Saturday, March 14, 2015

News of the Week: 16 - 20 March 2015


This is the last week of class before spring break. There will be no school from 23 - 27 March.

Last week we continued our new reading unit based on the novel The Wish Giver by Bill Brittain about a four people who each receive the opportunity to make a wish.

To help students understand the novel's theme we analyzed the song, Make a Wish by Jordan Cahill, read the old Russian folktale "The Fisherman and the Golden Fish," and watched a classic Bugs Bunny episode called "A Lad and His Lamp" to see if the typical magic wish plot is evident:

After analyzing these, students began to see the typical pattern of wish-based stories: there is a mysterious being who grants wishes, the wishes are often granted based on the literal interpretation of the wish, the person doesn't believe it at first, a wish is wasted, a wish is used to undue the problems caused by other wishes, etc.

In the novel, students realized that the main characters each have a flaw that their wishes actually "fix." More than just a magical story, the novel teaches good life lessons about having good qualities.

Our new vocabulary words include:

trudge (walk in a sleepy way)
forlorn (hopeless)
abuzz (a steady hum)
swallow your pride (humble yourself)
sashay (prance gracefully)
spoof (trick someone)
in the midst of (in the middle of)
scowl (frown)
awestruck (full of a mix of wonder & disbelief)
soft in the head (stupid or crazy)
fate (destiny)
stubborn (extremely determined not to change your mind)

Teams have been creating vocabulary cards for our word wall using these new words. Students are also recording the words in their reading notebook, adding synonyms, antonyms, a creative sentence using the word, and a sketch showing the definition. Besides that, we review the words each day with quick tableau definitions. I've added an additional challenge to the tableau activity though--during the frozen pose I may tap a student on the shoulder. This means they must temporarily unfreeze and say a line of dialogue that supports the team's pose. Here are a few of the tableaus:

All of the techniques described above help students remember and understand the new vocabulary. I encourage the students to use the words in their every day speech and in their writing as well.

  • Ask your child to explain what's happened in the novel so far (Polly wishes people will notice her, so she ends up croaking like a bullfrog whenever she starts talking in a mean way; Rowena wishes the man of her dreams would "put down roots" in town and he turns into a tree; we are just beginning a chapter about Adam who hates to bring water back and forth from the creek to the farm)
  • Ask your child to discuss the Bugs Bunny cartoon we watched, A Lad and His Lamp. How was it similar to other wish stories? (e.g. there is a genie, Bugs doesn't exactly believe the whole wish thing at first; Bugs wastes the first wish, etc.)
  • Ask your child to explain the vocabulary words above. How were they used in the novel? Can they use each of these in a sentence? What are some synonyms and antonyms for each word?
  • 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 time measurements and line plots, then took the chapter test. We started a new chapter on the metric system, looking at metric length on Friday.

In the coming week students explore metric capacity and mass, then tackle some metric conversions (e.g. centimeters to meters, grams to kilos, etc.)

Here is an introduction of the metric system, from Bill Nye the Science guy:

Last week, Grade 5 students explored division with fractions, then took the chapter test. This coming week they convert customary units of capacity (e.g. pints to gallons, fluid ounces to cups, etc.), plot measurement data on a line plot, then begin lessons on metric measurement (length, capacity, and mass).

Here is a very clear explanation of the metric system and how to convert metric measurements:


Have your child try some of these online games to practice the math skills we learned before break:
  • Grade 4  - Measurement ManiaLength
  • Grade 4 - Moonshot (converting metric measurements)

    • Grade 5: Perfect Postage (metric length, mass)
    • Grade 5 - Alien Cookbook (metric units of measurement):

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


        Last week we continued our unit on realistic fiction writing. Students shared the list of traits they developed for their main character, both physical traits and internal traits. Next they determined what their character wants, and what is standing in the way of the character getting it. This will eventually become the core of their story's plot.

