Sunday, December 14, 2014

News of the Week: 15 - 18 December 2014

TBijan, Jesse, and K'an bεn the cat enjoying some quiet time at recess.


SHORT BUT BUSY WEEK AT AISB!
The Winter Break holiday begins on Thursday, so school will be held only on Monday - Wednesday this week. The next class blog post will be on 5 January 2015.

This Wednesday, from 1:30 - 2:45, AISB students present the annual Winter Show, and parents are invited to attend this end of the semester celebration. Here is a photo from one of our Grade 4/5 rehearsals last week. We have taken on a rather ambitious performance piece and still have much work to do!






MASH-UPS READY FOR VIEWING!

Page from the mash up by Bijan & Yasmina


Please use the link below to view the mash-ups from our previous reading unit.

For this project, each student wrote a story in a particular genre (either fairy tale, western, horror, or science fiction). Then they were matched with a partner who had written a story in a different genre. Their challenge was to mesh their two stories to create a new story that made sense, and reflected both individual stories. I'm just thrilled with the results!

Check out their creative work here:

https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_R3ybAMlaTQNXdqRmhHWHZTd1U&usp=sharing


Page from mash up by Aissatou & Gladd




READING
This past week we began a new reading unit based around the Newbery Honor novel "The Sign of the Beaver" by Elizabeth George Speare. The reading skill focus will be identifying figurative language (especially symbolism) and determining how the story changes depending on from whose point of view the story is told.

At first I hesitated to use this book as there is some controversy surrounding the depiction of stereotypes of American Indians in the novel. But it's an excellent story, contains good lessons on character building, and brings up issues still pertinent today. So I decided I could still use this book, but would also have students explore the idea of stereotypes, and how stereotyping is a senseless and harmful practice.

We started the discussion by looking at what it means to stereotype:








Then we looked at stereotypes directed against American Indians:



We also viewed a music video that uses the song "You Have to be Carefully Taught" from the musical "South Pacific (1949)." This song, regarding relationships between different races and ethnic groups, was so controversial at the time that lawmakers tried to pass legislation outlawing entertainment that supported "the communist agenda!" The song's message is that racism and stereotyping is taught rather than something we are born with.

In the music video we saw, the song is the background to some very symbolic and moving visuals.




I also spent time building the students' background knowledge of the setting (America in 1768, the Maine territory), the political situation (cooperation but mostly conflict between white European settlers and the Penobscot Indians who had lived in the Maine territory for hundreds of years), and the cultures of each group. Building background like this will help students understand the plot and the nuances of the story.

We also discussed the concept of symbols.


Symbolism plays an important part in the novel--after all the book is named after an Penobscot Indian symbol. But there are many instances of symbolism (an element of figurative language) in the novel for students to discover. On Friday we began reading a short story so students can practice identifying symbolism in literature.

I also introduced students to Marc Chagall whose paintings are rich with symbolism. After reading a children's book about this great artist, we analyzed one of his most famous paintings for symbolism. It was also good practice for the symbolism they will analyze in the novel.



Next week we begin reading the novel, and also analyze some poetry for examples of symbolism (one poem was written by Chagall).


HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT READING AT HOME THIS WEEK
  • Ask your child to discuss the final mash up he/she created with a partner. What was difficult about this assignment? What was the most fun part? How did the partners decide what to keep in from each individual story that was mashed up?
  • Ask your child to describe what it means to stereotype people? (believing that all members of a group of people look/act the same way).  Ask how people developed stereotypes about American Indians. (by depictions on TV, in movies, in comic books, etc.)
      • Check to see that your child is doing the “Read to Succeed” homework each school night: reading 20 minutes or more from a book of their choosing, then writing a 3 to 5 sentence summary about what they read. Read what he/she wrote and make sure it actually summarizes the pages read rather than giving a detailed retelling of the story, or just telling one thing that happened rather than the sum total of what happened.
      • Have your child read aloud to you to practice his/her fluency (reading accurately, smoothly, quickly, and with expression). 






