Ready for Learning

Dictionary

Dictionary

Welcoming a new school year is exciting! Here in New England I think I can actually feel the excitement in the cooling air of autumn. Getting ready for a new school year can mean finding the best spot for studying, getting your supplies in order, and setting up your desk space. Setting up your own “work space” allows for you to separate work from play. Look for a quiet, comfortable space with few distractions, and good lighting. Looking ahead in the curriculum to see what supplies you may need is a great way to set yourself up for successful learning. Get out your favorite pencils, pens, crayons, and notebooks!

For those of you in the middle grades (ages 11-14), if you don’t yet have your very own dictionary and thesaurus, now is the time to find them! Both will become your best friends as you go through the year. Printed book versions are great to just have next to you as you read and write. With a book at hand you won’t be distracted by your device (computer, kindle, phone, ipad) and you can mark up the pages any way that you like! You can often find used ones at second hand book stores. If you are looking for a good dictionary that will last you through the junior high years, look for Merriam-Webster’s Intermediate Dictionary. Also recommended is the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. (Try to get the most recent additions.) For a good thesaurus, try Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus.

Also really useful is a good atlas for discovering new places in the world and helping you illustrate maps. I like Rand McNally’s Goodes World Atlas, but look through a bunch at the bookstore or library until you find one you like. These three items will serve you well for many years to come!

Have a wonderful beginning!

Iditarod

Iditarod public domain photo

The 2017 IDITAROD will start on March 4 in Alaska. If you haven’t yet heard of the Iditarod Race, let me tell you it is one very exciting 1,150 miles! Men and women race with teams of dogs and sleds to see who will arrive in Nome, Alaska first. (There are two starting points, Anchorage or Fairbanks, depending on the year, the weather, and the snow coverage.) The race is based on true events that occurred in 1925 when the children in Nome, Alaska were ill with the deadly disease of diphtheria. They were in need of a special medicine and they needed it quickly, as many children were dying. That medicine was far away in Anchorage, Alaska, it was January with freezing ice blocking the ports and grounding airplanes. The race was on to get the medicine to the children as quickly as possible and it seemed the only way to do that was to use the mushers and their faithful dogs. A relay of the best sled drivers and dogs was arranged and after five and a half days of grueling weather, the last sled driver and his dogs arrived in Nome. Many children in Nome were saved and an epidemic was halted all thanks to the amazing teams of dogs that each man had cared for. One special dog team leader was a dog named Balto.

The famous sled dog Balto with musher Gunner Kaasen.

You can read more about Balto, his bravery, and the events in The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail by Debbie Miller. The first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was held in 1973 and has been raced ever since in honor of the first race to save children’s lives.

In the past years, while the race is on, children and families have taken up the challenge of spending the same amount of minutes outdoors as the mileage of the Iditarod. That’s 1,150 minutes! Why not take up this challenge with friends and family members? Keep a record of your time outdoors and what activities you did!

By the way, when the Oak Meadow group was at a conference in Alaska last May, they contributed to a fundraiser for the 34th annual Yukon Quest, writing messages on the protective booties that the dogs wear in the race (they need a LOT of them!). One of Oak Meadow’s booties was on team #3!

Here are some books that you might enjoy for further reading:

Mush! The Sled Dogs of the Iditarod
by Joe Funk

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod
by Gary Paulsen

The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail
by Debbie S. Miller

 

Fact or Opinion?

The Oak Meadow curriculum offers many opportunities to learn how to research and write reports. Note that I wrote LEARN, because most middle school students are just beginning to learn how to find appropriate resources for a topic and how to organize the information into an interesting, cohesive, and fact-filled report.

Finding a reliable source can begin with a trip to the library for magazines, encyclopedias, newspapers, biographies, and lots more! Some students don’t have a library nearby and so they use the internet for their research. Reliable sites are usually ones that end in .org, .net, or .edu. I like to use the Great Websites for Kids as a starting point. Their website notes that the site is an “Internet guide of child-safe sites selected by a committee of the American Library Association.” You can choose a subject such as “sciences” and then choose a specific subject of interest. Give it a try!

There’s a lot in the news these days about what is fact and what is opinion. When I read reports by students I often write, “Make sure you back up your opinion with a reliable source that explains the facts that you are basing your opinion on.” Some students are learning that an opinion can be based on fact, and they’re backing it up with a quotation from a reliable source. For instance, I received a research report on sound frequencies for an 8th grade physics lesson. I was impressed with the three sources and the examples that the student used for his research. However, most impressive was the use of quotations from his sources that added strength to his examples. Convincing a reader that what you’ve written is true, rather than just your opinion, is pretty important! When you use a quote from a reliable source you give your opinion validity. It allows the reader to trust that your opinion is based on fact.

Making facts louder than opinions is evident in this video from The Weather Channel. 

Genre?

