Sunday, March 30, 2014

What's Up This Week: 31 March - 4 April 2014

What's Up This Week: 31 March - 4 April 2014



 We are now in the final sprint to the end of the school year, with just 10 weeks left before summer vacation. There is much to be done in this short time, so I hope this week off gave your child added energy and focus!


Before spring break we completed our Sideways Stories from Wayside School reading unit based on the book by  Louis Sachar. As a culminating project to emphasize reading comprehension and writing, students wrote a "31st Story," another chapter to add to the book. Their story features an interesting student character they created, an unique plot, and a life lesson. From what I've read so far, their original stories are even more entertaining than the chapters in the novel!

This week we begin a new reading unit based on the Malian epic poem Sundiata. We will use a young reader's version called Sundiata: Lion King of Mali by Davis Wisniewski, a Caldecott Medal winner (awarded for best illustration in a children's book). Our reading skill focus continues to be "close" reading in order to determine what the text says explicitly and what it infers.


We will also explore what it means to be a hero--from ancient times to present day. Our social studies skill focus is understanding cultural development and interaction among societies in ancient Mali. As a culminating projects student teams will present a scene from Sundiata in a masked ceremony, creating their own mask to represent a character from the story, and using pantomime rather than words to explain the scene. We will view a number of Malian mask ceremonies as part of our research in developing our own ceremony. This will give students excellent exposure to more of the rich cultural heritage of Mali.


Dogon mask ceremony


Grade 4 and 5 students present their original production of Pinocchio this Tuesday, 1 April at 7:30 AM. They created a script from the original version of the Pinocchio novel, and recreated the story in shadow puppet style. We hope you can attend. Here are a few shots from rehearsals:

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The shark attacks.

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On the Isle of the Busy Bees

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Scene 1, in Geppetto's village

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Behind the scenes

How you can help with reading at home: 

  • Ask your child to describe his/her Wayside School "31st story." What's the main character like? What's the life lesson? Did he/she include figurative language?
  • Have your child answer some of the close reading questions after reading a chapter from one of their books (What are some of the important words in the chapter? What does the author want us to understand? How does the author use figurative language?)
  • Ask your child how he/she is taking part in the Pinocchio performance. What has been the most challenging part of rehearsing the play?
  • 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 from their "Read to Succeed" book so you can check his/her fluency, expression, pauses, etc.



Grade 4: Last week Grade 4 students took a quick quiz to gauge their understanding of division with two-digit divisors, explored order of operations, took another short quiz on order of operations, and completed the Chapter 8 test.

Units of measure copy

After spring break Grade 4 students will explore customary length (inches, feet yard, mile), customary capacity (fluid ounce, cup, pint, quart, gallon), and customary weight (ounce, pound, ton). They will also learn to convert from one unit to another.

Grade 5: Last week Grade 5 students completed a problem solving activity to check for reasonableness of answers regarding measurement conversion problems, took a short quiz to check for understudying of these American measurement concepts, and began to explore metric measurement, including length, capacity, mass, and practice converting metric units of measure.



After spring break Grade 5 students will explore metric conversions (millimeters to centimeters, etc.), temperature (both Fahrenheit and Celsius), complete a problem solving activity that will challenge their decision making abilities, and will take a quiz to check their understanding of metric units of measurement.


How you can help with math at home: 

Grade 4

  • Ask your child to explain the process of solving a division problem with a 2-digit divisor, such as 300 ÷ 60.
  • Encourage your child to practice division with an online game:

Soccer Division with Remainders: 



Grade 5

  • Ask your child to describe some of the U.S. units of measure
  • Encourage your child to practice measurement conversions with an online game:




Last week students completed typing their fiction stories. They first used the Six Traits rubric (below) to score a peer's story. This helped them practice their writing skills with a new eye. I was impressed with how carefully they reviewed their peers' story! Next they used the rubric to score their own essay.

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Finally I read each essay (all 120 pages of them!) and made comments on each page regarding content and conventions.

Over the break they should make the necessary revisions as suggested by the peer reviewer and by me, and if possible print a fresh copy. If you want to also offer your feedback, we welcome your involvement! 

