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

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!  

  • 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). 


        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:


        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.


          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.

          • 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


            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.

            • 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

            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

            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

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

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