      MATH



      Last week Grade 4 students explored number sequences, engaged in problem solving that required the use of number patterns, and finally used addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division rules to work with number patterns.

      This week students will work with the order of operations, solve equations that require two operations, work on equations with multiple operations, and take a short quiz.

      Here is a short video about following the order of operations students will learn this week:











      Last week Grade 5 students divided decimals by whole numbers, used models to divide decimals, and divided decimals by powers of ten.

      This week they take the Chapter 6 test, then begin a new chapter by looking at numerical expressions and the order of operations they must follow.

      Here is a short video explaining the order of operations they use this week (most should remember this from grade 4):






      HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT MATH AT HOME THIS WEEK

      Have your child try some of these online games to practice the math skills we learned last week:

        For those students who have not memorized their basic math facts:
        • Check your child’s math homework each night, which is found in the My Math book.




        WRITING

        Students edited and revised their personal narratives. This week they receive a hard copy of their story, and will use the Six Traits of Writing rubric to score their piece. They will also score the story from another student. Finally, I'll score their story and offer final feedback. We will hold an author reading after Winter Break.

        Last week our grammar lessons focused on words that are frequently confused by children and adults alike, such as lay/lie and whose/who's. Here's a short video reminder of when to use lay or lie:





        HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT WRITING AT HOME THIS WEEK
        • Ask your child to explain when to use lay and lie.





        SOCIAL STUDIES

        Last week we continued our social studies unit on ancient Greece, and students took a quiz on the concepts they've learned so far. In our chapter from the Odyssey, we learned about Odysseus' dangerous journey past the tempting Sirens, and past the monsters Scylla and Charybdis.

        On Friday some of our students gave a presentation on Greek root words that we still use today, something they learned about in their ESOL class. The class found this information very interesting, and definitely helpful when it comes to figuring out the meaning s of words that contain these 3000 year old word parts!







        HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT SCIENCE AT HOME THIS WEEK
        • Ask your child to describe the story of Odysseus that we have read so far. (Odysseus encountered the Sirens, and blocked the ears of his men with wax to avoid the tempting songs of the Sirens. He himself was lashed to main sail so he could hear the sounds but not follow them. Next he sailed between Scylla and Charybdis, sacrificing six men for a safe passage.). 
        • Ask your child about the quiz he/she took on Friday. Was he/she successful? What was the most difficult question? How can he/she do better on the next quiz?




        ELEMENTARY SOCCER GAME

        Our elementary coed football team, who practice formally just one day a week, played a match against a local Malian team on Friday after school. While they lost 0-1, they played well and drew a good-sized cheering section! Nice work, team!










        Fête Santa


        It was great seeing so many of you last Saturday at the Fête Santa at the National Park. The weather was beautiful, the food was good, the craft shopping was excellent, and the entertainment was amazing. 



        COMING SOON

        DECEMBER
        Wed 17 Dec: AISB Winter Show, 1:30 - 2:45PM (parents are invited!)
        Thu 18 Dec: First day of Winter Break

        JANUARY
        Mon 5 Jan: Last day of Winter Break
        Tue 6 Jan: First day back!
        Fri 10 Jan: No School (Tentative) Prophet's Baptism
        Fri 16 Jan: End of Quarter 2 and Semester 1
        Sat 17 Jan: Panto & Skit Performances at AISB featuring students, faculty, & community members
        Sat 31 Jan: AISB International Fair, 6:00 - 8:30 PM

        FEBRUARY
        Fri 13 Feb - No school, teacher in-service
        Mon 16 Feb - No school

        Saturday, December 6, 2014

        News of the Week: 8 - 12 December 2014


        Our December door

        READING
        Two weeks ago we started our new reading unit that explores the world of "mash-ups," the blending of two different elements--whether it be two different songs, two different pieces of art, or two different genres of literature. 

        Then last week students finally read the genre mash-up story "Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude" around which our unit is based. In this story, the author cleverly blends a fairy tale (with ponies and a princess) with a high-octane adventure story (with motorcycles and a hideous giant). The students loved it!

