Saturday, November 16, 2013

What's Up This Week: 18 - 22 November 2013


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Our classroom door, where students wrote what they are thankful for.




Last week the elementary assembly was presented by Mr. Chandler's ESOL students. We so enjoyed hearing the beautiful music provided by the members of our class: Eva, Nil, and Alicia!

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This week we continued our new unit based around the novel Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner. We analyzed a poem that used a metaphor of the last leaf on a tree, desperately holding on, as an example pf perseverance. 

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Students also viewed a 1930s Disney cartoon clip of the Tortoise and Hare fable, and discussed how in this story, perseverance was more important than strength or speed. Finally students viewed a short film about a young man from Senegal named Ablaye who is disabled, yet uses his feet to work on a computer, paint, and create sculpture. Again students discussed how perseverance was key to this young man's success in life.


We also began the practice of partner reading, which builds fluency and strengthens confidence i reading ability. First I read two chapters from the novel aloud to model using expression, distinct voices for different characters, slow or fast pace depending on what was happening, etc. Then students were paired by me, and they took turns reading the same chapters to each other, alternating pages. Mr. Ben and I move

throughout the room listening to their reading and complementing them when they exhibit excellent fluency.

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This week we also dived into using the theatre technique of story dramatization as a way to better comprehend this novel. For the first scene from Chapter 2, every student took on the role of the main character, Willy, as he persevered to harvest and sell the potato crop. To do this they had to create appropriate dialogue, facial expressions, voice, and movements (blocking). They performed simultaneously as I walked among them watching and listening. This is a comfortable way to begin story dramatization as it doesn't put any one student "on the spot."

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Once they were comfortable performing, they were ready for the next scene from Chapter 4. For this teams were tasked with performing a scene, with each team member taking on the role of one character. First we spent some time analyzing the scene, discussing possible dialogue and blocking. It's important to spend this time upfront so students are prepared when the scene begins. They are beginning to realize that they truly need to understand the text in order to infer the kind meaningful dialogue each character would say. I don't allow them to get by with saying simple sentences that don't advance the scene. This definitely takes critical thinking skills to accomplish!

This week we analyze two songs with similar themes of perseverance, High Hopes (as sung by Frank Sinatra in the 1959 movie A Hole in the Head) and Climb Every Mountain from the musical The Sound of Music. For the latter, students will analyze two different performances of that song: the original version from the movie and a version by Christina Aguilera. Students will also watch a short clip about Liz Murray, who went from being homeless to attending Harvard University. They will discuss how her perseverance gave her a new lease on life. All of these discussions will allow students to identify why the main character in the novel is able to accomplish so much despite so many obstacles.

How you can help with reading at home: 

  • Ask your child what he/she felt about the video clip of Ablaye, the disabled young man who paints and uses a computer with his feet. How did he show perseverance?
  • Ask your child to give his/her impression of the poem Perseverance. How does the poet make us understand perseverance? (e.g. by comparing a leaf hanging onto a tree to a person with perseverance).
  • Ask your child to explain what role perseverance has had in our novel Stone Fox so far (Willy harvested the potatoes and sold them on his own; he is taking care of the farm on his own; he's not giving up on his grandfather)
  • 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.



Grade 4: Last week students explored the properties of multiplication, focusing on their times tables from 2 to 10.

This week students begin exploring division. They also complete a quiz to check their understanding of multiplication concepts..

Grade 5: Last week Grade 5 students studied graphs, including how to collect, organize, and display data. They also explored finding the mean, median, mode, and range.

This week they continue exploring graphs, including stem and leaf plots and line graphs. They will also complete a quick quiz to check their comprehension of graph skills so far.

