This Week in Middle School… Week of Sept 19, 2022

Students working on project together


This week during math, Zoomshrooms worked on adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing decimals. They also had a lesson on what exactly a stock is and how to read a stock quote. One Zoomshroom team is in second place in the stock market game in their region!

Shockwave worked on simplifying expressions, solving one-step equations, and solving two-step equations. Most Shockwave students have the number sense to look at an equation and know the answer. We worked really hard on solving these equations using inverse operations and writing each step down. Next year, Shockwave students will be solving multi-step equations like my Algebra students did this week and need to have inverse operations down!

Algebra students have been zooming through their lessons. I taught 4 lessons in 2 days! The first four were over solving multi-step equations, solving equations with variables on both sides, solving equations that have no solution and infinite solutions, and solving proportions. The next two days students worked at their own pace to complete the previous lessons, go on a scavenger hunt to solve equations, have stock market meetings, and create a poster with equations that met certain criteria. Geometry students were introduced to inductive reasoning, conjectures, counterexamples, compound statements and truth tables. They then played a game where they had to determine if the given statements were true or false. The game ended in a tie! Finally, we covered conditional statements and biconditional statements.


Post Book Depression: That feeling you get when you finish a good book that you didn’t want to end. We’re feeling it this week in middle school. We finished our novels, Uprising (7th and 8th graders) and Bread and Roses, Too (6th graders). On Monday we gathered in small groups to discuss the endings–in some cases, the not-so-happy endings. The Zoomshrooms finished their story map diagram by filling in the climax, falling action, and resolution.

Next, we all moved on to a character analysis project. Each student picked one character from their novel and wrote how that character feels, thinks, wants and what they do. They had to cite evidence from the text to support their statements and also had to identify a meaningful quote from that character. We made ELA folders for our Google Drive and learned how to title our documents. This was a brand new thing for some and a review for others, but it’s exciting for everyone since it’s how we will organize our writing all year. Finally, students dug into the art supplies and created posters to display their character analysis.


Theme work this week concentrated on understanding the role of UNIONS and labor reform during the Progressive Era. Students learned that unions included groups of workers combining their efforts behind common causes, including fair pay, better and safer working conditions, and more reasonable work hours. Students chose one of the characters from their ELA novels, Uprising, and Bread and Roses, Too, and wrote about why that character would desire to join a union. Students compared the Gilded Age and Progressive eras, reading about various union actions to promote worker rights. They created Picket Signs, using information from their readings. Their signs reflected their efforts in understanding the conflicts between Unions and Company management, what worker demands were like in the early 20th century, and the events led to the changes brought about at the start of World War II.

The week ended with the first Theme CURRENT EVENTS day. Students watched a news recap using Rap Lyrics. They were challenged to write their own Rap Lyrics or Poetry to summarize one of the chosen news events of the week, from the death of Queen Elizabeth, to the Beyond Meat COO attacking and biting another person after a football game. Their songs and poetry were clever and funny as well!

This Week in Gamma… Week of Sept 19, 2022

Week 5 Update

The week went quickly in the Gamma room. We took a deep-dive into electricity and circuitry and it was really cool to see kids gravitate towards these topics. We talked as a team how teachers are noticing an end-of-week energy that is leading to students needing more redirection come Thursday. We asked Gammas to see about putting a little extra energy into staying tuned-in to class on our last day of the week together, and they did an excellent job rising to the challenge. Overall, we saw lots of examples of grit and perseverance this week, especially when writing or math felt tough, and we are so proud of our Gammas for pushing through and trying hard things! We promise that effort will pay off!

Memorable Moments

The Gammas have been exploring “Growth Mindset” this week across all subject areas. (Since Ms. Lorrie was voted “Fixed Mindset Queen of America” for decades, she is especially keen on helping students develop some flexibility!) Ms. Ansley is a great influence on us all! She had the students craft a few special ‘growth mindset’ art projects this week with a bracelet-making activity at week’s end to help students identify their own special strengths. It was really neat to watch Gammas take ownership of their gifts.
Next, Ms. Ansley linked this to character traits in language arts and it was a full-circle activity that took the kids through an SEL and academic activity, both!


