Friday, May 30, 2014

What's Up This Week: 2 - 6 June 2014

Since this is the last post on this blog for the school year I want to share a bit of information about the "summer slide," a terrible phenomenon named for what happens to children over the summer. Studies dating back 100 years show that students over the summer typically fall behind an average of 1 to 2 months in reading and lose about 2.6 months of math computational skills! Research shows that teachers spend an average of one month simply reteaching skills that students forgot over the summer--which means one less month available to teach new skills.

The good news is that there are simple ways to keep this from happening to your child. Below are a few links to articles with great tips at beating the summer slide. You'll notice that key among the tips is READING daily, something I've encouraged the kids to do all year and hope they continue to do. You'll also read about some creative approaches like virtual field trips. 

You can also explore various online programs (fees vary) such as:

IXL, a site that allows students to practice math and language arts for $9.95/month:

Time for Writing, which has 8-week, one-on-one writing courses for $99:


 On Wednesday the seven AISB seniors walked the halls to the accompaniment of "Pomp & Circumstance" while each class cheered them on. Then we all gathered as a school in the MPR where the elementary students serenaded them with the song "Happy." We wish our seniors well as they graduate next week and head off to university.

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All Grade 4/5 students created an entry for the U.S. Embassy's recent calendar contest. Last Thursday the Embassy chose three finalists from Grade 4, and three from Grade 5, and these will be sent on to Washington, D.C. where they will be judged along with submissions from students in international schools around the world. The winning 12 designs will be published in a calendar that is sent to U.S. Embassies around the world. The theme of this calendar is "staying safe overseas." 

I am pleased to announce the finalists from our class:









Let's wish their submissions well as they make it to Round 2! We should know about the final winners by August.


 On Wednesday the Grade 5 students spent a period in Mr. Brown's middle school math class, getting a look at what school life will be life next year. They participated in class, asked questions they had about middle school, praciced opening lockers, and learned how the middle school will be arranged differently next year, with middle school classrooms, lockers, and lounge area, and cafeteria in the far end of the secondary area. They shuddered at the idea of getting detention for not having their homework just one time!

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This past week we finished our novel Missing May, and students designed a "whirligig" that abstractly represented either Dream, Thunderstorm, Spirit, or Fire--just like the character in the novel. We studied the abstract sculptures of artists like Joan Miro, Jean Dubuffet, and Henry Moore so that students could understand how to express emotions through simply shape, color, and arrangement. This is a challenge to do, and required critical thinking skills in order to express a concrete topic in an abstract way. Here are some examples of their whirligigs:

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We also practiced our vocabulary with some team tableau vivant.

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We also began a short unit on Spoken Word poetry which we will finish next week by holding a "poetry slam." Through this unit students are learning poetic devices, from rhyme, repetition, and rhythm to alliteration and metaphor. They are also putting to use the theatre skills they have learned this year since spoken word involves performance as well.

Grade 4: Last week Grade 4 students explored properties of fractions, determined how fractions and decimals relate, explored tenths and hundredths as they relate to decimals and fractions, compared and put in order decimals, and finally rounded. Next week we finish with adding and subtracting decimals.
Grade 5: Last week Grade 5 students explored how to find the surface area and volume of a rectangular prism, finding ration and rate, interpreting scale drawings, determining probability, and working with percentages.

This week students created lead and concluding paragraphs, then typed their literary essays in the IT lab. Next week students can volunteer to read these aloud in class. I am quite pleased with the results which, to me, sound like high school essays!

This past week we continued our science unit, "Space: The Final Frontier." On Monday we went outside and paced off the distance of the planets in our solar system, using a scale of 1 meter = 6 million miles. We actually had to circle the school two and a half times to get to Pluto (which I know is not considered a planet but I have such a hard time letting it go…).

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We also analyzed some 1920s space illustrations by illustrator Chelsey Bonestell, art that many agree helped create an interest in space travel for humans. We used this as a jumping off point for a discussion about space travel and technology, and how space technology has also led to inventions we use on Earth.

We also viewed an episode from the original Star Trek television show called "The Doomsday Machine" and discussed how people once envisioned the future and space travel, and how much of that has actually happened. Finally we discussed the theory of ow our own solar system was formed, and viewed a short documentary that animated the process of this creation over millions of years.

JUNE 2014
Thursday 5 June - AISB High School Graduation
Friday 6 June - Last day of school, final assembly (morning)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

What's Up This Week: 26 - 30 May 2014



AISB hosted Africa Day on Friday 23 May. In the morning each class participated in an African fashion show. Our class showcased the African masks we created that represent the characters from the Sundiata story. After a brief introduction by Andreas, the other students posed in a tableau vivant that illustrated the battle victory scene from the book. Thank you to Mathies's mom for the great photo!

