Thursday, May 4, 2017

Weekly Post 5/4/17

May the Fourth Be With You!!!  (And Altho With You)

This week on team Spencer was very short.

Zoey taught us how to draw pirates on Monday. We had a chance to draw a pirate and make little changes to personalize them. It was a fun time. On Wednesday we saw the last production of Spencer's Forum theater elective. We also learned about some cool Library information from an Ann Arbor Public Library librarian. Spenser also taught us this week how to make origami hearts. Just in time for Mother's Day. Everyone was successful in creating their hearts.

On Friday we had a surprise field trip for Spencer's Celebration Day. Although her birthday is in June when we don't have school, she likes to celebrate with the class. Everyone in our class gets their very own celebration day whether their birthday is during school or not. But, nobody knew a field trip was coming!

The Forum Theatre Elective had it's last performance on Wednesday.  It was super cool to dissect possible reasons why people may display unexpected behavior.  

In math we finished up our math board games. Next week we will learn how to play all of them.

Just a neat picture of 3 Team Spencerites

Weekly Post 4/28/17

This week 
n Team Spencer we have been doing a lot.
 On Monday
 we had a visitor from the University Musical Society that did a post-show workshop with us on how music can communicate the idea of who a person is. We were able to describe a person just based on what the music that was written about them sounded like. It was very fascinating.

Noelle taught us this week about the Muir Woods National Park and about all of the flora and fauna found within the park. We went on a pinecone scavenger hunt to get questions to answer about Muir Woods. Sean also taught us about graphic novels this week
 and helped us build our own graphic novels. Our se
ond round teaching is off to a great start.

After spending months playing the online game Building Detroit, we had the chance to go to the Detroit Historical Museum and see how Detroit was actually built. It was a great experience.

In math we are continuing to work on our math board games. There are games that highlight time, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction, and measurement. They look like they will be very fun games to play.

Weekly Post 4/21/17

This week in Team Spencer, after taking a break from our Hero's Journey stories, 
e began the revising process.  We will look at ways to make our stories better, correct grammar and improve punctuation.  We are letting our colleagues have a look at our stories and make suggestions.

We are also continuing to work on our 
lans.  We have been 
aving meetings where we review our last lesson, reflect on the feedback we received, and brainstorm
​ ​
ways to make our next lesson even better.

e have been exercising our problem solving skills with math challenges and logic puzzles.  We are applying mathematical thinking to problems that don't involve numbers.  We will then create our own math challenges and math mysteries.

The Forum Theatre elective will have performances on Wednesday, April 26th in Spencer's room (
-2 invited), and Wednesday, May 5th in the Atrium (3-8 invited).  Both performances will be at 2:30 pm.  Adult audience members are encouraged to come and participate in this interactive theater piece.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Weekly Post 4/14/17

This week on Team Spencer we had a lot of fun. We finished up our applications for class jobs and went through an important interview process. Each student got interviewed for the job that they wish to have and had to discuss why they wanted it and what they wanted their salary to look like. Everyone either got a new job or was able to keep their old job and negotiate their salary to be paid in class dollars.

On Wednesday we went to see the University Musical Society's guest performers A Far Cry with A Roomful of Teeth. In this performance we heard music from a small chamber orchestra and classical music done by an acapella group. We use the music to create pictures, stories and abstract drawings of the sounds that we heard. We then used those stories and ideas to make longer stories during a writing session.  Before break we did a workshop with UMS on how music tells stories.

We have started doing research for our second round of teaching. This time we have a very clear rubric of what kind of things we want to see in each lesson. We want to make sure that the lesson makes sense, we can hear what is being said, the information is accurate and thorough, and there is an engaging activity or aspect to the lesson.

In math we are beginning our math storytelling portion. We are watching videos of math mysteries, and reading stories about math mysteries. We will then write our own math mysteries using the concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, weight, and measuring.

Weekly Post 3/17/17

This week on Team Spencer, we finished our read aloud Hugo and are now watching the movie. We are also studying Georges Méliès and all of his movies and the magic that he made. Since Spencer is going to Paris in a few weeks, we are making a list of places that she should visit that correspond to the things that we are studying in Hugo. We hope to get pictures and videos from the automaton Museum and the train station that Hugo supposedly worked at.

In science we have been studying about the different types of lightbulbs. We have looked at incandescent light, fluorescent lights, and LED lights. We are noting the differences in the way they work and how efficient they are in using the energy that is given.

Last week we finished our first news report and we have started on our second news broadcast. As soon as the video is edited we will release the first broadcast of our news stories.

