Sunday, November 2, 2014

News of the Week: 3 - 7 November 2014


I am just back from an enjoyable Fall Break trip to Romania and Bulgaria where I got to see it snow, did lots of shopping, enjoyed learning the history of the region (that's Bran Castle, aka Dracula's Castle, behind me), and ate/drank many Romanian specialities.

I am refreshed and ready to tackle the next very busy six and a half weeks of school until Winter Break, and hope your child is ready to do the same!

Reminder: There is no school on Friday due to parent - teacher - student conferences...see below.


Thanks to those parents who turned in their forms noting their preferences for conference times this Friday. We did our best to accommodate everyone, and made sure that those with one more than one child in elementary/middle don't have conflicting conference times.

Please, please arrive a little early. The meetings are brief--just 20 minutes--so being just ten minutes late can wreak havoc with the rest of the meetings. As you can see from the schedule below, we have a full schedule for Friday

Please note that your child attends this conference as well.

7:30 - 7:50 am: Soraya

7:55 - 8:15 am: Bijan

8:20 - 8:40 am: Seyni

8:45 - 9:05 am: Clara Schoepp

9:10 - 9:30 am: Charity

9:45 - 10:05 am: Aida

10:35 - 10:55 am: Aissatou

11:00 - 11:20 am: Nil

12:10 - 12:30 pm: Maimouna

12:35 - 12:55 pm: El Shadai

1:00 - 1:20 pm: Clara Saiel

1:25 - 1:45 pm: Yohann

2:00 - 2:20 pm: Max

2:25 - 2:45 pm: Isaac

3:15 - 3:35 pm: Yasmina

3:40 - 4:00 pm: Amadou

Conferences to be scheduled for other days: Jesse, Sevan, Gladd


Quarter 2 after school activities begin tomorrow, Monday 3 November. Before the break I sent home a list with your child showing what he/she is enrolled in for this next round of activities. If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Souleyman in the library who coordinates these activities.


Thank you to everyone who attended our first Author Reading the week before fall break. Six students read their personal narratives to a room full of people: parents, other teachers, Ms. Jacoby, students from Mrs. Aafke's class, and of course the students from our class. The readers did a terrific job of sharing their special memories with the crowd!








During the week before break we began a new novel, the Newbery award-winning story Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. We did quite a bit of background building so that students were familiar with rural West Virginia where the story takes place. To really get them in the mood for this region we listened to John Denver's song Country Roads:

We are focusing on two reading skills during this unit: text structure (plot) and character analysis. We spent some time looking at the basic plot structure used in most fiction stories:

Here is a breakdown that explains each part:

We also explored how we can analyze characters and determine their personality. Students learned that a reader can do this by examining the character to see:

  • how they look
  • what they say
  • what they think
  • how they act
  • how they feel
  • how they get along with others

And since it takes such a central role in the novel Shiloh, we discussed the character trait of honesty. In the story, the main character secretly keeps a dog that isn't his. On the surface this seems dishonest. But the dog is being severely abused by its owner, and by keeping him away from the owner the main character is actually saving the dog's life. So the big question students ponder is: Can we justify his dishonesty if it saved a dog's life?

It's a tricky moral dilemma that will lead to interesting discussions, I'm sure. At this age students are ready to explore complicated issues such as this, and learn that sometimes everything in life isn't so cut and dry--it's the grey areas that make us think critically so we can make good decisions.

On Friday we also analyzed an old song by country singer Dolly Parton called Cracker Jack. It's a heartwarming story about a favorite dog that connects perfectly with our novel. It led many students to talk about their own pets and to even get a little misty-eyed. Here's a recording of that tune (how about that hair!):

We've read two chapters in the novel, and so far students have been introduced to seven vocabulary words:

(moving smoothly and quietly in a stealthy way)

(act in obedient way to get something you want)

(bend your body in fear)

(not patient)

(nervous and confused)

(animal doctor)

(treated wrongly)

Here teams are creating the vocabulary posters for our Shiloh bulletin board:

In the coming week we will read 5 to 6 more chapters--it's hard to predict as on some days our discussions are lengthy (a great sign that learning is happening!) and take more time than planned. We will also analyze Cat Steven's song "I Love My Dog," analyze a dog-themed painting to determine the personalities of those depicted, 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.

