Saturday, December 19, 2015

Look At the Pretty Sounds!

This week was a pretty exciting week in the world of science.  We have been studying how sound works, and our voice works. We have had an opera singer come in and show us how her voice works.

We have been discovering how birds song and how that compares to how our own voicebox operates. This week we wanted to see what sound looks like. We created our own tonoscopes in science class with Lisa. We used a large yogurt cup, a balloon, a needlepoint loom, construction paper and tape. We cut a hole in the side of the yogurt cup, and put rolls of paper into them. We stretch the rubber from the balloons over the needle point loom. We then pushed it over the top of the yogurt jar and added a little salt. When we spoke into the tubes, it made beautiful pictures on the top of the rubber. It was pretty amazing to see what patterns went with what sound.

We also were able to see what would happen if we hooked up music to a plate with sand on it. We could see how the sand was jumping around with different tones. We also had the chance to see which frequency would make the sand or salt jump highest. We discovered that this was called the Resonant Frequency.  In addition we attached a resonator to different materials and found which created the best sound.

We discovered a ton of new things about sound this week.

Snowball fight with paper balls. Not trying to hit each other, but trying to get as many paper balls to the other teams side.

Have a fantastic break!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Math Class Changes

One of the main goals in the 3/4 level is to foster a child's ability to work independently. With that in mind, we are moving to have the textbook be the main focus for our work.  During independent work time, the students will be mostly focused on working in their textbook.  If they are struggling with a particular topic, I will assign related workbook exercises to complete.  The textbook doesn't leave much space to work on their problems, so I have given them each an orange folder with paper to work on. 

I will be evaluating them based on their textbook work.  While the textbooks stay at school, the workbooks may go home for extra practice.  This goes for all students unless we have already specified a unique need for a particular student.

The textbook explains how to do the math in each of the sections. The goal is for the student to be able to read the text and figure out how to do the math themselves, leaving the teacher to fill in the gaps and make meaningful connections between the abstract problems and the real world.  It also allows the student to move ahead at their own pace and not have to wait for the teacher to explain everything.  This is also the strategy used by the math teachers at the next levels of math at this school.  I would like to prepare them to be able to succeed in those classes as well.

I hope these new changes will help the students become more independent in their mathematical adventures.

Let me know what questions you have.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Signed, Sealed, Delivered!


Our team did an amazing job balancing the school play with their work on their Project Time project.  I am delighted to say that everyone turned in their projects on time and was brilliantly prepared to present their projects to the class on Friday.  Every project was well thought out and received positive feedback.  Some prompted great discussions about what makes a good project and the value of the more unique projects.  I was very impressed.  Each presentation was recorded for archival purposes and should be available soon upon request.
Hover board testing
A new desk


While the projects this term were aimed at our personal interests and skills, 2 teams decided to use their powers for good.  They decided to have a Bake Sale and Drink Sale to benefit animals.  Between the 2 groups and 2 days, they raised $114.  They decided to combine their earnings and split it straight down the middle to help two animal charities.  They chose The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to help the sharks and the Ann Arbor Cat Clinic to help cats.  Each institution received $57.  For more information visit: and


Moved by our generous donation, The Ann Arbor Cat Clinic decided to invite us to their clinic, give us a tour, and let us visit with some of the cats.  We were not expecting that!

Monday, November 30, 2015

New Project Due Date

Hi Team,
Just to give you a heads up, due to the crazy schedules of the last 2 weeks, project time projects will be due this Thursday. Students will be given class time to work on their projects and presentations  all this week. They also may work on them at home. Presentations will be all day Friday. Each presentation will be recorded and shared with each student's parents. I will be checking in with each student/group on Monday to check the progress of their project and project reflection sheet/project log.
Let me know what questions you may have.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Hi Team! 
In science, for the past few months, we have been learning how to be good scientists. We have been discussing the Scientific Method and working with all its parts (Asking a question, Making a hypothesis, Making a prediction, Experimenting, and Drawing a conclusion) to create experiments and learn new things. We have also learned how to include factor such as variables and a control. 