        Then it was time to begin the mash-up project. First each student chose one of four genres--either fairy tale, western, horror, or science fiction--and wrote a short story in that genre. Next I matched each student with a partner who wrote in a contrasting genre. Their goal was to mash up the two stories into one, keeping the main characters and settings from each story but blending them into one plot. The genre combos will be either:
        • fairy tale/horror
        • western/fairy tale
        • fairy tale/sci fi
        • western/horror
        • sci fi/western
        • horror/sci fi
        Here are the partners (and one trio) creating their mash ups:













        After creating their mash up, the partners began putting their story into a PowerPoint, complete with illustrations and narration. They will finish in the coming week. Here they are at work on the PowerPoints:












        Here is what Jesse said about the mash up experience:

         At school we are making mash ups. I was amazed that my science fiction story was mixed with a fairy tale! But it went well and I am also happy about the cooperation.  






        HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT READING AT HOME THIS WEEK
        • Ask your child to describe the genre he/she selected, and have him/her read the story aloud. What makes this story either a western, sci fi, horror, or fairy tale?
        • Ask your child to describe the mash up he/she created with a partner. How did they keep important parts of both stories to create the new story?
        • Ask your child to describe the story Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude. Why is this story considered a mash up? (it combines two different genres, adventure and fairy tales)
            • Check to see that your child is doing the “Read to Succeed” homework each school night: reading 20 minutes or more from a book of their choosing, then writing a 3 to 5 sentence summary about what they read. Read what he/she wrote and make sure it actually summarizes the pages read rather than giving a detailed retelling of the story, or just telling one thing that happened rather than the sum total of what happened.
            • Have your child read aloud to you to practice his/her fluency (reading accurately, smoothly, quickly, and with expression). 






            MATH



            Last week Grade 4 students studied quotients with zeroes, solved some multi-step division problems, took the chapter test on division, and began a new chapter on non-numeric patterns

            This week students will explore number sequences, engage in problem solving that requires the use of number patterns, use addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division rules to work with number patterns, and finally will work with the order of operations.

            Here is a short video about number patterns:









            Last week Grade 5 students multiplied decimals by decimals, multiplied decimals by powers of ten, used properties of multiplication to multiply decimals, estimated the quotients of decimals, and finally divided decimals using models.

            This week they divide decimals by whole numbers, use models to divide decimals, and divide decimals by powers of ten.

            Here is a short video explaining decimal division:




            HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT MATH AT HOME THIS WEEK

            Have your child try some of these online games to practice the math skills we learned last week:

              For those students who have not memorized their basic math facts:
              • Check your child’s math homework each night, which is found in the My Math book.




              WRITING

              Students completed their second personal narratives last week, typing it into Google Docs where I can read it and offer editing suggestions. In the coming week they will edit and revise their stories to create their final draft.

              Last week we had more grammar lessons on strategies that help us spell correctly.



              HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT WRITING AT HOME THIS WEEK
              • Ask to read your child's personal narrative on Google Docs. Offer your feedback, remembering that the goal for this story is that it should touch the reader's emotions.
                • Ask your child what tips they have for remembering how to spell tricky words.




                SOCIAL STUDIES

                Last week we continued our social studies unit on ancient Greece. Students wrote a modern day version of an ancient Greek myth to show how the ideas and discoveries of the ancient Greeks are still applicable and transferable today. Students then learned about the importance ancient Greek theatre as a means to educate and entertain. Following this, teams chose one of the modern day myths a team member wrote. and performed it as a skit.

                Next students learned about the various forms of government in ancient Greece, including direct democracy, monarchy, oligarchy, and tyranny.

                In the coming week students take a quiz on the concepts they've learned so far, then explore daily life and the arts in ancient Greece.

                If teams complete a daily lesson challenge, they move their ship on the Greek wall map, attempting to follow the route of Odysseus:







                Here is what Jesse posted about the new unit:
                At school we are learning about ancient Greece. My team is named after a cyclops called Polyphemus. I am so impatient to see what happens in this adventure!



                HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT SCIENCE AT HOME THIS WEEK
                • Ask your child to describe the story of Odysseus that we have read so far. (Odysseus encountered the cyclops Polyphemus, stayed on Circe's island, and visited the Underworld to get advice from the wise spirit Tiresius). 
                • Ask your child about the modern Greek myth his/her team performed. What was the life lesson taught in this modern day myth? Did the other teams guess this correctly?

                COMING SOON

                DECEMBER
                Wed 10 Dec: AISB Board meeting, 6:30PM, parents invited
                Wed 17 Dec: AISB Winter Show, 1:30 - 2:45PM (parents are invited!)
                Thu 18 Dec: First day of Winter Break

                JANUARY
                Mon 5 Jan: Last day of Winter Break
                Tue 6 Jan: First day back!
                Fri 10 Jan: No School (Tentative) Prophet's Baptism
                Fri 16 Jan: End of Quarter 2 and Semester 1
                Sat 17 Jan: Panto & Skit Performances at AISB featuring students, faculty, & community members
                Sat 31 Jan: AISB International Fair, 6:00 - 8:30 PM

                FEBRUARY
                Fri 13 Feb - No school, teacher in-service
                Mon 16 Feb - No school

                Sunday, November 30, 2014

                News of the Week: 1 - 5 December 2014

                Weeping Woman with Handkerchief
                Pablo Picasso (Spain, active France, 1881-1973)
                Spain, 1937
                Oil on canvas
                21 x 17 1/2 in. (53.34 x 44.45 cm)
                LACMA, Los Angeles, CA, USA

                READING
                Last week students participated in a culminating project after completing the novel Shiloh. To show their understanding of our target reading comprehension skill, students created a Cubist portrait of a character from the novel. 

                Cubism requires the artist to represent the subject's personality through color, shape, and line. Unlike most painters at the time, the Cubists had no interest in representing people as they really looked. They wanted to represent the person's essence. So this assignment challenged students not only to develop a list of character traits for the person they selected, but to determine how to symbolically represent those traits. Once the portraits were complete, students wrote an artist's statement explaining their choices.

                Here are the results--click on the image if you want to see it larger:























































































































                Last week we also began a new reading unit based on the short story "Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude," written and illustrated by Kevin O'Malley. This story is an example of a genre "mash-up" in which two different styles of story are combined into one story.

                I started off by showing students examples of mash-ups from music, video, art, and literature. First they listened to the contemporary pop song "Umbrella" by Rhianna, and then they watched Gene Kelly perform "Singing in the Rain" from the 1952 movie of the same name (I have to say that they were quite mesmerized by this film clip!). We discussed the similarities between each song (both were about two people in love, both involved rain and umbrellas, both were upbeat) and the differences (modern vs. old; pop vs. musical, strong percussion vs. orchestral music). Then I showed them a mash-up of both songs as performed on the TV show "Glee." They discussed how in the mash-up elements of both songs were present, and how the mash-up created something as enjoyable as the separate songs. Judge for yourself:

                The Rhianna song "Umbrella" (2007)







                Gene Kelly is "Singing in the Rain" (1952)






                And finally, the mash-up of both songs on "Glee" 
                featuring Gwenyth Paltrow and Matthew Morrison (2010) 



                I read that it took over 700 people to clean up the water on the "Glee" set after this mash-up was performed!


                I also showed students examples of art mash-ups:


                We first discussed the characteristics of both individuals pictured
                 (e.g. good guys gone bad, guys who are both loved/hated, revolutionaries, etc.)



                Then we discussed why it made sense to combine them into this mash-up:




                I think students now have a good idea how it takes much thought and creativity to mash-up two elements into one, whether it be a song, artwork, or a story like the one they are about to read. We will read the story on Monday, then begin a project. It will involve each student writing a short story in a particular genre (fairy tale, Western, science fiction), getting matched randomly with a partner, and mashing up the two stories into one. The partners will create the new story in a narrated PowerPoint.


