Monday, April 29, 2013

7th Graders Lead ACDS Green Initiative


Ms. Stein's 7th Grade science students ran the assembly this morning where they shared several presentations about their follow up efforts to the global warming themed Festival of Learning. Tomorrow will be the kickoff day for the following efforts:

  • Continued work in the community garden
  • Using containers for bringing lunch to school instead of plastic bags
  • Composting fruit and vegetables from lunch that are usually thrown away
  • Renewed efforts by students and teachers to recycle while in and out of school
  • Hypersensitivity to turning off lights and using water

Look to view the very thoughtful and well-designed video on global warming that Colin, Sam, Drew and Alex produced. 

Student-Led Conferences in the 5th Grade

The students in the Alexandria Country Day Middle School met with their parents last week to review their learning from the year. In preparation for the conferences, the 5th Grade students were given the following set of questions centered upon our Portrait of a Graduate dispositions. The students spent time thinking about their learning and responding to the questions. Their teachers, Ms. Cook and Ms. Weaver, arranged sessions for each student to practice with an adult in preparation for meeting with their parents. This was a nice way to build on the scaffolding they already had in place with the questions listed below. The students typed up their responses to the questions and met with their teachers for feedback as they prepared for the conferences.

______________________________

Independent Learner: Use three pieces of evidence from your work this year to describe how you have grown as an independent learner.

You should think about the following:
  • How did you solve problems or figure things out on your own?
  • How did you advocate for yourself if you needed something?
  • How did you organize yourself?
  • How did you motivate yourself?
Your response should include: At least one full paragraph. You might want to use three (one for each piece of evidence.) Work from more than one class. Work from more than one trimester. Look to reflect further about of your strengths, weaknesses and growth in this area.

Communicator: Use three pieces of evidence from your work this year to describe how you have grown as a communicator.You should think about the following:
  • How have you communicated your learning this year?
  • How do you prefer to communicate your learning?
  • How was your message received?
Your response should include: At least one full paragraph. You might want to use three (one for each piece of evidence.)
  • Work from more than one class.
  • Work from more than one trimester.
  • Work showing more than one type of communication (writing, speaking, VoiceThread, iMovie, Keynote, ScreenChomp or other tools)
Look to reflect further about of your strengths, weaknesses and growth in this area.

Community Minded: Use three pieces of evidence from your work or activities this year to describe how you have grown as a community minded individual?

You should think about the following:
  • What have you learned about your community (school, town, country, world) this year?
  • How did you act on this learning?
  • How would you like to act on it in the future?
Your response should include: At least one full paragraph. You might want to use three (one for each piece of evidence.)
  • Work from more than one class or activity.
  • Work from more than one trimester.
  • Look to reflect further about of your strengths, weaknesses and growth in this area.

Balanced: Use three pieces of evidence from your work or activities this year to describe your work/life balance.

You should think about the following:
  • How do you balance your time between things you have to do and things you want to do?
  • Was there a time this year you felt your balance was not right? How did feel?
  • How is your current balance?
  • What strategies do you have to be balanced in the future?

Your response should include:
  • At least one full paragraph. You might want to use three (one for each piece of evidence.)
  • Work from more than one class or activity.
  • Work from more than one trimester.
Look to reflect further about of your strengths, weaknesses and growth in this area.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Student Learning at 10:33 AM

One on one editing time with Ms. Parker


What does learning look like at ACDS? What does it look like in a Second Grade classroom at exactly 10:33 AM on Friday April 19th? What one finds in this "snapshot" review is an environment of student-centered learning where students work independently and in groups freeing up the teacher to work with students one on one. The well-designed series of learning stations presented here exemplifies how ACDS teachers guide their students to be independent and active learners receiving differentiated instruction in an active classroom. 

Students logged into their Raz Kids online reading accounts


Students in Raz Kids use Venn diagrams and question sheets to help with comprehension.
They also take online assessments.


Students learn vocabulary via the iPads


Students review the book report rubric in writing their reports


Time to analyze recent science work


Relaxing on the carpet with a favorite book

_________________

Thanks Ms. Parker for sharing your learning community with us!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Student Designers



Our students are designers. They go through the research and writing process across disciplines designing and planning how to write papers, prepare presentations and create projects. They storyboard scenes for their videos using mind maps and they use apps to design what slides in their presentations will look like. This process enables students to reflect and rework their ideas before going to the publishing phase of the process.

The Fourth Graders are preparing to do a series of Keynote presentations. In preparation for the assignments, they are learning how to think as designers to do storyboards of what will go into their Keynotes. They are using the Popplet app to do their storyboards. The images in this post show a Fourth Grader using the Popplet app to draw images and add text to each Popplet square on her iPad. This design process guides the students to think about how they will make their thinking visible in terms of images that they will either draw or download from the Web to add to each slide in their Keynote.

The students are learning as part of the Information & Communication Literacies (ICL) curriculum that image rich presentations are the best way to represent their learning. Text is used sparingly to focus the attention of the audience around central ideas that the students expand upon when giving their presentations.



