Department News – October 2015

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English

This quarter, eighth grade students at MMS are busy in ELA classes reading, discussing, and analyzing  realistic fiction, horror short stories, and multi act plays like Charles by Shirley Jackson, The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, and The Diary of Anne Frank – a play. In order to enhance the understanding of these classics, students are also reading historical articles and argument essays related to the stories.

The writing focus for the quarter will be on narrative and argument, both extensions of our various reading throughout the quarter. Students will have the opportunity to improve their skills through a variety of writing tasks.

Here are some websites that serve as great resources to support the ELA curriculum and help students to improve their skills. www.quizlet.com, www.IXL.com, www.sheppardsoftware.com

The seventh grade students at MMS have just completed their first unit of the year: The Search for Strength. This unit explored an array of difficult situations in which the human spirit is tested. By analyzing a multitude of texts both digital and print, the students have collected evidence of perseverance in every situation. They studied The September 11th Attacks, the sinking of The Titanic, the crash of The Hindenburg and the infamous 1996 storm on Everest. The culmination of this unit was a constructed response. Students focused on how survivors persevered while facing the unimaginable challenges that unfolded during these events.

To prepare for the constructed response listed above the students had to analyze how the structure of text allows the reader to understand the central idea, for example how a New York Times article differs drastically from a documentary but gives an audience the same information. They had to organize evidence in the form of quotes, and explain how this evidence connects to a prompt. They had to annotate and break down prompts to solidify their test taking skills, and finally they had to plan, draft and revise their first major writing assignment.

The next unit we will focus on deals with Compare and Contrast. Students will continue to analyze a multitude of difficult situations relating to our central ideas of strength, challenge, perseverance and resilience to evaluate how each situation has similarities and differences that make them tragically unique.

The Features of Fiction have been the focus in English Language Arts for sixth graders during their first month at Martin Middle School. Students have sung along with rap songs to learn the parts of a story and the elements of plot. They can identify plot, character, conflict, theme and setting. Freytag’s pyramid is a breeze for students as they map a story’s exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution (or denouement…we’ve learned a little French along the way!).  We have begun to read and analyze informational text with a concentration on citing evidence and constructed response to text. We have read about a stray dog, aliens, and the Titanic; mummies and more are on the way. Our sixth graders are off to a great start!

Library Media Center

The staff at the MMS Library Media Center remind students that in addition to a great collection of books, we have access to an enormous collection of online resources through Destiny, our online catalog, and www.askri.org. Through AskRI.org, you can access Homework Help, an online service that connects students to real tutors in more than 40 subjects including math, science, foreign language, writing, and social studies. What a tremendous resource. Please stop by the library for a quick tutorial about signing up for this service.

Math

So what is your child working on in math class?  If he or she is in 6th grade, they are learning how to perform operations with decimals.  Soon they will be looking at ratios and how to solve problems with rates.  One teaching method we use is called “tape diagrams” and seems to help visualize the idea for many students.

If your child is in 7th grade, they are continuing their work from 6th grade and expanding it to unit rates and what rates look like in graphs.

In 8th grade, we are studying all about roots and exponents.  We will then be looking at how to work with very large or small numbers using scientific notation.

So how can you as a parent help your child to succeed in math?  One way is to help them build fluency with math facts.  In 6th grade that could mean reviewing the times tables or procedures for adding decimals.  In 7th grade, working with fractions is necessary for understanding rates.  Also, your child will soon be spending a lot of time with integers and percents.  In 8th grade, our students have been asked to memorize the first 20 perfect squares and first ten perfect cubes so that they can estimate irrational numbers.

Putting mathematics to use in real life situations is something parents can help with as well.  Have your child help you in the grocery store.  Let them figure which item is the better deal.  If you go out to dinner, let them help you figure the tip.  Show them where you use math and they will grow to appreciate its usefulness.

Music

The MMS Band Program is once again off to great start. Welcome to the newest 36 members of the program, our largest entering group ever! We have 86 students all together and we are excited to begin preparing our Winter Concert repertoire. Jazz rehearsals began last Thursday, and Concert Band is scheduled to begin on October 13th.

Thanks to the 8th graders who participated in Townie Band Night during the Townie Pride Parade and football game. Everyone had a great time and it looks like the Townie Band will be welcoming quite a few new members next year. Best of luck to students who are beginning All-State audition preparations as they undertake a very challenging endeavor.