In math we are in the middle of our baking math and this week we have chocolate chip cookies. We use the same recipe as we used last year, but last year we had twice as many students, so we made A LOT of cookies. We continue to work on our multiplication tables memorize all of them as best we can.

Weekly Post 3/11/17

Hi Team, this week on team Spencer we have been having a lot of fun. After last week's rousing success in math class with making cupcakes, this week we made fudge pie. But, it wasn't quite that simple. The first recipe we were given was f​or six times as many people as we needed. We had to divide all the ingredients in our ingredient list by 6 in order to get the correct recipe.

This week we also recorded our very first team Spencer News network broadcast. Spencer's brother Jamal is going to help us edit it and put it together so that it looks like a professional news broadcast. All the students work so hard on their stories. It will be very informative. Look for it sometime next week.

As we have been talking about real estate in our business dealings, many students are purchasing their desks so they don't have to pay rent. We thought it would be good to play a little Monopoly. It has been an interesting fascinating Journey in buying, selling, trading, and dealing with money.

Weekly Post 3/5/17

This week was busy on Team Spencer.  We have updated our tax system to reflect differing economic status within our class.  Mason has come up with a system where we pay based on how much we have.  The ownership of the utilities, paper, pencils, scissors and other supplies, has changed from Spencer to Mason and Josiah.  The class taxes now go to them, so that they may provide these resources to the class.  Friday we had another art sale; this one to benefit UNICEF.  The students wanted to donate to a cause that helps children.  We have also elected a new President.  Ben is the new President of The United Kids of Team Spencer.  Congratulations!!

We have almost finished up our first draft of our Hero's Journey stories and some of us are beginning the revising stage and making sure our work is perfect.  

In Math, our baking project is in full swing.  On Tuesday, we calculated what ingredients we need and how much of each ingredient we will need for the all of the recipes.  It was a lot of adding.  On Thursday we went to the grocery store and had to decide how much to buy.  On Friday we followed the recipe and made cupcakes. Yum!!

Weekly Post 2/17/17

What a fun week for Team Spencer! On Monday, we had a guest come into our class. It was Spencer's brother, Jamal Spencer from WZZM channel 13 in Grand Rapids. He is a sports journalist and Sports Anchor at his station. He came and talked to us about journalism and how to research and create stories to share on a news program. After the break we will be creating our own news broadcast and sharing it with the Summers Knoll School community. Jamal helped us to organize our broadcast, and come up with new stories. He also did some pretty fun interviews with us.

We also had our very first Market day this week. As a part of our government structure, and our class economy, we created jobs within our class and fun little activities that other kids could come and pay class money for. We invited Chris's class to our class to enjoy our Market Carnival. There were temporary tattoos, face painting, original Magic the Gathering cards, that were created by students, and the highlights of our Market were our fortune tellers. Each kid from Chris's class got $20 to spend the night market, so we made a lot of money that day. It was a blast.
In math we have been playing really fun times tables games. We played a game with sevens where we had to go on a scavenger hunt throughout the room and look for answers to seven times tables multiplication 
problems. On Friday we played a lot of fun interactive games to help us memorize and multiply.

Weekly Post 2-9-17

Hi Team, 
This weekend Team  Spencer was the annual Fort week. We built forts of all different sizes and shapes to work in and play in.  It was really fun to exercise our creativity and build things to work with.

On Wednesday we went to the water treatment plant. We learned how Ann Arbor purifies its water and sends it out to all the houses in our city. We also visited Barton Dam and saw firsthand how a river is dammed and the water is used to create electricity.

We will be starting a new project soon. We will be using our research techniques to find out information about our city and community and communicate it to the SK community via our own Team Spencer New Station. Everyone will get a different job. They will all write stories, and some will record them on our news broadcast. We will have Spencer's brother Jamal tell us all about being a journalist and reporting the news on the television. Jamal Spencer is a sports reporter for Channel 13 WZZM in Grand Rapids.

Videos of Jamal's Visit:

In math we have finished up our math songs and are recording them this week. We will continue with our learning of them multiplication tables and practicing our sevens times tables. It will be hard, but I know we can do it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Fort Week Fun!! February 6-10, 2017

During Undergrad at the University of Michigan, I took a course with Elizabeth Goodenough.  During this class, she repeatedly highlighted the need for and power of children having their own secret spaces in childhood.  It was constantly reinforced how powerful it is for children to have their own safe private space to be themselves in.

With that in mind, I have created a yearly tradition of Fort week.  During Fort week the students design and create their own little blanket and cardboard spaces.  There are forts, lean-to's, and secret hidey holes.  They work, play and create in their little spaces.  At the end of the week, we will have a pajama day.  We will try to preserve some of the forts for the rest of the year, but there are space and practicality issues involved.  We had a lot of fun building and using our forts.

