Month: September 2016

Welcome Golden October

October Newsletterautumn-background-set-design-elements_1085-423

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.
– John Dewey


September marked an excellent beginning to the school year; the first full month nears an end. As the month ends, we enter Fall and October rears its beautiful, multicolored head. October will mark the second month of the term at Pinnacle, so students should be accustomed to the rules and regulations of the school by this point.

Calendar Note

No School: October 7th and October 10th
Report Cards: October 21st


This year the school is focusing on the idea of global interconnectedness. The world we inhabit becomes increasingly interwoven each day. For example, events in the United States affect what happens in Turkey and vice versa. As such, it is critical for students to understand and comprehend the complexity of a world defined by globalization.
So far, upper-level students have chosen countries to focus on over the next several weeks. Each week a report is due relating to an aspect of their chosen country. Students then present their written work in front of the school. A wide range of nations were chosen by students for this ongoing project, so we have gotten to hear about Iran’s culture from Ali Ravjani and the economy of Armenia from Mehdi Kizilbash (among many others!).
As the year proceeds, students will gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the interrelatedness of the globe in general and the elements of their chosen nation for study in particular.


For many, October is synonymous with a shift in foliage coloration and Halloween. While Halloween is a perennial holiday celebrated with zest by many in the United States, I will focus on a wholly different holiday here.
Columbus Day – October 10thhappy-columbus-day-background_23-2147567358
Columbus Day celebrates the “discovery” of the New World by Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492. The holiday is officially observed on the second Tuesday of October. The Knights of Columbus originally petitioned for Columbus Day to become an official holiday in 1882, though it was not until 1937 that President Roosevelt proclaimed it a holiday. President Nixon mandated Columbus Day a statutory holiday in 1971.
The holiday can be viewed as a celebration of global connectedness, an “expansion” of the globe from a distinctly European point of view. Yet the holiday itself raises many questions: What of those people already living in (what would later become) the Americas before Columbus’ arrival? Why do so many uncritically accept that Columbus “discovered” America? What exactly is the definition of “discover”? These sorts of questions can be directly applied to current events, especially those events filtered through a predominantly Western lens. Global interconnectivity, while having many positive features, also requires us to think of the ways that those in power distort and create history. It is imperative for us to account for such power dynamics when discussing globalization.


Teachers and students have accomplished a great deal so far, gliding along at an accelerated pace. Below are details from each class regarding past and current coursework:


Our Kindergarteners and First graders are learning sentence structure. Capital at the beginning and punctuation at the end of the sentence. We are starting the day learning about how many days there are in a week and how many days in a month. We end circle time with states and capitals while working on our awesome Lone Star state and working toward the West Coast.
Math for our group is working on 1-100 and using number lines in adding. Some of our students are moving on to double digit adding as well as next ascending number and previous value number. We have also started basic word problems; “in all” has been included as a key word to signal adding in basic word problems.
For spelling we are working with sight words and our more advanced students are working on double vowel usage.
Reading in different levels in number of words per book, sight words and comprehension. There are different stories from basic cause and effect to chapter books. Introduced computer book reading with questions at the end to understand comprehension.
I would appreciate that you ask questions the next time you read with the kids, both at the beginning and the end of the story. This enables them to remain engaged with the story.


In 2nd grade math, we are reviewing our multiplication tables, place value, and rounding. We have had so much fun playing multiplication bingo and races, place value shuffleboard, and building numbers. We also practice these skills in our math journal and math workbooks.
In 2nd grade Language Arts, we have been discussing characters, plots, problems/solutions, and summaries. Also, we have reviewed grammar basics such as capitalization, punctuation, syllables, and nouns. We have also reviewed adjectives; they really enjoyed creating their Name poems.
In 4th grade Language Arts, we have jumped into our novel A Wrinkle in Time. We are learning about characters, predictions, and vocabulary. Your student has a packet in his or her binder related to the novel where they answer discussion questions as well as in their journal. We have also been reviewing nouns that represent a person, place, or thing. In our workbooks, we are reviewing sentences and fragments.
In pre-k Language Arts, we have started a “making words” unit.  This is a great way for the students to learn letter patterns and sight words. We are reviewing rhyming words and have daily entries in our journals. We also have before, during, and after questions relating to our daily read alouds.


