Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Sand Mandala and 7.8/3 Students

The Sand Mandala is a wonder. The monks spend countless hours honing and place each grain of sand in a design. By itself, the placement of the sand means nothing. Yet, when seen in a larger configuration, all the pieces fit together to create something that leaves an impression on the viewer.

In this, much can be gained in understanding our students.

Both sets of students will be setting their minds to composing something long term in nightly increments. The seventh graders have their writing assessments on Chapter 5 due on 11.16. Students will have to compose two work samples as well as two defense pieces in final draft form. This cannot be done the night before. No matter how talented the student, no seventh grader can effectively complete work of this magnitude the night before it is due. No way. This is not to doubt the capacity of our students. Rather, it is a hopeful attempt to pivot towards to developing a life skill of recognizing that the most daunting of tasks can only be done with steady and consistent work on an incremental basis. The most amazing of construction tasks are ones where a plan of attack was followed and developed into a final product. Process and product are very closely related. It is here where students' are being tested. The idea of making progress each class period and each night in work is of vital importance. Students have a timetable of where they should be in their packets. The "chunking" of this assignment into smaller pieces is designed to help students recognize that a long term task can only be done with accomplishment of nightly benchmarks. Students have also been advised to recognize that the halfway point of the 9th should be where one final draft of a work sample and one defense piece should be completed. I will read rough drafts until the 9th or the 10th, so students can also take advantage of this in the completion of work. It is my hope that students recognize that there is little shame in devoting nightly work to each subject in order to reach a level of scholarship that can both bring pride to student work and to ensure that future success can be reached with the development of strong work habits.

In this vein, the 8th graders will be composing five identification paragraphs for submission on Thursday. Students will have to plan out how to write five paragraphs by Thursday. Perhaps, this means composing one in class and another at home, or some other arrangement. Students will need to compose the five identification paragraphs by the start of Thursday's class. For so many of our 8th graders, the need to plan out effectively in order to find success is something that is evident in our students. It is also something that can be continually harvested over time to reap even more benefits.

One final point is left to be made. As students wrestle with tasks over a long period of time, it is important to develop an incremental strategy as to how a formidable assignment can be "chunked" in order to make sure work is done and done well. Students can adopt a "backward design" mentality towards this. Essentially, students determine on what day the assignment is due and then work backwards from that due date to make sure a small amount is done each night to bring them closer to that elusive end. For example, if students have two writing tasks and two defense pieces due on the 16th of November, then that becomes the starting point and students "work backwards," figuring out if they will work on weekends and how much a night needs to be done. If eight sections of reading need to be completed, planning how this will look over a period of four days is essential. What will be done in class? What will be done at home? How much will be done at home? What will this look like? This is a life skill for students in being able to plan out and chart the course on getting work done. It will also avoid headaches for parents/ guardians dealing with stressed out students who waited until the last minute to get assignments done. At the same time, working backwards also helps students identify particularly challenging elements that need to be addressed in completing long term work. The ability to make a schedule, keep to it and make sure that they are following a designed plan teaches advocacy, responsibility, and allows them to be proactive in solving problems. This is a life skill and I hope it is one that will empower your emerging scholar. I hope that you will be able to help both of us in this process of learning.

In the end, our students might be no different than the monks who recognize that the beauty of the Sand Mandala can only be accomplished by carefully recognizing the need to identify accomplishment of specific sand placement, incrementally and carefully, in order to accomplish something magnificent and worthy of honor.

As always, if I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at school or at my home.
All best.
Mr. Kannan

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Summits Seen, New Heights to be Climbed

With the challenges that await us in the upcoming week, it seems evident that as one significant hurdle is crossed, another awaits. This seems to be the basic template of this class and of my teaching, in general. I believe that students will be able to meet these challenges with the level of energy and focus that such challenges deserve.