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In the afternoon every class participated in a performance. The show kicked off with Aisha, Abe, and I talking about our Grade 4 & 5 service learning project and introducing a quick iMovie about the process. You can see that iMovie here (it's better to download it than stream it):

Our class also sang a song they learned in Mrs. Andersen's music class called "Outdoors," a kid's version of the Jason Mraz song "I'm Yours."

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Finally, we were all very proud of Nil as he was chosen to read his Africa Day poem on stage.

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The graphic novel is complete in English! Here is a link to the digital version:

This will be off to the printers so we have copies before school is out. The translation to French is in process and we hope to have that ready for printing very soon.




Last week we continued reading Missing May by Cynthia Rylant. We also analyzed a ballet (The Dying Swan) to see how dancers use their body to express emotions about death, and learned about the steps in the grieving process to determine at what stage the characters in our novel are going through.

This week we finish the novel and engage in a short project to design a "whirligig," a device that is central to the novel. We will begin a new unit--our final one for the year--on spoken word poetry. 

How you can help with reading at home: 


  • Ask your child to describe how the characters in the novel are dealing with the death of May. Are they experiencing similar emotions? (e.g. Uncle Ob thought he could feel May's presence and hoped he might even speak to her. He could barely function as he was so heartbroken. But in the last chapter he seems to have accepted her death. Hi niece Summer is closer to accepting May's death, but feels she didn't really get to grieve.)
  • Ask your child to explain some of the symbols in the novel (the bats, whirligigs, May's garden).
  • Ask your child to describe how the ballerina portrayed a dying swan.
  • 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 looked at finding parts of a whole (e.g. 1/3 of 15), explored mixed numbers, and looked at determining probability. They took a test on these concepts then began a new chapter on fractions, learning how to add and subtract fractions with like and unlike denominators.

This week they explore properties of fractions, determine how fractions and decimals relate, explore tenths and hundredths as they relate to decimals and fractions, compare and put in order decimals, and finally round and add decimals.

Grade 5: Last week Grade 5 students explored symmetry, circles, tessellations, and took a test on these concepts. Then they looked at finding the perimeter and area of various figures, as well as determining the circumference and area of a circle. On Friday they worked with "nets," the name for a 3-D shape that has been flattened, and created various shapes from flat sheets of paper. We also worked with determining the top, front, and side view of various 3-D figures. We used small cubes to help with this last task.

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How you can help with math at home:

Grade 4

  • Ask your child to explain how to add a fraction with like denominators.
  • Encourage your child to work with fractions using an online game:

Game 1: Tony Fraction's Pizza Shop (hint: select the size of the pizza FIRST, then do the toppings):

Game 2: Fraction Flags:

Game 3: Fraction Fun (hint: the numerator is the number of YELLOW pieces):



Grade 5

  • Ask your child to explain which "net" they cut out and assembled in class. Did they know which 3-D shape this was before they began?
  • Encourage your child to practice geometry with these online games:

Game 1: Two Dimension Concentration:




This week students continued drafting parts of their literary essay that focuses on a favorite book. They learned several ways of supporting their thesis statement:

  • storytelling a part of the book
  • summarizing a part of the book
  • using a direct quote from the book
  • including a list/repeating pattern from the book
  • adding information related to the author's craftsmanship

They learned a few additional tips, including using literary technical terms as much as possible (plot, exposition, climax, etc.) and using the present tense when storytelling or summarizing from their book.

This week students get a few tips on crafting an excellent lead paragraph and a great concluding paragraph. They will begin to type their essay this week too, so make sure they have practiced their keyboarding skills using the website listed below.


How you can help with writing at home: 


  • Ask your child to explain the thesis they have chosen, and how they plan to support that thesis. 
  • Is your child able to type quickly on the computer? If not, encourage he/she to practice with one of the keyboarding activities at:



This week we started our new science unit, "Space: The Final Frontier." We had a busy week:

  • analyzed David Bowie's song "Space Oddity" to determine how some people view outer space
  • explored the effects of the movements of the Earth
  • looked at how VanGogh expressed the night sky

Vincent VanGogh, Starry Night Over the Rhone, 1888

Vincent VanGogh, Starry Night, 1889

  • determined the effects of the moon's movements
  • looked at the characteristics of each planet

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  • analyzed Horst's symphony "The Planets," guessing which planet each movement represented
  • explored the distant planets
  • analyzed Stevie Wonder's song "Saturn" and the B52s "Planet Claire" to see how the songwriters viewed distant planets




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Abbah reenacts a line from "Planet Claire"




MAY 2014
Mon - Fri 26-30 May AISB Teacher Appreciation Week
Tuesday 27 May 7:30 - 7:50 AM- Elementary Assembly featuring Advanced French

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