Our Shiloh bulletin board includes vocabulary word posters made by each team, quotes about caring for animals, and posters explaining the humane treatment of animals:

Here's a post from Isaac:
We have finished reading the book “The Trumpeter Swan”. Now we are working on a project using the program Tour Builder. It’s about listing all the places Louis went and putting them in order, then showing them on a map. We started reading a new book named “Shiloh." We have learned about the plot of the story. We also watched a short clip to get the idea of where the story takes place (West Virginia). So far I think that the book is going to be great.

  • Ask your child to discuss the characters in the novel Shiloh. Can they explain something about the personalities of each character? (e.g. Marty is kind, goodhearted, obedient; Judd is mean, rude, abusive, etc.
  • Ask your child to describe the setting of the novel (e.g. Friendly, West Virginia is a rural area with woods, mountains, and a river. There aren't many people around, etc.)
    • Ask your child to discuss the parts of a plot, and what happens in each part.
    • Ask your child to define some of the vocabulary words listed above.
        • 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). 


        In the week before break, Grade 4 students used the distributive property, multiplied with regrouping, multiplied by multi-digit numbers, took a quiz to check their progress so far, and engaged in problem solving requiring them to estimate.

        In the coming week they multiply across zeros, take the Chapter 4 test on multiplication, multiply by tens, and estimate products.

        Before break the Grade 5 students took the chapter test on division, estimated quotients, divided with base ten blocks, divided by 2-digit divisors.

        In the week ahead they take a short quiz to check their progress, learn to adjust quotients, divide by even larger numbers, engage in some problem solving requiring division, and take the Chapter 4 test on division.

        • Grade 4 or 5 - Cave Run Multiplication Adventure

        • Grade 4 or 5 - Granny Prix Multiplication Race

        • 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.


          Students are again writing a personal narrative as they did last time, but this time focusing on making the writing more meaningful.  I shared another brainstorming technique, which was thinking of various strong emotions and the times we experienced these emotions.

          In the coming week they will also look at their first essay to get tips on what to do and what not to do on their new essay. I'll give them pointers about how to be their own writing teacher, which means looking at their story from a teacher's point of view. Finally I'll show them how to really determine what their story is about, and how the same memory can be written in different ways to showcase different life lessons.

          In the week before break for grammar, we focused on using on semicolons and dashes.

          A comment from Isaac:
          For writing class we are done with our stories. Now we have to think of the first/last time we did something and what we learned from it. For example the first time I came to MALI. I thought it was going to be all jazzy and funky. But I got a little disappointed. I learned from that that you don’t always get what you want. It’s just like asking for a phone for your birthday, but your parents don’t have the money. At least you still have your family. Some people don’t have that. Be thankful for what you have.

          • Ask your child which emotions he/she listed in their writing notebook. Can they think of a personal memory related to one of those emotions? Would it make a good story?
          • Ask about the use of semicolons and dashes in a sentence. When should a writer use these? (e.g. semicolons: use between two related sentences such as "Chocolate goes well with many desserts; it adds a bold flavor that many can't resist." Dash: use to insert something different into a sentence, such as "My neighbor-a very grumpy man-hardly ever leaves his house.").


          In the week before break we continued our earthquake and volcano science unit, "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" that focuses on earth building and breaking. Students saw a convection current demonstration to help them understand how these currents cause the earth's tectonic plates to move.

          In the demonstration, a small beaker of hot water (colored red with food coloring) covered tightly with foil was placed into a larger container of clear, cold water. Then I punctured the foil and we watched as the hot water slowly rose to the top (since hot water is less dense) and moved small pieces of paper floating on the top.

          This demo represents the convection currents that rise from the hot, insides of the earth to the cooler crust, shifting the tectonic plates to cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

          In the coming week students will show the three types of tectonic plate movements through a skit, and take a quiz on the science concepts they've learned so far. If time allows they will begin a study of seismic waves. As we finish each topic in this unit, students create a page or two in their handmade manual explaining the topic in their own words and pictures. By the end of the unit they will have created an information-packed book on earthquakes and volcanoes!

          COMING SOON

          Wed 5 Nov: Q1 Report cards go home
          Thu 6 Nov: Elementary Assembly featuring Grades 1/2, 7:35 - 7:55 AM
          Fri 7 Nov: No school, Parent-Teacher-Student conferences
          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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