Sunday, November 30, 2014

News of the Week: 1 - 5 December 2014

Weeping Woman with Handkerchief
Pablo Picasso (Spain, active France, 1881-1973)
Spain, 1937
Oil on canvas
21 x 17 1/2 in. (53.34 x 44.45 cm)
LACMA, Los Angeles, CA, USA

READING
Last week students participated in a culminating project after completing the novel Shiloh. To show their understanding of our target reading comprehension skill, students created a Cubist portrait of a character from the novel. 

Cubism requires the artist to represent the subject's personality through color, shape, and line. Unlike most painters at the time, the Cubists had no interest in representing people as they really looked. They wanted to represent the person's essence. So this assignment challenged students not only to develop a list of character traits for the person they selected, but to determine how to symbolically represent those traits. Once the portraits were complete, students wrote an artist's statement explaining their choices.

Here are the results--click on the image if you want to see it larger:























































































































Last week we also began a new reading unit based on the short story "Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude," written and illustrated by Kevin O'Malley. This story is an example of a genre "mash-up" in which two different styles of story are combined into one story.

I started off by showing students examples of mash-ups from music, video, art, and literature. First they listened to the contemporary pop song "Umbrella" by Rhianna, and then they watched Gene Kelly perform "Singing in the Rain" from the 1952 movie of the same name (I have to say that they were quite mesmerized by this film clip!). We discussed the similarities between each song (both were about two people in love, both involved rain and umbrellas, both were upbeat) and the differences (modern vs. old; pop vs. musical, strong percussion vs. orchestral music). Then I showed them a mash-up of both songs as performed on the TV show "Glee." They discussed how in the mash-up elements of both songs were present, and how the mash-up created something as enjoyable as the separate songs. Judge for yourself:

The Rhianna song "Umbrella" (2007)







Gene Kelly is "Singing in the Rain" (1952)






And finally, the mash-up of both songs on "Glee" 
featuring Gwenyth Paltrow and Matthew Morrison (2010) 



I read that it took over 700 people to clean up the water on the "Glee" set after this mash-up was performed!


I also showed students examples of art mash-ups:


We first discussed the characteristics of both individuals pictured
 (e.g. good guys gone bad, guys who are both loved/hated, revolutionaries, etc.)



Then we discussed why it made sense to combine them into this mash-up:




I think students now have a good idea how it takes much thought and creativity to mash-up two elements into one, whether it be a song, artwork, or a story like the one they are about to read. We will read the story on Monday, then begin a project. It will involve each student writing a short story in a particular genre (fairy tale, Western, science fiction), getting matched randomly with a partner, and mashing up the two stories into one. The partners will create the new story in a narrated PowerPoint.


Here is a post from Jesse about the previous novel, Shiloh:

Last week in reading we did a test on the book of Shiloh since we had finished it. The ending with Shiloh the dog was so touching. It made my heart so soft that I wanted to cry. But anyway let’s concentrate on what we are doing. So for the test we had to show what we knew about the book. So there were questions about what the vocabulary words meant and then it told us to read a poem and figure out what is the message. And we had to know the plot of the story. We all had a great score for the test!  






HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT READING AT HOME THIS WEEK
  • Ask to see the final story test for Shiloh, located in your child's reading notebook. How did he/she do? If they made an error, can they correct it?
  • What life lessons did the novel Shiloh teach your child? (e.g. Treat animals humanely; life is not always so black and white; always try to do the right thing, even when it is challenging, etc.) Does your child believe Marty should have lied in the story?
  • Ask your child to describe the artistic style called Cubism. (e.g. doesn't represent people as they really look; uses only color/shapes/lines, includes symbols representing the personality of the subject, created by Picasso and Braque, etc.)
    • Have your child explain the personality traits of the character from Shiloh they chose to portray in their Cubist portrait. How did they show these traits in their portrait? (e.g. through color, organic or geometric shapes, symbols, etc.). Was this project challenging? Why or why not?
    • Ask your child to define a "mash-up." (a mix or fusion of two different elements), Can he/she explain why someone would mash-up the song "Umbrella" and "Singing in the Rain?" (e.g. both songs have similar themes)
        • 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). 






        MATH



        Last week Grade 4 students interpreted remainders, explored how to place the first digit of a division problem, looked at the distributive property and partial quotients, and divided longer numbers. The first quiz they took revealed that most students were still struggling with long division, so I spent extra time reteaching this concept using some hands-on activities, visuals, and more practice. It seems the biggest problem is that a few students still do not know their basic multiplication facts. This makes division nearly impossible to do! I sent home flash cards with some of those students--it's an old technique but it works. Please make sure your child knows multiplication facts up to the 12s.

