Sunday, November 16, 2014

News of the Week: 17 - 21 November 2014


What a joy it was to see AISB faculty, staff, parents, students, and friends filling the halls and outdoor spaces of our school on Saturday evening! It was an evening of everything you could imagine: trick-or-treating, dancing, a play, face-painting, a maze, food and drink, a cake walk, a dunk tank, football games, and plenty of interesting costumes. One of the many aspects of why AISB is special is that we can all come together to create such memorable times for our students (and for the rest of us too!).

I went as a "sharknado," which I discovered wasn't conducive 
to sitting, eating, or working the drink table.


Last Tuesday in my Genius Hour after school activity students shared their final topic decision, created a plan for researching their topic, and were ready to begin the research process....then the Internet went out. So I challenged students to do as much research as possible at home over the week.

It's fascinating to see how motivated students are about their projects. They talk about their work with the same excitement they show when talking about going to party! As the research shows, student motivation increases when there is an "inquiry-based" approach to learning. That means that it's not so much about looking for the right answer, but about developing inquiring minds. And that is exactly what our Genius Hour participants are doing....from trying to understand the meaning of life (yep, that's really one student's topic!) to researching if dragons are real, from trying to understand how Versace designs the latest fashions to exploring where rubies come from. These inquiry skills they are developing will be critical for their success throughout life.

Here are some of the geniuses at work:

  • Ask to take a look at your child's Genius Hour Journal. What topic did he/she finally choose? What made him/her interested in this topic? 
  • Ask your child which resources he/she plans to use to find information on this topic (e.g. online, books from the library, interviewing experts at school or via Skype, etc.)
  • Can you be an "expert" resource for your child's topic?


Last week we continued reading Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. As part of this unit we watched two, 30-second PSAs (Public Service Announcement) against chaining dogs outside. One used a song and animation while the other was a celebrity speaking. We discussed how each got an important message across in a very short amount of time. They noted the catchy tag lines, words that appeal to the emotions, using clear facts, getting to the point quickly, etc. We discussed how authors of stories and novels use these same techniques. We also talked about how the characters in our novel would react to these PSAs--they decided some would agree while one character (Judd) would definitely not agree!

Here is a link to one of the PSAs, this one cleverly using a Loretta Lynn song to very good effect (the students had me play this one several times):

In another lesson we began by reading a poem about a chained dog. After determining the poet's message, we explored what techniques were used to make the reader feel emotional. These included
having the poem come from the dog's point of view, using small bits of dialogue, and a dramatic ending. Here is the poem:

In another lesson we listened to Billy Joel's song Honesty to make connections with the theme of our novel. First we reviewed the ways we analyze a song: looking at the lyrics, the instrumentation, and the vocals/performer. Then we watched a video of Billy Joel singing the song.

Students felt that the character in the song was definitely hurt badly by someone who lied to him, and felt that the music grew louder and stronger to show his anger growing. They felt the message dealt with the fact everyone wants to have honest people around them, which is mirrored in the book. But then we discussed how it's necessary to try and understand why someone was dishonest, as this puts everything in perspective. For example, Marty in the novel is dishonest about keeping a dog that isn't his, but he does so in order to save the dog's life.

Here's the Billy Joel video (a flashback to the 1970s):

We continued to determine the parts of the plot we were reading in the novel each day, and to analyze the characters in the novel based on their looks, actions, words, and relationship with others.

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



(cure for something)

(can't work out what to say or do)

(back and forth motion)

(medicine that stops bacteria growth)


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





In the coming week we will finish the novel. We will also analyze a scene from the movie Shiloh as well as one more song, Martha My Dear by Paul McCartney. At the end of the week students will watch the entire Shiloh movie, then discuss why the director changed the plot in the novel.

Here are a few shots of the students partner reading from Shiloh, something that gives them practice with fluency (using expression and reading smoothly). After I model aloud they try to also use different voices for the characters. It was great hearing them all attempt a West Virginia accent!

Here is a post from Soraya about Shiloh:

Today in class we looked at "PSAs." We looked at a video about dogs and not chaining them. This kind of video is always 30 seconds, and you can have important things on it but you can't take more then 30 seconds. The message of the video is you can't mistreat a dog, like when you don't give him food,or let him go outside with anybody. 

