Saturday, October 12, 2013

What's Up This Week: 14 - 18 October 2013


AISB is closed on Tuesday 15 October  for the Tabaski holiday (note: date is subject to change; confirmation of actual date is determined by moon sighting). School resumes on Wednesday.

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AISB holds a whole school anti-bullying assembly this Monday from 7:30 - 7:50 AM featuring a skit (starring two students from our class, Aisha and Anouk. At this assembly we will also premiere the movie our class made consisting of Public Service Announcements about helping someone adjust at a new school.

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This is the last week of school before the AISB fall break. School will be closed from Monday 21 October through Friday 25 October. I wish safe travels to those heading out of town. I'll be heading to the south of France to relax in the beauty of Provence! The next blog post will be on Sunday 27 October.

Last week we continued our reading unit focusing on civil rights. They analyzed his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, reading the text as well as watching a video of the speech, to determine why it is considered to be such a powerful speech. They learned that Dr. King used many elements of good speech-writing including repetition, the use of imagery, and parts of familiar songs. They were surprised to hear that 10 minutes into the speech he abandoned his notes and ad-libbed the last six minutes--the famous "I Have A Dream" part of the speech. They felt he was even more passionate during this part since he was speaking from the heart.

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We read two short stories about Dr. King by different authors. My Brother Martin, by Dr. King's sister, focused on his early years and showed us that he was a normal child who had fun and played pranks on people. but it also showed us that even at an early age he had leadership qualities, such as perseverance. We also read Martin's Big Words which showed how even from an early age Dr. King dreamed big with a desire to embrace freedom, peace, and togetherness.

As we read both books we explored how the author's point of view shaped the story. For example, the story by his sister was much more personal and intimate. The other story was more conventional as it was written by an outside party--though one who witnessed Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Her point was more to honor Dr. King as a great leader.

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Vocabulary words for this unit.

We also looked at how the illustrations enhanced and extended each story. The first book included oil paintings rich in gold tones, giving a homey feel. The second book included a technique that combined watercolor and collage, but with a theme of stained glass windows. The illustrator felt the windows were a metaphor for Dr. King's movement--the light of hope (bright windows) surrounded by darkness and turmoil (the black color he painted around the windows.

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An illustration from My Brother Martin (illustrator: Chris Soentpiet)

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An illustration from Martin's Big Words (illustrator: Bryan Collier)

We also listened to know and analyzed the lyrics to the Stevie Wonder song "Happy Birthday to You." This song is extremely significant in that it helped convince Americans that Dr. King should be honored with a federal holiday; after the release of the song nearly six million signed a petition saying so. They felt he was somewhat forceful in his message but that he kept the music joyful to balance the strong message. 

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Listen to the song here.

Next week we read one more short story about Dr. King, as well as three poems by Langston Hughes that connect with the "dream" aspect of Dr. King's movement. Finally we will begin a culminating project in which students write their own dream poem about an important world issue, then create an intricate collage to support their poem's message.

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A preview of one of the poems we study next week, looking for connections to Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech.

How you can help with reading at home: 
  • Check your child's "Read to Succeed" each night/morning. For this daily assignment students read a book of their choosing for at least 20 minutes, then write a short summary of what they read. Their summary should clearly describe the main events in the part of their book they read without including too many unimportant details.
  • Ask your child to read to you for a few minutes so you can check his/her fluency, expression, pauses, etc.
  • Ask your child to describe Martin Luther King's childhood. What are some events that happened in his early life that made him a civil rights leader? (e.g. His good friends stopped playing with him because they were no longer allowed to associate with black people; his father was a role model about standing up for your rights, etc.)
  • Ask about the message of the Stevie Wonder song we listened to in class, Happy Birthday. (e.g. America should celebrate a man who did so much for bringing people together, etc.)

Grade 4: Last week students explored line plots, calculated the range/median/mode of a set of numbers, and learned another problem solving techniques for math story problems: identifying extra/unnecessary information in a question. They also completed a quiz on concepts from the past week, and all of them did well on everything….except elapsed time (e.g. you begin painting at 11:20 AM and finish at 3:45 PM. How long did you paint?). This is always a difficult task for Grade 4 students, and one that takes lots of practice. I plan to spend additional time on this concept, and would also appreciate any elapsed time practice you can provide at home.

One method of determining how much time has passed: using a timeline.

This week Grade 4 students learn another math problem solving technique (working backwards), explore pictographs, create bar graphs, and work on some basic coordinate graphing. As I said earlier, we will also revisit elapsed time.

Grade 5: Last week Grade 5 students began working with division. Students soon understood how it was critical that they have their addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts memorized up to the 12s in order to do division problems. They worked with 1, 2, and 3 digit divisors:
1-digit divisor example: 3,455 ÷ 4
2-digit divisor example: 3,455 ÷ 93
3-digit divisor example: 3,455 ÷ 220.

While they understand the multi-step process to solve such division problems, they often make simple addition/subtraction/multiplication mistakes in the process. 

On Friday they explored estimating the answers to division problems by rounding numbers or removing zeroes to make it simpler to calculate in your head:

Rounding: Instead of 23,857 ÷ 63, think 24,000 ÷ 60
Removing zeroes: Instead of 200,000 ÷ 5,000, remove three zeroes from each number to make 200 ÷ 5

This week Grade 5 students continue working on estimating quotients, look at interpreting the remainder from a division problem, take a short quiz to check their understanding of division so far, and learn another math problem solving technique (working backwards).

