Middle School: Tying up the Trimester

Happy Friday! Another full week of middle school has come and gone. Trimester 1 has come to a close, and we will embrace new goals and lessons as we finish 2018. This week, we were lucky to have Officer Felicia from the Newtown Police Department visit with K-9, Aris, a sprightly, 2-year old German Shepherd. Demonstrations in apprehension and nosework were given as well as information on the process of acquiring and training a K-9 police dog. It is clear that the bond between Officer Felicia and her partner, Aris, is unbreakable.

This week in Humanities, 6th years began their unit on the Middle East and North Africa. They looked at the geography of the regions and began studying Mesopotamia. 7th years began their unit on Sub-Saharan Africa, also looking at the geography of the region including human geography and natural resources. 8th years began their unit on Black America, studying the origins of slavery in the colonies and the forming of classes with early legislation supporting both.

Math classes remained busy this week. The 8th years  just finished unit four, an introduction to functions.  The students learned how to represent functions using tables, equations, and graphs. They also learned how to find terms in arithmetic sequences. They will continue their work with linear functions as we begin unit five, which starts with slope and direct variation. 7th years also finished unit four covering factors, fractions and exponents. Students learned factoring monomials, finding common factors and common multiples, simplifying and comparing fractions, multiplying and dividing powers, and finally writing numbers in scientific notation. It was a full chapter! Next, they will begin chapter 5 learning rational numbers and equations. 6th years  have also completed unit four, covering equations and inequalities. The students learned how to solve one and two-step equations, and one and two-step inequalities. Unit four also included the graphing of inequalities. Next up are ratios, rates, and proportions!
In Science, 6th & 8th year students are working on identifying the formation of crystal structures based on the cooling process of magma. The seventh years are continuing their work and investigations on the periodic table of elements. Students are discovering how the arrangement of the periodic table of elements has come to be.
Enjoy the weekend!
**Two notes to parents: Please send your child/children in with water bottles for their daily drinks. We are trying not to use plastic, disposable cups in the classroom. 
Secondly, it is getting cold outside! Please make sure students come in with winter jackets and clothing that covers the legs. 
Thank you for your attention to this!

Middle School: Trasitions- A Parent’s Guide

Please Enjoy the following article from Parent Toolkit

Parent Toolkit provides parents with a comprehensive guide to helping their children succeed in school and life, whether they’re just  starting out in pre-school or preparing their college applications. It is produced by NBC News Education Nation and supported by Pearson.

Guiding Our Children Through School Transitions: Middle School by Sharon Sevier

Ah, middle school, the time during which every parent gains a full understanding of why some animals eat their young. Seriously, I do love middle school students. They live in a world of black and white. There’s no gray. Things are either a crisis or they are nothing. I often referred to my students as my “drama and trauma kings and queens,” and they earned that title every year.

My daughter is a middle school counselor, and I love talking to her about these years. She’s very trendy, funny, and sassy, and the kids gravitate towards her like nobody’s business. She tells it like it is with her students, and she gets away with saying things to them that their parents would not dare, for fear of having their heads bitten off.

Middle school is a time when many kids regard their parents as being “dumb,” “over-protective,” and “not knowing anything.” When I got my Ph.D., I thought my kids (then in middle school) would be so proud of their mom. What I realized is that they thought those three letters were wrong; they thought they should be “DTD”…Dumber Than Dirt. It was tough to go through but, parents, we do get revenge. Once my kids had children of their own, I became the smartest woman on Earth!! So it does come full circle.

Here’s what happens in the middle school years: our children become more and more independent. In 6th grade, it’s the transition between elementary and middle school. There’s a bit more coddling in their academic setting, and the students have a healthy sense of unease as they enter the social world of middle school. By the end of 6th grade, they’ve pretty much got it all figured out, and their social world bursts open with wild abandon. For the next two years, they think they are standing at the mountain top and they know it all. Mood swings are rampant, popularity becomes a curse and a blessing, body image, attire, and being cool all take precedence over anything else. So how do parents navigate these years keeping their kids safe and in check, while also keeping their sanity?

Here are a few of my favorite tips, and also a few from my daughter:

• Stay in contact with the school, especially with the school counselor, and allow them to “be the heavy” when you’re struggling to get through to your child. I often had conversations with parents who were so frustrated because their child would not listen to them. So I offered to “be the heavy” for them. I’d call the student in and would “talk turkey” with them, saying basically what the parent had said. In fact, I remember the day one of my students said, “you sound like my mom,” before he left. I was thinking, “yeah, that’s because I just talked to her!”