But for me the most horrible thing to do to a dog is to chain him outside! If he does a bad mistake, don't chain him because after that he's going to be fierce and do more horrible mistakes. Don't do that to your dog. If you do it please give your dog to someone who takes care of dogs. It is very important to help them. We saw a celebrity who did a PSA about that. In the message he had a dog on his legs. The dogs was smiling and not make any sound because he was happy.

  • Ask your child to discuss the plot so far. Has Marty's situation gotten better or worse? How did his family react when they found out he had kept a dog that wasn't his?
  • Ask your child to describe the song "Honesty" by Billy Joel. What does the singer feel about honesty? How does the music help us understand this? (e.g. The singer says he just wants to find an honest person, and that seems to be hard. The music grows louder and faster as he makes this point again, showing him getting angrier and more passionate about his point.)
    • Ask your child to discuss the poem "Chained Dog's Plea." What is the message of this song? How did the poet make us feel emotional? (e.g. Keep dogs inside; the poet has the dog speaking, uses sad words, 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 worked with the distributive property to complete double-digit multiplication, engaged in multi-step word problems, solved problems by creating a table to organize data, and took the Chapter Test. The results of the test were mixed, so I plan on offering extra support to a few of the students to make sure they are comfortable with double digit multiplication.

        In the coming week students start a new chapter on division. They will divide multiples of 10, 100, and 1000, estimate quotients, use models to solve division story problems, and divide and interpret remainders

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

        Last week Grade 5 students worked with decimals, first rounding them and then estimating sums and differences of decimals. Next they engaged in some problem solving questions that had them determine if they need an exact answer or if an estimate. After a quick quiz to check for decimal comprehension we focused on adding decimals for the remainder of the week.

        If your child needs a little extra support adding decimals, here's a short video that explains it well:


        Have your child try some of these online games to practice the math skills we learned last week:
        • 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 students learned how to look critically at their story "seed" idea, as if they were a writing teacher. They learned to choose a topic (in this case, a memory from their life) that had meaning, and that could emotionally move the reader--either to laugh, cry, be frightened, etc. Once they determined their topic met that goal, they shared the idea with their team who also offered feedback.

          Next I showed students how to collect details for their seed idea, using some sort of a graphic organizer with which they feel comfortable. Finally, we discussed writing leads (the beginning paragraph) that really make the reader excited to dive into the story. I shared with them leads from books by published authors, then modeled lead ideas for my own story. Over the weekend students creating a draft of their lead to share on Monday.

          In the coming week I'll teach them how to focus on the heart of their story. I'll also demonstrate that the same memory can be written in different ways depending on what the writer wants to focus on.

          Last week we had a grammar lesson on making the correct plural form of singular nouns. Students also learned another element of figurative language: hyperbole (or exaggeration). They are in the process of creating their own hyperbole sentence posters which I'll post here next week.

          • Ask your child what memory they decided to use for their personal narrative. Why did he/she choose this particular memory?
            • Ask about the different ways to make a singular noun into a plural. (e.g. add an "s" or "es," drop the "y" and add "ies," etc.).
            • Ask your child to explain hyperbole (exaggeration). Why would an author use hyperbole? (to really make a point, to make the writing more interesting, etc.)


            Last week in science we continued our unit on earthquakes and volcanoes called "Shake, Rattle, and Blow!" We explored seismic waves using a video, rap song, Slinky, illustrations, and body movements to demonstrate. Here are some photos of that:




            Surface Wave

            We also looked at how earthquakes are measured using the Richter Scale and the Modified Mercalli Scale. Finally we will looked at how earthquakes affect architecture, and students conducted an experiment to find which shapes in architecture are the strongest. Here are some photos of that:

            Here is a post from Isaac:

            In science we are on a new chapter called Seismic Waves. There are 3 types of waves.
            First, the Primary Wave: It is the fastest wave. It is a body wave (goes straight down through the earth), capable of going through anything. It can cause some minor damage to buildings.

            Second, the Secondary Wave: It is the second fastest, also a body wave. Instead of going straight through the earth like the Primary Wave, it does not pass through water. But it causes harmful damage to buildings.

            Third, the Surface Wave: It is very different from all the others. It goes just under the surface, not inside the earth, and starts going up and down. It is the most destructive wave, capable of making a  building tip over.

            • Ask your child to describe the three types of seismic waves (see Isaac's post above). How did we use our bodies to demonstrate each wave? 
            • Ask your child how earthquakes are measured (Richter scale, Modified Mercalli Scale). What was the strongest measured earthquake ever? (above 9 on the Richter scale)
              • 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

              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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