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Thetford Elementary School

Thetford, Vermont

Welcome to Mr. McLauglin's 6th Grade Webpage



Hello Sixth Grade Families,


It was so nice to meet with you all during conferences.  Thank you for taking the time come in and chat and to look over your child’s portfolio of work.  Please let me know if you have any further questions or would like to meet again before the end of the school year.  


In social studies, we are into our Middle Ages unit.  We started our studies by putting the time period into a larger context by asking ourselves, “Why do they call it the ‘Middle Ages’ anyway?”  By creating time lines with a large scale, we could see that this is time period sandwiched in between Ancient History and Modern History.  Hence, the they are called the “middle” ages.  We are now exploring the roots of the feudal society in Europe by taking a closer look at the fall of Rome and the ensuing invasions.  


In math, we are beginning an introduction to algebra and equations.  We are using a hands-on system to get comfortable with the fundamentals of this traditionally intimidating topic.  I have been impressed with their progress so far!


In literacy, we are reading a classic version of The Legend of King Arthur and His Knights by Sir James Knowles.  This is is a wonderful and challenging text that connects directly with our social studies.  As we read the text we are identifying characters and the traits they exhibit at certain moments in the story.  Using this evidence we gather, we make and defend claims about the characters in the story.  Ultimately, we will transfer this into an opinion writing piece. 


Again, please let me know if you have any questions about our curriculum or how it is meeting your child.  Thank you.



Colin M.



Hello Sixth-Grade Parents,

I hope everyone is enjoying this early spring weather.  Despite the chilly temperatures, April is right around the corner and it is time to schedule our next round of conferences.  Our official conference day is Friday, April 14th, but I am happy to meet with you another day before or after school.  Please email to arrange a time to meet and review your child's portfolio of work.  
The sixth graders have been hard at work lately designing and building arcade style games.  This extension of our motion and design unit required the students to develop a concept, design a plan, build their design, and then redesign their project once they discovered what works and what doesn't.  After some tinkering and rethinking they were able to create some playable arcade style games!  We look forward to displaying these at the end of the school year. 
We have finished our study of ratios and rates this week.  The sixth graders explored the concept of ratios through boiling syrup and pricing out cars.  In addition to these real-life investigations, we practiced developing ratio tables, devising ratios from a given total amount, and calculating unit rates.  This math has so many connections to everyday activities that the sixth graders really absorbed the concepts quickly.
In literacy, we have been exploring story structures.  We will be concluding this study by creating short movies following one of the "Seven Basic Plots" that we have been mapping out.  We gained familiarity of these plots by reading summaries of stories like Romeo and Juliet, Because of Winn Dixie, The Giver, and The Old Man and the Sea.  We are also taking a more in depth look at Jack London's The Call of the Wild.  After reading the stories, we would identify the key events and chart them on a story graph to follow the protagonists actions.  From here we try to determine which plot structure the story best fits.  Its sounds complicated, but it gives the sixth graders a new framework to help think about stories.       
I look forward to meeting with you soon to look over your child's work and answering any of your questions.  Again, please email me to arrange a time to meet for our next conference.  Thanks and hopefully it starts to feel a bit more like spring by then!




Hello Sixth Grade Families,

Welcome back from the February vacation!  I just wanted to give everyone an update from the classroom as we head back to school.
The sixth graders finished up their motion and design unit with some great marble runs.  We spent time exploring concepts of motion and showing them in our marble runs.  These included friction, slope, and energy transfer.  The Sixth Graders worked very hard to put these together and were proud to display them at the TES Science Fair last week.   
As part of our motion investigations, the Sixth Graders spent time documenting their experiments in technical lab write-ups.  This writing component followed a standard lab format that included an overview, a materials list, a hypothesis, a detailed procedure, results in a table or graph, and a conclusion.  This format will be a something that the Sixth Graders will use in future grades to document other science investigations.
In literacy, we are now moving into a study of story structures.  We will look at the Seven Basic Plots as described by Christopher Booker.  Using these structures as a guide we will dissect our own reading and eventually apply the structures to our own writing.  We are also poised to begin our next read aloud, The Call of the Wild, by Jack London.    
In math, we are moving on from our study of decimals, fractions, and percents.  The Sixth Graders gained competency in converting one to the other and recognizing the relationship between these number expressions.  We are beginning a study of ratios as we continue into our next math unit.  
As always, if you have any questions about your child or our curriculum, please don't hesitate to ask.

