Arts, we're nearing completion of our "B
asic Explanatory Essays"--or, as we call them, B.E.E.s. I used these 5-paragraph essays as a way to continue discussion with my students about what constitutes good paragraph writing before they undertake next week's District Writing Prompt. Elaboration continues to be the greatest bugaboo in both classes. As I continue to stress, words create pictures in the reader's mind, and one cannot create a vivid "picture" without details. . .

Students should be saving ALL their writing on their computers; ask your child to read some of their writing to you. Write stories with them. Read to/with them. (The first teacher that I recall reading to me was my 8th grade teacher, Miss Exley. I still remember the story--it was a book excerpt out of Reader's Digest about the Lindburgh baby's kidnappin
g.) Point is, we're never too old to be read to, and listening to (AND READING) good stories helps build children’s repertoire of active vocabulary, aids in sentence structure, and enhances comprehension. It also provides children with richer, more imaginative/expressive language from which to draw when writing.

Have a good evening, everyone. Stay warm! I do hope you're out there, reading this.