For more information about the book 'Secret Spaces of Childhood' by Elizabeth Goodenough, see:

Weekly Post 2-3-17

Hi team, this week on Team Spencer we have been working on continuing our Hero's Journey story. We have been perfecting our outlines and making sure we know what we are going to write before we start writing all of our thoughts down. We are also continuing working on the books that we are reading and summarizing as we go along. We hope to have both the Hero's Journey story and our books completed before midwinter break.
We have had a very interesting government session. Josiah has taken the lead on organizing all the governmental activities as the president. Spencer does not do anything during the government's sessions, but watch. We have been actively organizing what we are going to do and how we are going to do it. We are also finding out which charity we will support this term. Also, the Team Spencer News has it had its first edition published. If you'd like a copy please let Mason, Zoey or Spenser know. For every copy someone orders they get class money to continue their work within the class economy.

In math we are finishing up the final touches on our math songs. The class has been using famous pop songs and not-so-famous folk songs to create memorable math fact songs. It has been a lot of fun creating all this math music.

In repurposing we have finished our final challenge which was to create a toy, game, or piece of art out of repurposed materials. The items should be for sale and our next Charity art sale in the coming weeks. There are a lot of really cool items.

Weekly Post 1-20-17

While we are gearing up for the completion of Assessments, the kids are really working on independence and time management.  

This is Josiah's first week as Team Spencer President, and he is already on a roll.  He has assigned students to his cabinet who he thinks can do the jobs that need to be done. By Thursday, he was ready to run the session of government on his own. Mason, the new Treasurer, discussed some equitable tax options so that poor people can still afford to do business in our class.  Zoey, the Secretary of Jobs and Commerce,  set out to find ways to help our class's unemployment problem where the opportunities to earn money are uneven.  Ben worked on finding out which charity we should help next, by taking suggestions from the class.

On Friday we travelled to the HQ of Equality Michigan to give them the money that we raised for them.  Thanks to everyone who participated in our fundraiser!

We continue to work on our reading and our Hero's journey story.  This week we wrote about Crossing the First Threshold into a whole new world and Tests, Allies and Enemies, where we learn who our friends are and who our enemies are.

In Math, this week was all about our 6 times tables.  Everyone in the class is doing so well with memorizing their times tables, division is going to be a breeze!  Several students have finished writing their multiplication song and only need to record it.  Thanks to Josh who teaches all the kids how to write songs, so projects like these are a snap!

Team Spencer has published its first issue of Team Spencer News!  This is a student written and run publication.  If you would like a copy, please email our imaginary kid, Alexander, at  For every person that orders an issue, the press gets a class dollar, so help them out!

Weekly Post 1-20-17

Short week on Team Spencer.  We managed to finally vote on a president.  On Wednesday, Josiah and Noelle went toe to toe in a last minute debate.  Josiah is the new President of Team Spencer.  He ran on a platform of social justice and creating better systems in the classroom.

We have been making good progress on our Hero's Journey stories.  This week we are completing Step 4 on the journey: Meeting the Mentor.  The stories are getting good.

Our fundraiser last week was a great success! We managed to raise $100 for Michigan Equality.  Next week, Friday, we will be traveling to the Equality Michigan Headquarters to deliver the money and learn about all the projects the do.

In math, we have been working hard on our 6 times tables.  Things are getting harder!

Weekly Post 1-13-17

What a week in Team Spencer!  It is election week again.  This time we had 4 candidates and our primary narrowed it down to 2.  Noelle and Josiah are battling it out for the presidency.  For this election, we are focusing on issues in the community that you would like to champion.  Noelle want to thank our community's first responders for their heroism and bravery.  Josiah wants to fight for the rights of marginalized peoples.  It will be a tough call.  
Also in government, there was a big debate on tax reform.  When the new term starts, the class will no longer be receiving their government allowance.  This means that in order to afford their bills, the class will have to get a job, or make a business.  Our poorer classmates worried about being able to make ends meet with the weekly taxes and proposed that taxes be higher for the richer than the poorer, but the richer classmates rebelled.  There was a huge discussion about how the government runs taxes and how our class differs from the United States.  We will make a decision during the new administration.

In language arts we have two projects coming up that are due before mid-winter break.  We are working on reading and summarizing stories. Every week we are to summarize what we have read from that week in three sentences. No more, no less. The other project is our writing project. We have done all the prewriting and outlining for our hero's journey story. We are now in the middle of writing it. The hard part of both of these projects is time management. We now have an end date, and we are given work time in class. The students can choose to either work on their writing, their morning work, or any business that they have set up for government. They must use their time wisely and make sure that they are giving each assignment enough time. I am checking in with them every day to make sure that they are making progress on all of their projects, and making sure that they are accurate and correct in their work.

