Sunday, January 12, 2014

What's Up This Week: 13 - 17 January 2014


On Tuesday AISB is closed because of the holiday of El Mawloud. School resumes on Wednesday.


I had the good fortune to attend a piano recital at AISB on Saturday that featured a number of AISB students (four from our class!) as well as students from the French school.  I was SO impressed me with the musical talent I saw, and was really moved by the performances. Studies show that students who take music lessons perform better in reading and math, and are more creative. Bravo Nil, Eva, Andreas, and Anouk for a beautiful performance! 

IMG 3583

IMG 3589

IMG 3593

IMG 3596
This week we beain a new reading unit based on the classic tale of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. 

Original 1883 novel

Students learned that this novel began as a weekly serial in an Italian newspaper, and originally ended violently--with Pinocchio being killed by the villains. Thankfully the editor begged Collodi to change the end so that Pinocchio survives.

To prepare students for reading this novel, we first looked at the Arab fairy tale of Aladdin. We read the original version, then a children's book version. Next we explored how Disney changed the story for the movie and for a live action musical, and how a group of high school students further revised the story when they created a shadow puppet theatre presentation of Aladdin. This exercise demonstrated how a story can take on many versions based on the intended audience, the purpose of the presentation, and the time limitations. This was an important point since the grade 4/5 students will create a shadow puppet theatre presentation of Pinocchio once we have finished the novel, as well as another presentation of a classic fairy tale of their choosing.

Next we looked at the genre of fairy tales and what sort of elements make up a fairy tale. Students discovered that they:
  • take place long ago in a usually unnamed place
  • include magic and adventure
  • include good and bad characters (often royalty, a trickster, and/or animals)
  • involve a big change happening to the main character
  • might involve a pattern (something with the number 3) or a repeated phrase
  • include a life lesson
  • usually have a happy ending

This study of fairy tales prepared students for the reading of Pinocchio which, as they will soon see, includes all of the elements listed above.

The reading comprehension focus for this unit is on the structure of the story, specifically the plot, theme, and sequence of the story.

Students reviewed plot elements (something we have looked at earlier in the year) and learned that they every day after reading from the novel, they will identify which part of the plot we read. This is important since they are creating a shadow puppet version of the story, so they will need to understand the plot as well as how they can shorten it to adhere to a 10 minute time limit.

Students learned that the theme of a story:
  • can be summed up in a few words (e.g. perseverance, love, moving away)
  • is not directly stated but shown through what the characters say, think, and do
  • represents a universal idea or an idea specific to a culture

Finally, they looked at story sequence and discovered that it:
  • is important to the plot
  • represents the beginning, middle, and end
  • can be identified through the author's use of signal words (first, next, a moment later, finally)
  • can be chronological or include flashbacks/flash forwards

Students study 25 vocabulary words I pulled from the novel. I choose words that are key to the story, are useful in every day language, or are "juicy words" they can use in their own writing. 


We only focus on a few words each day, learning them in the context of a sentence, creating a chart with the definition and a sketch, and creating a tableau (frozen pose) of the words. here were some of the tableaus for the words sensitive, sobs, and devoured. Can you guess which is which?

IMG 2472

IMG 2474

IMG 2469

IMG 2477

How you can help with reading at home: 
  • Ask your child to describe the elements of a typical plot.
  • Ask your child to explain what the "theme" of a story is.
  • Have your child explain the vocabulary words they learned this week (sobs, sensitive, graduated, devoured)
  • 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 Grade 4 students reviewed multiplication concepts, then completed a Chapter 5 test on multiplication. They were all successful so we moved on to multiplication by two-digit numbers-- a process that at first confused them, but after lots of practice they grasped. 

This week they continue working with two digit divisors, including divisors that are multiples of ten.

