Saturday, September 7, 2013

What's Up This Week: 2 - 6 September

Back to School Night

Thank you to all of the parents who visited our classroom on Back to School night at AISB last Thursday. Over the course of the evening I talked to the parents of 14 of my 17 students--a great turnout! As I explained in last week's blog post, research shows that students perform better at school when their parents are involved. If attendance at Back to School night is any indication, I predict an extremely successful school year for the students in my class.

Elementary Assembly

Our class is doing a presentation at Tuesday morning's elementary school assembly. Students will present their superhero-style class belief posters (created in the style of pop artist Roy Lichtenstein), explain the messages they convey, and use the tableau technique to illustrate how these beliefs might look in real life. You are cordially invited to attend this short presentation from 7:30 AM - 7:50 AM on Tuesday 3 September! Here is a preview of their class belief posters:


Last week we began our first novel, The Kid in the Red Jacket by award-winning author Barbara Park. This book involves a family who moves a long distance away from their home, to a new community and new school. The story chronicles the way the 10-year-old main character struggles to adapt to his new surroundings--something that most of my students should be able to relate to quite well! 

To further explore this theme we analyzed a Jack Prelutsky poem called New Kid on the Block. Analyzing a poem is an example of arts integration, a research-based approach that uses an art form to (1) teach academic skills AND (2) help one understand and appreciate specific forms of art. Here's how it worked with the poem:
(1) Teaching Academic SkillsStudents connected the poem's theme to the novel's theme, strengthening their understanding of the story's plot. Students also used their inferencing skills to identify who was the poem's narrator.
(2) Understanding and Appreciating Specific Forms of Art: Students identified the techniques the poet used to make the poem effective, such as a surprise ending and rhyme.

We also analyzed  as well as a short episode from the animated series Making Fiends (and no, I didn't forget the "r"!). This particular episode, titled Charlotte's First Day, also focused on a first day at school experience. Analyzing an animated story is also an example of arts integration. Here's how it worked with the animated story:
(1) Teaching Academic SkillsStudents connected the animated story's theme to the novel's theme, strengthening their understanding of the story's plot. Students also used their inferencing skills to identify how the main character managed to have such a successful first day of school despite major challenges. They determined that the main character did well because she stayed positive and put a positive spin on everything that happened to her (to give you just a taste, the bully's name is Vendetta!).  Finally in the coming week students will determine the plot elements of this animated short.
(2) Understanding and Appreciating Specific Forms of Art: Students understood that while a well-crafted animated story entertains us with out-of-the-ordinary characters and settings, it can also contain a meaningful message that can help us in life. In the week ahead we will also discuss techniques the animators used to bring this story to life.

We also began using the theatre technique of tableau (a frozen picture) as a means for students to understand our vocabulary words. First, students listen as I read a sentence from the book that includes the word. They use context clues to determine the meaning, record the definition in their reading notebook, and add a small sketch that will help them remember the definition. Finally teams prepare a tableau that visually defines the word, which is a challenge as they must remain frozen and silent, use different levels, use their face/body/hands, and keep 100% concentration.

Vocabulary word: muffle

Vocabulary word: muffle

Vocabulary word: hatchet

They also used tableau to improve their comprehension of the novel we are reading. After we read a chapter, teams created a tableau to visually represent an important scene. This is a challenging activity as it requires students to infer what the character's body and face might look like, and how they might react. Sometimes if a scene involves only one or two human characters, the team must create other roles for the remaining team members--roles that still support the scene (e.g. they might become a tree or the wind). These theatre techniques not only build comprehension skills, but help children develop and practice concentration and cooperation skills.

This week as we continue to read our novel we will also explore similar themes in a song (You've Got a Friend in Me by Randy Newman). In addition teams will use information from their own personal experiences as well as from the novel/animated story/poem to develop a "How to Cope with a Big Move" list. We will continue to practice both our inferencing skills and our our ability to identify the plot elements of a story.

How You Can Help with Reading at Home

Ask your child:
  • What is an inference you made after reading several chapters in The Kid in the Red Jacket?
  • Describe the new kid in the poem New Kid on the Block. Is this new kid adjusting well?
  • In the animated episode from Making Fiends, what can Charlotte's behavior on her first day teach us about how to deal with being new at a school?
  • Do you enjoy reading The Kid in the Red Jacket? Why or why not?
  • The first part of a plot is the exposition, where we meet the characters and learn about the setting. What is the exposition in The Kid in the Red Jacket?


