Saturday, August 30, 2014

News of the Week: 1 - 5 September


Your child should have brought home two forms that must be returned by this Wednesday 3 September:

1. a form to register for the AISB BBQ this Saturday — the event is free if the form is returned…if not the cost is 5000cfa/person
2. a two-page after school activity sign-up sheet — only students who return the sheets by Wednesday will be enrolled in activities.


A BIG thank you to the parents who attended our annual Back to School night--I was thrilled to see a packed house! I enjoyed our time together and look forward to working as a team with you to give your child the best education possible. If you ever have questions or comments to share, please don't hesitate to email me at


On Thursday at 7:35 AM in the MPR, the Grade 4/5 class will present tableaux vivants demonstrating our class beliefs. You are invited to attend this short but entertaining presentation.


Last week we continued with our novel Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days by Stephen Manes. In the first few chapters students discovered how desperate Milo (the main character) is to be perfect, and how he is hoping a silly book will help him achieve this state of perfection.

To dig deeper into the novel’s theme, we analyzed a Picasso painting to see if it represented the “perfect” portrait. At first students thought this portrait was pretty hideous, but after I explained a bit about the style of cubism they began to interpret his use of color, shape, and line. They started to understand that perfection is in the eye of the beholder. When they learned that his paintings sell for millions of dollars they really appreciated the perfection of Picasso!

Femme a La Fesille Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973), Spanish, Oil on canvas

We also analyzed two poems with themes of perfection, Perfect Apple by Colin Galbraith and One Perfect Rose by Dorothy Parker. It’s interesting that even thought these are not poems written at a 4th or 5th grade level, the students were able to figure out the poets’ messages after a little discussion. Their critical thinking skills were definitely at work.

Perfect Apple
by Colin Galbraith

My perfect apple
soft and red
Inside, a worm burrows and turns
tearing the flesh
The final harvest
been and gone.

One Perfect Rose 
By Dorothy Parker

A single flow'r he sent me, since we met.    
All tenderly his messenger he chose; 
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet—    
One perfect rose. 

I knew the language of the floweret; 
“My fragile leaves,” it said, “his heart enclose.” 
Love long has taken for his amulet    
One perfect rose. 

Why is it no one ever sent me yet    
One perfect limousine, do you suppose? 
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get    
One perfect rose.

We also listened to an inspiring speech from the movie Friday Night Lights, and analyzed what the coach’s feelings are related to being a “perfect” football player (or a perfect person). You can watch it here (we stopped at the 1:30 mark).

Students also learned several new vocabulary words this past week, and created a tableau vivant to review each word. Here are the tableaus for the word “precisely.” Can you guess what these teams are showing?

Students also had their first round of “partner reading,” when they read to another student. First I read the chapter aloud, modeling fluency, using various voices, asking myself questions aloud—all techniques I asked them to use during partner reading. Partner reading is a non-threatening way for students to practice their fluency aloud, and gives the opportunity to listen to each student read.

In the coming week we take a short pause in our work with this novel due to DRA testing (see below).


  • Ask your child to discuss the speech the coach gave in the video clip we analyzed from the movie Friday Night Lights. What did the coach so about being perfect? (being perfect isn’t about the scoreboard; being perfect is having an honest relationship with your family and friends, and always doing your best)
  • Talk about the two poems above with your child. Does he/she understand the poet’s message in each? (Perfect Apple: Things may look perfect on the outside, but may be very different on the inside; One Perfect Rose: Perfection is in the eye of the beholder!)
  • Have your child explain how Picasso expressed the personality of the woman whose portrait he painted (e.g. bright colors reflect a fun loving, vibrant person; lines behind her look like ray of sunshine to who she is a positive person, etc.)
  • Ask your child to explain the vocabulary words we have learned so far: essential (absolutely necessary), precisely (exactly) authority (I), outsmart (defeat someone by being smarter), consumption (eating)
  • Get you child’s opinion on the novel’s main character, Milo Crinkley. Is his goal to be perfect possible? (not really) Does it make sense? (no, because perfection isn’t possible) Why does Milo want to be perfect? (he feels he makes a lot of mistakes at home and school) Does you child wish to be perfect?
  • Check to see that your child is doing the “Read to Succeed” homework each school night (this involves 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.


In the coming week I will administer the Developmental Reading Assessment to each student individually. This tool provides valuable data about your child’s reading comprehension as well as his/her ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with expression. It’s just one tool we use to inform our reading instruction, along with the MAP test results, observations made in reading class, class assignments and tests, etc.