In both groups, we focused on multiplication so we were able to do some real-world activities using menus to help students practice. We also took a “Tour of P&P” where students’ pretty work was highlighted for all to admire. The original plan was to just highlight a few examples, but there was so much well-formulated work we ended up taking a peek from everyone’s P&P. It was neat to share each other’s work.. Year 1 kiddos learned the standard algorithm for 2 digit x 2 digit multiplication.. This can feel like a large leap when it’s a new skill and Ms. Lorrie was very proud of the perseverance as we learned a multi-step algorithm. Continuing to work on fact fluency at home would be helpful! (Note: Ms. Lorrie will “pay” students who choose to do the optional fact practice at the front of the P&P.) Year 2 students continued to multiply with decimals and did an excellent job estimating before finding the product.

Language Arts

This week we focused on identifying character traits. Kiddos were given special permission to interrupt during our read aloud of Brown Girl Dreaming to shout “character trait!” when they noticed one. We also dug into our opinion writing and growth mindset work during writing. We drafted two entire paragraphs of our opinion pieces (introduction and reason number one) and also spent a lot of time sharing our writing and getting feedback from each other. Getting feedback and revising is an important part of being a great writer and Gammas were open-hearted and excited to share and learn from each other in this way!


As mentioned, we took a deep-dive into electrical circuits this week. Students explored key vocabulary (namely, distinguishing set-up and properties of series and parallel circuits) and had time to explore via a virtual simulation. Next, we discovered the important purpose of the cheap and flimsy fuse and demonstrated its use using the simulation platform to help us ‘test’ out our hypotheses. Students finished the week with a station rotation on basic circuitry and based on the results of that activity it looks like all of our Gammas had a productive week of learning on this topic.
We know Science Fair projects are probably on top of many a Gamma mind! The teachers pulled students for mini-conferences at the beginning of the week to help Gammas revisit their original Science Fair project ideas to discuss how we could make their original question measurable and testable. We sent our scientific method flipbooks home so that students have a reference as they begin to work on experiments at home.

Students having fun learning at school

1. Sid and Henry bought a meal for every Gamma during our ‘field trip’ to Chuy’s 2. A group of Gamma letting their curiosity GLOW during our circuit board simulations 3. Wren taking notes on feedback during writer’s workshop. 4. Henry and Aliana getting ready to test their scientific hypotheses with paper airplanes 5. Alexis, Ciel & Everly crafting paper airplanes for theme 6. Everly in the midst of a math riddle race 7. Leo, our honorary Gamma, working his way through a math puzzle 8. Bea showing grit during some subtraction action

This Week in Beta… Week of Sept 19, 2022

students playing math games together


What a week! Ms. Kelly’s math group had a math-tastic time learning about and playing games related to place value. These Betas used hundreds charts to order three and four digit numbers from least to greatest. It sure is fun to play games against your teacher – this time Ms. Kelly won! These mathletes closed out their week with subtraction word problems in the hundreds using base ten blocks and they even balanced numbers with bears – how cool is that?!

Ms. Skylar’s math group focused on reviewing everything that they covered in unit 1, in preparation for their post-assessment. These Betas worked HARD during the course of the unit – they can order and compare numbers from least to greatest, greatest to least, round to the nearest tens, hundreds, and thousands places, write very large numbers in standard, word, and expanded forms, and solve word problems – seeing their progress along the way was so awesome! These mathematicians spent two math periods taking their post assessment answering 10 questions each day and wrapped up with a few rounds of super fun and well deserved “Place Value Bingo”. Monday will kick off with a pre-assessment for unit 2 :) WELL DONE, Y’ALL!

HEY – How do you teach math to a chicken?…You show them lots of egg-samples! Not all math jokes are terrible, just sum. BA-DUM-TSSS!