 

 

 

The Stonekeeper book #1 of the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi

 

I was at the public library the other day when I overheard a librarian ask a student what genre she had to read for an assignment. “Genre? What’s genre?” the student asked. I listened as the librarian explained that books are written in different genres. She went on to explain that in fiction for example, there is the mystery genre, science fiction genre, or even fantasy genre. Then the student asked what genre graphic novels are because she wanted to read one. I was very interested in the answer because I really love graphic novels! I’ve read quite a few and lately my favorites are Cardboard by Doug TenNapel and Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. They are both entertaining and inspiring stories with lively illustrations.

As it turns out, graphic novels fall into many genres. They are not a genre by themselves. There are non-fiction graphic novels, fiction graphic novels, fantasy graphic novels, mystery graphic novels and the list goes on!

So again the librarian asked what genre graphic novel the student was interested in. She answered that she didn’t care at the moment. She just wanted to look at them. The librarian showed her the graphic novel section of the library.

When I looked around the library and saw sections of books divided into categories, I had to wonder when this genre idea came into being. I love to research, investigate, and learn about the things I wonder about so this will take me some time! In the meantime, I’ve got a whole list of great graphic novels, in all genres, that you may enjoy reading!

The city of San Jose, California public library has listed the best new graphic novels of 2016 and you can find them here.

What's In the News?

images

“Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi

Win Nobel Peace Prize”

“A Peek Inside The World’s First Carbon Neutral City”

“Google’s Young Scientists Are Out To Change The World”

These intriguing news headlines come from a news source called DOGO News

In the Oak Meadow social studies curriculum, you will most certainly come across an assignment that requires current event articles from a news source. If you don’t have access to newspapers or magazines in your area and there isn’t a library near you, it may be a challenge to find local current event news articles, and a greater challenge to find articles about events that are international. DOGO News has terrific and interesting articles for kids on current events taking place over the world. They cover many subjects like science, sports, and health, and there are also lots of videos and games.

The Smithsonian Tween Tribune is another great source! It has daily news for kids grades 5-8. You will find articles for your specific grade level with photos, graphics, and audio and/or video materials prepared by the Smithsonian. There is so much to learn about history, and the arts, science, and culture of countries around the world.

Check this out from DOGO News: Nations Come Together

Read for the fun of it!

“Teen Read Week™ is a national adolescent literacy initiative created by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). It began in 1998 and is held annually in October the same week as Columbus Day. Its purpose is to encourage teens to be regular readers and library users.” http://teenreadweek.ning.com/

It’s Teen Read Week! Support your local library!

I love this! If you have read any of these books vote for up to three that are your favorites. You have until the 15th of October to vote.

http://www.clipartkid.com/teen-school-cliparts/
http://www.clipartkid.com/teen-school-cliparts/

If you are in the 8th grade with Oak Meadow, you have the opportunity to choose a place to volunteer in your community as a community service project assignment. There are a variety of ways to provide service in a community. My students have done projects as simple as picking up trash in their neighborhood, walking their neighbor’s dog, or playing cards once a week with a grandparent. Others have reached a bit further into the community by volunteering at a local Red Cross, community kitchen, or recreation center. If you are wanting to do some community service and are undecided as to what to do, I encourage you to find the nearest public library and ask if you can volunteer. If the library doesn’t have positions for students your age, substitute your volunteering assignment with joining the teen club at your library. Most public libraries in the United States have teen clubs. Read for the fun of it!

An Oak Meadow Homeroom!

If you are enrolled in the Oak Meadow 7th or 8th grade and you have an Oak Meadow email address,  you can join the Oak Meadow Homeroom Group.

A “homeroom” is a place where students in schools gather together before school starts to share ideas, have conversations about the day or a specific subject, and basically check in with each other.  Since at Oak Meadow we don’t have an actual place for middle school students to gather, and our students all over the world are waking up at different times and studying at different times, that makes it a challenge to gather together. Still, the teachers really wanted to form a group that might serve the same purpose even without an actual room. Thanks to the internet, we can do this!

If you’ve received your Oak Meadow email address, you’ve noticed that you can share emails with other students in the group. One conversation is about where they live and why they are homeschooled. One is enjoying talking about their pets. Another conversation has been suggesting good books they’ve read. These are books they’ve been reading for pure pleasure. I’ve posted the titles here so that you might try some of their favorites.

Thanks so much to all for your contributions of good books and if you haven’t joined the Homeroom yet, give it a try! It’s fun!

These are their favorite books so far. They’re not in any special order:

Series they like:

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Land of Stories by Chris Colfer

Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan

The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

Books they like:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

 

New MLA Guidelines for Citing Sources

I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework. ~Lily Tomlin as “Edith Ann”

The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind. ~Kahlil Gibran

I’ve taken these quotes from The Quote Garden that I love using to find good quotes for a piece I may be writing. I would cite it like this:

Guillemets, Terri. “Quotations About Teachers.” The Quote Garden. www.quotegarden.com/teachers.html

When writing a research report or an essay, it’s important that you know the rules and guidelines for writing a bibliography, using images, or using quotations from research sources. Oak Meadow students are asked to use the MLA style of creating and formatting citations. There are new guidelines this year! The goal of the new MLA citation guidelines is to make things easier to read and write, and more consistent, regardless of medium. Hooray!