Grade 5: Last week Grade 5 students worked with mixed numbers, applied the concepts they've learned about fractions to a real world problem involving an orchestra, and took a quick quiz to assess their understanding of fractions. For the most part they were successful, demonstrating how they can convert fractions to decimals and mixed numbers to both improper fractions and decimals.

This week they complete the Chapter 5 test on fractions, then begin a new chapter where they add and subtract fractions and mixed numbers with like and unlike denominators. They also will complete problem solving activity that requires them to add and subtract fractions in a real world application.

How you can help with math at home: 

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

  • Have your child practice fractions with these online games: 

Last week students learned to write a solid thesis statement, chose their final essay idea, and used a simple folder system to organize the structure of their essay. 

This week students will compose "mini-stories" within their essay to support the thesis, and continue to learn to revise as they write their draft (rather than after their draft is complete). We will also focus on adverbs this week to strengthen our understanding or writing mechanics. I'll use a Schoolhouse Rock video as well as several activities to teach this topic.

How you can help with writing at home: 

  • Ask your child to explain the essay idea he/she chose, and the reasons to support that thesis.


Last week students nearly completed their eBooks that showcase everything they have learned about the systems of the human body. Each student has an 11-chapter digital book that describes a journey through the human body, full of adventure and many facts. This week we will put all of their digital books on a website that you can easily access, and I'll provide the link in an email.

This week we start our next social studies unit: The Age of Exploration.

Age of ex

In this unit students will learn the reasons for the rush of exploration that begin the early 1400s and continued throughout the 1600s, and how this exploration impacted the world. Eventually they will each choose one of the explorers of this time and develop a travelogue that details one (or more) of the journeys this explorer engaged in during the Age of Exploration. I'm doing this unit in conjunction with Mr. Souleyman in the library as students will apply their research skills in order to create their travelogues.   

How you can help with science at home: 
  • Ask your child to share their science story with you. Ask them how they made their story fun to read but also informative

Last week I had to have some emergency dental work--a root canal--and I used a local dentist who was excellent. Dr. Georges Daou has done both dentistry and orthodontics in Bamako for 16 years, at one point having 20 AISB students as patients (pre-coup). He is of Lebanese descent but raised in Senegal. He and his wife (his nurse) speak English and French.

His office is clean and modern, and located in Cite du Niger 2. He currently has several AISB students as patients, including one who recently had braces put on, and another who just had braces removed and has a beautiful set of teeth. I have to say that my root canal was not painful at all, and that's a plus!

Knowing how difficult it can be to find good medical care in Bamako, I highly recommend Dr. Daou. He can be reached at:

office 20 21 04 21
cell 76 40 21 20
cell 66 71 87 00


Last week your child brought home a form where you can indicate if he/she is returning for the next school year. Please return this form as soon as possible as this information is critical for planning for next year.   



Tuesday 14 Jan - No School, El Mawloud
Friday 17 Jan - End of Quarter 2/ Semester 1
Monday 20 Jan - No School, Baptism of the Prophet 
Wednesday 22 Jan  - Elementary assembly presented by Grade 4/5, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Tuesday 28 Jan - Elementary assembley presented by French Standard students, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Thursday 30 Jan - All day Grade 4/5 field trip to ostrich farm (chaperones needed!)

Tuesday 4 Feb - Elementary assembly presented by Grade 2/3, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Tuesday 11 Feb - Elementary assembly presented by ESOL, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Friday 14 Feb - No school, Teacher in-service
Monday 17 Feb - No school, President's Day (U.S. Holiday)
Tuesday 18 Feb - Elementary Literacy Week assembly 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Tuesday 25 Feb - Elementary assembly presented by music classes 7:30 - 7:45 AM

MARCH 2014

Tuesday 4 March - Elementary assembly presented by Grade K/1, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Tuesday 11 March - Elementary math assembly presented, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Tuesday 18 March - Elementary assembly presented by Advanced French students, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Friday 31 March - End of Quarter 3
24 - 30 March - Spring Break - no school

No comments:

Post a Comment