Sunday, April 12, 2015

News of the Week: 13 - 17 April 2015


After school activities for Quarter 4 begin Monday. Please check your child's activities on the sheet your child brought home on Friday. You can also find that sheet here:

If you have any questions or wish to add/remove your child from an activity, please contact Mr. Souleyman.


On Thursday Grade 4 and 5 students take the reading portion of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. Please make sure your child gets a good night's sleep Wednesday night, and eats a healthy breakfast Thursday morning. We want students to be at their sharpest!

MAP is a computer-based assessment program in which students spend about 45 minutes each on a reading, math, and English language usage test. These tests adapt to the appropriate level of your child's learning, so essentially every test is customized. About 3 million students around the world take the MAP tests each year.

MAP results are just one piece of data that we use to monitor your child's academic growth and to provide teachers with information to improve student learning. Your child's MAP scores should not be looked at in isolation, but in the context of other data such as:
  • Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA)
  • classroom tests and quizzes
  • AISB writing prompt
  • teacher observations
  • essays
  • class projects
  • class presentations/performances
  • homework

MAP results will be available before the May 8th Parent-Student-Teacher conferences. At that time we can discuss your child's progress based on all of the data listed above, MAP results included.

MAP results are reported using two scales—RIT and Percentiles. In addition, students are given a Lexile Score for reading:

(which stands for "Rasch unITs") Show a student’s current achievement on a scale that is independent of grade level. These scores show growth over time. RIT scores show what students are ready to learn rather than what they have already mastered.

Compare a student to a large group of students of similar age or grade level. These scores are useful to compare students around the country. For example, a student at the 85th percentile ranks the same as or higher than 85 students in a group of 100. 

Lexile Scores 
Show where a student is at on the Lexile Scale. The Lexile Framework for Reading provides another way to measure a student's reading level and growth.


This past week we continued with our reading unit based around the novel "Loser" by Jerry Spinelli. 

During this unit we focus on the skill of determining the theme in a text, as well as the skill of determining how a character responds to challenges. To support these particular skills we analyzed the song Firework by Katy Perry. First students looked closely at the lyrics, and especially the symbolism used. They determined that the theme of the song had to do with believing in yourself, and that everyone has the potential to be successful.

They also viewed two very different videos of Perry performing the song, one a huge spectacle performed at the last Super Bowl in the U.S., complete with hundreds of dancers holding glowing spheres, actual fireworks, and Perry soaring through the sky on a platform. The other performance was a slower version of the song, sung quietly on stage. 

Students were challenged to choose which performance matched the the theme of the song better. It was an interesting discussion with students split about evenly--some felt that a song so personal in nature should be performed in a more subdued manner, while others felt the song should be as explosive as the fireworks it mentions.

Here is a link to Perry's Super Bowl performance of Firework:

We are also using the theatre technique of improvisation, a method where students perform spontaneously without rehearsal. We are using improv in two ways:

Vocabulary Improvisation
For this, I assign one of our vocabulary words to a team. One team member stands on stage and a second student then enters, immediately beginning a scene that must have something to do with the vocabulary word. The first student must play along, keeping the theme going. After 30 to 45 seconds I say "Next!" The first student exits and another team member enters, again immediately beginning a scene having to do with the vocabulary word. The student on stage plays along until I call "Next" and the routine continues.

This technique has proven to deepen student understanding of the word. Not only do they need to know the definition, but they must apply the word to a real world situation. If there is misunderstanding of the word, I can spot it and correct it immediately.

Planned Improvisation
After about every other lesson, students plan and perform an improv of a portion from the book that we've already read. The "planning" part is when they identify 4 to 5 scenes from that portion of the book that they will perform, and also identify any key words they want to say. They also plan their blocking (movement) and assign roles. But the dialogue is not planned...this is the improv!

It's a challenging process that allows students to deeply analyze a scene. They have the opportunity to enhance the portion of the book they are performing, adding dialogue, actions, and characters--as long as their revisions don't alter the storyline. After the performance the audience offers feedback, and the students get to perform the same scene again, this time incorporating any of the suggestions.

Here are some photos from last Friday's improv. We had two casts (consisting of two teams combined) performing the same scene. This gave the students a chance to see other ways of interpreting the book.