                Here is a post from Jesse about the previous novel, Shiloh:

                Last week in reading we did a test on the book of Shiloh since we had finished it. The ending with Shiloh the dog was so touching. It made my heart so soft that I wanted to cry. But anyway let’s concentrate on what we are doing. So for the test we had to show what we knew about the book. So there were questions about what the vocabulary words meant and then it told us to read a poem and figure out what is the message. And we had to know the plot of the story. We all had a great score for the test!  






                HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT READING AT HOME THIS WEEK
                • Ask to see the final story test for Shiloh, located in your child's reading notebook. How did he/she do? If they made an error, can they correct it?
                • What life lessons did the novel Shiloh teach your child? (e.g. Treat animals humanely; life is not always so black and white; always try to do the right thing, even when it is challenging, etc.) Does your child believe Marty should have lied in the story?
                • Ask your child to describe the artistic style called Cubism. (e.g. doesn't represent people as they really look; uses only color/shapes/lines, includes symbols representing the personality of the subject, created by Picasso and Braque, etc.)
                  • Have your child explain the personality traits of the character from Shiloh they chose to portray in their Cubist portrait. How did they show these traits in their portrait? (e.g. through color, organic or geometric shapes, symbols, etc.). Was this project challenging? Why or why not?
                  • Ask your child to define a "mash-up." (a mix or fusion of two different elements), Can he/she explain why someone would mash-up the song "Umbrella" and "Singing in the Rain?" (e.g. both songs have similar themes)
                      • Check to see that your child is doing the “Read to Succeed” homework each school night: reading 20 minutes or more from a book of their choosing, then writing a 3 to 5 sentence summary about what they read. Read what he/she wrote and make sure it actually summarizes the pages read rather than giving a detailed retelling of the story, or just telling one thing that happened rather than the sum total of what happened.
                      • Have your child read aloud to you to practice his/her fluency (reading accurately, smoothly, quickly, and with expression). 






                      MATH



                      Last week Grade 4 students interpreted remainders, explored how to place the first digit of a division problem, looked at the distributive property and partial quotients, and divided longer numbers. The first quiz they took revealed that most students were still struggling with long division, so I spent extra time reteaching this concept using some hands-on activities, visuals, and more practice. It seems the biggest problem is that a few students still do not know their basic multiplication facts. This makes division nearly impossible to do! I sent home flash cards with some of those students--it's an old technique but it works. Please make sure your child knows multiplication facts up to the 12s.

                      In the coming week Grade 4 students will study quotients with zeroes, solve some multi-step division problems, take the chapter test on division, and begin a new chapter on non-numeric patterns (something that will lead students to understanding function tables). I'm really looking forward to this next chapter as I've come up with many arts integrated activities to enhance these important pattern concepts.


                      Here's a fun video song to help students remember the steps of long division, set to the tune of one of my favorite songs at the moment, "Ho Hey" by the Lumineers:







                      Last week Grade 5 students took a chapter test, then started a new unit on multiplying and dividing decimals. They estimated the products of whole numbers and decimals, multiplied decimals by whole numbers, and finally understood how helpful it is to use models to understand these concepts! For some reason they want to race right to equation solving without first trying to understand the real world reason behind the concepts they are learning.

                      Here is how models can explain the very abstract concept of decimal division, something I'll introduce next week:

                      If you bought seven apples for $3.71, how much did each apple cost? First, use the blocks to represent $3.71. There are three "wholes," so circle three boxes. There are 71 cents (or 71 hundredths), so circle 71 small squares.




                      Now divide the circled blocks into 7 equal groups. That gives us 7 groups of 50 blocks each, with 71 small squares left.



                      Now, divide those leftover 71 small squares into 7 equal groups. Those 71 squares can be divided into seven groups of 3 small squares each.

                      So, each group has 50 small squares plus an additional 3 small squares, for a total of 53 small squares in each group. That means each apple cost 53 cents.




                      When we divide the numbers on paper, we get the same result.




                      In the week ahead Grade 5 students will multiply decimals by decimals, multiply decimals by powers of ten, use properties of multiplication to multiply decimals, estimate the quotients of decimals, and finally divide decimals using models.

