Sunday, March 8, 2015

News of the Week: 9 - 13 March


This past week we started a new reading unit based on the award-winning novel The Wish Giver by Bill Brittain. This novel, about a strange man at a carnival who offers to grant any wish, is a work of fiction full of magic, mystery, humor, and suspense. We will explore the theme of magic through many mediums, including literature, music, art, and video.

This week students analyzed the classic song "When You Wish Upon a Star" from the Disney movie Pinocchio. Students discovered that the message seems to be that if you are a good and genuine person, you're more likely to have your dreams come true. Students also watched a short teleplay called the Time Trap in which the wishes that the main character make are interpreted literally. This led into a discussion about the typical format of magic wish-related stories (e.g. 3 wishes, a mysterious character that grants the wishes, the first wish is usually wasted, the third wish usually fixes problems caused by the other 2 wishes, etc.). Here's the video:

Next week we will read several more chapters where students will discover that the character's flaws will be fixed NOT through magic, but by their own human powers. We will also analyze another song, Make a Wish by Jordan Cahill, and watch a classic Bugs Bunny episode called "A Lad and His Lamp" to see if the typical magic wish plot is evident.

Our vocabulary words so far are:

prologue (an introduction at the start of a book)
fraud (a cheater or trickster)
bellering (yelling)
trek (a journey)

Here teams create vocabulary cards for our word wall using the new words they just learned. The cards are designed to look like the magic cards in our novel, a white card with a red dot. Supposedly you touch the red dot and your wish comes true. (They tried and so far, no success).

  • Ask your child to explain what's happened in the novel so far (4 people enter the tent at a carnival and pay fifty cents to have a wish come true; so far we've met Polly Kemp whose flaw is that she is too outspoken and brash)
  • Ask your child to discuss the video we watched, The Time Trap (the link is above). How did the magic box get the main character into trouble? (The genie inside granted the wishes literally.)
  • 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 began a new chapter on customary measurement (US measurements), focusing on length and weight. In the coming week they will explore time measurements and line plots, then take the chapter test.

Here is a video about customary units of capacity:

K'anbĪµn the cat takes center stage during Grade 4 math test.

Last week, Grade 5 students explored multiplying fractions and mixed numbers. In the coming week they tackle division with fractions, then take the chapter test.

Here is a video explanation of multiplying mixed numbers:


Have your child try some of these online games to practice the math skills we learned before break:
  • Grade 4  - Measurement ManiaLength
  • Grade 4 - Ounces to Pounds

    • Grade 5: Math Man (convert mixed numbers to improper fractions)
    • Grade 5 - Soccer Math (multiplying fractions):

        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 began a new unit on fiction writing. Students learned three methods of getting ideas for their realistic fiction story, then by week's end chose one of the ideas to develop. We also began a discussion on character development, and over the weekend students will list some of the internal and external traits of their main character. They learned their character's traits should mesh with the plot of their story.

        In grammar last week we explored subject and verb agreement, as well as combining redundant sentences (e.g. The sentences "I have a cat. The cat is black. It's name is Willow." can become "My black cat's name is Willow.)

        We also explored another element of figurative language: personification. We read poems by Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes that contained excellent examples of personification.

        Then students engaged in a personification activity in which they randomly selected 4 slips of paper with nouns (e.g. rain, mountain, toilet, book) and 4 slips of paper with verbs (e.g. yells, whimpers, eats, sighs). Their challenge was to make pairs of these (e.g. rain yells, mountain whimpers, etc.). Next they had to tell the why, how, and where about these pairings. For example: The rain over the football field yells loudly because we don't appreciate it canceling our game. They will put these 4 sentences together to create personification poems.

        • Ask your child which idea he/she selected for a realistic fiction story. What was it about this idea that was appealing?
        • Have your child show you the list of character traits they developed for the main character in his/her story (there should be both external traits (physical traits) and internal traits (emotions, feelings, personality, hobbies, etc.)
        • Ask your child to give examples of how the subject and verb in a sentence should agree  (e.g. The cats are running through the weeds; the dog is walking through.). 
        • What about when there are two subjects in a sentence with "and" or with "or" between them? (If "and" is between two subjects, the subject is considered plural. For example: Jack and Lara are talking. If "or" is between two subjects, you use the second subject only to choose the correct verb. For example Either Jack or Lara is talking.)


        Last week we began a new social studies unit I wrote called "Civilization 2.0." This unit focuses on the important features of all societies: government, economy, resources, and culture. Student teams are developing their own new civilization.

        Last week they selected from four locations--using only latitude and longitude--to decide the place where their civilization will begin. The options were: Japan, northern Alaska, North Carolina, and South Africa (they pretend that there are no people or any other development in these areas). They made their decision based on the the area's natural resources, geographic features, and potential natural hazards. Here they are researching those factors both on the Internet and in an atlas:

        On Friday we began discussing the economic factors that could affect their civilization. On Monday they choose how they will use their natural resources and geographic features to survive. For example, a location with good soil and a water source might be ideal for agriculture, while an area with thick tree cover might be a good place to practice forestry.

        In the coming week they also explore 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.

        This unit addresses many Grade 4 and 5 standards, including:

        • Explain the way groups, societies, & nations interact.
        • Describe factors that influence locations of human populations/migration.
        • Describe & explain various types of human patterns of settlement & land use.
        • Identify why particular locations are used for certain activities.
        • Describe regions by their human & physical characteristics.
        • Describe the elements of culture (language, norms, values, beliefs)
        • Define elements of a belief system (creed, behavior code, rituals, community).
        • Compare & contrast major political systems.
        • Explain different strategies to resolve conflict.

        The unit also allows students to recall elements of the other civilizations we've studied (ancient Egypt and ancient Greece) and take a cue from their successes and failures.

        • Ask your child where his/her team decided to locate the team's civilization. Why? What's the best thing about this location? What's the worst? How will they deal with the worst thing?
        • Ask your child to describe how latitude and longitude are used to locate places on a map. (e.g. latitude is listed first, and tells you how far to go north or sough from the equator; latitude is listed second and it explains how far east or west you go from the Prime Meridian line)
        • Ask about the locations of the ancient Egyptian and ancient Greek cultures. How did their locations help them to succeed? (e.g. both had a good water source, in Greece the soil was good, etc.)


        The illustrations for our malnutrition graphic novel are nearly complete. Students used the story board to plan their illustration, choose a photograph from the poses we took when our Malian friends were here at school, trace the important parts of the photo, then ink the final drawing (If needed, I add some detail work). In the coming week we begin importing the illustrations and text into the comic software. If all goes well, this should be completed by week's end!

        The storyboard is a quick sketch that is a plan for the page in the graphic novel. This sketch often changes by the time we get to the final drawing (as you will see here).

        Then we use the storyboard to help us choose one of the photos we took of the Malian students who visited our school.

        Finally we trace the photo with pencil, then ink in the lines. We make sure it is in the correct configuration for the page (this requires another look at the storyboard) and that we leave space for dialogue bubbles and text boxes (again, we need to look at the storyboard for this). Later the illustration is scanned and imported into the comic software program where text and dialogue are added.


        On Friday morning our elementary students had a very energetic change of pace! They took part in Mrs. Anderson and Ms. Schultz's Field Day in which they competed in various sporting activities, from a running race to a clothing relay to an obstacle course. Grade 3, 4, and 5 students were mixed into 7 person teams representing either the sotromas, motos, taxis,  or camions. The weather was warm but the kids hardly noticed!


        Three of our students, El-shadai, Clara 2, and Amadou, are assisting Ms. O'Brien and the kindergartens with two plays they will be performing. Here they are at practice:


        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
        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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