Colin McLaughlin 



Hello Sixth Grade Families,
I just wanted to take a moment to give you an update from the classroom.  

In language arts, we are still reading Where the Red Fern Grows as a class.  Our focus is shifting to a discussion of theme.  This story offers some great examples of classic themes that show up in all sorts of literature.  As we gain confidence in looking for examples that illustrate these themes, we will shift our attention to our independent reading.  Our goal is to be able to find themes in stories on our own.  We are also continuing our look at narrative perspectives in our writing.  We are applying the idea by rewriting classic stories and fables from a new perspective.

In math, we are finishing up our look at area, surface area, and volume.   We have been decomposing irregular polygons to determine their area.  The sixth graders have become quite creative in their attempts to chop-up complex shape into pieces they can handle!  Next, we will be moving into a study of decimals and percents and how they connect to fractions which we looked at earlier in the year.  
In science, our motion and design studies have been moving right along (pun intended). We are investigating forces of motion and variables that influence them.  We have been writing labs to document our activities.  This technical writing has been a fun change of pace for some students.  At the end of the unit we will be submitting a class project to the TES science fair to showcase our motion and design studies.  I will let you know more details as the date gets closer.
Please let me know if you have any questions or you would like to discuss your child's progress at any point.
Colin M.  



Hello Sixth Grade Families,

It was so nice to see the sixth graders stepping up to host our community's senior citizens last Tuesday.  Job well done!  I just wanted to give you an update from the classroom as we head towards our winter vacation.  
In math, we are continuing to work with solid figures.  We are moving into calculating the surface area of geometric solids.  At this point, we are focussing on regular solids and will be working towards more complex figures.  This study will end with an exploration of volume.  
In literacy, we are still reading Where the Red Fern Grows.  We are discussing narration and taking a close look at the voices that tell us stories.  The students are examining the narrator's in their independent reading books and writing to explain their point of view.  We are also looking at figurative language and themes as we move through the novel.  We are enjoying this in depth literature study!
In social studies, we are excited to invite you to our Greek Museum next Tuesday at two o'clock.  Both sixth grade classes will transform the classrooms to display all of our independent study projects.  This will be great chance for the students to show what they have learned in this unit.  I have been very impressed with the quality of work by this class!  Come by and check them out!
I hope to see you all on Tuesday, but if I don't, have a wonderful vacation!
Colin M.
Hello Sixth Grade Families,
     It is hard to believe the first trimester is already over!  It was great to see all of you at parent-teacher conferences over the past few weeks.  Thank you for taking the time to meet and look over your child's portfolio.  I know the connection we form between home and school provides motivation and support for everyone.  

     In math, we have completed our study of dividing and multiplying fractions.  However, these concepts never really go away, and they will be applied and spiraled through our study of geometry.  We began by drawing nets of tetrahedrons and constructing solids out of card stock.  We are busy introducing and reviewing terms such as vertex, face, and edge.  So far we have constructed three of the five Platonic Solids and will complete the set this week.  These are unique geometric forms that were first described by Plato over two-thousand years ago.  I also plan to have the students create models of these solids out of clay to reinforce their understanding.  This introduction will lead us into a study of surface area and volume.  The students seem to be enjoying this new math unit and the change of pace.  

     In literacy, we are beginning our reader's workshop.  We have started Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.  This is a classic coming of age story that exemplifies many great writing skills.  Through this story, we will uncover some of these skills and look for them in other pieces of literature.  Eventually, applying them to our own writing.   
     In social studies, we are wrapping up our unit on Ancient Greece with independent study projects.  Students are busily researching an approved topic, taking and organizing notes, and writing five paragraph essays.  Students are also designing and creating models related to their topics.  This study project is a great vehicle for student choice and a way for them to apply the writing structures we have practiced so far.  I can't wait to see the finished products!
If you ever have any questions about our curriculum or how it is meeting your child, please do not hesitate to ask.  
Colin McLaughlin