Seriously, school counselors have different credibility in middle school than parents. We can say the exact same things that you do and the kids will listen because we’re not you! School counselors become a godsend at this age and they can be a great resource and support, but you have to talk to them and trust them. Don’t be embarrassed about telling them about family life issues. The more information the counselor has, the more s/he can help you, your child, and the teachers. School counselors are there to help. They’re not there to be in or know your business. We care about your child’s success in every facet of his/her life, and we want to be good advocates.

• Continue with the set time for homework, and stay on top of grades. Don’t wait for the teachers to contact you; you can also contact them. Most middle schools today have an online student management system that allows parents to see their child’s progress. You can check grades, as well as attendance. I’d suggest making it a weekly event, maybe during homework time, that you sit down with your child and review what’s online in the student management system. Teachers have well over 100 students they are dealing with on a daily basis. Parents, generally, have only a couple of students they are in charge of. Parents need to stay on top of their child’s grades, and they need to contact teachers when they have questions/concerns. There is no excuse for a parent to say “I didn’t know” when so much information is readily available.

Have a specified time and place for homework each school night. Don’t accept, “I don’t have any homework.” If there is no homework, they can always review what was taught that day or they can read. You must be firm and let your child know that the homework time and place are in cement–no negotiation. When they are finished with their homework, ask to see it. I wouldn’t suggest reviewing it, but check it for completion. They have to know that you take this seriously, and you are going to be checking.

If I may, I’d like to beg and plead with you about the place for homework. Please don’t send your kids off to their rooms, armed with technology, to do homework. Have them do homework in a central place in your home where your presence is apparent. NO cell phones during homework time. They will take things much more seriously if you put some strong parameters on homework completion. They make think you are the spawn of Satan for taking their cell phone but, trust me, they’ll live through it and their work will be better quality.

• Technology…the good, bad and ugly. No doubt, technology is alive, well and rampant. We love it, we hate it. Our kids adore it. It’s their life line, it’s their life. My daughter, the middle school counselor, feels very strongly about middle school students having free reign with technology. She suggests that parents check the sites their kids are going to, and that means reading what’s posted there. Too often, middle school students get caught up in things they shouldn’t, and it can have disastrous effects. You are the parent, monitor the technology! There are ways that you can block sites, monitor use, and monitor what’s being communicated. You can also cancel the cell phone. If your child isn’t using technology safely and appropriately, cancel it. It’s a tough lesson, and they will say that you are ruining their life and they hate you, but you are doing them a favor. Make them earn the privilege back. Notice what I said. It’s a privilege to have a cell phone; it’s not a right. Technology is wonderful when used for good, but it can turn into a nightmare without supervision.

• Vary friendships. Middle school is that time of life when kids change friends like it’s their job. Girl bullying, boy bullying, and popularity requirements are the bane of the middle school student’s existence, and of their parents’. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it happens enough. I always strongly urge parents to identify their child’s passions and interests and get them into groups outside of school. These groups enlarge the friendship circle and, if things aren’t going well at school, there are always other people to hang out with. Church, Scouts, athletics, volunteer work, dance, and hobbies/talents all offer students a chance to grow, blossom, and be with different people. If you find your child hanging with the same kids all the time and/or afraid to do things without those people, it’s time to change things up. Having just one or two friends is a sure sign of future trouble, you just know that, at some point, they are going to cease getting along and the world will collapse. If they have other friends, outside of school, they’ll be in much better shape.

 Don’t rescue your child from natural consequences. Be a parent…not a friend. My sister-in-law is a character. She’s very honest and blunt, and I love it. She told me about a conversation she had with her two daughters. It went something like this, “I’m your parent, not your friend. I don’t need more friends and, if I did, I wouldn’t choose you.” I cracked up. Now, let me tell you, she loves her kids beyond belief, but she was making a point, I’m your parent! I’m not here to be your friend.

Being a parent means setting boundaries, setting rules, having expectations that stick, and allowing your child to suffer the consequences of their actions. If your child flunks a test, don’t blame the teacher. Your child should be the first one you talk to. If the teacher says your child isn’t doing homework and your child says s/he is, make them show it to you each night. If your child goes to an unacceptable website at school, and gets in trouble for it, don’t blame the school. Kids learn from their consequences. If we take away their accountability, they will never learn responsibility. It’s ok not to be the “cool mom” or the “cool dad.” “Cool” only matters if you need a sweater. It’s the “mom” and “dad” word that matters the most. Be one, and be tough! Your kids will love you for it.