On the seventh grade side, I hope to see students during 4th period lunch on Monday and Tuesday. These are the last opportunities to revise their exam on Chapter 5. This is the last opportunity to work on this exam. For students who need to make up this exam, this is it. We move on after Tuesday. After this, whatever grade is earned stands. Passes can be found in the team area. We conclude our study of learning styles this week. Students have really done nicely in diagnosing themselves, their colleagues, and their teachers with this methodology. I hope that some of you have been privy to these discussions. There is little more revivifying to me to hear that dinner discussion centered around ST or NF modes of thought. Great times, indeed. Starting from Tuesday, we will take what we have gained with our learning styles discussion and pivot towards the writing tasks on Chapter 5. Students will have to select two writing tasks from the selected four and compose two defense pieces in addition explaining how their work represents the specific learning style. These tasks are due at the end of class on November 10. Students who will be absent for the extended weekend should submit their work to me before they depart.
On the 8th grade side, Sally Bowles might have summed it up with her song on "Money." We study industrialization and wealth this week. Students have been assigned reading from Chapter 17 and 18 for an open note, take home quiz on the reading for Monday. After that, we begin with an assessment on Immigration via Powerpoint/ Googledocs. With this, we will wrap the week up with a study of the themes of the Industrialization unit along with a small taste of the Identification, the 8th graders' new friend. Students know when their deadline for submission of their revised exam will be and my hope is that they will adhere to these deadlines in a timely manner.
All students should know that the Extra Credit Quotation Section on the Blog is going to be closed this week Friday night at 6:00 PM. These extra credit opportunities will be open at the start of second trimester. If students wish to take advantage, they are advised to do so soon.
If I can be of any further assistance, I strongly advise students/ parents/ guardians/ stakeholders to contact me at school via email or at my home. Partnership works best in any circumstance when there is open discussion and transparency and where suffering in silence is averted.
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Photo courtesy of and

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lighting the lights of scholarship, thought, and complexity

I find myself writing this after finishing an entire day of conferences. This is probably not the best time to be writing a blog entry, but with Constitution Exams and Chapter 5 Exams being graded and inputted this weekend, as well as a wife on the phone with India, it might be as good of a time as any to write what is on tap for next week in Social Studies.
For the seventh grade, we will continue the study of metacognition. We will spend this week bracketing our discussion of historical concepts that led to the Revolution and examine why we learn the way we do. The learning styles lecture will start (or started, depending on when you read this) on Friday and shall continue on Monday and Tuesday. Students will examine their own style of learning as well as the styles of others and engage in a reflective process of where they are now and where they might be later on in the year. This will culminate in the Learning Styles Assessment on Chapter 5, where students will create different work samples on the ideas in Chapter 5 through different learning styles. This task will be completed on Tuesday, November 1. My hope is that students will be able to see themselves through different prisms and understand more about history and all disciplines by first being able to understand more about themselves. What a vision to behold where students and parents sit around a living room talking about the habits of particular learners! (It's late and I can dream.) Student grades will be updated this weekend and with it will be the revision policy that has to be followed in revising work on the Chapter 5 Exam.
For the eighth grade, the study of wealth and power begins with our in class exploration of Monopoly. After enduring a grueling two day and 2000 point exam, students will now play Monopoly in class. Students will have to finish an enrichment sheet about the experience and then begin the process of linking this to Chapters 17 and 18, detailing the growth of industry. Students will find that the grades on the Constitution Exams will be updated this weekend and it is my hope that students take advantage of the revision policy that will be detailed in the gradebook, if they wish to pursue it.
I will be absent from my classes on Wednesday. In celebrating Diwali, I do wish all of you the very best in lighting lights that acknowledge the pursuit of "the good, the true, and the beautiful." May the worldwide joy of this holiday be felt in your lives, as well.
All best.
Mr. Kannan
Photo courtesy of and at

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's Exams all the way down...

This one is a quick entry. It's exams in Social Studies down the line.
7th Grade- Exam on Chapter 5 Starts Tuesday and continues on Wednesday. Students can use an index card for assistance.
8th Grade- The Constitution Exam is on Thursday and Friday. Students need a pen for Thursday and a pencil on Friday.
Best wishes to all.
I also hope to see many of you at conferences this week.
All best.
Mr. Kannan

Photo courtesy of

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ascending through and to challenges

