Students have finished comparing the geography of Mesopotamia and Egypt. They analyzed how they were similar (e.g. desert regions, river civilizations, annual floods) and different (e.g. one river vs. two, natural defenses for Egypt vs. flat plains of Mesopotamia). We have also traveled to the western hemisphere to examine the geography of the Maya region by looking at its natural resources, natural defenses and geographic features.

Last week we spent the afternoon seeking geocaches in different locations throughout Brunswick. The students seemed to enjoy the experience, and they successfully applied their knowledge of mapping and geographic directions to this new situation. A big thank you to all the parents who helped chaperone, as this field trip wouldn’t have been possible without your assistance.

Now that the students have seen a variety of places in town, they have begun the research phase. Each student is becoming an expert on one business, building or other feature of Brunswick. Mr. Levy and I have taught them how to develop questions and take bullet notes; we modeled this process for them and then asked them to practice note taking independently. During class they have been taking notes on their topics. Next week, I hope that students will begin turning their information into either a brochure, an interactive visitor’s map, a newspaper article or a one-minute documentary (with a written script).


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Economics Update

The Brunswick Projects are finished, and the students have put a great deal of effort into telling the story of a historic place in our town. Whittier Field, the Chamberlain House, the Children’s Strike at the Cabot Mill, and Underground Railroad stops were among the many topics your children turned into fascinating brochures, walking tour maps and newsletter articles. Birch Island is filled with budding graphic designers and historians. I’ve really been enjoying reading their different projects.

This week we’ve turned our gaze to economic theory. Through video, rap music, and computer simulations, students have learned about key terms such as supply, demand, budget, needs, wants and barter. Students imagined being stranded on a deserted island after their luxury yacht was rammed by a whale. Before the ship went down, they needed to grab a combination of ten needs and wants that would fit into their backpacks; next, through cartooning or journaling, they explained how these items either helped them survive or enhanced their shipwrecked status. As many of you also know, your children conducted interviews to discover how adults in their lives made economic decisions when they were young; thank you for sharing your experiences and wisdom with your child. 

Moreover, students have played “Claim Your Future.” In this game students select a profession and then try to fulfill their monthly needs and wants on the salary for this job. Some students in seventh period noticed that their monthly salaries were less than they expected because taxes were removed before they received their monthly paycheck. If you’d like to play this game yourself, go to On Friday, students played one of three versions of Lemonade Stand; based on factors such as weather, social and traditional media reports and community events, they had to determine how much of a demand there would be for lemonade and predict how much of a supply of lemonade they’d need to maximize their profits. 

On Monday, the owners of Frosty’s Donuts are coming to talk to the students about the decisions and challenges of running a local business. It should be a great educational opportunity, and Mr. Levy and I are very grateful for the Omdals’ generosity with their time. One more reason to be thankful this time of year.


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Examining the Anatomy of Nonfiction Articles

This year we are very fortunate to have Mrs. Morin c0-teaching in a couple of class sections. She and I have already planned lessons together to help your child become even more proficient readers and writers of informational text.

On Monday, Mrs. Morin joined us as we introduced a pre-reading technique: previewing the text. Together we highlighted some of the common text elements of a nonfiction article, including subtitles, captions, pictures, maps and charts. Students then searched an article about ancient Egypt for them, color coding according to category. Based on the features they found, they made predictions about what they would learn when they actually read the article. By previewing an article students can anticipate what information they’ll find, which often increases their comprehension of fact rich text. 

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Engineering Challenge

What do a coffee can and a piece of paper have in common with the ancient world? Well, our Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Aztec, Inca and Maya friends all were amazing engineers–think Inca walls, mud brick ziggurats, floating gardens and pyramids. In class we learned about the production of mud bricks and how the Inca cut stone using only stone tools. While the Sumerians probably would have loved building with stone and Inca would have delighted in carving stone with steel tools, their environments lacked these natural resources. Therefore, they worked with the materials they found in their environment.

To simulate the challenge of limited resources and to experiment with the concept of trial and error while building, the students had to construct a tower using only a single sheet of paper and a six inch strip of tape. Making this task even more difficult was the requirement that the tower hold at least one coffee can filled with water. We had many clever designs and feats of engineering as students sought to balance the heavy can.

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What’s a Bellringer?

What is a Bellringer?

Today I introduced the Bellringer to students, which is our daily opening activity. “Yet, what is it?” you may wonder, and I’m glad that you’ve asked. Most of our Bellringers will involve historic artifacts, and students are asked to be detectives to determine what they are and what purpose they might have. Students first need to observe and describe what they see in the picture. Next, they analyze the object using the details from their observations. Finally, they reveal their thinking by explaining how they’ve stitched together their observations and analysis. These three steps, OAR for short, are tools that archaeologists and historians use frequently. 

Along with using their thinking skills, students also have a chance to employ and strengthen their writing on a daily basis. Sixth grade is a time of great growth in terms of writing and thinking, and I love watching how students’ explanations become more sophisticated and detailed as the year progresses.

We also discussed how students can Turn the Question Around (TTQA) to create the topic sentence for their answer. For instance, if the question asks, “Why did the Aztec civilization fail?”, the topic sentence could be “The Aztec civilization failed for a few reasons.” Using the same words from the question makes crafting a topic sentence easier.

Furthermore, Bellringers help students make the transition into the classroom, as this task gets them into work mode right off the bat. They also can serve as a springboard to the whole class lesson.