Quick Guide to MLA Citations 2016

MLA released its 8th edition in 2016, unveiling simplified citation guidelines. Let the rejoicing begin! The following information has been updated to reflect these new guidelines, which aim for a more universal, consistent format regardless of the source medium. Most notable are the following changes:

  • No longer include the city of publication for print publishers.
  • No longer include the medium (print, web, film, etc.).
  • Include URL in website citations.
  • No longer include n.d. (no date) if website/article date is unknown .
  • Date accessed by you is optional for website citations.
  • Make entries as consistent as possible in terms of information and punctuation.

Feel free to continue to use the previous MLA style as long as you’d like–it’s still correct. The new style is more streamlined and hopefully will be easier to learn, use, and read. For those who want all the details, read this.

MLA Guidelines for Citing Sources (updated 2016):

For print sources, include the following:

Author last name, first name. Title. Publishing company, year.

Here is an example:

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island. Dover, 1993.

When citing online sources, use this format:

Author last name, first name (if known). “Title of article.” Website. Organization,

publication date (if known). URL (without http://, brackets, or ending punctuation)

Here is an example:

Bradbury, Lorna. “25 Classic Novels for Teenagers.” Telegraph.co.uk. The Telegraph, 5 April 2012. www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/9189047/25-classic-novels-for-teenagers.html

Website dates are given in this format: day month year. Longer months are abbreviated: Jan, Nov. You can delete the http// from the URL.

When citing an online video clip (such as YouTube):

Author last name, first name (if known). “Title of article.” Website. Organization, publication date. URL

Here is an example:

Schlickenmeyer, Max. “The Most Astounding Fact—Neil deGrasse Tyson.” YouTube. YouTube, 2 Mar. 2012. www.youtube.com/watch?v=9D05ej8u-gU

When citing a film, here is the format:

Film Title. Dir. First name Last name. Perf. First name Last name. Distributor, year of release.

Note: Dir. stands for director, and Perf. stands for performers. You can list as many or few performers as you like.

Here’s an example:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Dir. Chris Columbus. Perf. Daniel Radcliff, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltraine and Tom Felton. Warner Brothers, 2001.

For most purposes a simple citation that includes the creator’s name (if you can find it) and/or the original source is enough. If you found the image on the web, try to provide a link back to the source.

When in doubt, visit the MLA Citation Guide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture Books!

“For the rest of my life, I will reflect on what light is.”
~Einstein, c.1917

Hilarious! Not only was Einstein brilliant, he also had great sense of humor!

In the Oak Meadow 8th grade physics course, students study about light. The terms, incident ray, reflected ray, normal line, angle of incident, and angle of reflection are all principles that are studied in the lesson. The students are assigned the task of writing a short creative story using the principles of light ray reflection. It’s fun for me as a teacher to read the many imaginative ways that students find to do this assignment! In reading them I am often reminded of how powerful a simple story can be in teaching a scientific concept. Since I work in the youth department at our local public library, I run across many picture books that creatively depict scientific concepts. (Middle school students, don’t’ be afraid of checking out a good picture book!) I have lots that I love, but one of my favorites is Chris Van Allsburg’s Two Bad Ants. medium_jacket_two-bad-ants

Right from the very beginning, an ant discovers a crystal and when the queen ant gets to eat it, she asks for more. The worker ants set off to get more of these precious crystals for the queen. When they get to the place where the crystals are, two bad ants decide not to return with the other ants and they stay and eat the crystals until they are so full that they fall asleep! What happens when they awake is hilarious and the illustrations are all “ant-sized” and lead you on their journey. It’s the illustrations in picture books that depict the scientific concepts so well. The crystals that Van Allsburg illustrates are magnified sugar granules. There is the science of a sugar granule! There are many more picture books that depict scientific concepts. Have you run across any?

 

Summertime and the Listening is Easy!

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SYNC is once again offering free downloadable books for teens!

SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+

The 2016 season is May 5th – August 17th 2016.
SYNC 2016 will give away 30 titles – two paired audiobook downloads a week!

Week 1 * Summer 2016

This summer’s theme is: “It’s the Circle of Life!”
The mystery of human evolution is looked at from very different points of view.
Download the free pair from SYNC »here.

This Week’s Audiobooks are:

Vivian Apple at the End of the World By Katie Coyle
Read by Julia Whelan
Published by Dreamscape Media
Great Tennessee Monkey Trial By Peter Goodchild
An L.A. Theatre Works full cast performance
Published by L.A. Theatre Works
Remember these titles will be replaced by a new pairing on 5/12/2016. Download the MP3 files, and then you can listen any time you want!
Thank you to Dreamscape Media and L.A. Theatre Works for generously providing this week’s titles.

Downloading Tips:
Get the OverDrive App to access free SYNC audiobooks. The app is available for every major desktop and mobile platform, including Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android phones and tablets, Kindle, NOOK, Windows 8 PC and tablet, Blackberry, and Windows Phone.

© 2016 * AudioFile Publications, Inc. * All Rights Reserved