For this test students read a page or two from a short booklet while I listen and note strengths/weaknesses as well as time their reading. Then students read the remainder of the booklet silently and answer a series of comprehension questions. I use formulas to analyze their performance to determine their “score.” I will provide this data to you by email in the next week or two.

At the end of the school year I'll administer the test again to see the progress your child has made.

Example of a booklet students read for the DRA reading test.

  • Occasionally ask your child to read aloud to you, and monitor his/her accuracy, expression, and pace. Practice definitely makes perfect in this case.
  • Ask your child questions about what he/she read. For fiction books: Do they like the main character and why/why not? How do they think the story will end? Who are they most like in this story? Are there any lessons they can learn in this story? For non-fiction books: What has surprised you so far in this book? What are you hoping to know by the time you finish this book? Why do you think the author wrote this? 
  • Make sure your child completes the Read to Succeed homework each school night.


Last week Grade 4 students explored place value up to 100,000, worked with multiple digit numbers, and compared and ordered multiple digit numbers. On Friday they took a small quiz to check their understanding of those concepts. I’m pleased to report that everyone passed with flying colors. This is a good sign that students have a solid foundation in place value which, obviously, will relate to every math concept they learn this year.

Next week Grade 4 students work with rounding numbers, complete a problem solving activity using the concepts learned in last five lessons, will take a chapter test, and will begin a new chapter on the properties of addition and subtraction—basically a refresher.

Last week Grade 5 students explored place value up to 100,000,000,  worked with multiple digit numbers, compared and ordered multiple digit numbers, and completed a small quiz on Friday to check their understanding.

Next week Grade 5 students focus on place value, compare decimals, and finally will put in order whole numbers and decimals. On Friday they take part in a problem solving activity that requires them to use the concepts they learned in the previous eight lessons.

  • Grade 5: Fraction to decimal game “Fruit Splat”:
  • Review the place value chart above with your child.
  • Check your child’s math homework, found in the My Math book.


We continued our study of similes, with each student choosing a simile and using it to create a poster.

And the results, which are on one of our bulletin boards now...

We began our yearlong grammar study with a focus on comma usage. Students enjoyed this PowerPoint slide:

Students received their grammar workbook and completed four pages of comma-focused assignments.

We also began the first unit in our Writers Workshop program, personal narratives (a true story about something that happened to them). Students brainstormed a list of people who are special to them, thought about special moments related to these people, and used one of these ideas to create a quick comic panel explaining the story.  In the coming week I’ll introduce two more brainstorming techniques (thinking of a favorite place and a favorite object) in which they will also sketch a quick comic panel related to these ideas. Finally students will choose one of their brainstormed ideas, and will write a personal narrative based on this idea.

  • Ask your child about the simile poster they created. Can they explain the simile?
  • Ask your child to which special people they brainstormed. What special moments did they have with these people? Which moment did they illustrate in a comic?


Last week we began our social studies unit on Ancient Egypt: What’s the Mystery? Students were assigned roles of Egyptian citizens of the time (royalty, vizier, stone mason, priestess, etc.). Using books and online search engines, they researched the role they were assigned. They did their online research on the brand new set of Chromebooks we have at AISB:

They found as many facts as possible in order to defend themselves in case others feel they are a suspect in King Sebekemsaf's tomb robbery. Using these facts, each team made a short statement about why the suspects on their team are not guilty.

  • Ask your child to describe the role he/she was assigned. What has he/she learned about this job? Who could the robber be?
  • Ask your child to explain some tips for researching online (e.g. being very specific in what you are searching for, e.g. typing in “ancient Egyptian scribe” rather than “scribe”)


Thu 4 Sep: Elementary Assembly featuring Grades 4/5, 7:35 - 7:55 AM
Sat 6 Sep: AISB Back to School BBQ
Thu 18 Sep: Elementary Assembly featuring Grade 3, 7:35 - 7:55 AM
Fri 19 Sep: No school, teacher in-service 
Mon 22 Sep: No school, Independence Day holiday

Thu 2 Oct: Elementary Assembly featuring Advanced French students, 7:35 - 7:55 AM
Fri 3 Oct: No school, teacher in-service
Thu 16 Oct: Elementary Assembly featuring students currently taking music, 7:35 - 7:55 AM
Fri 24 Oct: End of Quarter 1
Mon 27 Oct - Fri 31 Oct: No school, Fall Break

Thu 6 Nov: Elementary Assembly featuring Grades 1/2, 7:35 - 7:55 AM
Fri 14 Nov: No school, Parent-Teacher-Student conferences
Thu 20 Nov: Elementary Assembly featuring Intermediate French students, 7:35 - 7:55 AM

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