Sunday, September 14, 2014

News of the Week: 15 - 19 September 2014


This week I'm fortunate to be able to attend the Africa Learning 2.014 technology conference in Addis Ababa, from Tuesday through Sunday. This is my first conference in three years at AISB, and I hope to bring back many new ideas for using technology in the classroom to enrich my instruction and give students more opportunities to be functional citizens of our digital world!

In my absence Tama Walli, a long-time AISB sub, and my assistant Ben Amegatsey, will make sure your child receives the same instruction he/she would receive if I was there.


Please join us this Thursday from 7:35 to 7:55 AM in the MPR for our elementary assembly featuring Monsieur Barry's advanced French students. That includes:


We look forward to their performance!


Due to popular demand the lunch system is changing as of Monday 15th September. Parents, students, and teachers wanted more flexibility so they could order lunch on a day-to-day basis, and the new system accommodates this request.

Here is how it works for elementary students:

1. Students buy a pack of lunch tickets: 10 small meal tickets for 15,000CFA; 5 large meal tickets for 10,000CFA. Fanta sells these tickets in the lobby before school each day.

 2. At 7:30AM, Mr. Ben will ask who is having lunch that day. He will collect tickets, date-stamp them, and keep them in an envelope.

3. At lunch time Ben will give each student who signed up in the morning their stamped ticket. They will then present it to Fanta to get their lunch. Students without a stamped ticket will not receive a school lunch.

Note: 20 snack tickets are also available for 5,000 FCFA. Snacks are sold at the first recess, 8:50 - 9:10AM.


If you haven't yet done so, please use the following link to go to an online form your child needs to complete regarding the use of technology at AISB. It details the proper use of the computers and the Internet to ensure that students are respectful, responsible, and safe. All students will be required to submit this form in order to use the school computers (something we use quite frequently in our class).

Please review this form with your child to make sure they understand the content, then make sure it is filled out and submitted. Here is the link:

Throughout the year in IT class we will explore the various areas mentioned on the form.


AISB is closed Monday 22 September for the Mali Independence holiday, and on Tuesday 23 September for a teacher inservice day. School resumes on Wednesday 24 September.


Last week we completed the novel "Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days,"and students took a short story test featuring multiple choice and short answer questions. If you want to see how your child did, you can find the graded test in their reading notebook.

We also started the background building for our new novel, The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White. First I showed students a clip of Swan Lake, Act IV, by the Paris Opera Ballet, followed by a short documentary on Trumpet Swans. The students analyzed how the dancers emulated swans, comparing and contrasting their characteristics, appearance, and movements to those of real swans. I was hesitant to use a ballet video, not sure that students would be intrigued by traditional ballet. But was I ever wrong! They were mesmerized, kept making "ooooh" and "ahhhh" sounds, and came up with the most astute comparisons and contrasts I've ever heard. Here's a link to the ballet clip:

Next students watched and listened to a video showing Trumpeter swans making their distinctive sounds. Then they watched and listened to a clip of trumpeters playing (Cat Anderson, Shorty Baker, Ray Nance and Clark Terry playing on Duke Ellington's 1958 show). next they compared and contrasted the sounds of the swans with the sounds of the instruments, noting that while the sounds were similar, the swans basically "played one note" while the trumpeters used many notes. Here's a link to the wonderful trumpet performance:

I also formally introduced the reading skill we will focus on during this reading unit: compare and contrast. We discussed why this is an important skill, and they learned that researchers feel this skill is one of the most important--if not the most important--skill children need in order to comprehend a story.

Next I introduced the social skill, the same skill that is a central theme in our new novel: perseverance. Students will learn why this quality allows the main character to succeed, and how this skill will help them be successful as well.

Students learned a bit of background about the author, E.B. White, and how his experiences led him to write several children's classics like Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little.

This week we will read Chapters 1 - 11. Each day students will first explore the novel's themes through an alternate medium (poetry, dance, quotes, biography) and learn 1 to 3 vocabulary words before we read the chapters. After reading students answer a comprehension related to that day's reading.

