Saturday, February 7, 2015

News of the Week: 9 - 12 February 2015


It was great to see so many of you at the International Fair last Saturday. Around 500 people attended and sampled food and drink from more than 20 countries around the world.


Friday is a teacher inservice day, and there is no school for students.


We completed our reading unit based around the short story "Train to Somewhere" about the program that took orphaned and homeless children from crowded cities in the eastern the United States to new homes in the Midwest.

Students analyzed the song "Steel Rails" by bluegrass artist Alison Krauss. Though not about the orphan train, the message of the song relates to the theme of our story, especially the line "Cause I'm looking out ahead to keep my mind from turning back."

We also analyzed a Robert Louis Stevenson poem that could help us get the perspective of a child on the orphan train, looking out the window as the world passed by:

Students continued analyzing the sequence of the story, trying to understand the important events in the order they were told. A flashback in the story required them to reorder the sequence of events!

As they did last week with the first half of the story, students performed tableaus of a scene that they thought was important in the sequence of event--this time from the last half of the story. The other students used a rubric to score their scene, and it was obvious that the positive critiques helped the students improve their performances.

As a culminating project, each team made a prediction of how the main character, an orphaned young girl who was adopted at the end of the book, fared in the future...whether it was a year or 20 years in the future. This required the students to have a thorough understanding of the characters and the plot, and the ability to apply those understandings to a new situation. Their ideas and performances were creative and inspired!

Students also completed a final test on the story that included both vocabulary and comprehension questions. Take a look at your child's test and score in his/her reading notebook.

In the coming week we begin a new reading unit called "Human Rights & Wrongs." It is based around the terrible chapter in history when the U.S. government forced Japanese-Americans into prison camps during WWII. In this unit students read two short books of historical fiction, The Bracelet and Baseball Saved Us, interpret poems written by people who lived in the camps, listen to music inspired by these events, and analyze a painting by Japanese American artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi. He was locked in his studio in New York City for three years during this time, and his paintings reflect his emotions and reactions to the horrible discrimination that occurred. 

  • Ask your child to discuss the story Train to Somewhere. What will they remember from this story? What lessons can we learn from it? 
  • Ask your child to discuss the song "Steel Rails." How does the music and the lyrics make us understand the orphan train story? 
  • Ask your child to describe the "future" tableau he/she performed in. How did the other students score it? What would they do differently in their next performance?
  • Ask your child to explain the vocabulary words from this story: misery, down in the dumps, pry, locomotive, reflection, and surrounded.
  • 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 looked at the problem solving strategy of working backward, added and subtracted mixed numbers, and begin an exploration of multiplying fractions. They also took a quiz that would show their understanding of these concepts, and for the first time ever all students scored 100%!

Next week students multiply fractions by whole numbers, take a chapter test on all of the fraction concepts they've learned, and begin a new chapter on decimals.

Here is a video about multiplying fractions:

Last week, Grade 5 students rounded fractions, and added and subtracted like fractions. They also took a quiz covering these concepts, which 90% of the class passed with flying colors.

In the coming week students explore adding and subtracting unlike fractions, then apply these concepts in 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 their preparation work for writing an essay. They gathered information
    for each of three supporting paragraphs in their essay, and placed this information inside folders. The information types included:

    On Friday I showed them how to take information from one folder, decide if it does indeed support the "reason," and then decide the order that each piece of information will appear in the paragraph. They do this by cutting and taping the information into one long piece. Eventually they will use this as a guide when writing their paragraph.

    Next week students use this procedure for each of their reason paragraphs, and complete their first draft of these paragraphs. I'll also teach them about writing beginning and ending paragraphs that catch and hold a reader's attention.

    In grammar we continued our study of the components of a sentence.

    • Take a look at your child's essay folders (1 folder for the topic sentence, and three folders for the supporting reasons). Can he/she explain the items gathered? Is more needed in any of the folders? (Note: The folders should have enough information inside by Monday morning!).
    • Ask your child to define a compound subject (two or more subjects in a sentence) or a compound predicate (two or more verbs in a sentence).


    We continued our science unit "It's a Germy World" that focuses on the microscopic things that cause disease (bacteria, fungi, protists, viruses). Teams did a multiple day experiment to discover where bacteria occurs in the school. Note: Not all bacteria is harmful!

    Placing the sterile agar Petri dishes in 8 locations:

    Examining the Petri dishes to see if bacteria colonies are present.

    The Petri dishes after 3 days:

    Each circular shape is a bacteria colony where a single bacteria cell landed and multiplied into hundreds of thousands of bacteria. The dishes are sealed shut, by the way.

    We also began preliminary work on our service learning project, creating a graphic novel on the importance of clean water, proper sanitation, and good hygiene (often abbreviated as WASH) and their connection to malnutrition. Students received background information on these three issues, facts about Mali's health situation, and details about the Sikoro neighborhood where our graphic novels will be distributed to schoolchildren.

    Students also began preliminary plot development, using the "story mountain" graphic organizer. We've decided on the adventure genre and an "Indiana Jones-type character, but beyond that it's up to the students to flesh out the story. On Friday each team worked on a plot that they will present to the class on Monday. We will vote on the one(s) we like best and begin drafting the story.

    On Wednesday 18 February our class will visit the Sikoro community where Mali Health will give a presentation on WASH and give us a tour of a school and clinic. The following day, Thursday 19 February, we will host 25 local Malian students at AISB where we will all collaborate to refine the story, draw illustrations, and begin to import everything into our comic software program.

    As explained in previous posts, we need some financial assistance. Let me know ASAP if you or your company/organization could help with funding of these items:
    • printing of our graphic novels (around $1000 US; any amount you can give would be appreciated)
    • buying school supplies for our Malian student friends to present to them on their visit to AISB (around $400 US)

    We would really appreciate your assistance with this important work that we hope saves lives in our local community.

    • Ask your child to describe the bacteria experiment. Which area of the school had the most bacteria present? 
    • Ask your child about malnutrition--what is it? How can it be prevented?
    • Ask him/her to describe the plot the team developed for the graphic novel.


    The past two weeks were rough on our Grade 4 - 5 students, with 5 or 6 students out on some days with the flu and some students at school not feeling well. It looks like everyone has recovered now.

    Please, if your child wakes up not feeling well it is best to keep him/her at home to recover. That way he/she can rest and recover more quickly, and also germs won't be spread to other students. Since we are studying germs right now, your child can tell you all about how germs are transmitted.


    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.


    Thu 12 Feb: Elementary assembly featuring Advanced French, 7:35 - 7:55am
    Fri 13 Feb: No school, teacher in-service
    Mon 16 Feb: No school, President's Day (US Holiday)
    Thu 19 Feb: AISB Board meeting (all are invited) 6:30 - 9:00 PM
    Fri 20 Feb: Quarter 3 Progress Reports sent home for selected students
    Thu 26 Feb: Elementary assembly featuring Music, 7:35 - 7:55am

    Thu 12 March: Elementary assembly featuring Kindergarten, 7:35 - 7:55am
    Thu 17 March: AISB Board meeting (all are invited) 6:30 - 9:00 PM
    Fri 20 March: End of Q3
    Mon 23 March - Fri 27 March: Spring Break School Holiday

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