Today’s Bellringer asked, “If social studies were a food, which food would it be and why?” Students came up with many great analogies, including the following:

  • Social Studies would be sandwiches because historical events can be tall and complicated or short and simple. Sandwiches can also be meaty or they can be cheesy.
  • Pizza is eaten all over the world and social studies is about things that happened around the world and also about places around the world. Also you know how pizza is packed with flavor just as social studies is packed with excitement. One more thing is pizza is unpredictable. It could be spicy or it could not be. It’s the same with social studies. You never know what you’re going to learn next.
  • Social Studies is like a chicken wing. When you look at it, it looks good, but when you eat or learn about it, it’s not always as good or delicious as you thought it was going to be. People do things that are unpleasant, just like chicken gristle. 
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Most Valuable Powerful Ruler

This week and next, your child will be working on a short research project about different rulers of our five ancient civilizations. Students will work either in groups or individually to research a particular leader. Once they have read at least three articles about their monarch, they will create campaign materials (examples include posters, videos, interviews, glogsters, campaign ads) in order to persuade their classmates to vote for their particular ruler as “The Most Valuable” one in antiquity. The objectives for this project are for students to gain skills in conducting proper research, using persuasive speech or writing, speaking and listening well, and using rhetorical techniques to persuade others.

Below you will find a copy of the rubric for this project. 

PS 1a, b, c & d (research)
PS 5c (historical themes)
Most Valuable Powerful Leader


Exceeds the Standard Meets the Standard Working Towards the Standard Does Not Yet Meet Standard
Research Research Research Research
–uses four or more sources –uses three sources –uses two sources –uses one source
Superior notetaking

–bullet notes


–makes links between sources

–Notes differences between sources

–only quotes most when paraphrasing won’t work

Accurate Notetaking

–bullet notes


–key words and phrases

–uses quotation marks when directly citing important text

Takes notes

–some bullet text (phrases and key words)

–some full sentences

–some direct copying from text without quotation marks

–some factual errors

Insufficient notes

–copies straight from readings

–full sentences

–factual errors

Work Habits Work Habits Work Habits Work Habits
–Break tasks into parts for each person and all are working

–seamless collaboration and work

–everyone’s opinion is respected and sought

–all disputes solved collaboratively and politely

–everyone remains highly focused and works hard

–everyone has a part and does it

–everyone cooperates

–everyone has a say

–solve disagreements

–everyone works well and avoids fooling around

–some members have jobs and work

–group has difficulty cooperating

–all opinions aren’t valued

–some disagreements require adult intervention

–some members lose focus on project

–work done by one or two people

–little cooperation between group members

–little discussion about project and roles

–adult support required to remain focused and to solve disagreements

–most of group isn’t on-task


Project Project Project Project
–explains why this person is an MVP using four or more different rhetorical devices (e.g. hyperbole, allusion, analogy, anaphora, paradox, symbolism, alliteration, etc.)

–format is original and creative

–went well beyond just giving information by making connections between social structure and ruler’s actions and finding relevance of this leader’s accomplishments to our modern lives

–everyone is fully involved in preparing presentation and seeks additional roles


–uses at least two rhetorical devices to explain why the ruler is an MVP

–provides information in an engaging and educational way

–explains how ruler’s actions helps us understand this ancient civilization and its values

–everyone helps create presentation

–uses a rhetorical device to show why ruler is important

–format is an organized and adequate way to teach classmates about the ruler

–tells about the leader’s accomplishment

–most group members involved in developing presentation

–explains ruler’s significance without use of rhetorical devices

–presents information in an uninspired, disorganized manner

–fails to present a persuasive explanation about why ruler is an MVP

–unequal involvement in preparation of presentation.

Presentation Presentation Presentation Presentation
–engaged audience by using, clear voice along with questions and other interactive techniques

–spoke clearly and passionately

–full and equal participation by all group members

–incorporate appropriate and sophisticated humor into presentation

–kept people’s attention by speaking with clarity and liveliness

–everyone participated in presentation

–used appropriate humor

–presented information to class without enthusiasm and with some disorganization

–unequal role for members in presentation

–used some humor, though at times in silly ways

–shared information in a largely disorganized and disinterested way

–one person dominated presentation

–integrated very little humor or used it in a distracting manner





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Mesopotamia Paragraphs

Mesopotamia Paragraphs

Here are a couple of examples of well-organized, detailed paragraphs about why people were attracted to Mesopotamia 5,000 years ago.

People need food, water and shelter to survive. Mesopotamia has all of these things.The word Mesopotamia is Greek for “between the rivers,” suggesting there would be an ample supply of fresh water [for drinking, irrigation, and watering animals]. The soil in between the rivers was fertile and good for growing crops, providing at least one source of food. The mountains near Mesopotamia could have provided wood, metal and stone used for shelter, furniture, boats, tools, weapons and many other things. Most of these things are necessary, and those that aren’t make life easier. All of these things would have compelled   people to settle in Mesopotamia.

Mesopotamia was a place where many people settled for many reasons. Mesopotamia had lots of different resources, and those resources affected the ways that people lived. There are lots of different land formations in Mesopotamia, such as mountains, rivers, plains and marshy areas. The mountains provided metal and stone. The rivers provided water, and soon cities developed along those rivers. There were forests for timber. These are all reasons why people would want to settle in Mesopotamia. Thanks to all of the different resources, Mesopotamia became a thriving country.  

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Welcome to Sixth Grade Social Studies

Congratulations! You have found my website. Please check here on a regular basis for important information about what we’re doing in Social Studies. Each day students need to come with their materials including a pencil.

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