Saturday, February 14, 2015

News of the Week: 17 - 20 February 2015


Monday is a US holiday (Presidents Day), and there is no school for students.


Last week we began a new reading unit called "Human Rights & Wrongs," focusing on the forced internment of Japanese-Americans into prison camps in the U.S. during WWII.

First we read the historical fiction book Baseball Saved Us, by Ken Mochizuki, about how a group of Japanese Americans built a baseball field in one of the camps to make life there more bearable. Students identified the figurative language used by the author, including hyperbole (an "endless" desert), onomatopoeia ("whack!"), and imagery (the sun was "glinting" off the glasses).

Next students viewed a video about World War II so they could understand the context of the Japanese American internment, and I provided background information on the internment.

We also analyzed a folk song about Manzanar, one of the camps. Students identified the symbolism in the song, deciding that the chorus "And we dream of apple blossoms , Waving free beneath the stars" represents the freedom that the prisoners wish they had. They also felt that the serious and sad music matched the lyrics and the theme of the song.

Next we analyzed a painting by Japanese American artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi who was locked in his studio in New York City for three years during this time. Students used the elements of art to determine the meaning of his painting "Rotting on the Shore,"deciding that it reflected his emotions and reactions to the horrible discrimination that was occurring.

Finally, students interpreted three poems written by people who lived in the camps. They identified the figurative language in each poem, including rhyme, metaphor, hyperbole, and personification. Students also used an emotion scale to determine the level of emotion expressed in each of the poems.

  • Ask your child to discuss the story Baseball Saved Us. What kind of discrimination did the boy face when he was at school before the camp, and then again after the camp experience? (He was called names, he ate lunch alone; after the camp he joined the school baseball team and was more accepted, though the crowd called him names)
  • Ask your child to discuss the reason that Japanese Americans were put into the camps (after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the president feared that Japanese Americans would join the Japanese side)
  • Ask your child to describe the song Manzanar that we listened to in class. Why would someone write and perform this song so many years after it happened?
  • Looking at the painting above, have your child explain some of the symbolism Kuniyoshi used to describe his emotions.
  • Ask your child to explain the scale of emotions, and we used this to help us understand the three poems we read.
  • 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 fractions by whole numbers, took a chapter test on all of the fraction concepts they've learned, and began a new chapter on decimals.

Here is a video about multiplying fractions:

Last week, Grade 5 students explored adding and subtracting unlike fractions, then applied these concepts in a problem solving activity.

Here is a video explanation of adding and subtracting fractions with unlike denominators:


Have your child try some of these online games to practice the math skills we learned before break:
  • Grade 4 or 5 - Fruit Splat Fraction Addition:

    For help with basic math facts:
    • Check your child’s math homework each night, which is found in the My Math book.


    Last week students continued working on their essays. They finished gathering information (personal stories, facts, quotes, etc.) for their supporting paragraphs, then decided how to put these pieces of information together to form a solid paragraph. They also learned how to create a dynamic introduction and conclusion.

    In grammar we looked at dependent and independent clauses, as well as sentence fragments.

    • Your child should be typing his/her first draft as it is due on Tuesday. Ask to read their draft, and give feedback as needed.
    • Ask your child to explain the meaning of a sentence fragment (it doesn't have a subject or a predicate or either).


    Last week we continued our science unit "It's a Germy World" focusing on the microscopic things that cause disease (bacteria, fungi, protists, viruses). As this is part of our service learning project, we proceeded with work on the plot of the story. Each team took a shot at developing a story using the plot framework we established as a class.

    Then in a long and intense session we took the best of all of the ideas and came up with one pretty fantastic story. Here is our idea so far (which is subject to change of course):

    Ami, a 12-year-old girl who lives in Sikoro, is talking with her family about the problem of malnutrition in their community. She goes to bed, but in the night is awakened by a talking camel outside her window who tells her that he needs her help to combat malnutrition in Sikoro. He gives her a map for a quest in which she must meet 3 challenges. She receives a mask for each successfully completed challenge, and at the end the masks will fit together to form a special "key" that will help overcome malnutrition.

