Saturday, November 22, 2014

News of the Week: 24 - 28 November 2014

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


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:



(great happiness and triumph)

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





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.  

  • 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). 


        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:


        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 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:

          • 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?


            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.

            • 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.


              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

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

              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

              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

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

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