• October 11 - 15

    Posted by Seth Geltman on 10/10/2021

    Our 7th and 8th graders used the Six Hats thinking technique to brainstorm ideas for a possible Veterans Day presentation. This method, used by companies like IBM, prompts participants in a discussion to adopt certain thinking styles. To illustrate the concept, I showed students a video in which the director coordinates all the car colors in traffic to be the same. In the same way, members of the discussion prioritized and synchronized different styles of thinking.

    Additionally, these students used a bracket format to decide on Student Spotlight topics and finished off the Resulting Video. This project introduced a variety of SketchUp, Garageband, Musescore, and WeVideo techniques we'll use throughout the year.

    Our 6th graders used the Observe, Collect, Draw book to analyze student-selected pieces of music. They also created a drawing based on Picasso's portrait of Igor Stravinsky. Using an exercise from 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,' students turned the original artwork upside down to see and draw it as positive space, negative space and lines. Other 6th grade activities included the Student Spotlight selection and group music improvisation based on a student-created chord progression.

    The 5th grade group analyzed parts of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, which is part of the Core Knowledge curriculum. We began by discussing preconceptions about classical music, and explored how, sometimes, its trappings of formality and academicism can prevent us from fully listening to it. Then students engaged in active, creative listening. By engaging their imagination, they associated stories and images with the music. We used Notezilla to investigate the notational devices used by Beethoven. Additionally, I brought the symphony into Garageband, which permitted students to isolate different instruments and their interaction with each other. Through this, we could explore the great creativity and craftsmanship Beethoven brought to this piece.

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  • October 4 - October 8

    Posted by Seth Geltman on 10/1/2021

    Our 7th and 8th graders continue producing the Resulting video, adding narration, images, and music, and sound effects with WeVideo. Additionally, ​​these students used a playoff bracket activity to decide on their Student Spotlight project topics, and investigated different aspects of luck, effort, and results in a ‘How to Decide’ activity.



    The 8th graders made photos based on Ansel Adams, one of their Core Knowledge artists.


    The 6th graders also created drawings that started as geometric shapes, and finished with realistic images of a wedge of cheese. We saw how integrating geometry into art enhances the illusion of three dimensions on the two dimensional plane.



    Our 5th graders also got started on the SketchUp portion of ​​the Resulting video. Additionally, they developed their “Figure of Speech” songs, investigated haiku poetry through a Six Hats of Thinking activity, and worked with both Musescore and Earmaster.

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  • September 27 - October 1

    Posted by Seth Geltman on 9/24/2021

    The 6th, 7th, and 8th graders have designed SketchUp models of “Resulting,” and are creating a video about this.


    Vivian's Video

    They’re utilizing many WeVideo techniques which we’ll continue developing throughout the year.

    Students ​​are also using Musescore to explore musical intervals ​​and rhythms, and to create our own sounds for various emotions.


    The next step for this project is to convert the Musescore composing into a MIDI file, and bring it to GarageBand. There, students will change the sound of the instruments to more vividly express the emotion.

    The 5th graders continue developing songs based on Core Knowledge sayings, and performing their works for the class. Some have chosen to take this exercise further to develop harmony, rhythm, and musical textures in GarageBand. Others have decided to move to the 3D “Resulting” design.

    All classes continue drawing exercises in Observe, Collect, Draw; ear-training with Earmaster; and keyboarding with creative typing exercises.

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  • September 20 - 24

    Posted by Seth Geltman on 9/17/2021

    Students are using SketchUp and WeVideo to create a 3D animation about our tendency for “resulting.” This entails a variety of techniques in both programs that we’ll return to over the year. 

    Our 7th and 8th graders also started using Earmaster, an ear-training program. We also began investigating how different intervals are used, beginning with half-steps. Students played half-steps together with our keyboards, basses, and pianos. Then we listened to the theme from ‘Jaws’ to see how effectively John Williams utilized this interval for drama and suspense. An exercise called ‘How Music Makes Me Feel,’ in our Observe, Collect, Draw book, helped encourage highly active, participatory listening.

     Additionally, students started using Musescore to create their own emotional sounds with intervals. Our 5th graders are also using Core Knowledge sayings as the basis of lyrics that they’re developing into songs. We’ll record these with GarageBand. 


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  • September 13 - 17

    Posted by Seth Geltman on 9/10/2021

    Wassily Kandinsky is an artist in 8th graders’ Core Knowledge curriculum, and also cited as a key influence in our Observe, Collect, Draw book. The 7th and 8th graders explored Kandinsky’s experiments with synesthesia, and combined visual and musical exercises. This included automatic drawing to music and manipulating marking and compositional techniques. We also discussed the different priorities of abstract and representational artists. While these were meant to be more “process” than “product” exercises, ​​I was amazed at how our students fashioned these seemingly random marks into fascinating abstract images.