Hello Sixth Grade Families,

I hope you are all enjoying the last breaths of autumn.  Some days feel like the warmth is hanging on and others are definite hints of the approaching winter.  
The Sixth Graders are working with multiplying and dividing fractions.  The past two weeks have been focussed on multiplication.  Our work focusses on visual modeling and representation at first and we work towards "discovering" the most efficient algorithm.  Through group work, individual practice, and whole class discussions, we have been becoming more comfortable and proficient with the concept and process.  We also played several tournament style games to practice the multiplication skills.  We are now shifting our focus to division of fractions.  This is a conceptually challenging skill that pushes their understanding of fractions.  I will let you know how it goes!
Our literacy and social studies have become quite entangled in a nice way!  After we completed our reading of The Odyssey, the class began making maps of the Mediterranean region to chart Odysseus's wanderings.  We are also summarizing and visually depicting each of Odysseus's stops in miniature booklets.  We hope to have this all assembled as a poster to display in the hallway by the end of the week.  Stop by and check them out!  
In addition to our work around The Odyssey, we are integrating another five paragraph essay into our studies.  Once we completed our essay comparing the story of the Trojan War as told in The Illiad with the archaeological evidence surrounding the existence of Troy,  we began another essay comparing democracy in Ancient Greece with representative democracy as found in the United States.  This is an interesting and timely comparison.  I can see that the Sixth Graders are very proud of their writing and many are impressing themselves with the quality of their work.   
Conferences are going well, and I look forward to seeing you in the coming weeks if we haven't already met.  It is important to take the time and reflect on our work as we move through the school year.  It is also very helpful getting feedback from parents during conferences, as it impacts our work moving forward.  Thank you.  Aside from conferences, if you ever have a question about our curriculum or classroom please don't hesitate to ask.  I am always happy to meet or have a conversation on the phone.  
Colin McLaughlin





Hello Sixth Grade Families,

It's hard to believe that the fall conference time is already here.  The school year seems to be flying by!  
The designated day for parent-teacher conferences is Friday, November 11th.  I am available throughout that day, or I can schedule and alternate date and time if needed.  
Please email me to suggest a time that would work for our conference.  This is an important time to connect and review your child's portfolio of work.  I look forward to meeting with all of you in the coming weeks.  Thank you!
Colin M.
Hello Sixth Grade Families,
I just wanted to take a quick moment to give a classroom update and remind you about a few important upcoming dates.
In math, we are embarking on a study of multiplying and dividing fractions.  As a basis we are connecting what we know about multiplying and dividing whole numbers to working with fractions.  This connection is key to a solid understanding.  We are also supplementing this new work with a continued review of division and multiplication algorithms.  
In literacy, we are continuing to draft our personal narratives.  We are working with writing vivid details.  We have practiced using both specific and sensory details as a way to enhance our writing.  Another strategy we are practicing is "showing" a story to a reader versus simply "telling" events in our writing.  We will continue building our narratives while incorporating more skills and strategies as we write.
In social studies, we are continuing The Odyssey as a shared text.  As we started the story we began discussing the Trojan War.  The question of whether this was a real event came up and we have been taking some time to look into it.  We are comparing what mythology tells us about the Trojan War with what archaeologists have discovered at the site they believe to be Troy.  This is an interesting comparison that is shedding some light on how writers take a historical event and add some creative license to craft a tale. 
Just a few reminders about upcoming dates.   Tomorrow we will be having a parent evening at 5:30 to discuss curriculum, homework, home-school communication, and anything else that you may want to know about sixth grade.  Next Thursday (10/20) there is also the school-wide open house at 5:30 that you are invited to as well.  This is a chance to informally tour the classrooms in the school.  Also, this Friday is our Hike for Hunger!  Please pack a bag lunch and remind your child to where clothing appropriate for a day of hiking. 
As always, please feel free to contact me to discuss our class and how it is meeting your child.   