        In the coming week Grade 4 students will study quotients with zeroes, solve some multi-step division problems, take the chapter test on division, and begin a new chapter on non-numeric patterns (something that will lead students to understanding function tables). I'm really looking forward to this next chapter as I've come up with many arts integrated activities to enhance these important pattern concepts.


        Here's a fun video song to help students remember the steps of long division, set to the tune of one of my favorite songs at the moment, "Ho Hey" by the Lumineers:







        Last week Grade 5 students took a chapter test, then started a new unit on multiplying and dividing decimals. They estimated the products of whole numbers and decimals, multiplied decimals by whole numbers, and finally understood how helpful it is to use models to understand these concepts! For some reason they want to race right to equation solving without first trying to understand the real world reason behind the concepts they are learning.

        Here is how models can explain the very abstract concept of decimal division, something I'll introduce next week:

        If you bought seven apples for $3.71, how much did each apple cost? First, use the blocks to represent $3.71. There are three "wholes," so circle three boxes. There are 71 cents (or 71 hundredths), so circle 71 small squares.




        Now divide the circled blocks into 7 equal groups. That gives us 7 groups of 50 blocks each, with 71 small squares left.



        Now, divide those leftover 71 small squares into 7 equal groups. Those 71 squares can be divided into seven groups of 3 small squares each.

        So, each group has 50 small squares plus an additional 3 small squares, for a total of 53 small squares in each group. That means each apple cost 53 cents.




        When we divide the numbers on paper, we get the same result.




        In the week ahead Grade 5 students will multiply decimals by decimals, multiply decimals by powers of ten, use properties of multiplication to multiply decimals, estimate the quotients of decimals, and finally divide decimals using models.

        Here is a short video using base ten blocks to explain decimal multiplication:









        HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT MATH AT HOME THIS WEEK

        Have your child try some of these online games to practice the math skills we learned last week:

          For those students who have not memorized their basic math facts:
          • Check your child’s math homework each night, which is found in the My Math book.




          WRITING

          This past week students I offered a few tips to students as they write their second personal narrative. They learned how to add scenes from the past/future, learned the importance of having a mix of internal/external details (e.g. how one is feeling on the inside versus physical actions that happen), and how to write an ending that makes the point of the story clear--but terribly obvious!

          For example, they don't want to end with: "And the lesson I learned was that there are helpful people all over the world." That's stating the obvious, and we know that good writers are more subtle than that. Instead, they might say, "I was surprised that no matter where I travel, I always seem to find someone willing to help me out, even in the middle of the Cambodian countryside. I need to remember that the next time i find myself in trouble abroad."

          Last week we had a grammar lesson on strategies that help us spell correctly. Students invented their own methods of remembering how to spell tricky words. For example, developing an acronym for a strangely spelled word: hymn = Humming Your Melody Nicely. Grade 4 students also learned how to add suffixes (ing, ed) to words.

          Over the weekend students were to complete their first story draft, with each scene written on a separate sheet of paper. PLEASE check to see if they have done this! I'll edit each story on Monday so students can make revisions, then type the story into a Word document.


          HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT WRITING AT HOME THIS WEEK
          • Make sure your child has completed the first draft of his/her story, and that each scene is written on a different sheet of notebook paper. This draft is due MONDAY. Offer feedback after reading the draft, remembering that this story is supposed to move the reader in some way.
            • Ask your child what tips they have for remembering how to spell tricky words




            SCIENCE

            Last week students took a final test on their earthquake science unit and turned in their completed, handmade earthquake manuals for grading.

            Then we began another social studies unit: Ancient Greece, A Journey with Odysseus. Through this unit students explore the colonization and movement of people & ideas. In each lesson we read a few chapters from a young reader's version of the Odyssey, then teams face a challenge related to the chapters read and to an aspect of ancient Greek culture. If everyone on the team meets the challenge, the team moves a ship on a large wall map, following the route taken by Odysseus. The goal is to reach Ithaca by the end of the unit.




            In our first lesson students explored the myths of ancient Greece, determining the life lesson taught in a number of myths. In the coming week students will write a modern day version of an ancient Greek myth (to show how the ideas and discoveries of the ancient Greeks are still applicable and transferable today), will perform the modern day myth as a short skit (to reflect the importance of theatre in ancient Greece as a means to educate and entertain), and will discuss how the geography of ancient Greece was responsible for the development of isolated city-states and a culture with free time since their food needs were taken care of through farming and the sea.


            HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT SCIENCE AT HOME THIS WEEK
            • Ask your child to describe the story of Odysseus that we have read so far. (Odysseus and his ships leave Troy, plunder the city of the Cicones, are attacked by the Cicones, and end up in the Land of the Lotus Eaters). 
            • Ask your child about the ancient Greek myth he/she read. What was the life lesson? Is that a lesson that still makes sense today?