Good luck with middle school! Keep your eyes and ears open, and ask for help when you need it. You are surrounded by support, and you are SMART and strong to ask for it! One last aside, I told my daughter, the middle school counselor, that I was writing this blog. I read her what I wrote about getting my Ph.D. and she said, “that’s not true! I was very proud of you.” Then she blamed her brother for being the one who thought I should have been “DTD”. Kids…


This Week in Middle School

The weather is brisk, the holiday season is looming, and the end of the trimester is in sight. How can it be that we have been together almost three months? The time is flying by because we have been working hard in the classroom.

In math class the student continue the work of becoming mathematical problem solvers. The 6th years began the solving of equations and were introduced to the addition and subtraction property of equality.  The 8th years took a cumulative assessment and the entire class did exceptionally well.  They were also began finding the greatest common factor of monomials using prime factorization.

6th year students worked this week on identifying the density of minerals (quartz, marble, granite). This was determined by measuring each sample’s mass and volume. Students also had the opportunity to crack open geodes. Through the use of microscopes, the crystal formation of each geode was able to be observed under high magnification. Students will continue to work on defining the unique properties/characteristics of minerals. The 7th year students are discovering the atom (atomos – uncuttable). Students theorized how the periodic table of elements was originally assembled by Dmitri Mendeleev. The 8th years, also working with minerals, constructed crystalline structures representing silica tetrahedral chains.

6th year humanities classes worked on their essay writing skills. We focused on effective, introductions including hooks and thesis statements, organization, and outlining as a prewriting tool. Students have finished their outlines, written their introductions, and will finish drafting next week. 7th year students revised their papers for their community project. This long-term project is just about ready to be presented. Learning about different systems of government and their effectiveness, economic structures, judicial systems, allocating essential resources, diversity, living off of the environment, and healthcare systems were all learning experiences this project brought forth. Finally, 8th years are off campus and doing their internships. On Monday they went over how to gain the best experience in the time they are given by asking thoughtful questions, strategies for the work environment, making observations, and respectful ways to communicate.

We can’t wait to hear about the amazing experiences the 8th years had this week!


Middle School: A Week in Review

Another action-packed week has passed in Middle School! In addition to academics, Middle School students inaugurated the new zip line on Wednesday. They also listened to a presentation from the Botsford Volunteer Fire Department.

This week in Math, 8th years worked on union and intersections of sets along with solving absolute value inequalities. 7th years are working on factoring and reducing fractions with variables included in their examples. 6th years continue to work on adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions.  In addition, they continue to expand their mathematical vocabulary. Middle School students are making excellent progress in math this week!

The 6th and 8th year Earth Science classes have finished their unit on mapping Earth’s surface. Next, students will begin their unit on geology. The 7th years have started their unit on atoms. Throughout this chapter, students will explore the structure and history of the atom and atomic theory.
All Humanities classes completed vocabulary lessons and reviewed the midterm elections, discussing all that they were hearing but didn’t quite understand. What does it mean that the House majority has changed? We even spoke about the basic differences in issue stances on taxes, healthcare, immigration policy, and the 2nd amendment, which are important issues to both parties. 8th year Humanities students are nearing the end of their in-class read, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, after a week hiatus to draft personal narratives. Internships are next week starting on Tuesday, so students reviewed the guidelines and expectations for their required work while they are out. They also completed some grammar work on comma usage on compound and complex sentences. 7th years are wrapping up their Community presentations. 6th years worked on editing skills as well as expository writing lessons.

Middle School: A Week in Review

With the excitement of Halloween, it was an energized week in Middle School. Costumes were top-notch for those who dressed up! This week’s cooking elective made three tasty treats for the Halloween party: a chocolate mousse cemetery, a black cat cake, and pumpkin pie muddy buddies. Aside from the festivities, classes were productive and insightful.

In Humanities, we had a writing-focused week. 6th years are writing their final piece for the empathy and compassion unit and using the knowledge from their descriptive writing lessons to enhance it. They are writing a multi-paragraph letter to the main character of Out of My Mind, Melody, and responding to a specific instance in the book they can personally relate to. The 7th years finished drafts of their multi-page persuasive papers for their Community project, the culmination of their unit on Utopian/Dystopian societies. 8th years have started each day with a mini-lesson, specific to a writing technique that is the applied to their personal narrative drafts.

The 6th and 8th year science classes have been busy working on their topography projects. Students used the glow forge to program, scan, and cut each layer to accurately represent elevations of their map. The 7th years represented Boyle’s and Charles’ Law (volume, pressure, temperature) using a variety of materials. Students were able to demonstrate Boyle’s Law by exerting pressure on a liquid and recording the decrease in volume of gas.