In math we have been challenging ourselves on our times tables. We have works on everything from 1 to 5 so far. We are also working on our music videos and putting are math facts to music. Many of us have worked on linking the idea of our five times tables to the time on the clock. We played some pretty intense games trying to read an analog clock.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Weekly Post 12-22-16

This week in Team Spencer we have been gearing up for the break.  Over last week our government has been deciding how to be more socially active.  We have decided to volunteer our time with the Michigan Humane Society in any way they can use us.  We have also decided to create fundraisers so we can donate money to Equality Michigan, an organization that helps support equal rights in our state.  When we come back from break, look for an art sale to help support this charity.

We have been continuing to read a chapter of our favorite books to each other in order to provide good options for our next reading project.  Each student has been asked to read from their favorite book and then choose one of their classmate's recommendations to read for our next project.  If you are interested in our suggestions, visit our class' front porch.  We have put up all of our recommendations and why we would recommend them.

In Math we are working on learning our multiplication tables.  We have been trying to increase our accuracy and our speed when recalling our facts.  In the new year, we will be creating our music videos to help us remember our facts.

Weekly Post 12-9-16

What a crazy week on Team Spencer. We have been working hard to get ready for the school play.  We all made shadow puppets and have been working on our lines.  It will be a great show.  

In government, we have a new president.  Sean is our new president.  He has already chosen his new government and is working on new ways to make the classroom system more sustainable.  The goal is for the class not to need the teacher.  

We are working on a general outline for our Hero's journey stories so that we have all the elements of our prewriting complete.  Next week we will start writing our first chapter to our stories.  We continued to read the Odyssey and are beginning to understand how to summarize what we've read without adding too much extra details to our summaries.  

Every week in our class we will be reading a chapter from our favorite books to each other.  We will then have to choose a book that was recommended to us for our next reading project. If you want to know what books we recommend, there will be a display of them outside of Spencer's classroom.

In math, we are beginning our music video project.  We are watching multiplication music videos and playing games to memorize our multiplication tables.  We will then be either writing our own songs or remixing a song we have already heard and making our own multiplication music videos. 

Students modeling for their shadow puppets  
 Staging our play

Weekly Post 12-2-16

Hi Team,
We had a super fun week.  On Monday, we went to see Moana.  On of the main characters in the story is the demigod Maui.  We have studied Maui and written our portion of the school play about Maui.  We were able to see the similarities and differences between the Maui in the Movie and the one we have been studying.  We also were able to identify how the movie fit perfectly into the Hero's Journey narrative.
We also worked on inventing our own characters for our Hero's Journey story.
Tuesday we were invited to a special animal presentation.  We hung out with an opossum, a  skink, and even a kangaroo. 
This week was an election week for the Team Spencer President.  Everyone that wanted to run gave campaign speeches.  On Wednesday we held our first ever primary. Josiah and Mason won the primaries.  On Thursday they had a classroom debate where they discussed classroom issues. On Friday we had our election.  It was a close race.

In math we found all of the little mistakes we have mad and came up with ways to measure and fix our mistakes. We finally have finished drawers!

Grandfriends Day

This Grandfriends Day was super exciting!  We told our grandfriends all about our classroom and showed them how we do things.  We used the hero's journey to make up a crazy outer space hero story.  It was a fun day.

Weekly Post 11-18-16

We got a lot of work done on Team Spencer this week.  On Monday, Allyson Bettis, the Treasurer of Garden City, came to talk to us about the role of the treasurer in the treasurer in a government.  We played a cool money game and got some Garden City swag.  We took what we learned and started a tax system for our class government.  We will use the taxes to provide the kids with free paper markers and other supplies that they previously had to pay class money for.  We began reading the Odyssey and have started fitting what we read into the steps of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey theory.  We have also been writing our own Hero's Journey story.  In Math we have finished measuring and cutting all of the wood.  We are now using our measurements and the diagrams we made to put the drawers together.

Weekly Post 11-11-16

It has been a short and somber week on Team Spencer.  We passed a law in class government allowing students, who get paid $10 class dollars a week, to have 11 and 1/2 days of paid absent days.  They have such great ideas.  We also started to write our own stories using the Hero's journey.  On Friday we went on our annual Thanksgiving Day Parade warehouse tour.  We will be seeing how all the floats are made and learning about the history of the parade from Spencer's dad! A magical day.  In Math we started to measure out the actual wood we will be cutting based on the measurements we made last week.  We should have it all cut out by next week.

 Val as Aretha Franklin
Spenser in a paper mache head
 Measuring our wood