The MMS Chorus led by Mr. Rappa is also back in action, preparing for another year full of musical performances. With 48 new 6th grade students and 108 7th & 8th graders returning, everyone is working hard getting ready for the Winter Chorus Concert in December and All-State auditions in November.

The chorus is  working on some very challenging pieces, not to mention spending time with music theory and vocal exercises. Even this early in the year, there is an impressive level of talent, dedication, and commitment to the program. Our seasoned professionals, this year’s 8th grade students, will be running for chorus offices soon, with spots for President, Vice President and Secretary. Mr. Rappa is excited to see who the future leaders of the music program will be, and he is looking forward to another year full of hard work, great songs, and fun.

Science

Students in science classes at MMS are engaged in a new curriculum resource called STEMscopes. All grade levels are using the newest NGSS aligned lessons to help students become tomorrow’s STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) leaders and innovators by letting them authentically experience science. As students dive in, they practice  the standards through a program that was built from the ground up to NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas, Performance Expectations, Cross Cutting Concepts, Science and Engineering Practices, and Common Core Math & ELA/Literacy standards.  

Grade 6 is exploring matter and  energy transfer in the first quarter. Students in Grade 7 are diving into chemical and physical properties and changes in energy at the molecular level.  Meanwhile, grade 8 students are getting to know the ins and outs of organisms and behaviors within ecosystems and how physical or biological changes affect populations. Throughout the year, each grade level will experience lessons in life, earth/space and physical science.

Social Studies

MMS students are hard at work in social studies classes as they increase their civic competence through the study of history, culture, and society.

Students in sixth grade are wrapping up a unit on Geography and will begin the study of the Old and New Stone Age. The curriculum provides students an opportunity to examine the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome.

Seventh grade students have begun to examine American history beginning with the Colonial period. Through an analysis of the events, the people, and the ideals that have shaped our country, students will come to better understand their place in American Society. The course will culminate with an examination of the American Civil War.

Eighth grade students have begun a brand new social studies curriculum. They will study the post Civil War reconstruction era up until the Cold War of the post WWII era. This curriculum will provide students an opportunity to understand important historical eras as they prepare for demanding high school level history classes.

In all social studies classes students will be expected to show growth in their writing skills. We focus on argument writing and response to informational text. Also, In many of our classrooms, we begin our day by watching the education-focused CNN Student News as a way of learning about both contemporary and historical events. This helps teach our students to be informed citizens of the world and encourages important discussions and understanding.

Special Services

The East Providence Local Advisory Committee for Special Education (EPLAC)  is made up of parents of children with Individual Education Plans (IEPs), along with administrators and teachers.  The EPLAC meets monthly to share information and concerns about educational issues. The committee is designed to provide valuable feedback about what is working well in our schools and what needs to be improved, in collaboration with school administrators and parents.  EPLAC provides parents with a strong network of support as well as community resources.

At the first meeting of the year on September 30th, MMS educators and assistants  were publicly recognized by parents for the supports being provided by 1:1 Teacher Assistants, and the ongoing teacher-parent communication and collaboration. Please join us at 6:30PM on the last Wednesday of every month in the MMS Library for monthly meetings.  Please consider becoming a member of the EPLAC Team!  More information is available on the East Providence School Department website or contact Marianne Walsh at mwalsh@epschoolsri.com.

World Languages

Portuguese I students will be working on a variety of projects this year. This first project combines the vocabulary for stating dates, seasons, weather expressions and three dimensional art; the mobile.  Students are encouraged to make their mobile as creative as possible, while including holidays for their birth month from the United States and the Portuguese speaking countries of the world, all eight of them!  This helps to expand the student’s knowledge of the culture of the Lusophone world, while teaching the correct way to express dates, and possessives.

In Spanish class, 6th graders are learning about families and using the website http://quizlet.com to practice vocabulary. Quizlet vocabulary lists can be found under the username yoneillo. 7th graders are working on numbers 0-30 in Spanish along with writing out simple equations.

8th graders are beginning a new chapter that contains vocabulary found in bedrooms. Students are using this vocabulary to create a project using magazines, clip art, computers, and 3D-dioramas. They will also write a description in Spanish of their bedroom based on what they have or don’t have, what they need or don’t need, and what they want or don’t want.

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