For Seventh Graders who need a link to do their homework on Wednesday night, please click here!
The upcoming week will pose much in way of challenge to our students. While they have faced challenges in Social Studies up to this point, I believe this week will be instrumental in setting up some of their most formidable hurdles up to this point.
Progress reports were sent home this week for students who are not performing to a satisfactory level or for students who are not demonstrating the most successful of habits. It is here where some level of articulation or discussion is needed. Perhaps, students need to open a dialogue with teachers as to how improvement can be achieved. Simply put, no student who received a progress report this week should be happy with where they are. It is our responsibility as educators and adults to help these students meet their own responsibility in being able to perform to the highest of their capacity and to demonstrate the habits of successful scholarship. If you know of a child who received a progress report, it might not be a bad idea to initiate this dialogue with students as to how they can initiate a discussion with their teachers about reaching their potential as emerging scholars. There is no room for "foolish pride." Rather, there are teachable moments and this could be one of them. For students who did not receive progress reports this week, I think a moment of affirmation can be given. Discussion of what is working would be wonderful and further articulation as to how this can continue would be even better. As we progress further in our journey, the work will become more arduous, the demands more intense, and the sacrifices required will increase. It is my hope that I can be of assistance into this transition period of heightened challenge.
For the seventh graders, this week will be spent discussing Chapter 5, in lieu of the upcoming chapter 5 exam. We will spend some time analyzing primary sources, reviewing content for the exam, and analyze how to approach test taking. What does it mean to study? This will be our focus this week. The exam will be difficult, but these are the same students who have read Arthur Miller. It will be and can be met. Students' revisions of their writing tasks on The Crucible are due on Wednesday of this week (10.12). Additionally, students will have writing extensions on Chapter 5 due on Tuesday of this week (10.11). It is my hope that students can continue the dialogue that has been started in terms of what the demands of scholarship entails.
The 8th graders have The Constitution on their minds... or at least they should. The exam is on the 20th and 21st. This week will feature more insight given as to this topic. At the same time, students will be working on their Constitutional Projects that will be due on Friday. Student grades will be updated by Monday with their quizzes and writing prompts included. Students can revise both items by Monday, 10.17. Nightly study for the Constitution Exam should be a must each night. Students have two pages in their packets that talk about test topics and can self monitor their progress with quizzing themselves on these concepts. These are on pages 2 and 3 of their packets. A great "family night" activity would be a "Constitution" night where students and parents/ guardians spend an evening familiarizing themselves with the Constitution. What a heartwarming vision: A family sitting around the kitchen table or the living room, talking about Senators and the Supreme Court. All one needs is hot chocolate and it's like a Norman Rockwell painting!! In any event, I hope students are able to initiate contact with me if they need further assistance or guidance in all that is due this week and all that lies ahead.
Conferences are scheduled for the week of the 17th. I hope that all of our students will be represented at these moments to discuss student greatness and opportunities to discuss how further achievement can be obtained.
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Photo courtesy of Michal Marcol, whose portfolio is:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Changing Seasons in Nature and Scholarship

With October presenting itself, there seems to be a sense of change in the air. Almost strikingly like clockwork, the leaves seemed to change colors overnight. It was almost as if the internal calendar of the natural world was impeccably set to the calendars in our kitchens, cubicles, and our studies. (Perhaps, it is the other way around.) In this light, it seems that change is present. It is part of our world and is something that presenting itself to us in an undeniable fashion.

It makes sense that this would be mirrored in our students, as well. With October, more challenges present themselves as our students seek to embrace the pursuit of scholarship that seems inevitably thrust upon their shoulders. This becomes so very true for our seventh graders, who leave the world of Salem and Arthur Miller’s “crucible” and enter the struggle for Colonial freedom. It is here where students will study what it means to be a colonist seeking freedom or what it means to find oneself poised between equally desirable ends of political or economic freedom. With discussion in and outside of the textbook, students will have to synthesize multiple points of view in understanding the exposition to the American Revolution. Students will find themselves having to integrate new means of vocabulary expression in to their own frames of reference. This will also feed into this week’s writing prompts, assigned on Thursday and due on Tuesday of next week. Students will receive their writing prompts on The Crucible this week and revisions of this writing task are due on Tuesday, 10.11. The changes in our students are becoming more evident.

On the 8th grade side of the equation, the word is "Constitution." More importantly, "Constitution Exam." Students will finish their quiz on Monday and should receive it back on Tuesday, the 11th. Students will be in the process of assembling their papers on the Constitution that are due at 9:00 AM on Thursday. Students can submit rough drafts until Tuesday evening. Once these are settled up, the next focus would be the Constitution Projects, due on Friday the 14th at 5:00 PM. Students should be engaging in nightly study for the Constitution Exam on the 20th and 21st. Students can use the study guide on pages two and three of their Constitution Packets. This would be an effective first step for streamlining their study for the exam. There will not be a study session this week, but will be present next week and often.

There is change evident in our students. Many of them are recognizing that embracing the path of scholarship is the only possible way to find success. Those that have not will do so . Change is what makes scholarship possible, and, like clockwork, it is at this point where we as stakeholders can only stand back and admire what is in front of us.

All best and happy hunting.

Mr. Kannan

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons at with rights for use reflected at