Math classes were busy this week. 6th years continued to work on fractions, 7th years are working to solve inequalities, and 8th years are solving inequalities as well as compound inequalities.

Thank you for your time, meeting with us during conferences. We greatly enjoyed discussing your child’s/children’s progress!

Global Culinary Night is Thursday, November 8th from 6:30-8:00pm.

This is a FWM entire family event.

Grab your “passport” and travel along with us as we visit countries near and far, sampling foods at each stop! This community event is for FWM families to gather together and share a unique dish from their cultural, ethnic, or regional background while also sampling dishes from other FWM families’ cultures.

Middle School: Welcome Back, Mr. Epstein!

The Middle School is excited to welcome math teacher, Mr. Epstein, back to Fraser Woods! It has been an exciting, short week getting to know Mr. Epstein, and the students are thrilled to be in his class. Mr. Epstein brings his love for middle school students, understanding of Fraser Woods culture, and decades of teaching experience to the 6th, 7th, and 8th years. We are all happy to have him, and we look forward to the rest of the school year with him on our team.

Middle School: Picking Young Adult Literature

To keep up with young adult literature is challenging. Actually, it’s impossible. With so much being published every year, it is hard to discern what to recommend and what not to. In my opinion, middle school is one of the most challenging age groups to read with. First of all, they want to read adult books, but aren’t necessarily ready for them. What I mean by this is that they may be intellectually ready for the words, but the life context behind them isn’t there. Secondly, there are many books marketed for the age group, but the content is too adult and inappropriate. It can be hard to find a balance. I struggle with it, and I know MS parents do as well.

I follow several groups on social media geared towards reading and writing teachers of middle school students. I find a lot of great books and ideas this way that are current and reliable. I recently read a post by a middle school teacher at a public school who was facing the challenge of having a new book added to the curriculum to replace The Pearl by John Steinbeck, which had been read by 8th graders at the school for as long as any of the teachers could remember. She asked, Why? and was met with answers of, “It’s a classic!” and “Because we’ve always read this.”

I have made the choice to educate in independent schools for many reasons, but one is that I can change with the times a bit more easily. I can adjust literature to students’ likes and interests quickly and stay relevant and true to their learning needs.

I am reading a novel with 8th years that I am excited about. In fact, I’m downright ecstatic about it. I have been searching for a novel that accurately depicts life of Native Americans currently living on reservations, and this novel is the perfect companion to the curriculum. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie delivers a relatable, coming-of-age story that has edge that teens will like. This winner of the National Book Award for Young Adults is a controversial choice for some schools because it mentions alcoholism, depression, and has a few lewd teen jokes. However, as is rarely the case with young adult books these days, it does not solely focus on these.

I have decided to read this novel with my students during class time in order to help them navigate the content and stop for meaningful discussion. There are strong parallels that can be made to history and fantastic lessons that will come of it while discussing its relation to the Master Narrative. I feel lucky that I am able to teach in a place where current content and methods are embraced in a changing world.

Middle School: Making Connections

Social emotional well being for adolescents is a priority at Fraser Woods. In addition to our academic and physical programs, we ensure that students have experiences and learning that will enhance their personal growth. Interpersonal and resiliency skills are factors in the whole child. Through team building, advisory, and leadership, we work throughout the day and year on these.

Last Friday, we had a great time at Sharpe Reservation in Fishkill, NY for our team building trip. The weather could not have been better. The day began with breaking into two groups. Students participated in some challenges that required them to hone in on their communication skills. Then, they went into the woods for some low ropes initiatives before an afternoon, all together, swinging in the trees on the high ropes!

Recently, 6th grade advisory has been focusing on inspiration using the Responsive Advisory program. They have been sharing inspirational moments in their lives in addition to how they have been inspiring to others. Students have written personal quotations to hang in their lockers, motivating them throughout the year.

In 7th year advisory, students are reflecting upon our favorite aspects of middle school and thinking about ways to overcome obstacles.  One focus is conversing with one another to try to find strategies to assist us with overcoming these obstacles.   Students are also discussing SMART goals and focusing on specific goals, identify how to measure these goals and thinking about actions they can take to achieve these goals.
8th year students have been focusing on communication in advisory. How can we effectively communicate with one another in supportive and kind ways? How are our words affecting others throughout the day? Students have been reflecting also on perception, judgment, and taking responsibility for our words/actions.