Colin McLaughlin 



 Hello Sixth Grade Families,

I hope you are all enjoying the onset of Autumn!  This is certainly a busy time of year outside and it's no different in the sixth grade.  I just wanted to take a moment to give a quick update on what has been going on in our class.
The results from our math experiment are in and we are so excited to share them with you.  There was quite a range of guesses in the school.  Some students guessed as low as one pound while others guessed upwards of 10,000 pounds  The class averages ranged from 37 pounds and nearly up to 4,000 pounds. When we put it all together the average individual guess in the school was 1,824.59 pounds and the actual weight was 1,806 pounds.  Amazingly we were only only 18.59 pounds off from the actual weight which is barely over a 1% difference!  Amazing!  lf you are interested, the sixth graders are assembling a full presentation of our data for Friday's all school meeting.  
We have also undertaken a study of division and multiplication algorithms.  We are trying to hone in on the most efficient and reliable methods to tackle challenging math problems.  This involves some review of multiplication strategies as well as an exploration of division concepts and strategies.  
In social studies we have begun our study of Greek geography.  The class has created a physical map of Greece and the surrounding countries from scratch.  These were assembled into informational posters that include geography facts and writing.  Please stop by the classroom to check them out hanging in the hallway. This geographical context will help us as we get into the history of Ancient Greece and related myths and stories like The Odyssey which we have begun reading in class.  
We are also finished drafting our class mission statement and values.  The whole class has signed off on these as this document will guide us through the school year.  You can see them below.  

2016-2017 Sixth Grade Mission and Values

Sixth Grade is an important year at TES.  We are the oldest kids in the school and that brings a lot of freedoms and responsibilities.  We are here to prepare for the future, have fun with our friends, take risks, be adventurous, and to never give up.

We Value…

Kindness.  Helping each other and having friendships makes our classroom a safe place to learn and be. 

Professionalism.  Focusing, working hard, achieving goals, and the feeling of accomplishing quality work sets the tone for our school day. 

Positivity.  Fun, humor, laughter, smiles, and picking each other up when we are down keeps us motivated to do our best. 

Creativity.  Producing beautiful work, coming up with new ideas, and taking care to present things carefully shows the world that we value ourselves and all the things we do.

Truth.  By being truthful and recognizing our shortcomings and mistakes as objectively as we can we will grow as people.  

Common Sense.  There are times when we may not be told what to do.  Ultimately, it is up to us to practice making wise decisions and good choices.

I also wanted to remind you about our Back to School night on October 13th at 5:30.  There is also the school wide open house at 5:30 on October 20th.  I look forward to seeing you in the classroom.  Also, if you are available please come by to see our class host tomorrow's all school meeting at 10:30 in the gymnasium.  As always, please feel free to contact me if you ever have any questions about our class and how it is meeting your child.  Thank you!  
Colin M.
Hello Parents,

     It has been a fun first few weeks of school and the sixth grade is starting to hit our stride.  We are already busy and hard at work, so I wanted to take a moment to let you know what we've been up to so far.  I also want to let you know about a few important dates that are coming up.  
     We started the year with a science/math project that involved propagating acorns into oak trees.  We started with the question, "What does it take to grow an oak tree?"  After a bit of research we hit the trails around school looking for acorns.  In order to test the viability of our acorns we did a "float test" to separate the healthy acorns.  This activity was written up as a science lab and is currently being displayed outside our classroom.  We hope to have some healthy young oaks to transplant in the spring!  
     We also have been involved in a math experiment where we are attempting to reproduce a classic, yet somewhat mysterious, phenomenon.  We are surveying the school to gather guesses to the weight of a horse.  We will calculate the mean of these guesses and see how close the groups average is to the actual weight of the animal.  For some strange reason the groups average tends to be remarkably close to the actual weight, even though the individual guesses tend to be way off.  Will this phenomena work for us?  We'll let you know!  Below is a link to the article that inspired our project with a more complete explanation of process.  I attached a photo of the horse we are using to conduct our test.  Email me your guess and I will include it in our survey!

     In writing, we have been busy crafting our class mission statement and values.  This is an important activity that will lay the guidelines and expectations for the sixth graders throughout the year.  We will share this document with parents once we are finished.  
     The school's Back to School Night is currently scheduled for Thursday, October 20th from 5:30-6:30 pm.  This is a time to informally visit the classroom and check out what we have been up to.  It is difficult for me to field individual questions or have focussed conversations during this time as people come and go at their convenience.  I would also like to have a more focussed class meeting the Thursday before (10/13)  at 5:30.  This will give a more structured chance to learn about our curriculum and discuss any questions you might have about the school year.  Please RSVP if you plan on attending the meeting on the 13th.
     If you ever have any questions about our class or  would like to talk about your child, please don't hesitate to email me or call me at the school.  Thank you.

Colin M.

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