Once I receive the freshly revised stories, I will use the same rubric to award the final scores. A big advantage to the Six Traits rubric is that students receive six scores in different areas, giving them detailed feedback. This gives them a clear sense of their writing strengths and writing challenges so they can continue to improve the next time.

This week we begin a new writing unit, this one focusing on writing a literary essay. A literary essay focuses on a theme or a "big idea" from a favorite book that the student has read. It might include identifying a particular theme like the difficulty of moving to a new school (from the book Kid in the Red Jacket), and show how the author of that book shows that theme through a character or events

Essay copy

This new writing unit will really show students how writing is the sharpened, focused expression of thought and study. Not only will it help them develop their writing skills, but it will help them be more perceptive readers and improve their critical thinking skills. Their goal in writing a literary analysis essay is to convince the reader that the essay supports the idea being developed. Students will have to stick to the specific point of development (a tricky challenge!), remain totally organized, and stay in control of their point of view. Everything they write must be directly related to the central idea and must help the reader understand that central idea.


How you can help with writing at home: 


  • Ask your child to share his/her fiction story, and offer your feedback using the rubric above. 
  • Ask your child about their experience writing this fiction story. What part was the most fun? Which part was the most challenging?
  • Is your child able to type quickly on the computer? If not, encourage he/she to practice with one of the keyboarding activities at:



Last week students looked at the many threats to our oceans, and then explored possible solutions to these threats. Then they were divided into pairs where they began creating storyboards for their ocean iMovie. Mr. Kelsey gave an introduction to how iMovie works, and students began researching online to find photos for their own movies.

Next week students complete their scripts, find videos, record the audi, choose music, and begin to assemble all of the pieces of their iMovie. Here are a few shots of student partners exploring possible photographs for their iMovie:

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How you can help with science at home: 

  • Ask your child to describe some of the threats to the ocean (pollution, overfishing, climate change, acidification, shoreline overdevelopment etc.). Are there solutions to these problems?
  • Ask your child to describe his/her ideas for the iMovie.
  • Why are the oceans important to our planet? (They provide 60 - 70% of our oxygen, they regulate temperatures, they absorb carbon dioxide, they provide protein for millions of people, etc.)



Rehearsals continued this week for eleven Grade 4 and 5 students who are in the spring production of "In a Good Book." At last Tuesdays after school rehearsal Ms. Jenise blocked the fight scene from Peter Pan. "Blocking" is all of the actions that occur, and the students did a super job remembering the many complicated movements they make!

Rehearsals continue this Tuesday at 2:45. If your child is in the cast, please make sure he/she has a ride at 4:30.

The play will premiere Saturday 26 April at AISB. Make plans to attend now!





Students receive Quarter 3 report cards on Friday. Please carefully review this report, sign the outer envelope, and send the envelope back to school with your child on the following Monday. Parent-teacher-student conferences will be held on the following Friday (11 April) and I will be happy to address any of your questions and concerns at this meeting. Information on signing up for a meeting time for these conferences will be distributed soon. 




APRIL 2014

Tuesday 1 April Elementary assembly (Pinocchio) presented by Grade 4-5 class, 7:30 - 7:45 AM

Friday 4 April Quarter 3 report cards go home

Tuesday 8 April - Elementary assembly presented by Standard French students, 7:30 - 7:45 AM

Friday 11 April - Teacher-Parent-Student conferences

Tuesday 15 April Elementary assembly presented by Grade 2-3 class, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Tuesday 22 April Elementary assembly presented by ESOL class, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Saturday 26 April - Premiere of the play In a Good Book at AISB
Tuesday 29 April Elementary art assembly presented by all classes, 7:30 - 7:45 AM

MAY 2014
Thursday-Friday 1-2 May - No school, Labor Day holiday
Tuesday 6 May Elementary assembly presented by Music class, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Wednesday 7 May Progress reports go home (for select students)
Tuesday 13 May Elementary assembly presented by K-1 class, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Thursday 15 May AISB AnnualGeneral Meeting, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Mon - Fri 19-23 May AISB Teacher Appreciation Week

JUNE 2014
Friday 6 June - Last day of school

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