Saturday, April 5, 2014

What's Up This Week: 7 - 11 April 2014

What's Up This Week: 7 - 11 April 2014


Parent teacher conference

Below is the schedule for the parent-teacher-student conferences on Friday 11 April in our classroom. I apologize if we couldn't accommodate your preferred time, but we did try our hardest.

Each conference will last 20 minutes, so I ask that you and your child/children arrive a few minutes early so we can keep to our schedule. If you arrive late it will mean a shorter meeting time, so please be mindful of the time.

Due to extenuating circumstances for several families, I will meet a few parents on alternate days. I have already spoken to these parents. Also, if I did not receive the form back from you, I assigned a time in one of the remaining slots.

If circumstances arise that make you and your child unable to attend your assigned time, please let me know ASAP.


7:30 - 7:50: Mell

7:55 - 8:15: Abe

8:20 - 8:40: Shima

8:45 - 9:05: Malika

9:10 - 9:30: Soraya


10:10 - 10:30: Aisha

10:35 - 10:55: Charity

11:00 - 11:20: Abbah


12:10 - 12:30: Eva

12:35 - 12:55: Nil

1:00 - 1:20: Anouk

1:25 - 1:45: Clara


2:00 - 2:20: Mathies

2:25 - 2:45: Papi

2:50 - 3:10: Yasmina

3:15 - 3:35: Binyam

Conferences scheduled for another time:


Last week we began a new reading unit based on the Malian epic poem Sundiata, using 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). 

We began by exploring what it means to be a hero, and we analyzed the mosaic Flying Home: Harlem Heroes and Heroines by African American artist Faith Ringgold. Students noted how Ringgold portrayed Harlem Renaissance figures as superheroes, flying through the air with outstretched arms like Superman. They felt this was her way of honoring real heroes who made a difference in the lives of others. They also noted other elements of visual art that supported the meaning of this mosaic: the color border used the same color as comic books, there was balance, there was repetition/pattern, etc.


We spent some time discussing what it means to be a hero (versus being a "celebrity"), and then looking at the lfe of the author of this version of Sundiata. Interestingly enough, David Wisniewski was a puppeteer for many years, with a specialty in shadow puppetry!

I also presented a quick summary of ancient Malian history, from the Ghana Empire in the year 300 to the Songhai Empire in the 1500s. This helped them place the events of our story in the proper historical context. We also discussed griots, and the students learned that these important people help keep history alive through storytelling and songs. In fact, it was griots who first told the story of Sundiata and have carried it forward until today.

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After working with our 12 new vocabulary words, we began reading the story.

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Students were fascinated with the suspense and intrigue involved in Sundiata'a story, and were not so happy when I halted the story because it was time for dismissal! Since our reading skill focus continues to be "close" reading in order to determine what the text says explicitly and what it infers, they had a great time trying to find clues in the text as to what might happen next.

This week we finish the story and begin our culminating project in which student teams 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 video clips of Malian mask ceremonies as part of our research in developing our own ceremony. 

Mask 1

Mask 2

How you can help with reading at home: 

  • Ask your child to explain the meaning of a a "hero." What qualities does a hero have?
  • Have your child explain the mosaic by Faith Ringgold. Why did she show these real people flying? (e.g. She wanted to show them as heroes for the work that they did as artists, poets, writers, etc.)
  • Ask your child about griots…why are they important in West Africa?
  • 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 and 5 students presented their original production of Pinocchio last Tuesday to a packed room. It was obvious from the laughter and gasps that the audience enjoyed every minute of the show.

You can watch the entire performance on YouTube: 

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The room was packed to the rafters.

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Thanks to the parents who attended!

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Curtain call.

Grade 4: Last week Grade 4 students explored customary length (inches, feet yard, mile), customary capacity (fluid ounce, cup, pint, quart, gallon), and customary weight (ounce, pound, ton). They also learned how to convert from one unit to another. Finally they took a short quiz to show their understanding of these many concepts.

This week Grade 4 students explore metric length, capacity, and weight, then look at temperature in Fahrenheit and Celsius. Finally they will complete a quiz to ensure that they have mastered these skills. 


Grade 5: Last week Grade 5 students explored metric conversions (millimeters to centimeters, etc.), temperature (both Fahrenheit and Celsius), took a quiz to check their understanding of metric units of measurement, and finally wrapped up the measurement chapter by taking the final test. Then we began a new unit on negative and positive numbers.

Integers 1

This week Grade 5 students will continue their study of negative and positive numbers, learning how to add and subtract with both types of these integers.