    When Ami awakens, she thinks it was all a dream, but then she sees the map and realizes it was real! She tells her parents she is going to the village to visit her grandparents for a few days. Instead she actually gets a pirogue to take her to Djenne. There she must complete the "Water Challenge," a complicated maze that requires her to answer questions about how to ensure that your water is safe and clean (Readers will also be able to complete the maze as it will be drawn in the book). Ami is successful and receives the Water Mask. 

    Next she travels by pirgogue to Dogon country where she faces the "Hygiene Challenge," a series of hygiene-related symbols carved on a Dogon door that she must interpret in order to answer hygiene-related questions. (Again, readers of the book will also get to solve this puzzle as it will be drawn on one page). She is successful and gets the Hygiene Mask.

    Finally she travels by pirogue to Timbuktu for the "Sanitation Challenge," where she enters a massive room packed with items. She must answer questions about proper sanitation, then locate 10 sanitation-related items. (Here again, the "hidden object" puzzle will be drawn on 2 pages of the book for the reader to solve as well). Ami is successful and receives the Sanitation Mask.

    She returns to Sikoro via a magical desert elephant, and upon arrival there she is taken to a massive set of doors. She must assemble the 3 masks in such a way so they fit into a special opening in the door, like a key. This will open the doors that lead to a malnutrition-free Sikoro. (Here again, the reader will be able to participate in the puzzle). 

    Once Ami has assembled the pieces she puts them into the opening, turns the handle to the right, and the door opens. She walks into a seemingly beautiful neighborhood. But just when she thinks everything is perfect, giant germ-shaped monsters appear from the sky--bacteria, viruses, and protists. She runs back out and slams the door, wondering what happened.

    Outside, the camel awaits. He tells Ami that while she assembled the key correctly, she turned the door handle the wrong way and entered a version of Sikoro where people did not use clean water, proper sanitation, and good hygiene. She returns to the door, turns the handle the correct direction, and opens it to reveal a happy and healthy Sikoro.

    We will devote the majority of our four-day week to working on this project:

    Tuesday: Teams have each taken one fourth of the story, and are researching the facts and tips that will be imbedded in the plot--facts and tips about malnutrition, safe water, proper sanitation, and good hygiene. They will create story boards showing each page of the graphic novel, approximately eight pages per team.

    Wednesday: Our class visits the Sikoro community where Mali Health will give a presentation on malnutrition, safe water, proper sanitation, and good hygiene (which students will incorporate into our graphic novel. We will also take a tour of a neighborhood school and clinic.

    Thursday: We will host 20 local Malian students from four different local schools. They are all members of their schools' health clubs. We will all collaborate to refine the story, draw illustrations, and begin to import everything into our comic software program.

    Friday: Grade 4-5 students will continue creating the final version of the story and the illustrations, and importing this into the comic software program.

     And finally, a huge thank you to the families who have pledged financial assistance for this project! If you would still like to help us out with the cost of printing the graphic novel so we can distribute it to local schools, please let me know.

    • Ask your child to explain the facts they have researched for their part of the story.



    Parents, can you please check to see if your child needs any school supplies? I've noticed many students without pencils and a number of them finishing all of the pages in their composition books.

    There are also a few students who have "misplaced" their hats, so a hat check might be in order as well. Remember to clearly label the hat with your child's name on the inside.


    Mon 16 Feb: No school, President's Day (US Holiday)
    Thu 19 Feb: AISB Board meeting (all are invited) 6:30 PM
    Fri 20 Feb: Quarter 3 Progress Reports sent home for selected students
    Wed 25 Feb: AISB Literacy Day
    Thu 26 Feb: Elementary assembly featuring Music, 7:35 - 7:55am
    Fri 27 Feb: PTO meeting, 7:30 AM

    Fri 6 March: Q3 After School Activities end
    Fri 6 March: Elementary Field Day
    Thu 12 March: Elementary assembly featuring Kindergarten, 7:35 - 7:55am
    Thu 17 March: AISB Board meeting (all are invited) 6:30 PM
    Fri 20 March: End of Q3
    Mon 23 March - Fri 27 March: Spring Break School Holiday

    Wed 1 April: Q3 report cards sent home
    Mon 6 April: No School, Easter holiday
    Thu 23 April: AISB Board meeting (all are invited) 6:30 PM

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