Sunday, November 3, 2013

What's Up This Week: 4 - 8 November 2013


No school Friday! Instead, teachers will conferences with each student and his/her parent.

Thanks to those of you who returned the form showing your preferred meeting time on Friday. I tried my best to accommodate your choices. By Tuesday the office will send home a schedule showing your assigned time. If you have more than one child at AISB, this notification goes home with the youngest child.

Please remember to bring your child with you to attend the conference; it is important to have his/her input. 

And please be on time for your appointment. With 17 students my conference schedule is full from 7:30 to 4:00, so there is no wiggle room! I really want to spend the full 20 minutes with you and your child, so I will stick exactly to the schedule.

Yesterday's Halloween festival was full of princesses, witches, fairies, pirates, and more. It was great seeing the crowds of students, parents, and teachers eating, dancing, playing games, winning cakes, and having a frighteningly good time. We are lucky to have such a tight school community!


Last week Grade 4 and 5 students in Standard French presented at the elementary assembly. They expertly recited poetry in French, using expression and beautiful pronunciation (I was very jealous!). Good work Papi, Charity, Mell, and Shima!

Last week each student entered your email address into their personal school blog, giving you permission to view their blog entries (they are private blogs, not viewable by the public). You should have received an email saying this, and giving you the option of accepting their invitation. Please do so!

Students have been writing and uploading images since school begin, creating a digital portfolio of their work along with reflections on what they have accomplished--and what they plan to accomplish this year. This is the first time I have tried giving students a personal blog, so I'm curious to know your reactions. The idea was that it gives you a very personal window into what your child is doing at school.

Please take a moment to read your child's personal blog, as I think you'll enjoy seeing their essays, drawings, goals, quizzes, photos, and more. They will continue to make entries each week, so check back often. On Monday I begin an after school activity called "Blog-o-mania" in which students will really learn to master the skills of blogging.

This week Grade 4 & 5 students completed their culminating project, an original dream poem about an important world issue, and an accompanying collage to support their poem's message. I was so impressed with their work. Here they are in progress; next week I'll post the finished products.

This week we started a new unit based around the novel Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner, a New York Times Outstanding Children's Book. The novel centers on a ten-year-old character who seeks to help his grandfather by winning a difficult dog sled race. Through this novel we will explore the quality of perseverance, and how important it is for success in life. We will also focus on the skill of comparing and contrasting the characters' different points of view, and how their perspective shapes the story. This will connect with our recent exploration of how an author's point of view shapes non-fiction.

Throughout the reading of the novel I will incorporate the analysis of several songs (from a Frank Sinatra song to a Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush song) and poems with perseverance themes. We will also use the theatre technique of story dramatization as a way to better comprehend and analyze the text. Research on this technique shows positive effects on language development and student achievement in oral and written story recall, writing, and reading.

In story dramatization, the students interpret a scene from the novel by acting it out as part of a cast of characters. By closely analyzing the text, they determine what each character might say (beyond the dialogue already in the book), how the characters would move, the facial expressions they might have, and how they would react to what others say. 

For this technique, students don't write a script but simply create a quick sequence of actions they use as a road map. I narrate the scene, guiding them through the sequence of events. As you can imagine, this requires many skills: critical thinking, inferencing, public speaking, cooperation, creativity, etc. Best of all, this is an engaging activity the kids love to do--they are no longer a casual observer but become part of the story.

How you can help with reading at home: 
  • Ask your child what they felt about the video clip of Olympic athlete Derick Redmond--what qualities does Mr. Redmond show? (Note: He was the British athlete at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics who tore his hamstring as he raced; he still finished the race by hobbling down the track with his father's help).
  • Ask about the message in the song "Don't Give Up" by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. (e.g. Despite the difficulties you face in life, you must go on.) 
  • Ask your child about the collage he/she completed for the Dream Poem. How did it turn out? Does it represent the poem well? What would he/she do differently next time.
  • 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 created bar graphs, worked on coordinate graphing, explored line graphs, and applied all of these skills in a problem solving exercise. 

This week they will engage in a problem solving activity involving an experiment so they can continue to apply their graphing skills. They will also complete a short quiz to check their comprehension of all of the concepts they learned over the past two weeks, and if all looks good they will take the Chapter 3 test. 

Grade 5: Last week Grade 5 students explored dividing decimals by whole numbers, and dividing decimals by decimals. This was a complex math process that required all of their addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills in one math application. Each problem required a great deal of focus, careful computation, and very neat, organized writing. While students understand the step-by-step process, there were plenty of errors related to lack of focus and messy writing that led to errors. 

This week Grade 5 students learn another problem solving technique, check their progress with a quiz covering the concepts they learned over the past couple of weeks, and take the Chapter 3 test.

How you can help with math at home: 

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

  • Have your child continue to practice division using this online game: 


Last week students resumed brainstorming topics for their new personal narrative. They used one technique in which they identified important turning points in their lives that could make an interesting story (e.g. the first time or last time they did something).
In another approach they thought of examples of strong feelings and times when they experienced those feelings. I gave a short lesson on making paragraphs in an essay: starting a new paragraph when a different person speaks, when the setting changes, or when there is a flashback, or when the idea changes.

This week they learn a few more techniques for developing an excellent topic for a personal narrative, including thinking of favorite family stories. Then they will each choose one of their ideas to begin developing into a rough draft. They will also review their previous essay to determine what they will do better this time, and will focus on what exactly their message is in the essay they plan to write.

How you can help with writing at home: 

  • Ask your child what ideas he/she has so far for the new personal narrative. Does he/she feel any of these will lead to an excellent story that will affect the reader's emotions?


Last week students completed their lab report for the cell experiment, and discovered that animal and plant cells actually have many similar features, but unique features as well. They also took a short pretest, trying to locate organs in the body and describing their functions. When they finish this unit they will again take this test to demonstrate how much knowledge they have gained. Here's one of the clips students will watch this week:

They also began their "journey through the body" by exploring the skeletal system, a topic they will continue to look at over the coming week. They will also complete an experiment that will finally allow me to get rid of the chicken bones that have sat on my desk for several weeks now!

How you can help with science at home: 
  • Ask your child what he/she hopes to learn about the skeletal system. Does he/she already know any facts about bones in the human body?


Monday 4 November - After school activities begin for Monday - Thursday activities (Friday activities began last week)
Tuesday 5 Nov, 7:30 - 7:45 AM - Elementary assembly featuring Grades 2/3
*****Friday 8 Nov: Parent - Teacher conferences (information will be sent regarding meeting times)
Tuesday 12 Nov, 7:30 - 7:45 AM - Elementary assembly featuring ESOL students
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 29 Nov, 7:30 - 7:45 AM - Elementary assembly featuring Standard French
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
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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