How you can help with math at home: 

Grade 4
  • Ask your child to describe some of the customary measurements used in the U.S. (e.g. inches, feet, gallons, pound, etc.).
  • Encourage your child to practice customary measurement with an online game:

Grade 5
  • Ask your child to describe some of the metric units of measure (millimeter, centimeter, meter, kilometer, gram, kilogram, milliliter, liter)
  • Ask your child how to roughly convert a Celsius temperature to a Fahrenheit temperature (double the number and add 30)
  • Encourage your child to practice metric conversions and positive/negative integers with an online game:


Last week we began a new writing unit, this one focusing on writing literary essays, an essay that 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

Over the week I showed them three different strategies for responding to a text in writing:

Strategy 1, Writing Inside the Story: Carefully read a text, and stop at a place you find interesting. Envision yourself inside the story, seeing and hearing everything that is happening. Then write a continuation of this scene, adding the details you feel would have happened. This technique allows the reader to truly experience the story from the inside-out, leading to deeper comprehension.

Strategy 2, Gathering Writing by Close Reading: Carefully read a text, and stop a point that catches your attention. Underline the sentence where you stopped. Think about what this part means in the story. Analyze the words and ideas. Next, write down these thoughts and ideas you had. For example, if a story says that boy sits alone on a stoop of a house while others chat around him, I might think he is new to the neighborhood and too shy to approach anyone. Inside he really wants company, but he argues with himself about gaining confidence so he can meet new people. He might be shy because he lived a lonely life in his last town with few friends and family. This technique helps the reader notice every detail and to realize that many details are crucial to understanding the story.

Strategy 3, Gathering Writing by Studying Characters: Carefully read a text while paying special attention to the main character. Notice the things this character says and does, his/her motivations/struggles/fears, and if this character changed throughout the story. Jot down your thoughts about the character based on the details the author used. Use sentence starters such as  "I think," or "This makes me realize," or "This reminds me of a time when…" This technique allows the reader to deeply understand the characters and how these characters affect the story.

This week students learn how extend their thinking about stories by using conversation prompts such as:
What I just read connects to...
I think this part is important because….
This part is giving me the idea that...
I partly agree, but…..
This part is similar to...

Using prompts like this to begin a discussion helps readers analyze a text more thoughtfully, and leads to deeper comprehension and, ultimately, the opportunity to write more deeply about the text. We will also learn another strategy for writing about texts in which students analyze a story to determine the real meaning…the meaning that might be hidden a bit deeper. Again, these analytical strategies help students to become deeper, more critical readers, writers, and thinkers.

How you can help with writing at home: 

  • Ask your child to describe one of the stories they read from their packet of stories we are using in writing class (Spaghetti, Boar Out There, The Marble Champ, Fly Away Home, The Birthday Box). Ask him/her to describe details from the story that they noticed, and how those details are important to the plot.
  • 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 completed their scripts for their ocean iMovie, then downloaded photographs and videos clips. Their challenge is to inform the viewer about why the oceans are important, what is threatening the oceans, and what are solutions to those threats.

This week they record the audio, choose music, and begin to assemble all of the pieces of their iMovie. By Friday, each partner pair or trio should have a completed iMovie ready for viewing.

How you can help with science at home: 
  • Ask your child to describe his/her iMovie. How is he/she explaining the facts about the ocean in this movie?
  • What solutions is your child proposing for helping our oceans remain healthy?
  • What is the experience like creation an iMovie? 

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 again worked with students on the very complicated battle scene in Peter Pan.  Next she blocked the scene from Sundiata, and finally the scene from Hamlet in which a few of the students make a quick appearance. She discussed costumes with each child and asked them to bring some choices on Tuesday so she can review them. Please remind your child/children about this.

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, so keep your calendars clear on that evening!

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Ms. Jenise works with the Lost Boys in Peter Pan.

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The Lost Boys listen to a stage direction.

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Peter Pan and Wendy learn blocking for their scene.

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Peter Pan strikes a pose.

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The cast of the Sundiata scene.



Eva brought a birthday cake to share with the class, and we wished her a happy day as we had this delicious after lunch snack!

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APRIL 2014
Tuesday 8 April - Elem. assemblyby Standard French students, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Friday 11 April - Teacher-Parent-Student conferences
Monday - Tuesday 14 - 18 April - AISB Spirit Week
Tuesday 15 April Elem. assembly by Grade 2-3 class, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Tuesday 22 April Elem. 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 Elem. arts 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 Elections & Annual Meeting, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Mon - Fri 19-23 May AISB Africa Week
Friday 23 May - Africa Week afternoon luncheon and assembly
Mon - Fri 26-30 May AISB Teacher Appreciation Week

JUNE 2014
Thursday 5 June - AISB High School Graduation
Friday 6 June - Last day of school

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