            COMING SOON

            DECEMBER
            Thu 4 Dec: Elementary assembly, 7:30AM, featuring Kindergarten students
            Wed 10 Dec: AISB Board meeting, 6:30PM, parents invited
            Wed 17 Dec: AISB Winter Show, 1:30 - 2:45PM (parents are invited!)
            Thu 18 Dec: First day of Winter Break

            JANUARY
            Mon 5 Jan: Last day of Winter Break
            Tue 6 Jan: First day back!
            Fri 10 Jan: No School (Tentative) Prophet's Baptism
            Fri 16 Jan: End of Quarter 2 and Semester 1

            FEBRUARY
            Fri 13 Feb - No school, teacher in-service
            Mon 16 Feb - No school

            Saturday, November 22, 2014

            News of the Week: 24 - 28 November 2014

            Charity performing at last Thursday's elementary assembly featuring Intermediate French students


            READING

            We completed reading our novel Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. As part of this unit students analyzed a short clip from the Shiloh movie (1996). First they learned some basic tips about analyzing a movie (costumes & props, setting, acting, camera techniques, mise-en-scene, sounds & music). Then they watched the clip and afterwards discussed each element they learned about. They made great observations that required them to have a deep understanding of the plot, and even noticed a few things in the clip that I had not noticed before!

            We also analyzed the song "Martha, My Dear (written by Paul McCartney, performed by the Beatles). I didn't explain that it was a love song from Paul McCartney to his dog as I wanted them to look for clues in the words about the meaning. Most thought it was a boyfriend-girlfriend scenario until they noticed the repeating phrase "silly girl," which they felt wasn't something a boyfriend would (or should!) call his girlfriend. Here's the song, along with some Beatles' photos:




            Students were introduced to three more vocabulary words:

            quarrel 
            (argument)

            camouflage
            (disguise)

            jubilation 
            (great happiness and triumph)


            Here, student teams review the vocabulary words they've learned so far by creating a tableau that demonstrate a word:



            quarrel



            camouflage



            mistreat




            stumped



            In the coming week students will do a short project in which they learn about Cubism, then create a Cubist portrait of one of the characters from the novel. This requires them to identify the personality traits of the character based on what they've observed the character saying, doing, feeling, and how that character got along with others. I'm looking forward to seeing their creations.



            We also begin a new reading unit, this one based around the short story "Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude" written and illustrated by Kevin O'Malley. This is an unusual tale in which two students together try to write one story--despite the fact that the girl wants to write a fairy tale with princesses and ponies, and the boy wants to write an action/adventure story with explosions and motorcycles. The result is a "mash-up," or a mix of two genres. During this unit I will introduce students to many forms of the mash-up, from music to video to art. They will also have a culminating project in which they will pair with a partner and try to merge two very different stories that they each write.




            Here is a post from Jesse about Shiloh:

            At school we finished the book Shiloh. It was interesting because it taught me that some mean people can have a good heart. So I want to tell the parents that if someone is acting mean, they may have a reason.  





            HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT READING AT HOME THIS WEEK
            • Ask your child to discuss how the book ended. Was it the way he/she imagined it would end? Would he/she call this a "happy ending?" Why or why not? How would they describe Marty's personality (main character)?
            • Ask your child to describe the song "Martha, My Dear" by Paul McCartney/Beatles. What was the message? (e.g. No matter what messes the dog makes, the owner will always love him and be inspired by him.)
              • Ask your child to discuss the movie clip students analyzed in class. What decisions did the director make to create this scene (e.g. used natural lighting, added mysterious music when Judd drove up, did a close-up when someone said something important, etc.)
              • Ask your child to define the vocabulary words listed above. How did they use these words in a sentence?
                  • 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). 






                  MATH



                  Last week Grade 4 students started a new chapter on division. They divided multiples of 10, 100, and 1000, estimated quotients, used models to solve division story problems, and divided with remainders. For most of them, this concept of "long division" was brand new, and they will need lots of

                  Here is another short, helpful video for your child that explains long division:




                  Next week students will interpret remainders, explore how to place the first digit of a division problem, look at the distributive property and partial quotients. divide longer numbers, study quotients with zeroes, and take  two short quizzes to check their understanding.








                  Last week Grade 5 students added and subtracted decimals, and applied addition properties to decimal addition.

                  Here is another short video that explains adding and subtracting decimals:





                  HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT MATH AT HOME THIS WEEK

                  Have your child try some of these online games to practice the math skills we learned last week:
                  • Grade 5 - Snork's Long Division:  http://www.kidsnumbers.com/long-division.php
                    For those students who have not memorized their basic math facts:
                    • Check your child’s math homework each night, which is found in the My Math book.




