Saturday, November 8, 2014

News of the Week: 10 - 14 November 2014


I really enjoyed meeting and talking with each of you during the conferences last Friday. It's so important that we are all on the same page regarding how best to support your children, and also that we keep the lines of communication open.

Remember that your child has set goals based on their last report card marks and comments, and created a plan to reach these goals. You can find their plan and goal on his/her most recent blog post. If you have not read your child's blog yet, please take the time to do so--I think you'll really enjoy reading his/her take on what happens in class.

We will revisit their goals and plans throughout the quarter so they can assess their progress, add new goals, tweak plans, etc.


I was so pleased to see so many Grade 4/5 students sign up for my Genius Hour after school activity! I kicked off this event last Tuesday by explaining that Genius Hour is based on something that Google does--giving its employees one day a week to work on a project they create themselves. Google found that employees were extra motivated and creative, and came up with amazing ideas that are important contributions to the company (Gmail was invented this way!).

So then a few teachers got the idea to give students an hour (or more) each week to pursue a project they are interested in. Students get to choose their own topic, decide how to research it, and also decide how to present their findings. It's quite a departure from having the teacher always assign the work that students complete! Here's a quick video that explains the Genius Hour concept:

Last Tuesday the students began brainstorming lists of topics they are interested in, and they covered the gamut....from precious stones to biology to fashion design to dragons. Each week they have specific tasks to accomplish in their Genius Hour journey. Next week they create a plan for researching their topic, then begin the research process.

If your child is part of Genius Hour, they may be asking you for help or ideas. I know you'll give them all the encouragement they need to pursue this very different and exciting approach to learning.

Here are some of our geniuses hard at work, coming up with topic ideas for their 6-week study and recording them in their Genius Hour Journals:

  • Ask to take a look at your child's Genius Hour Journal. What topic is he/she thinking about pursuing? 
  • Ask your child where he/she might find information on this topic (e.g. online, books from the library, interviewing experts at school or via Skype, etc.


Last week we continued our new novel Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. We analyzed a song by Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam) called I Love My Dog, trying to determine how it relates to the novel. Students determined that the song showed the strong bond between a human and a dog, just like in the story we are reading. They were amused that the singer actually had a stronger bond with a dog than a human loved one, and felt that the human-to-human relationship described in the song was not in such good shape! Here is a 1970s performance of the song by Cat Stevens:

We also analyzed a dog-themed painting, doing a character analysis on both the human and the dogs portrayed. Students had an unending stream of comments (really!) and couldn't agree on the girl's personality. Some thought she was snobbish and showed favor to certain dogs, while others felt she was a true, compassionate animal lover who just happened to be paying attention to a new puppy. What do you think?

Envy, Hatred, Malice
c. 1850-1900
Hand-colored etching
Engraved by F. Stacpoole after a picture by Briton Riviere.
Size 28 x 25 inches

We read two more chapters in the novel, and students were introduced to two more vocabulary words:

(leak out slowly)


Here, student teams review the vocabulary words they've learned so far by creating a tableau that demonstrate a word. This time we did a "talking tableau," which means after they presented the frozen pose, I tapped each student on the shoulder. Upon being tapped they must say a line of dialogue that goes along with the scene the team is portraying.

In the coming week we will  watch a Public Service Announcement about keeping dogs safe, and read a poem about a chained dog. We will also continue to determine the parts of the plot we are reading in the novel each day, and to analyze the characters that are introduced.

Here is a post from Maimouna about Shiloh:

In reading we started the book Shiloh. The book is about a boy called Marty that found a dog  and he named it Shiloh. But the only problem is that it’s somebody’s dog. The person is named Judd Travers.Judd is an odious person because he abuses his dogs, sits in front of Marty at fairs,  and he spits out tobacco. In the last chapter we read, Marty decides to keep Shiloh and doesn’t say anything to his parents.

  • Ask your child to discuss the dilemma in the novel: Is it right for Marty to take someone else's dog if that dog is being abused by its owner? 
  • Ask your child to describe the song "I Love My Dog" by Cat Stevens. How do we know how the singer feels about his dog? How does the music help us understand this? (e.g. The singer says he loves his dog even more than another human because his dog doesn't ask for much. The music grows louder and faster as he makes this point again, giving it more importance.)
    • Ask your child to discuss the painting "Envy, Hatred, Malice." What clues did he/she use to determine the personality of the characters shown? (e.g. Clues include the expressions on their faces, the way their bodies are placed, the way the artist places them in the portrait, 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). 


