Sunday, September 8, 2013

What's Up This Week: 9 - 13 September 2013

Our Assembly Presentation





Thank you to the parents who attended last week's elementary assembly, held on Tuesday from 7:30 - 7:50 AM. My students did a spectacular job of presenting our Roy Lichtenstein-inspired class belief posters, explaining each belief and performing a tableau to bring that belief to life while the younger students identified what each tableau represented. I want to provide as many opportunities as possible for my students to participate in public speaking and performing, a life skill that they will use many times as they become adults. 


After School Yearbook Class


Last Tuesday was the first after school session of Yearbook Class for Grade 4 and 5 students. Middle school teacher Amanda Leavitt (the AISB yearbook sponsor) and I will team teach this session for the next six weeks. Thios is the first time that elementary students have been involved in the design of the AISB yearbook, so we are very excited to begin this venture!

Reading

Last week we continued reading and analyzing the 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, and how the 10-year-old main character struggles to adapt to his new surroundings.


To further explore this theme teams brainstormed to develop a list of tips for children who are moving far distances--advice that helps them to adapt to their new surroundings. Since most of my students have moved great distances, they were quite knowledgeable about and (interested in) this topic! When we complete the novel, students will use these tips as part of a multimedia culminating project.

Students continued to use the theatre technique of tableau (a frozen picture) as a means of understanding our vocabulary words. First, students listened as I read a sentence from the book that included the word. They used 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 prepared a tableau that visually defines the word, The audience (other classmates) rate each tableau based on five factors: remaining frozen, remaining silent, using different levels, using their face/body/hands, and keeping 100% concentration.





This week 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 and interpret important scenes. On Friday they created a visual summary of the chapter we read, creating four tableaus that explained key points in the chapter. To take tableau to the next level, I added another element...if I tapped a student on the shoulder as they were posing, they had to say a line of dialogue that was appropriate for the character and the story. So during their planning they created dialogue--whether they were portraying a human, animal, or object!

Tableau is a form of arts integration because it addresses two areas:
(1) Teaching Academic and Social Skills: In order to create a tableau, students must interpret the text first. This means making inferences about the characters' motivations, emotions, and actions, as well as determining key plot points. An advantage is that tableau is quick--teams plan and practice in 5 to 10 minutes, and perform in 30 seconds. This requires them to use critical thinking skills and to collaborate with their team, and it helps me immediately determine if students comprehended the text.
(2) Understanding and Appreciating Specific Forms of Art: Aside from the academic and social skill practice, tableau introduces students to the discipline of theatre. They learn how to use their theatre tools (body, mind, voice) and theatre skills (cooperation and concentration) to create a scene. They learn how to use their imagination to suspend reality for a moment and create a completely different world. 


This week as we continue to read our novel we will also explore similar themes in a song and in a clip from a movie. We will also 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:
  • How has tableau helped you as we read The Kid in the Red Jacket?
  • What is an inference you made about Howard Jeeter after reading several chapters in The Kid in the Red Jacket?
  • Describe Molly in The Kid in the Red Jacket. Why does she behave the way she does?
  • If the second part of a plot is the rising action, where we experience a sequence of events that tell us the main problem, what are some of the rising action events in The Kid in the Red Jacket?
  • What do you like most about the story so far?

Math

Grade 4In math this past week, Grade 4 students: 
  • explored counting Ameican money and making change
  • worked with negative numbers
  • applied their math skills to solve a real world problem involving the purchase of dog food--which store was cheapest when taking into consideration gas costs to drive to the store
  • took a "Check Your Progress" quiz so I can determine if they have mastered the above concepts
  • took the Chapter Test
Most of the students rushed through the Chapter Test, making silly mistakes that probably would not have happened if they had taken their time. We will discuss this on Monday!
Working with the Grade 4 students in math, alfresco style!
In the coming week Grade 4 students will explore the properties of addition, look at addition patterns, add whole numbers, use mental math to add and will estimate sums.
Grade 5: In math this past week, Grade 5 students:
  • added and subtracted whole numbers and decimals
  • estimated sums and differences
  • explored the properties of addition
  • applied their math skills to solve a real world problem involving a high jump pole that is moved incrementally higher
  • applied their math skills to solve a real world problem involving the planning of a budget for a trip
In the coming week Grade 5 students will complete a Check Your Progress activity so I can determine if they are comprehending all of the concepts, complete a Chapter Test, multiply whole numbers and decimals, and explore the distributive property.