    After incorporating music into art, we incorporated art into music. We discussed how visual compositional strategies may be applied to musical creation and notation. Many students wrote out very tuneful solutions.

    Additionally, we moved forward with our How to Decide book, and discussed “resulting.” This is a tendency to evaluate the quality of a decision on its result. Students also annotated a key passage from How to Read, which encourages annotation as personal ownership of text. 

    Our 5th graders continue to make the most of online learning. They’re collaborating to make songs out of Core Knowledge sayings. This is an opportunity to explore rhyme schemes, the meanings of idioms, and songwriting techniques. Additionally, they’ve gotten started with Duolingo. While not a foundational part of our curriculum, many of these students are already using language in advanced ways, and they welcome the challenge of finding out about a new language.


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  • September 7 - 10

    Posted by Seth Geltman on 9/3/2021

    In most classes, we worked through the first pages of the How to Decide book. Through this introduction, students viewed the decision-intensive final moments of a Super Bowl, and author Annie Duke’s observations on this. We discussed how the outcome of a decision may disproportionately affect our evaluation of ​​the process that went into it. 

    Frequently, our students team up to solve spatial reasoning puzzles called Star Battles. We reflected on aspects of decision-making that go into this, and discussed how, in other situations, we can apply similar approaches.

    A key part of effective decision-making is identifying things we have complete control over; those we have partial control over; and those over which we have absolutely no control. Students teamed up to complete a table on the chalkboard, and we discussed various examples. 

    control table



    Along with this, our activities this week included drawing exercises in Observe, Collect, Draw. These helped us get a better sense of intervals of time and patterns in nature. Additionally, we continue to explore elements of music such as major and minor tonality, rhythmic subdivisions, and common and uncommon meters.

    Due to ​the quarantine, our 5th graders’ online classes have shifted our work around a bit. We continue to work with concepts in Observe, Collect, Draw. They are also using Google Drawings to create posters of their photographs.

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  • August 30 - September 3

    Posted by Seth Geltman on 8/27/2021

    We introduced KenKen puzzles into our toolkit this week. These are wonderful math exercises that not only utilize arithmetic skills in a fascinating way, but also employ a wide range of rational thinking strategies. This paper from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics gives a good description of KenKens. Each student has his or her own account, so they may access our school’s premium subscription at any time. 

    Additionally, students progressed on their Photoshop designs for ​​their websites, worked on other exercises in the Observe, Collect, Draw book, and explored other aspects of music through improvisation.

    Even though students are brand new to our instruments, they are listening to and reacting to each other’s playing. We discuss elements such as rhythm, subdivision, and major and minor tonalities, and work with them as we play.

    6th grade - First time, group playing

    5th grade - Using rhythmic subdivision to make something that sounds ‘impatient’

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  • August 23 - 27

    Posted by Seth Geltman on 8/22/2021

    Students completed their first exercise in the Observe, Collect, Draw book. The exercise was to create a simple shape and manipulate it to express an emotion. We discussed various marking, framing, and scaling techniques to experiment with. It was exciting to see so much of our students' imagination at work.

    student drawing



    student drawing


    We took photographs that conveyed these same emotions. Students looked for textures and compositions, and labelled them with the emotion they perceived in them.


    student photo

    student photo

    In our exploration of music, we discussed elements of tonality, rhythm, and contrast by listening and analyzing songs suggested by students. Through these songs, we investigated the difference between major and minor keys. 

    Students also collaborated on word and math puzzles, practiced keyboarding, researched ideas for Student Spotlight projects, and progressed with Photoshop on designing art for their websites.

    Our work this week will include further development of the websites, observation and data collection drawing exercises, and more detailed work with musical intervals.


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  • August 16 - 20

    Posted by Seth Geltman on 8/13/2021

    Our first week of classes went very well. We discussed areas of art, music, and technology we’ll explore this year, and began activities and projects.

    Since we'll investigate art and music from students' cultural roots, we collaborated on a world map to locate where we emigrated from.

    world map

    Additionally, students used iPads to design headings for websites they'll update throughout the year.


    We also collaborated on solving math and word puzzles, and started drawing with an exercise from our Observe, Collect, Draw book.


    Next week, we'll develop the website further with image editing in Photoshop, explore visual texture with drawing and photography, and introduce concepts of rhythm in both art and music.

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  • August 10 - 14

    Posted by Seth Geltman on 8/6/2021

    I’m excited to start our class. After spending some of our first session setting up students’ Chromebooks, I'll give an overview of our class with this presentation. We’ll take a survey to identify learning styles and preferences, have an overview of our course, and begin our first project. This will be a website for each student; he or she will add to it throughout the year, collecting work in art, music, and technology. 

    If you weren’t able to attend our meeting about ALITA last year, and would like to find out more about it, please visit this presentation.

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