Your preschoolers are enjoying learning the alphabet, vowels, days, months, and weather conditions of the season through songs, games, and repeat practice.  Currently we are working to count and recognize numbers to 30. Through books and practice we are decoding short vowel words and identifying sight words. Manners and sharing are a focus during playtimes, as are large and small motor activities.
Reading to your preschoolers and having them speak in complete sentences at home will have a huge impact in the classroom.


Morning Math Class has been working like a boss in the 1st grade! We have been leaning about place value, comparing numbers, telling time, and the value of money. We are soaring through the basics of addition and subtraction. We have some great things in store! I have a wonderful group that is eager to learn and be engaged in our lessons. Primarily, we are striving to be the masters of multiplication!
Morning Pre-K class is a lively group who are attentive in learning their vowels. Go on and ask them about the power of the vowels! They can show you with their five magic fingers and will say, “I got you!” We are learning the sound of all letters of the alphabet. We have placed special emphasis on the letters A-G. We are working hard and learning The 100 Most Frequently Used Words chart. All of the children are accelerating! They should be reading in no time! We are also practicing counting up to thirty. This group makes me smile at the funny, adorable things they say! What a great thing is a young mind!
2nd Grade Reading group students are competing to be the best readers! They are all getting better and better each day! I love encouraging reading and making the story come alive! With our imaginations at work, we have read several chapters of Oliver Twist. We are just past the part of the book when Oliver has been sought out as the kid who was falsely accused of stealing and is set before a judge. I look forward to building a connection with your child and giving them a passion for reading!


7th-8th Grade

The Pre-Algebra class is currently learning about multi-step equations and inequalities, GCF and LCM for monomials, and he Rules of Exponents. The Geometry class is currently focusing on the Two Column Proof for Congruence of the Triangle as well as Relationships within Triangles.

5th-6th Grade

Students are working on decimals (complex multiplication and division). Geometric figures are also being studied: points, lines, planes, circles, and congruent figures.


1st class: General Science
We have started with an introduction to chemistry. In week 1, we identified the different classes of substances: elements, compounds and mixtures. We learned that chemistry is the rearrangement of atoms to form new molecules, and the difference between a chemical and physical change. We saw how to use the periodic table to find basic structure of the different kinds of atoms. We looked at the properties and defining qualities of different groups of elements in the periodic table: metals (alkali, alkali earth, and transition), and nonmetals (metalloids, halogens, and noble gases), and learned the differences in their atoms that give rise to their characteristic properties.
In week 2, we went into more detail about how electrons are organized around the atomic nucleus and how atoms of different elements become bonded to each other. We learned how to name compounds and determine their formulas and weights. We learned to read and balance equations for simple chemical reactions.
In week 3, we introduced four kinds of chemical reaction and demonstrated a reaction with the “elephant’s toothpaste” decomposition of hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen, and the double replacement reaction of silver nitrate and sodium chloride to make silver chloride and sodium nitrate. We introduced covalent bonding and compared covalent compounds like sugar to the ionic compounds we have been working with. We also introduced the idea of solutions and solubility.
Second Class
We covered the same material as class 1, but in somewhat more depth and with the addition of quantitative chemistry, i.e., determining how much product can be obtained from a given quantity of reactants.
Third Class
This is general science for a younger group. In the first week we covered the cell and its organelles. The second week was an overview of tissues and organ systems such as respiratory and digestive systems. A microscope with excellent slides was used for illustration. In addition to individual viewing by students, we are able to project microscope images for class discussion. The third week covered the classification of animals into kingdom, phyla, class, order, family, genus and species, with many examples.