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 continued our social studies unit on Africa, focusing on its diverse cultures, geography, and history by having teams design a theme park that accurately represents one region of Africa. They began research on their assigned regions, using books from the library as well as taking notes from PowerPoint slides and video clips in showed in class. These included information on Africa's geography, ancient civilizations, and the development of humans on the continent. This week they begin their online research.

A slide from our African prehistory presentation.

Finding resources for our social studies project.
This year we are combining out IT class (technology) with our social studies and science class so students see that technology is not a stand-alone subject--it is integrated with everything we do. I am collaborating with Mr. Kelsey, IT Coordinator, to best determine how to integrate technology into these academic subjects. Last week he taught students to use a software program called xMind that allows them to create digital graphic organizers. They are using xMind as a place to enter and organize their research notes on African countries.
An example of an xMind graphic organizer; students will use this software to organize their research on African countries.

 How You Can Support Social Studies at Home This Week:
Ask your child:
  • What have you discovered in your research on the African countries you chose?
  • What kinds of information are you looking for?
  • How will you use this information?
  • How does xMind help you with this social studies project?


Writing

Lat week in writing we continued our exploration of personal narrative writing--true stories about our own personal experiences. I shared another technique for coming up with narrative ideas:
  • Think of places that are special to you...record 4 or 5 places.
  • Think of a special memory with each of those places--just a small moment, and jot down these memories next to the place.
  • Choose the place-related memory you think would make the best story, especially a memory that is meaningful and very clear in your mind.
  • Make a few quick sketches of the main parts to your place-related 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 place-related story, incorporating the constructive feedback as you see fit. 

I also taught students a technique for having a writing conference with a peer. They ask a series of questions to determine if the writer--their teammate--has chosen a small moment (a seed idea vs. a watermelon idea), has included enough detail, and has chosen a meaningful memory.

We also explored idioms, a form of figurative language in which the phrase translates to a meaning other than the literal meaning. For example, "It's raining cats and dogs" means it's raining hard and loud, and "kick the bucket" means to die. Students broguht in their favorite idiom and added it to a poster we display in the classroom--a great resource they will be able to refer to all year as they write stories.
Next week students learn another technique for developing narrative ideas, as well as ways to make sure they are SHOWING the action in their narrative rather than TELLING the action. 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:
  • What were some of the special places you listed?
  • What are some of the memories you recorded about these places? 
  • Which place 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?
  • Which idiom did you write on the class poster?


Writing & Reading Assessments


Last week I nearly completed the Developmental Reading Assessments, a reading test that I give individually to each student. They read aloud to me, then alone, then answer a series of comprehension questions. This assessment helps me understand your child's reading strengths and weaknesses, and helps me better prepare my instruction. Students will take this test again at the end of the year, and is just one of the ways we determine how your child is progressing in reading. I will share your child's score with you in the coming week. NOTE: ESOL students will not be tested with the DRA until later in the year.



On Monday all grade 4 and 5 students will take a writing test. They will be presented with a writing prompt, and will have 45 minutes to plan and write a draft that addresses the prompt. I will score this essay along with another teacher, and I'll use the results to determine the writing strengths and weaknesses of each child. Again, this helps me determine the type of instruction and support I provide to your child. They will take  another writing test in May so that we can determine the progress each child has made over the year. I will share your child's writing score with you by next week.

Reminders


Every student is still not 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. We are trying to promote healthy and safe ways to play outside, and your support is appreciated.



Thank you for continuing to make sure that 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.

Each week please check to see that your child has 4 or 5 pencils ready to use at school. 

Coming Soon

Monday 9 September: Grade 4 and 5 students take the twice yearly schoolwide writing test in which they have 45 minutes to plan and write a draft in response to a prompt they are given. 
Tuesday 10 September, 7:30 - 7:50 AM: Elementary School Assembly featuring Mrs. Aafke's 2nd and 3rd grade class
Saturday 14 September: AISB Back to School Barbecue
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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