Here are a few parting shots of our partner reading ( a great way to practice fluency) and tableaus students performed to review vocabulary words before the test:

Team tableaus showing the vocabulary word "humiliating:

Individual tableaus showing the word "pungent."

Individual tableaus showing the word "authority" (as in "authority figure").

  • Ask your child to discuss the Swan Lake ballet. How did the dancers portray swans? (by their graceful movements, using their arms to imitate wings, moving together in a flock, etc.)  
  • Ask why it's important to use comparing an contrasting as we read.  (it helps us analyze the story in more depth so we understand it better, it makes us focus more on the story, etc.)
  • Ask your child how E.B. White got his ideas for stories (from things he saw around him, etc.)
  • Check to see that your child is doing the “Read to Succeed” homework each school night: 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.
  • Have your child read aloud to you to practice his/her fluency (reading accurately, smoothly, quickly, and with expression)


Last week Grade 4 students added and subtracted mentally, estimated sums and differences, added and subtracted whole numbers, and subtracted numbers with many zeros (always a tough one!). On Friday they took a quiz to check their progress so far.

In the coming week students engage in problem solving questions where they apply the skills they've learned last week, solve multiple step word problems, spend a lesson on math fluency practice (memorizing basic math facts), take a chapter test on all of these concepts, and begin a chapter on division.

Last week Grade 5 students took a chapter test, and began a new chapter involving prime factorization, powers and exponents, and multiplication patterns. They ended the week with some problem solving activities to see if they are understanding the many concepts learned so far.

  • Check your child’s math homework each night, which is found in the My Math book.


Last week I provided a few more tips to students for improving their drafts, including writing a great lead (beginning), a well-though-out ending, making sure they have included everything as it happened, making sure the story is correctly divided into paragraphs, and finally double checking that the HEART of the story is emphasized. They learned that the heart is what the story really is about. For example, I wrote a story about picking raspberries with my grandma, but the heart of the story really is the wonderful relationship I had with my dear grandmother.

We ended the week by dividing our drafts into chunks/scenes/paragraphs, and writing each one of these on a separate piece of notebook paper they store in a writing folder. This gives them ample room to revise each paragraph, focusing on just one at a time so they don't get distracted.

We also completed homework with regards to correctly using punctuation, knowledge that will serve them well as they continue to write their personal narratives.

In the coming week students focus on another element of figurative language: onomatopoeia, or sound effect words. This includes words like pow, zip, and buzz. They will identify many onomatopoeia words and incorporate them into a comic strip.

Here are a few shots of students sharing their leads and endings with a partner, to help them decide which version to use.

  • Ask your child to read the latest draft they wrote (if they brought their writing notebook home) or to describe their story.
  • What is the heart of your child's story?


We continued our unit on Ancient Egypt: What’s the Mystery by beginning our questioning of probable suspects in the case of the robbery of King Sebekemsaf's tomb (a real robbery that occurred 3000 years ago. Wow, was I ever impressed with the level of questioning and answering! They made thoughtful, clever, and detailed questions and answers based on the facts they researched. It made for a rousing courtroom scene!

We explored specialization, an approach that helped the ancient Egyptian society become powerful, with a fast-paced activity in which teams built paper pyramids. What they didn't know is that the instructions for 2 teams featured specialization, and naturally these teams created the most pyramids.

They also took a test on the concepts covered so far--check your child's social studies notebook for the graded test. 

  • Now that two rounds of suspect questioning has happened, ask your child to explain who he/she thinks the tomb robbery suspect is, and why.
  • Ask your child how he/she came up with questions to ask the suspect. (e.g. used facts from the research, focused on things relating to tombs, etc.)


Thu 18 Sep: Elementary Assembly featuring Advanced French students, 7:35 - 7:55 AM
Mon 22 Sep: No school, Independence Day holiday
Tue 23 Sep: No school, teacher in-service 

Thu 2 Oct: Elementary Assembly featuring Grade 3 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 7 Nov: No school, Parent-Teacher-Student conferences

Thu 20 Nov: Elementary Assembly featuring Intermediate French students, 7:35 - 7:55 AM

No comments:

Post a Comment