Children using letters together


As always, the kiddos started each day identifying, discussing and correcting all of our silly teacher mistakes in the news and announcements message, they’re getting quite good at it – we’re hoping that this editing skill will transfer over to their own writing soon! Reading workshop was chock-full of phonics fun (try saying that 5 times fast) and book club read alouds and responses. We’ve been working diligently on our Imaginary Invention paragraphs and illustrations and this week we FINISHED them – well done Betas! These writers practiced more cursive and then wrote stellar sentences about school and electricity using various types of punctuation. It’s not too often, but whenever there’s a free second or two during the school day, you can catch these kids devouring a good book or writing epic stories in their writers notebooks! Literacy ROCKS!

teacher teaching class on ground


Theme time continues to be ELECTRIFYING! This week the kiddos participated in a conductor/insulator lab where they tested various objects using their battery circuits to determine if electricity could pass through or not. Like all good scientists, these Betas recorded all of their new data and findings in their Travel Journals, it’s very official business! The real HIGHLIGHT of theme this week was the creation of their file folder circuits. The kiddos were so AMPED when they learned that they could make a holiday light turn on with just a few office supplies and a battery! We <3 Science!

This Week in Alpha… Week of Sept 19, 2022

girl learning about natureA note about next week: We’ve got lots going on! Our first field trip (to a neighborhood fire house) after lunch on Wednesday and a picnic at Shipe Park on Thursday! Please wear walking shoes and be sure to pack your water bottle…

In Our Big Backyard…

We learned about another landform: plateaus! We built some using teamwork.

Next, we looked at the Edwards Plateau specifically. We learned that it was uplifted by tectonic plates ~100 million years ago – when the area was covered by an ocean. It’s composed largely of limestone, which forms in shallow water when water pressure compacts sediment. By rubbing and tapping pieces of limestone together, we discovered how easily it weathers. Another attribute of limestone is that it’s porous, so naturally the Edwards Aquifer came up but stay tuned next quarter for more on that!

Due to its lack of deep soil, the plateau is not ideal for farming, but we learned that more sheep graze on it than anywhere else in the country! Cattle and goat industries are important there also. Alphas learned the meaning of “overgrazing” and why it’s important to take care of the land. We discovered that the Hill Country Alliance is working to protect native species of plants and animals living on the plateau.

Topographic maps are useful for learning about landscapes of varied elevation so we looked at one made of the area. Then we put on our cartographer hats and tried our hand at measuring & mapping the highest point on a chocolate chip cookie. It was not easy, but it was delicious.

Beside the Edwards Plateau is the Blackland Prairie. Many pictures of the area showed us that a prairie is a vast, flat grassland. We learned that the soil was incredibly rich due to large amounts of humus and, in part, because of the fires that were set by Native Americans to help them hunt. European settlers farmed an immense amount of cotton, wheat, hay and corn using practices that depleted the soil of its fertility. However those industries helped grow Texas cities.

On Wednesday we transformed the north & south alpha rooms into a plateau & a prairie. Alphas took their journals with them to several stations, illustrating and writing about ranching, native plants, and prominent crops as they traveled.

Finally, we had a map day. We looked at several types (road/political/weather/topographic) and noted their identifying features. We narrowed our region of study to the city of Austin and found roads, parks, creeks…even our school! In table teams the alphas worked together to create a classroom map – not a simple task! Using large grid paper and rulers, we worked in table teams to measure our space. First we created the room perimeters, then we added doors, windows and desks. It was amazing to see how many challenges the students encountered and overcame by working together.

This week in Language Arts…

Ms. Andrea’s group…

Studied the letters: u, h, g, k. We reviewed letter sounds, practiced forming letters and played phonemic awareness games. We learned the sight word “like” and practiced “the” A LOT. We read sentences, put words in order to form sentences, and went “shopping” to create our own sentences. We learned that we always start a sentence with a capital letter and end with punctuation (periods, so far). This week we had our first dictation of an entire sentence. I am excited to begin a handwriting workshop and to teach our Alpha’s to leave a little space between their words. Hopefully everyone found the list of tips for working with your emergent reader/writer helpful; next week you’ll find some phonemic awareness games for you to play with your student.

Ms. Kim’s group…

This week we shared our writing and expressed our appreciations for our friends’ writing. Language Arts isn’t always reading and writing; we practice verbally expressing our thoughts and feelings too.
We created dioramas for one of the books we read.