Grade 4In math this past week, Grade 4 students: 
  • explored place value (ones to the millions)
  • determined just how big a million is
  • compared and put in order whole numbers and monetary figures
  • rounded whole numbers and monetary figures
  • explored using a table to organize data and solve a math problem
  • took a "Check Your Progress" quiz so I can determine if they have mastered the above concepts
In the coming week Grade 4 students will count money and make change, use negative numbers to represent real-world scenarios, compare negative numbers, and engage in several problem solving activities that integrate science and math.
Grade 5: In math this past week, Grade 5 students:
  • explored place value through the billions
  • explored decimal place value (tenths, hundredths, thousandths, ten thousandths)
  • compared and put in order whole numbers and decimals
  • learned a 4-step process to solve math story problems
In the coming week Grade 5 students will add and subtract whole numbers and decimals, estimate sums and differences, solve math story problems by identifying patterns, and will explore the properties of addition.

How You Can Help with Math at Home
Grade 4: Encourage your child to use the following resources to practice the math skills learned last week:
Grade 5: Encourage your child to use the following resources to practice the math skills learned last week:

Social Studies

This past week we began our social studies unit on Africa, focusing on its diverse cultures, geography, and history. Students discovered that their team will become theme park designers, tasked with creating a theme park that accurately represents one region of Africa (either northern, southern, eastern or western Africa). Their parks will include a living museum, restaurants, rides, shops, and landscaping--all which must be an authentic representation of the region  and its countries. This week they begin research on their assigned regions, and they will learn proper techniques for researching information online and in research books in our school and classroom libraries.
 How You Can Support Social Studies at Home This Week:
Ask your child:

  • What countries will you be researching for this theme park project?
  • What kinds of information will you be looking for?


This week in writing we began a unit on personal narrative writing--true stories about our owmn personal experiences. I shared a technique for coming up with narrative ideas:
  • Think of a person who is special to you...record 4 or 5 names
  • Think of a special memory with each of those people--just a small moment (e.g. something that happened in an under an hour vs. the time you went on a trip around the world with them), and jot down these memories next to their names.
  • Choose the memory you think would make the best story, especially a memory that is very clear in your mind.
  • Make a few quick sketches of the main parts to your story, and put them in order.
  • Using your sketches, tell your story to someone and listen to their constructive feedback.
  • Write a quick draft of your story, incorporating the constructive feedback as you see fit. 
We also practiced our skills in identifying complete sentences vs. sentence fragments. Students learned that a complete sentence must have both a subject and a predicate. These lessons will be helpful as students begin writing their personal narrative.
In the next two weeks students learn several more technique for developing narrative ideas, each time writing a quick draft. When they have several drafts with different topics, they will select one to develop into a finished personal narrative.
 How You Can Support Writing at Home This Week:
Ask your child:
  • Who were some of the special people you listed?
  • What are some of the memories you recorded? 
  • Which memory did you select to write about? Why did you select this one?
  • How did making sketches help you with this story?
  • What sort of feedback did your teammates give you about your draft? Do you agree with them?

School Supplies

It is extremely important that your child has separate composition books for reading, math, writing, and social studies/science (they use one composition book for both social studies and science). They will keep organized by using each book for only one subject.
In addition they need a composition book for  either French/ESOL/Academic Support (students are assigned to just one of these daily classes). It's also important that they have multiple pencils available. 
If you can double check that your child has these items, I would be most appreciative.
5 boxes of No. 2 Pencils (10 per box) - no mechanical pencils please
2 Erasers
2 Sharpeners1 Box Color Pencils
5 Composition books (100 pages each)
2 packets white lined paper
1 box colored markers - thin or thick
2 glue sticks
1 USB Flash Drive
5 pocket folders
1 small zipped pencil case
1 pack 3X3 Post it notes
1 water color set (8 colors min) with brush
1 lined notebook for French/ESOL/Academic Support

Be Prepared

I've noticed that not every student is wearing a hat at recess/PE. Please make sure that your child has a hat to keep at school, and inside the hat please write your child's name.
Also, make sure your child has lunch tickets if he/she intends to eat school lunch. A five-pack of tickets for a small lunch is 7500 cfa and 10,000 cfa for a large lunch.
Snack tickets are also available for those students who want to buy a snack from Fanta during our morning recess. Those snacks include fruit, peanuts, popcorn, cookies, muffins, and cold lemonade. A ten-pack of snack tickets is 2500.

Coming Soon

Monday 2 September, 3:00 PM: After school activities begin. Sign up forms will be sent home this week.
Tuesday 3 September, 7:30 - 7:50 AM: Elementary School Assembly featuring Mr. Fessler's class
Saturday 14 September: AISB Back to School Barbecue (more information to follow)
Monday 16 September - Thursday 19 September: Window for Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing. Grade 4 and 5 students will take three 45-minute tests on the computer: reading, math, and language.
Friday 20 September: No school for students (teacher professional development day)
Wednesday 25 September: First quarter Progress Reports sent home.
Tuesday 15 October: No school (Tabaski holiday)
Friday 18 October: End of 1st Quarter
Monday 21 October - Friday 25 October: Fall Break

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