                      Here is a short video using base ten blocks to explain decimal multiplication:









                      HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT MATH AT HOME THIS WEEK

                      Have your child try some of these online games to practice the math skills we learned last week:

                        For those students who have not memorized their basic math facts:
                        • Check your child’s math homework each night, which is found in the My Math book.




                        WRITING

                        This past week students I offered a few tips to students as they write their second personal narrative. They learned how to add scenes from the past/future, learned the importance of having a mix of internal/external details (e.g. how one is feeling on the inside versus physical actions that happen), and how to write an ending that makes the point of the story clear--but terribly obvious!

                        For example, they don't want to end with: "And the lesson I learned was that there are helpful people all over the world." That's stating the obvious, and we know that good writers are more subtle than that. Instead, they might say, "I was surprised that no matter where I travel, I always seem to find someone willing to help me out, even in the middle of the Cambodian countryside. I need to remember that the next time i find myself in trouble abroad."

                        Last week we had a grammar lesson on strategies that help us spell correctly. Students invented their own methods of remembering how to spell tricky words. For example, developing an acronym for a strangely spelled word: hymn = Humming Your Melody Nicely. Grade 4 students also learned how to add suffixes (ing, ed) to words.

                        Over the weekend students were to complete their first story draft, with each scene written on a separate sheet of paper. PLEASE check to see if they have done this! I'll edit each story on Monday so students can make revisions, then type the story into a Word document.


                        HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT WRITING AT HOME THIS WEEK
                        • Make sure your child has completed the first draft of his/her story, and that each scene is written on a different sheet of notebook paper. This draft is due MONDAY. Offer feedback after reading the draft, remembering that this story is supposed to move the reader in some way.
                          • Ask your child what tips they have for remembering how to spell tricky words




                          SCIENCE

                          Last week students took a final test on their earthquake science unit and turned in their completed, handmade earthquake manuals for grading.

                          Then we began another social studies unit: Ancient Greece, A Journey with Odysseus. Through this unit students explore the colonization and movement of people & ideas. In each lesson we read a few chapters from a young reader's version of the Odyssey, then teams face a challenge related to the chapters read and to an aspect of ancient Greek culture. If everyone on the team meets the challenge, the team moves a ship on a large wall map, following the route taken by Odysseus. The goal is to reach Ithaca by the end of the unit.




                          In our first lesson students explored the myths of ancient Greece, determining the life lesson taught in a number of myths. In the coming week students will write a modern day version of an ancient Greek myth (to show how the ideas and discoveries of the ancient Greeks are still applicable and transferable today), will perform the modern day myth as a short skit (to reflect the importance of theatre in ancient Greece as a means to educate and entertain), and will discuss how the geography of ancient Greece was responsible for the development of isolated city-states and a culture with free time since their food needs were taken care of through farming and the sea.


                          HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT SCIENCE AT HOME THIS WEEK
                          • Ask your child to describe the story of Odysseus that we have read so far. (Odysseus and his ships leave Troy, plunder the city of the Cicones, are attacked by the Cicones, and end up in the Land of the Lotus Eaters). 
                          • Ask your child about the ancient Greek myth he/she read. What was the life lesson? Is that a lesson that still makes sense today?




                          COMING SOON

                          DECEMBER
                          Thu 4 Dec: Elementary assembly, 7:30AM, featuring Kindergarten students
                          Wed 10 Dec: AISB Board meeting, 6:30PM, parents invited
                          Wed 17 Dec: AISB Winter Show, 1:30 - 2:45PM (parents are invited!)
                          Thu 18 Dec: First day of Winter Break

                          JANUARY
                          Mon 5 Jan: Last day of Winter Break
                          Tue 6 Jan: First day back!
                          Fri 10 Jan: No School (Tentative) Prophet's Baptism
                          Fri 16 Jan: End of Quarter 2 and Semester 1

                          FEBRUARY
                          Fri 13 Feb - No school, teacher in-service
                          Mon 16 Feb - No school