Word work this week was focussed on “th” and “wh” digraphs. We also practiced writing sentences using an uppercase letter to begin a sentence and lowercase for just about everything else. We also used ending punctuation!

girls cutting paper for math

This week in Math…

Ms. Kim’s group…

WOW. What fun Flipbooks we brought in! Alphas were so proud of them!
We discover that number order follows a quantity-pattern – it’s an A/B pattern – it’s an Odd/Even pattern! We played a “greater/less than, equals to” game, we did a months of the year cycle (another pattern!), and we finished our Cycle of Seasons art activity just in time for the Autumn Equinox!

Ms. Andrea’s group…

Made huge leaps in their understanding of place value! We spent the week building numbers using 10’s and 1’s, and then taking them apart to write numbers in expanded form. We played place value bingo as well as a dice game for added practice identifying two digit numbers. We also played a read/write the room game in which we searched the classroom for place value illustrations and recorded our findings.

Boy cooking in class.

This week in Monday Lab…

Alphas “built for strength” this week. We had to build a 12 inch stand out of paper and tape that could hold books.

This week we learned that with corn, salt, and water we could make another tasty treat: tortillas!

We played games and and made patterns for tiny “pillow pals!”

This Week in Middle School…. Week of Sept 12, 2022

Teacher helping student wear banner


The stars aligned this week, because all four math classes took their first check-ins! Zoomshrooms also finished up their “Integers In Real Life” art pieces, signed them, and displayed them on the wall. In between check-ins, Shockwave completed error analysis task cards. Each task card showed the work of a pretend student. Unfortunately, the pretend student did each problem wrong and Shockwave students had to find the error. Before Algebra students took their check-ins, they were introduced to how to graph and solve inequalities. Then, finally, geometry students completed their city blueprint of Harold’s. They will be completing the city map in the coming weeks.


The Zoomshrooms read an article about penguins then partnered up to practice identifying topic sentences in paragraphs (so many P’s!). This will come in handy soon as they start writing their first essay of the quarter. We mapped out the first half of Bread and Roses, Too’s plot, identifying the exposition and rising action. Next week we’ll be able to finish it! Students also used text evidence from the novel to determine the demands of striking mill workers, why they wanted a union, how the Wobblies (IWW) came to help them organize, and some of the dirty tactics the mill owner used to prevent their progress. They ended their week by creating protest signs and picketing through the cafeteria.

The Redwoodz and Shockwave kicked off their week with book club discussions about Uprising which is about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. To get an idea of what the characters in their fictional story endured, we read an excerpt from the nonfiction book, Flesh and Blood So Cheap, that described the horrible conditions immigrants faced on their voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. They watched PBS and video clips about the Triangle Factory Fire, made notes about what led to it and what came from it, then learned to write generalization statements: “Lack of preparation caused the deaths of 146 people,” and “Public outrage leads to new laws about safer workplaces.” Finally, we walked around AHB, inside and out, identifying required fire safety equipment.


This week we learned about the first convention for women’s rights held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. At this convention the Declaration of Sentiments was introduced which stated grievances of women. One such grievance was “He has created a false public sentiment by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women.” Small groups worked together to read each grievance, modernize the language, discuss it, and decide how much progress society has made on that topic. Groups then sent representatives up to the board and plotted their table’s opinion on a scale from not redressed, somewhat redressed, to totally redressed. Each student had to explain and justify their opinion and plot on the scale. By the end of class Tuesday, students watched a Mary Poppins clip where she sings “Sister Suffragette” and wears a sash. Students were tasked to come up with their best modern day slogan and create a suffragette sash of their own. Wednesday and Thursday were spent creating the sashes and reflecting on school so far. We ended the week by marching around the school with our new sashes.

Friday Extension

Friday Extension students finished their first community service project for the year. They made no-sew flannel blankets for Project Linus. Project Linus’ mission is to: Firstly, provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer “blanketeers.” Secondly, provide a rewarding and fun service opportunity for interested individuals and groups in local communities, for the benefit of children.