        Last week Grade 4 students multiplied across zeros, took the Chapter 4 test on multiplication, multiplied by tens, and estimated products. The test revealed that students had an excellent grasp on multiplication, and I felt they were more than ready to move on to multiplying double digit numbers. That being said, they were somewhat overwhelmed at first with double digit multiplication! It took a lot of practice before they seemed to comprehend the step-by-step process, but by week's end they had it.

        In the coming week they will work with the distributive property to complete double-digit multiplication, engage in multi-step word problems (always a challenge), solve problems by creating a table to organize data, and take the Chapter Test.

        Here is a short, helpful video for your child that explains multiplying with two double-digit numbers, just in case they need some reinforcement:

        Last week Grade 5 students took a short quiz to check their progress, learned to adjust quotients if their initial estimates were low or high, divided by even larger numbers, engaged in some problem solving requiring division (VERY challenging!), and took the Chapter 4 test on division. Overall, the results of the test showed that students understood the step-by-step process of long division, but often made a simple addition or subtraction mistake that sank the whole problem. I will take time in the coming week to make sure they pay extra close attention to every step in the division process.

        Next week students begin working with decimals, first rounding them and then estimating sums and differences of decimals. Next they engage in some problem solving questions that have them determine if they need an exact answer or if an estimate will suffice. After a quick quiz to check for decimal comprehension we focus on adding decimals for the remainder of the week.

        If your child needs a little extra support in the step-by-step long division process, here's a short video that explains it well:

        • Grade 5 - Snork's Long Division:
          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 I shared another way of coming up with ideas for their next personal narrative. Students thought about favorite family stories, the kind that are told when everyone gets together. Many of the students knew plenty of these stories, and found that they might make a good personal narrative that moves the reader in some way.

          They also looked back at their previous story for ideas of what to do (and not to do) on their next story. They used this as the basis for making a plan.  For example, if they scored in the low range for word choice on their first essay, their plan for the next essay might be to use more interesting vocabulary words and more figurative language. This technique is helping them to learn from their mistakes, and to build upon their successes.

          In the coming week I'll teach them how to look at their story from a teacher's point of view, in essence, how to become their own writing teacher. We will also focus on determining what their story is really about, so that they can be sure to support that main idea with lots of great details.

          I will also demonstrate that the same memory can be written in different ways depending on what the writer wants to focus on. For example, a story about their trip to Disney World could focus on the long lines, expensive prices, and hot weather. Or the story could focus on what a great time they had being with their family, despite all of the negative things that happened with the hot weather, high prices, and crowds.

          Last week we had a grammar lesson on the use of parentheses, and then students showcased their knowledge of punctuation with a review of every punctuation element they studied. I look forward to seeing students use their new found punctuation skills in the next story they write.

          • Ask your child if there are any favorite family stories they recall. Would any of these make a good personal narrative? Why or why not?
            • Ask about the use of parentheses in a sentence. When should a writer use these? (e.g. when adding extra information to a sentence).


            Last week in science we continued to "Shake, Rattle, and Roll!" Student teams used their best acting skills to show the three types of tectonic plate movements (divergent, convergent, and transform):

            They also took their first quiz on the science concepts they've learned so far in this unit on earthquakes and volcanoes.

            Next week we begin a study of seismic waves, even using a Slinky to demonstrate. We move on to look at how earthquakes are measured using the Richter Scale and the Modified Mercalli Scale. Finally we will look at how earthquakes affect architecture, and students will conduct an experiment to find which shapes in architecture are the strongest.

            Here are a few students adding more information to their earthquake manuals:

            • Ask your child to describe the three types of plate movements (convergent collides, divergent divides, transform slides). How did his/her team demonstrate each movement? Which of these movements cause earthquakes? (transform) Which causes volcanoes to erupt? (convergent)
              • 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.

              COMING SOON

              Sat 15 Nov: AISB Halloween Fest
              Thu 20 Nov: Elementary Assembly featuring Intermediate French students, 7:35 - 7:55 AM
              Thu 20 Nov: AISB Board meeting (all are invited) 6:30 - 9:00 PM
              Fri 21 Nov: Progress reports go home (for selected students only)

              Wed 17 Dec: AISB Winter Show, 1:30 - 2:45PM (parents are invited!)
              Thu 18 Dec - Mon 5 Jun: Winter Holiday

              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

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