For the past few weeks, we have been watching Mythbusters, and discussing how they use the scientific method in their show to prove or disprove a hypothesis. We have also been searching the episodes and our own experiments for factors that may cause an error in our results. We found that even the professionals make mistakes sometimes.

This Friday, we traveled to The Imagination Station in Toledo, Ohio for their Mythbusters exhibit. We got to try real Mythbusters experiments and draw our own conclusions.

We had tons of fun experiencing new concepts and learning about physics. 

I even got to doge a paintball pellet!

For more information about Mythbusters go to:

Saturday, November 14, 2015


On Friday, Team Spencer visited the headquarters of one of Michigan's oldest traditions, America's Thanksgiving day Parade.  It has become a tradition in our class to visit this space every year.  This yearly national parade (This year will be the 89th parade.) is an important part of the culture and identity of our country and our state.  My father has been a volunteer for over 20 years and has made sure to make this a part of our family's identity as well.

My dad (The Original Spencer) was kind enough to give us a tour of the facilities.  We learned how floats are made, the ways in which to propel the floats, all about balloons, and cool information about the different types of costumed marchers that volunteer in the parade.  We also received cool historical facts about Detroit and its history with the parade.

In the coming week we will be exploring, in depth, the impact the parade has had on the identity of the people in our community, the history of the event, and how the floats specifically reflect and represent the people in the community.

Be sure to check out Me and my family in the parade next to the Blue Cross Blue Shield float. Look for the blue float heads. I'll wave at you!

For more information on America's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Please visit:

Friday, November 6, 2015

Writing Project

Hi Team!
Over the last month and a half, we have been reading "The Marvels" by Brian Selznick. In the story, [[SPOILER ALERT]], one of the main characters writes beautiful stories using artifacts he has collected from antique shops and resale stores.

We have decided to do the same. We went to Treasure Mart and bought items that inspired stories within us. Not only did we have to look for interesting artifacts, but we also had to compromise with our partner, budget our money, and be held responsible for the money, the receipt, and interacting with the staff at the store. Everyone in the class was well behaved, quiet, and very respectful of the fragile nature of the items in the store.

We are going to start off small, by writing short stories of our own. We did a lot of magical thinking while searching for our objects, and most items have already got quite the story to tell.

In The Marvels, the stories that were told about the objects defined the identity of an invented family. We are going to take our stories and find creative ways to combine them all. We seek to create a new set of characters and use our real life artifacts to help define their identity. We will be researching the objects that we have procured and using our new knowledge to help add interesting details to our story. We are then planning to make a small museum where we display our objects and our writing. I hope you will come by and visit it.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Teaching Days

Every Wednesday, on Team Spencer, someone on our team gets to teach class...and it isn't Spencer. One of the coolest and most fun things about team Spencer is the fact that we have our students teach class every week. Each Wednesday morning a Student is assigned a teaching time to teach the class. They are given 30 minutes to tell us about anything that interest them. As a part of our identity exploration, they are able to teach anything that they wish as long as it gets approved. It gets approved when they complete a lesson plan. 
The lesson plan includes an "I do", "we do", and "you do." During the "I do", the student outlines what they plan to explain to the students in a direct teaching manner. During the "we do", the student describes what they are going to do with the class to help them understand the concept. During the "you do", the student tells what they expect the class to be able to do to prove that they understand the content of the lesson. They also then have to say how they would reflect on the lesson.

The link to the schedule of when the students are teaching can be found here.

The link to the lesson plan document can be found here.

Learning how to draw a dragon 

The students have been teaching on many varied topics. My favorite part about this project, is that they never teach me something I already know about. I've had lessons on comic book artists, geology, racecar drivers, and art lessons. I always learn something new.

Getting cool stories about the "Jersey Devil"

I never knew there were so many cool accessories for video game consoles.

Rocks are so cool!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pajama Day!

So comfy in our PJ's for Team Spencer Pajama Day!

Project Time

Hi Team!
I told the kids that one of my goals for them was to become so good at it least one thing that everybody you know calls you up for advice on that thing. We then brainstormed ways of learning all that information. We pretty much came up with, "you have to practice." With that in mind, our class has project time for at least an hour every Friday. During project time, the students choose one thing that they want to get better at, want to practice, want to learn more about, or just find really interesting to do. They then have to propose it to me. They have to come up with a proposal that includes what they want to do, the materials they need to do it, who they want to do it with, and what their process should look like.