Here they are planning away:

And here are the performances:

Here is one of the feedback sessions:

The new vocabulary words introduced this past week were:

atrocious (extremely poor quality)
mediocre (in the middle/not so good)
fervently (passionately)
intrigued (curious)

Here is our vocabulary bulletin board so far:

  • Ask your child to compare and contrast the two performances of Firework by Katy Perry. 
  • Ask your child to discuss the meaning of the "theme" of a story. (It is the universal message or lesson of the story)
  • Ask your child to describe the "Next" game that we use for vocabulary. Can he/she explain one of the scenes performed? How does this game help you remember the vocabulary words?
  • Ask your child to describe the planned improvisations performed last week. Which cast did a better job and why? What's the most challenging part of doing a planned improvisation? How does it help you understand the book?
  • Ask your child to explain the vocabulary words above. How were they used in the novel? How did the teams act out these words in their improvs?
  • Ask your child what book they are reading for their Read to Succeed homework. Are they reading a book that challenges them a bit? Are they read a variety of genres, including fiction, non-fiction, historical fiction, etc.? Encourage them to branch out and try different genres, and try to refrain from imposing your own particular likes/dislikes in terms of genres. You may not enjoy reading fantasy books about dragons and wizards, but this may be a genre that really captures your child's interest and turns them into a reader for life!
  • 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 continued their new geometry unit, working with parallel and perpendicular lines, taking a quiz to check their understanding of geometry so far, and exploring different types of angles.

In the coming week students classify and measure angles. Here is a link to a video that introduces those concepts:

Last week, Grade 5 students classified triangles, and took a quiz to check their understanding so far.

In the coming week students will measure the sides and angles of quadrilaterals (four-sided shapes). Here is a link to a video explaining measuring angles in triangles and quadrilaterals:


Have your child try some of these online games to practice the math skills we learned before break:
  • Grade 4  - Baseball Geometry (triangles)
  • Grade 4 - Triangle Splat (Types of triangles)

    • Grade 5: Triangle Sort (identifying triangle types)
    • Grade 5 - Alien Angles (guessing angles):

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


        This past week students completed their first drafts of their realistic fiction story. I presented mini-lessons on how to write captivating leads and endings, and gave students time to make revisions based on the tips they learned.

        I also explained a type of revision strategy called "Revision Glasses" in which a student pretends to put on a pair of glasses that only search for one thing in their story, such as punctuation or believable characters. This way they can really focus on checking just one aspect of their story, and making revisions to correct any weaknesses in that area.

        We also discussed "cardboard characters," or characters who are just too good to be true. For example, if you create a main character who gets the top grades at school, is a star athlete, stars in a movie, is loved by everyone, and wins a worldwide competition, this character may come across as cardboard, or unrealistic. We learned that everyone has flaws, and the characters we create should be a balance of good traits and flaws. That's what makes us all interesting!

        For grammar this week we continued to explore complex sentences, including coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. This is when two simple sentences are combined using a connecting word such as "and" or "because." Students learned that in good writing we use a mix of simple and complex sentences, and combing two simple sentences with a conjunction is one way of adding interest to our writing.

        In the coming week students will revise their story based on feedback from me as well as from a peer. By weeks' end the stories should be complete and ready for publishing.

        • Read the final draft your child created and offer your feedback. Some things to look for as you read the draft:
        - Does the sequence of the plot make sense?
        - Does the story flow well from one scene to the next?
        - Is it clear what the main character wants or needs?
        - Are there interesting things that stand in the way of the character getting what they want?
        - As you read the story can you picture the action in your head, as if you're watching a movie?
        - Are there interesting vocabulary words in the story?
        - Does the story have your child's distinctive and unique "voice?"


          Last week we continued our science unit on light and sound. We analyzed the song and video "Lights" by Ellie Goulding and connected this to the concepts we are learning about the properties of light. We also connected to our reading skill by determining the theme of the song.

          Students learned about reflection, and did a series of experiments to test the reflective qualities of different materials, including a mirror and black paper.

          They also used a laser pointer and mirror to redirect light toward a target, furthering their understanding of both reflection and the fact that light waves travel in a straight line.

          Finally, on Friday students explored refraction, and how refracted light can help us see objects better. Students created their own lens to magnify small objects in the bottom of a cup.

          • Ask your child to describe the experiments he/she conducted this week about light reflection and refraction. What was his/her hypothesis on which materials would reflect the best and worst? 
          • What did he/she learn from the Bill Nye the Science Guy video on light?
          • What is the theme of Ellie Goulding's song "Lights?" (e.g. the light represents understanding and helping someone get over their fears)

          COMING SOON

          Thu 16 April: Elementary assembly featuring Grade 3, 7:35 - 7:55am
          Thu 16 April: Grade 4/5 MAP reading test, 9:10 - 10:30
          Tue 21 April: Grade 4/5 MAP math test, 7:30 - 8:40
          Thu 23 April: Grade 4/5 MAP language test, 9:10 - 10:20
          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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