• November 15 - November 19

    Posted by Seth Geltman on 11/12/2021

    In all classes, we’re discussing hindsight bias as it’s presented in How to Decide. Just as we’d made a 3D animation about Resulting, we’ll make one about hindsight bias to further explain and internalize it. For this we’re making circular arrays in SketchUp to show the array of outcomes a decision may have.



    The video will show that, with hindsight bias, people often overestimate how much they really could have anticipated the outcome.

    Additionally, in our 7th/8th class, we explored issues of digital citizenship, and methods for writing effective and diplomatic emails. We also looked at the Core Knowledge content of Impressionism, focussing for now on Monet. Our discussion included a comparison of this movement with Expressionism. 

    The 6th graders used MuseScore to further transcribe the Brandenburg Concerto.



    We also reviewed modes, and improvised on them to work with musical concepts like tension and release, suspended chords, and ostinatos. These students also furthered their progress on their websites, which will be an ongoing portfolio of their work in the class.

    Having shared their original song about Veterans Day with the school, the 5th graders are now finding out about chords, meters, and song structure through “Greensleeves,” a song in the Core Knowledge sequence.


    After learning the melody, students worked through the chords. We discussed and played the 1-3-5 structure of triads, and many kids could play through the song. Additionally, we’re notating the song in MuseScore. This provides opportunities for discovery of musical conventions, structure, and the technicalities of working with a notation program.

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  • November 8 - November 12

    Posted by Seth Geltman on 11/7/2021

    Our 7th/8th class watched parts of a Rocky Mountain PBS documentary about Colorado artists, and discussed the challenges and opportunities of making a living as an artist in our area. Additionally, we progressed further on the Photoshop project in which we’re exploring the geometric framework of ordinary objects. Through this project, students will discover various aspects of layers and visual effects in Photoshop. The final part will be to draw the object by hand with the geometry as a reference point. Students also discussed hindsight bias as part of our group reading of How to Decide, and began research on Student Spotlight projects by utilizing the “site:edu” delimiter in a Google search to isolate academic sources for research.

    Our 6th graders completed their handwritten transcription of a phrase from the Brandenburg Concerto, and entered this into MuseScore. We used our instruments to play through each mode — Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian — and discussed the tonal characteristics of each. Afterwards, students chose a mode, and improvised over it. These students also developed their Student Spotlight projects further, discussed hindsight bias, and practiced ear training with EarMaster.

    Veterans Day has been the focus of our 5th graders, as they’ve completed writing and recording an original song, “Veterans Save the Day.” Additionally, we produced a music video that we’ll include in the Veterans Day assembly. The creative, collaborative process of producing the song and video has entailed great give-and-take, expressing and developing group ideas, and focussed effort. I’ve been so pleased with the willingness of students to share imaginative ideas and work as a creative team. Our other work included a discussion of the difference between the Renaissance and Medieval ages, and how this was reflected in the arts. Additionally, we discussed hindsight bias as part of our How to Decide readings.

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  • November 1 - November 5

    Posted by Seth Geltman on 10/29/2021

    Our 7th/8th class is exploring how complex objects may be reduced to geometric shapes with Photoshop. Students selected an object, photographed it, and used Photoshop to call out its geometry on different layers. We’ll use these images as the basis of a Keynote presentation about this mode of visualization.    



    Additionally, we’re progressing further with our How to Decide readings. Today, we discussed how even outcomes that work out well may be critically investigated to learn from, instead of just enjoying the result. For typing practice this week, ​​students selected videos from this archive of career videos, and took notes with proper typing techniques.

    Our 6th graders worked on transcribing the first phrase of the Brandenburg Concerto. We’ll bring this over into Musescore to find out more about this compositional program.



    These students also did the bottle-drawing exercise, and are utilizing Photoshop to see how layers work.

    For Veterans Day, our 5th graders have been successfully collaborating to create a song, music video, and artwork. ​​Each student will use WeVideo to make his or her own edit of the music video. This will be our part of the Veterans Day assembly. These students continue to amaze me with their creativity and hard work, as seen in these drawings.


    In addition to this project work, we practice typing with imaginative prompts, and read ​​our writing aloud to the class.

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  • October 25 - October 29

    Posted by Seth Geltman on 10/25/2021

    Hope everyone enjoyed the fall break. 

     Our 7th and 8th graders turned in some excellent videos about Resulting before break. Ritvik’s video is an excellent representation of ​​this assignment. This week, we explored different approaches to drawing. I had students draw a bottle from imagination, then make a second version using geometric shapes as the basis for the structure. I continue to be amazed by the abilities of these students, and ​​their receptivity to new techniques and explorations of art.

    Abbie brings wonderful drawing ability into our class. These pictures show how the geometrical approach influenced her representations of bottles.



    Also this week, these students will explore Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ in more detail. We’ll use our instruments to play some of the simpler sections, to get a direct sense of Stravinsky’s harmonies and rhythms. Students will also manipulate a GarageBand version of the piece, and turn on and off different instrument combinations to investigate Stravinsky’s thinking in more detail. 

    Additionally, these ​​students will use Photoshop to combine disparate images, and get to know layers and image editing tools. 

    Our 6th graders will complete the Resulting video, create the bottle artwork, and investigate Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto. We’ll notate parts of this, and transfer handwritten notes into MuseScore. Through this process, we’ll examine several qualities of notation.

    Our 5th graders have been collaborating effectively on composing and performing an original song for Veterans Day. Through this process, we’ve explored song structure, how lyrics and melodies work together, recording techniques, and constructive give-and-take as we develop the song. These students will add in Core Knowledge elements of “Recognize theme and variations” and “two- and three-part singing” as we develop this.

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  • 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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