Friday, April 5, 2013

Art at ACDS


Ask visitors to ACDS about their first impression and they will respond "the art!". Wherever one walks in the school, beautiful and original art is displayed. Our art teacher, Ms. Suzy Tacktill, is driven to help students be creative as they also also learn to appreciate art. The series of art and technology field trips this year is one example of how Ms. Tacktill challenges her students to make connections, see patterns and use their artistic abilities. 

The following is an overview of the art program provided by Ms. Tacktill. To see a few examples of student art, visit our online art gallery

After many years of having the honor of inspiring and nurturing creativity in young artists, I have given great thought to the derivation of the inspiration which sets the stage for creativity. I have come to the conclusion that creativity does not end as the musician lays down his/her violin, nor does it end as the applause fades after the curtain goes down following act III. It does not begin in chapter one and end at the epilogue, nor after the artist signs her/his canvas. Creativity is, as I see it, a way of life.

It has been my goal as an arts educator to inspire my students to be creative thinkers and thereby creative problem solvers; to be sure that they recognize that their most important tool for success in the arts is not the one that they hold in their hand but the one that sits upon their shoulders, and that the ability to be a creative thinker will be with them in an art studio or in a board room or when they might be in the midst of one of life’s crises. It is this innovative creative thinking which will serve the students well throughout their lives.

I have been involved with the arts and education for my entire life - as an artist, as a student, and as an educator - and have taken the time to ponder and establish an understanding of methodologies and approaches which seem to work well. Communication is the key to the well-being of any relationship. The interaction of a student body, faculty, parent body, the community, and administration is a very intricate relationship which can be enhanced by the arts. Our students bring rich cultural backgrounds with them offer and these offer an avenue for educational enrichment. I see the arts as an intertwining thread through the curriculum and for the nurturing of self-esteem. It seems to me that for students to effectively experience the arts, they must be made relevant to them and that an important educational tool in the classroom is an understanding of the student body, along with its learning styles, and a willingness to adapt one’s approach to reach that student body. I feel that a willingness to explore the individual talents of our students creatively, with strength but not rigidity, is a tremendous asset.

It is the task of an educator in an arts environment to facilitate the use of the arts to make our children shine and to unite the community in celebrating the uniqueness in each of our children through listening, processing, and guiding in a sensitive and creative manner. Above all, it is important to create an environment which provides both physical and emotional safety and a haven where the students feel a strong sense of intellectual and creative safety.  

-Suzy Tacktill

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bonsai Boy?

 

The art and technology field trips continued this week with the Eighth Graders and their Kindergarten buddies traveling to the National Arboretum. Ms. Tacktill chose this open air museum to give our youngest students plenty of space to explore and to use the iPads to take photos. The learning goal was to help the students see nature as art. The main exhibit catching the attention of all the students was the Bonsai Collection

The beauty of the bonsai trees shaped by their human handlers was an inspiration for the older students to create digital bonsai trees with help from their buddies. The Eighth Graders used their iPads to take photos of the Kindergartners who contorted themselves into shapes similar to the bonsai trees. The Eighth Graders imported the photos into an art app. They then used their imaginations to create their own digital bonsai trees. 

Thanks to Allie for sharing her artwork. 


Image Source


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Music at ACDS



If one is looking for innovative practices at ACDS, just take a walk down the first floor hallway to the music room. Mr. Andrew Taylor, our music teacher, is one cutting edge educator who has students and parents abuzz about his classroom and instrumental programs.

The following is an overview of the music program provided by Mr. Taylor.

The music program is based on three pillars: Creation, Rehearsal, Performance. These contexts are the basis for learning as many ethnomusicological transmission methods as possible in the early childhood program, while the later elementary years use a gradual refining of each student's style through the music-theory areas of interaction - rhythm, harmony & melody. Improvisation is used as a fundamental skill in both initial creation of material which is then structured through rehearsal into composed pieces, and also as a fundamental expressive part within the performance of the developed works. Composed pieces are notated through as wide a variety of notation traditions and techniques as possible, including staff notation, graphic scores, tabs, chord signs, continuo, whatever is possible to use within the context of what the student has started creating. Middle school students are trained in the use of instruments which are widely used in contemporary local culture - drums, bass & guitar, keyboard, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, clarinet and flute. These bands can play rock, jazz, and concert music, once again using as many notation techniques as possible. They rehearse more regularly and are capable of developing prototype professional concerts with full 45 minute sets and recorded collections.

The sequence in each year, and in each project, starts with skill tuition on instruments, using improvisation and basic notation forms. Then, using simple songs which are well-known within the students' culture, structure and technique are modeled and deconstructed for analysis. Students are then asked to choose or create forms and fill them with new material drawn from their improvisations. These works are rehearsed, and during this process students adapt their initial creation to the realities of the ability levels of other students in their band. The performance provides the essential connection with community that style needs for its own development, and a context for assessment by both performer and audience.

This program relies heavily on constant playing and notating, and the uncertain progress of creating and structuring works which students will be responsible for in front of their peers and community. We have less emphasis on planned delivery of music history lessons which don't involve playing. Instead, as students gain skill in the process of making and delivering music, their respect for those who have already established successful styles grows strong, and then the students inquiry naturally arises out of their desire to learn about how their own work fits into the fabric of musical history and development.

-Andrew Taylor