        I also modeled how I envisioned a particular scene in the fiction story I'm writing, and how I turned this mind movie into a paragraph or two. I made sure that this scene SHOWED the reader my character's traits; it didn't TELL them directly. For example, my character is talking to his cat as if it's human. This SHOWS that he's lonely and needs a best friend...I didn't have to write, "He is very lonely and needs a friend." This is the challenge I presented to students.

        I was also careful to point out that everything I wrote in this scene was connected to my character's traits and "wants." By Monday they will have a quick scene drafted for their own fiction story, and we'll share these aloud for feedback from the class.

        In grammar last week we looked at combining choppy sentences into one smooth sentence (e.g. The sentences Victoria is my aunt. She lives in Montreal. She is coming to visit in July for two weeks can become My aunt Victoria, who lives in Montreal, is coming in July for two weeks.). We also looked at the four sentence types:

        • declarative (a statement: The ocean water is crystal clear.)
        • exclamatory (a command or request: Please lower your voice.)
        • interrogative (a question: Have you visited the Bahamas?)
        • imperative (expresses strong emotion: Wow, I just won!)

        Here's a short video about these sentence types:

        We also continued our exploration of another element of figurative language: personification. Students created personification sentences using randomly selected subjects and verbs, and put these together to form a Poem of sorts:

        • Ask to read the first scene your child wrote, and offer your feedback. Ask your child how this scene shows the main character's traits, and what that character wants.
        • Have your child explain the four types of sentences, and give examples of each.

        Last week we continued our new social studies unit  "Civilization 2.0" in which student teams are developing their own new civilization. Previously each team selected a place to begin their new civilization from four locations provided. In the past week they explored the natural resources and geographic features of their chosen location. They used this information to develop an economy for their civilization.

        In the coming week they choose what type of government they want in place, and later what type of culture they hope to foster. The culminating project will involve teams creating iMovies that introduce us to their civilization.

        • Ask your child about the natural resources (forests, gold, etc.) present in their chosen location. How will they use each of these resources to support their civilization?
        • Ask about the geographic features (e.g. water bodies, mountains, climate, etc.) present in their chosen location. How will these features affect their civilization?


        Last week we completed all of the illustrations for our graphic novel and scanned each of them individually. Then groups of two or three students used the Comic Life software to create pages in the graphic novel. This required them to import the correct illustrations, add the correct text and dialogue, and arrange all of these elements in a pleasing and easy-to-read way.

        Monsieur Barry and Madame Isabelle also completed the French translation with their French students. When we complete the English version of the graphic novel early next week, we will create a second version in French. By week's end the digital versions of both will be at the printers!


        On Thursday Ms. O'Brien's Kindergarten students presented two plays at the elementary assembly, and three of our Grade 4/5 students took on roles as narrators, Clara 1, Amadou, and El-Shadai. They did a fantastic job!


        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
        Thu 2 April: Elementary assembly featuring Ms. Jacoby, 7:35 - 7:55am
        Mon 6 April: No School, Easter holiday
        Thu 16 April: Elementary assembly featuring Grade 3, 7:35 - 7:55am
        Thu 23 April: AISB Board meeting (all are invited) 6:30 PM
        Thu 30 April: Elementary assembly featuring PreK 3/4, 7:35 - 7:55am

        Fri 1 May: No school: Labor Day holiday
        Mon 4 May: Q4 Progress Reports sent home for selected students
        Thu 7 May: AISB Board meeting (all are invited) 6:30 PM
        Thu 14 May: AISB General Meeting
        Thu 14 May: Elementary assembly featuring PreK 2, 7:35 - 7:55am
        Fri 8 May: Parent-Teacher-Student conferences
        Mon 25 May: No school: Africa Day
        Thu 28 May: Elementary assembly featuring Beg. French, 7:35 - 7:55am

        Thu 4 June: High School graduation ceremony
        Fri 5 June: Last day of school 

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