Sunday, December 14, 2014

News of the Week: 15 - 18 December 2014

TBijan, Jesse, and K'an bεn the cat enjoying some quiet time at recess.

The Winter Break holiday begins on Thursday, so school will be held only on Monday - Wednesday this week. The next class blog post will be on 5 January 2015.

This Wednesday, from 1:30 - 2:45, AISB students present the annual Winter Show, and parents are invited to attend this end of the semester celebration. Here is a photo from one of our Grade 4/5 rehearsals last week. We have taken on a rather ambitious performance piece and still have much work to do!


Page from the mash up by Bijan & Yasmina

Please use the link below to view the mash-ups from our previous reading unit.

For this project, each student wrote a story in a particular genre (either fairy tale, western, horror, or science fiction). Then they were matched with a partner who had written a story in a different genre. Their challenge was to mesh their two stories to create a new story that made sense, and reflected both individual stories. I'm just thrilled with the results!

Check out their creative work here:

Page from mash up by Aissatou & Gladd

This past week we began a new reading unit based around the Newbery Honor novel "The Sign of the Beaver" by Elizabeth George Speare. The reading skill focus will be identifying figurative language (especially symbolism) and determining how the story changes depending on from whose point of view the story is told.

At first I hesitated to use this book as there is some controversy surrounding the depiction of stereotypes of American Indians in the novel. But it's an excellent story, contains good lessons on character building, and brings up issues still pertinent today. So I decided I could still use this book, but would also have students explore the idea of stereotypes, and how stereotyping is a senseless and harmful practice.

We started the discussion by looking at what it means to stereotype:

Then we looked at stereotypes directed against American Indians:

We also viewed a music video that uses the song "You Have to be Carefully Taught" from the musical "South Pacific (1949)." This song, regarding relationships between different races and ethnic groups, was so controversial at the time that lawmakers tried to pass legislation outlawing entertainment that supported "the communist agenda!" The song's message is that racism and stereotyping is taught rather than something we are born with.

In the music video we saw, the song is the background to some very symbolic and moving visuals.

I also spent time building the students' background knowledge of the setting (America in 1768, the Maine territory), the political situation (cooperation but mostly conflict between white European settlers and the Penobscot Indians who had lived in the Maine territory for hundreds of years), and the cultures of each group. Building background like this will help students understand the plot and the nuances of the story.

We also discussed the concept of symbols.

Symbolism plays an important part in the novel--after all the book is named after an Penobscot Indian symbol. But there are many instances of symbolism (an element of figurative language) in the novel for students to discover. On Friday we began reading a short story so students can practice identifying symbolism in literature.

I also introduced students to Marc Chagall whose paintings are rich with symbolism. After reading a children's book about this great artist, we analyzed one of his most famous paintings for symbolism. It was also good practice for the symbolism they will analyze in the novel.

Next week we begin reading the novel, and also analyze some poetry for examples of symbolism (one poem was written by Chagall).

  • Ask your child to discuss the final mash up he/she created with a partner. What was difficult about this assignment? What was the most fun part? How did the partners decide what to keep in from each individual story that was mashed up?
  • Ask your child to describe what it means to stereotype people? (believing that all members of a group of people look/act the same way).  Ask how people developed stereotypes about American Indians. (by depictions on TV, in movies, in comic books, etc.)
      • 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 explored number sequences, engaged in problem solving that required the use of number patterns, and finally used addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division rules to work with number patterns.

      This week students will work with the order of operations, solve equations that require two operations, work on equations with multiple operations, and take a short quiz.

      Here is a short video about following the order of operations students will learn this week:

      Last week Grade 5 students divided decimals by whole numbers, used models to divide decimals, and divided decimals by powers of ten.

      This week they take the Chapter 6 test, then begin a new chapter by looking at numerical expressions and the order of operations they must follow.

      Here is a short video explaining the order of operations they use this week (most should remember this from grade 4):


      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.


        Students edited and revised their personal narratives. This week they receive a hard copy of their story, and will use the Six Traits of Writing rubric to score their piece. They will also score the story from another student. Finally, I'll score their story and offer final feedback. We will hold an author reading after Winter Break.

        Last week our grammar lessons focused on words that are frequently confused by children and adults alike, such as lay/lie and whose/who's. Here's a short video reminder of when to use lay or lie:

        • Ask your child to explain when to use lay and lie.


        Last week we continued our social studies unit on ancient Greece, and students took a quiz on the concepts they've learned so far. In our chapter from the Odyssey, we learned about Odysseus' dangerous journey past the tempting Sirens, and past the monsters Scylla and Charybdis.

        On Friday some of our students gave a presentation on Greek root words that we still use today, something they learned about in their ESOL class. The class found this information very interesting, and definitely helpful when it comes to figuring out the meaning s of words that contain these 3000 year old word parts!

        • Ask your child to describe the story of Odysseus that we have read so far. (Odysseus encountered the Sirens, and blocked the ears of his men with wax to avoid the tempting songs of the Sirens. He himself was lashed to main sail so he could hear the sounds but not follow them. Next he sailed between Scylla and Charybdis, sacrificing six men for a safe passage.). 
        • Ask your child about the quiz he/she took on Friday. Was he/she successful? What was the most difficult question? How can he/she do better on the next quiz?


        Our elementary coed football team, who practice formally just one day a week, played a match against a local Malian team on Friday after school. While they lost 0-1, they played well and drew a good-sized cheering section! Nice work, team!

        Fête Santa

        It was great seeing so many of you last Saturday at the Fête Santa at the National Park. The weather was beautiful, the food was good, the craft shopping was excellent, and the entertainment was amazing. 


        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
        Sat 17 Jan: Panto & Skit Performances at AISB featuring students, faculty, & community members
        Sat 31 Jan: AISB International Fair, 6:00 - 8:30 PM

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

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