The upper-level writing course is off to a swift start. Each week students are introduced to a set of SAT vocabulary words. On Wednesdays, students spend the class responding to an SAT writing prompt; with a little work, they should be able to master the writing portion of the SAT.
Students completed a personal narrative about their summer vacation during the first week of class and a Character Imitation during the second. We are currently working on thesis formation, essay structure, and expository writing.
Alongside writing and vocabulary are brief discussions of grammar issues. Logical fallacies are introduced, as learning about logical fallacies is essential when it comes to countering poorly constructed and often tricky arguments; knowing about logical fallacies also allows students to avoid using them in their own writing.
We began this course by reading and composing a Fable. After that, we read Horace Miner’s “Body Ritual Among the Nacerima” as a way to see how language can distort reality.
We are currently working our way through The Hunger Games. Several thematic elements of the novel have been discussed, primarily its dystopian elements and its likeness to reality television. On a closer level of textual analysis, we discussed naming and connotation in the novel. Students are currently working on an artistic project as well as composing a first-person dystopian short story of their own. In the coming weeks we will shift focus and begin using textual evidence to support claims about the novel.


4th and 5th graders have completed Place Value, Estimation, Addition and Subtraction with and without Estimation and Properties of Addition. They are now working on Larger Sums and Differences. On completion, we will be moving on to Properties of Multiplication and 2 & 3-digit Multiplication.
6th and 7th graders worked on Decimal System and Operation with Whole Numbers. They are now working on Geometric Figures, Angle Measurements, Perpendicular and Angle Bisectors, Area and Circumference of Circles, which is nearing completion. We will be starting our next unit on Fractions and continue to work on it.
Every week we will have a Test or Pop Quiz.


Reading & Writing 7th-8th GradeWe started the term by writing about “Our Summer Vacation.” This has been a great opportunity for me to get to know them and for pupils to share their experiences with one another. At the moment, pupils are writing a creative piece of narrative entitled “The Unexpected.” Students are engrossed in the world of The Hunger Games this term. So if they can’t stop reading, you’ll know why.

Reading & Writing 5th- 6th Grade

Pupils have started a uni called “Me, Myself and I” which focuses on the different types of writing styles. So far we have examined diary writing and sensory descriptions. Pupils have also been learning about the Holocaust in relation to our first novel of the year, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.



“All I know is that I know nothing.” –Socrates
The above quotation from Socrates seems paradoxical. How can one know anything if one knows nothing? Furthermore, how does this quotation relate to education? Socrates is of course being hyperbolic in his sentiment. He knows something, of course; however, in the grand scheme of things he knows very little.
Though this quotation has many different interpretations, it is worth gleaning a general message from it relative to education: Self-awareness of our own ignorance—no matter the subject, whether it be writing or mathematics or science—is a key factor in the first steps toward authentic learning. We must, in a way, admit our own ignorance. Viewing oneself as perfect or “good enough” is a pathway toward failure and intellectual stagnation.
How does this relate to the students at Pinnacle Prep? Every student enters the classroom believing they know more than they do; this is universal. I did and I still do, speaking as a student of life.  This is perhaps the basis for the etymology of the word “sophomore” (“wise fool”). We all think we know more than we actually do because our often ignorance prevents us from imagining the unknown.
Ultimately, Socrates’ quotation should be read with optimism. Reminding ourselves—teachers and students—each day that we know less than we think provides the conditions necessary for the possibility of learning. It creates a vibrant world full of potential.
A brief example: Ancient Greek scholars performed writing tasks called progymnasmata. In these tasks, students were directed to write in a specific form (a fable, for instance). Writing the fable one time was not sufficient. The fable would be re-written until the fable neared perfection, or at least until it was deemed acceptable. This is a goal of writing, learning, and teaching: to take what is merely acceptable and to transform it into something remarkable. If students can see that they know nothing—or at least know less than they imagine—then they can obviously imagine a world in which they know more. This can indeed be difficult because writing well is much like acquiring spoken language; we all know that we can speak, we just can’t pinpoint when we mastered (if such a thing can be done!) language. There was no single Eureka! moment because the process of language acquisition moves at a very slow pace. Similarly, developing writing skills can be slow. It is difficult to feel or know improvement until a student reflects back on the weeks of work.
This goes for every subject, too. Want to know how well you’ve progressed in math? Compare your work today with your work a few months ago. The moment of realization may render one speechless!