How you can help with math at home: 

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  • Make sure your child knows the basic addition, subtraction, and multiplication math facts to 12.
  • Have your child practice elapsed time calculations with these online games: 

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Last week in writing students nine students opted to read their personal narrative story aloud for an audience when we hosted an Author Reading in our classroom. You could tell that the audience, which included five parents, Ms. Jacoby, and the Kindergarten/Grade 1 class, really enjoyed the stories as well as the entertaining way each student used expression to make the story come alive. Congratulations to our readers for a job well done, and congratulations to all Grade 4 and 5 students on completing this personal narrative essay!

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We also spent two periods focusing on developing the "voice" in our writing--that unique way we let the reader hear us telling the story. Students learned that creating a great voice in a story can help connect to the reader, can make the reader feel the emotions in the story, and can make it all come alive. They practiced developing their voice by taking on the role of a character at AISB on a rainy day and writing a short scene (e.g. writing as the school tortoise, the mango tree out back, a guard, a custodian, etc.). The results were hilarious and creative!

How you can help with writing at home: 

  • If your child read his/her story aloud at the Author Reading, ask about the experience. Was it enjoyable? Scary? Fun?
  • Ask your child to read his/her essay aloud to you using expression, and give constructive feedback.
  • Ask your child to describe the "voice" they used in their personal narrative essay. Did the voice connect with the reader? Could it be developed a little more?

Last Monday each team presented their African regional theme park to the rest of the class. Each team member took turns explaining the design, the countries they researched, and how they represented these countries accurately in their site plan. I was extremely impressed with their site plans as they showed creativity and evidence of much research.

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Last week we begin our first science unit on the systems of the human body. As an introduction and a way to build excitement, we began by reading The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body, a story in which students and their teacher shrink and travel in a bus inside another student's body as they learn each body system up close and personal. I thought I might finish this story in one class period but the students were so full of questions and comments about the topics in the book that we barely made it halfway through. This is a very good problem in a classroom!

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Next week students will be invited to a trip inside the human body as well, and they will keep a travel journal as they make the exciting trip through the skeletal, muscular, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, nervous, digestive, and excretory systems of the human body. As they make this imaginary journey they will plot their course on a huge figure of the human body posted on our wall and create models of each body system to add to this figure.

How you can help with science at home: 
  • Ask your child to describe what they learned from reading part of The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body. Is he/she excited to begin this unit on the study of the human body?

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Halloween is a time-honored holiday celebrated in the U.S. and around the world, and very much a part of my own childhood experience. I have fond memories of Halloween during my elementary school years: winning a prize in the school costume contest for dressing up like a can of Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup, bobbing for apples at a friend's Halloween party, bringing home loads of candy from trick-or-treating, watching scary movies, and carving jack-o-lanterns (and saving the pumpkin seeds to bake and snack on later!). 

I was thrilled when I discovered that AISB celebrates Halloween in style! I've always felt it's important to honor the traditions of other cultures, and I hope you feel the same way.

In our Grade 4 and 5 classroom we will explore the long history of Halloween with its roots in Christianity, European harvest festivals, and holy days honoring those who passed. Over the month of October we will also tell scary stories, have a Halloween treat or two, and maybe even watch a classic movie shown at Halloween that connects to our study of the human body…Frankenstein! 

I hope you also plan to attend the annual AISB Halloween celebration on Saturday 2 November from 5 - 8 PM. There will be games, food, trick-or-treating, a haunted house for Grade 3 and up, and a Mad Scientist's lab for Grade 2 and under. Start your costume planning now--both parents and students are highly encouraged to come in costume. I was a kora last year, and am already busy making this year's costume that represents another Malian-themed object.

Please make sure your child is "sun safe" by giving them a hat to wear outside during recess and PE. Make sure to write their name on the inside in permanent marker in case it gets misplaced.


Monday 14 October7:30 - 7:45 AM: Whole school anti-bullying assembly & premiere of Grade 4/5 "What to Do When You are New" PSA
Tuesday 15 October: No school (Tabaski Holiday)
Friday 18 October: End of Quarter 1
Monday 21 October - Friday 25 October: No school/Fall Break

Tuesday 5 November, 7:30 - 7:45 AM - Elementary assembly featuring Grades 2/3
Saturday 2 November, 5 - 8 PM - AISB Annual Halloween Party
Friday 8 November: Parent - Teacher conferences (information will be sent regarding meeting times)
Tuesday 12 November, 7:30 - 7:45 AM - Elementary assembly featuring ESOL students
Tuesday 19 November, 7:30 - 7:45 AM - Elementary assembly featuring preK 3/4
Tuesday 26 November, 7:30 - 7:45 AM - Elementary assembly featuring Grades 4/5
Tuesday 29 November, 7:30 - 7:45 AM - Elementary assembly featuring Standard French
Thursday & Friday 28 - 29 November - Thanksgiving Holiday

Tuesday 3 December, 7:30 - 7:45 AM - Elementary assembly featuring 1 student from each class reading their own story
Tuesday 10 December, 7:30 - 7:45 AM - Elementary assembly featuring preK 2
Tuesday 17 December, 7:30 - 7:45 AM - Elementary assembly featuring Advanced French
Friday December 20 - AISB Annual Winter Show

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