                    WRITING

                    This past week students focused on breaking their personal narrative into scenes, and writing each scene on a separate sheet of paper. This technique allows students to revise just a single part of their story at a time, which helps them focus and zero in on the message they are trying to give. They also learned what a narrator can and can't do in a story (e.g. talk about what someone else is thinking).

                    In the coming week students receive tips on adding scenes from the past/future, making sure there is a mix of internal/external details (e.g. how one is feeling on the inside versus physical actions that happen. They will continue drafting their story to complete a first draft.

                    Last week we had a grammar lesson on using numbers in writing. We also explored more figurative language by looking at how authors use hyperbole (exaggeration), and students created hyperbole posters to show their understanding:






















                    HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT WRITING AT HOME THIS WEEK
                    • Ask to read your child's personal narrative draft, which will have each scene written on a separate page. Ask how they decided to break their story into these particular scenes. What else does he/she plan to add to the story? How will he/she make this story even better than the last story written?
                      • Ask about how one includes numbers in a sentence. (e.g. write out numbers nine and under, always put decimals in number form, etc.).
                      • Ask your child to explain his/her hyperbole poster. Will he/she use hyperbole in the personal narrative this time?




                      SCIENCE

                      Last week in science we continued our study of earthquakes and volcanoes, this time focusing on earthquake preparedness and volcanoes. Students learned how those who live in earthquake-prone regions of the world (which, thank goodness, doesn't include Mali!) prepare their homes in the event one of these disasters strikes.



                      Then we delved into the science behind volcanoes--what causes them, how they erupt, and what happens before/during/after an eruption. We looked in particular at the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens volcano in the U.S., watching a documentary about the devastation it caused and how the 200 square miles around the volcano have recovered over the past 30 years.

                      Next week we look at one more topic for this unit, the Ring of Fire, the most earthquake-prone region of the world. This will be the last information presented in class, and after students have recorded that information in their handmade earthquake manuals they will add a few chapters of their own covering an earthquake/volcano-related topic. That will bring our science unit to a close.



                      Next up is another social studies unit, this one exploring the colonization and movement of people & ideas. This will happen through a unit I wrote on Ancient Greece in which students explore those concepts as they travel with Odysseus on his journey from Troy to Ithaca. We will use a young reader's version of the Odyssey as the basis of the unit, and I think students will be a bit shocked to see how suspenseful, adventurous, and crazy a 2800-year-old story can be!

                      Here is a post from Aida about our current science unit:

                      In class I am learning about how people can be prepared for an earthquake: Steps 1. Make a plan 2. Secure your stuff 3. Stop drop and hold on
                      4. Put supplies in a safe place
                      5. Secure your building
                      6. Afterwards check for injuries and damage
                      7. Afterwards communicate and recover Getting ready for an earthquake is super important. So when it happens you should be ready.




                      HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT SCIENCE AT HOME THIS WEEK
                      • Ask your child to describe the ways people in earthquake zones should be prepared (see Aida's post above). 
                      • Ask your child what they know about volcanoes. (the heart of the volcano is a magma chamber; magma travels up through a conduit/pipe; they produce toxic gas; scientists can sometimes predict about when they will erupt; the areas around a volcano can recover but it takes years, etc.)
                        • Ask your child to bring home his/her earthquake/volcano manual. Look through the pages they have finished, asking them to describe something about each topic they depicted in words and illustrations.




                        ARTS INTEGRATION PRESENTATION

                        Last week at the AISB faculty meeting I had the opportunity to present a session on arts integration. I demonstrated how teachers can use drama techniques to teach reading skills like identifying cause and effect in a story. It's great to have creative colleagues with open minds willing to try new methods, and willing to have a lot of fun doing so!












                        COMING SOON

                        NOVEMBER
                        Fri 28 Nov: Progress reports go home (for selected students only)

                        DECEMBER
                        Thu 4 Dec: Elementary assembly, 7:30AM, featuring Kindergarten students
                        Wed 10 Dec: AISB Board meeting, 6:30PM, parents invited
                        Wed 17 Dec: AISB Winter Show, 1:30 - 2:45PM (parents are invited!)
                        Thu 18 Dec - Mon 5 Jun: Winter Holiday

                        JANUARY
                        Thu 1 Jan - Mon 5 Jan: Winter Break continued
                        Tue 6 Jan: First day back!
                        Fri 10 Jan: No School (Tentative) Prophet's Baptism
                        Fri 16 Jan: End of Quarter 2 and Semester 1

                        FEBRUARY
                        Fri 13 Feb - No school, teacher in-service
                        Mon 16 Feb - No school