This is what their Project Proposal looks like:


Do you have a partner?:

Choose an activity or skill that you are passionate about and want to work on.:

What resources do you have that can help you get better? You can include websites, books or people that you could contact.:

What materials will you need?:

What are your goals and timeline?
Week 1:
Week 2:
Week 3:
Week 4:
Week 5:
Week 6:

What will the end product be?

Why do you want to pursue this? How does this benefit yourself or others?
  I want them to get in the habit of planning ahead and not starting a project when you don't know what your goals are for completing it. I want them to start managing their own time and be able to work independently on an item because they have already planned the steps out in advance. This project also has roots in our identity theme. Each student is using their own unique abilities and interests to create a product or an item for our project time. They are able to work either independently or with a partner. During the six we creation process, they are to keep a log of their progress in a progress log. The progress log details what progress they made that day, what their challenges were in that project, and what their goals for the next week are.

This is what their Project Log looks like:

Project Log
Name/Partner’s name:
What is your project?:

Week 1
Goal for next week:

Week 2
Goal for next week:

Week 3
Goal for next week:

Week 4
Goal for next week:

Week 5
Goal for next week:

Week 6
Goal for next week:

 Many times they find that the goals that they had originally set out in their project proposal do not match those that they are achieving in class. Some work faster than the original goals, some not so much. After they have completed their project they will fill out a project reflection sheet where they reflect on the process of creating their project and delivering it to society. They will also be included in a discussion where we discuss each other's projects and their benefits to our community.

Here is what the Project Reflection looks like:

How did your project go?

What went well?

What didn’t go the way you expected?

What would you do differently next time?

What did others think of your project?

 The students seem to love their projects so much that they are known to work on them over snack-time.
They also work on them any free time chance they get, not just the hour a week on Fridays.
In our class, you can see students working on video games that they're designing, building pieces of their project, and making signs for a sale. The group making the play has gone so far as to draw a crowd of other students in our class during the rehearsals to watch and give feedback during the process. They've also been creating their own little comedy bits. I can't wait to see the show. One student has actually finished a lovely table for Debra, our admissions and marketing director. It was a fabulous surprise for her.
Each student not only has the responsibility of creating their own project, but also of helping each other out with their project. They can give feedback to other students, or be a mentor to students that do not know how to use the technology that is provided. Part of the project is helping the other students build on their knowledge.

On Monday we will be presenting our project time projects, albeit in progress, to the school during the morning meeting. We will discuss the purpose of our project, the process of our project, and what our projects actually are. We will be doing this first thing in the morning on Monday morning, so if you could make it that would be amazing.

To see the actual Project Document, follow this link.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

India, projects and Marvels galore

This week we began working on our documentary about what it's like to be in Team Spencer. We are attempting to find traits that are unique to our class and help define our identity. Nearly all of the students have been interviewed about their experiences. If you would like to be in the documentary or would like to contribute, please let me know.

We are getting to an exciting place in our book, The Marvels by Brian Selznick. The students have been discussing what they thought was going on. Everyone had a theory based on evidence that they found in the story. This week we found out that we were all wrong.

Ananya taught us all about India this week. We learned about the population, the languages, and the flag. Many of the students were still talking about it on Friday.

We also got some quality time to work on our projects. One student even finished part of his. (He says he is going to make 2.)

Next week is the famous Fort Week! We will be turning our classroom into a giant blanket fort. If you have any spare sheets, blankets, or pillows to spare, please send them in. Friday is a pajama day!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Crisis Averted!

Today we came to school to find that the key to our computer cabinet no longer worked. No one knew why, or what to do about it.

I thought we were going to have to break something to get it off. Then Mark had the brilliant idea to knock out the hinge pins and open the side. 

The whole side came off, giving us access to our computers.

After folding the doors over, I can access the screws for the latch plate. That I can replace easily.

Thanks for saving the day, Mark!