How you can help with math at home: 


  • Please have your child practice multiplication with these online games: 



Fantastic Fish Shop:


Cone Crazy:



  • Have your child practice graphing and range/median/mode/mean: 


How It All Stacks Up:

Mean, Median, Mode Buildings:


Last week students chose their seed idea for their new essay, and then focused on what exactly their message is in the essay they are writing. Even though their story is about a real life event they experienced, it should have a message beyond simply what happened. For example, they might recount a day in the park with a good friend who is moving away the next day. This story's message could focus on friendship, and how it's important to maintain friendships even if the person isn't around.

Students also studied the way authors have used leads to get readers interested in their stories, then crafted leads of their own. They either started with action, dialogue, or describing an interesting setting. To rehearse before writing, they did a "story tell," in which they tell their story to a partner:

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Finally they explored onomatopoeia, a type of figurative language in which a word is the name of a sound (e.g. boom, gulp, pop). Students created a comic strip showcasing examples of onomatopoeia. Each week they will learn another type of figurative language or grammar skill they can potentially use in their essay.

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Eva's onomatopeia comic

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Mell's onomatopeia comic

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Abe's onomatopeia comic

This week they will learn how to step into the point of view of the narrator in their story, will make sure they have a balance of internal (thoughts and emotions) and external (actions) elements, will consider adding scenes from the past or future, and will clarify the arc of their story.

How you can help with writing at home: 


  • Ask your child to story tell their essay, and offer feedback. Do you find it interesting? Does it move you emotionally in some way?
  • Ask your child what the real message is of his/her easy.
  • Ask your child for examples of onomatopoeia. Then ask why an author or poet would use this device (e.g. to enliven a story, to make it seem more real, to give the reader a better picture of what's happening, etc.)





Last week students students used what they have learned about the skeletal system to draft the first version of their story about an imaginary trip through the human body. I was just thrilled to see that not only did they create exciting stories, but that they incorporated many facts they learned about the skeletal system.

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They also completed their bone experiment in which they left chicken bones in vinegar for one week. They discovered that vinegar, an acid, dissolves calcium and makes the bones flexible. This helped them to understand the importance of calcium in our bones.

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They will continue to add chapters to their story as they study additional systems of the human body. We then moved on to study the muscular system, including an experiment in which we explored voluntary and involuntary muscle movements.

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Shima tests the reaction of her pupil.

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Charity looks at the size of her pupils before covering one eye.

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Papi tries to determine if pupil size changes voluntarily or involuntarily.

This week we complete the study of the muscular system and begin to look at the integumentary system (skin, hair, nails).  

How you can help with science at home: 

  • Ask your child why calcium is important in our bones (it provides the strength).
  • Ask him/her to describe what he/she has learned about the muscular system.
  • Ask your child to describe the voluntary and involuntary muscle experiment. What did he/she discover?
  • Have your child read the chapter they wrote about the skeletal system, and provide feedback. Is it an exciting story? Does it include at least five facts about bones?


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Students updated their personal blogs on Friday during our Information Technology class, adding reflections on what they are learning in each subject area, updates on their Quarter 2 goals, and photographs of their recent class activities. Make sure to check it out! If your child is in my after school Blog-o-Mania class, you may notice a new level of sophistication with their blog layout, fonts, and colors.





Tuesday 19 Nov, 7:30 - 7:45 AM - Elementary assembly featuring preK 3/4

Tuesday 26 Nov, 7:30 - 7:45 AM - Elementary assembly featuring Grades 4/5

Tuesday 26 Nov, 6:30 - 9:30 PM - AISB Board meeting

Thursday & Friday 28 - 29 Nov - Thanksgiving Holiday


Tuesday 3 Dec, 7:30 - 7:45 AM - Elementary assembly featuring 1 student from each class reading their own story

Wednesday 4 Dec, Quarter 2 Progress Reports sent home for selected students

Tuesday 10 Dec, 7:30 - 7:45 AM - Elementary assembly featuring preK 2

Tuesday 17 Dec, 7:30 - 7:45 AM - Elementary assembly featuring Advanced French

Friday Dec 20 - AISB Annual Winter Show

Friday Dec 20 - Last day of Quarter 2 after school activities

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