Saturday, May 9, 2015

News of the Week: 11 - 15 May 2015


Last week we celebrated the completion of our service learning project on malnutrition prevention. Grade 4 and 5 students spent the day at Kangaba, meeting with their Malian student partners, performing an original song for them about hand washing (created in Mrs. Arn's music class), distributing over 700 copies of the comic book in French to mali health representatives, eating grilled chicken and heaps of fries, and swimming in two of the three pools.

Again, a big thank you to the families who donated to fund the printing of our graphic novels. Because of you, valuable information about malnutrition prevention will be shared with Malian school children throughout Bamako. We would not have been able to do this without your help!

Our project is receiving much publicity around the world! Here is a story about our work on the website NextBillion:

Here is a link to the Grade 4-5 students performing their original song for their Malian partners:

And if you haven't seen it yet, here are links to our graphic novel:

Finally, here are some photos from our celebration:


Last week we begin a new reading unit based on the science fiction novel The Forgotten Door, by Alexander Key. This book, published in 1965, is about a boy from another world who learns the best and worst of earth's civilization as he searches for the way back to his own planet. Alexander Key wrote nearly two dozen science fiction novels for children with similar themes, and hoped to inspire kids through these themes.

Our reading skill focus is analyzing how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take. So to help students understand the theme of The Forgotten Door, they will explore similar science fiction themes in songs, TV shows, poems, and movies. 

We will also use a theatre technique called story dramatization. Like improvisation, students take part of the text and bring it to life in a performance. However, in story dramatization students can plan their dialogue in advance. Research has shown the positive effects of in story dramatization on language development and student achievement in oral and written story recall, writing, and reading.

Here are some photos of the students practicing this technique using a short science fiction story:

This past week students analyzed an episode of the 1980s TV show "Mork and Mindy," as well as the Ella Fitzgerald song "Two Little Men in a Flying Saucer, " comparing and contrasting the themes of each.

  • Ask your child to compare the alien in "Mork and Mindy" with the aliens in the song "Two Little Men in a Flying Saucer." (Mork is interested in life on Earth and tries to blend in so he can stay; the aliens in the song find life on Earth horrible and want to leave immediately; etc.)
    • Ask your child to describe the story dramatization our class did for the short story "Aliens in My Backyard." What role did he/she have? How did he/she use imagination, face/body, and voice to play the role?
    • Ask your child to describe the first chapter of "The Forgotten Door." How does the boy from another planet get to Earth? What is his first impression of Earth? (He falls through a "door"that leads from his planet to Earth; his first encounter with humans is very unpleasant, so he probably does not have a good opinion of Earth so far.)
    • Ask your child what book they are reading for their Read to Succeed homework. If he/she is reading a fiction book, ask questions about the story...who is the main character? What does this main character want? What's standing in the way of that character getting what he/she wants? What are your favorite parts so far? If they are reading a non-fiction book, ask what facts they have learned. Did any of the facts surprise them?
    • 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). I'm currently administering the Developmental Reading Assessment that requires reading aloud to me, and I then score the fluency I observed. Practicing with your child now could really prepare them for this assessment and will help make them a better reader overall.


    Last week Grade 4 students explored quadrilaterals. Here is a link to a video about quadrilaterals:

    In the coming week they look at lines of symmetry, and take the chapter test on geometry.

    Last week, Grade 5 students explored the volume of various three dimensional shapes. In the coming week they look at composite figures (three-dimensional figures made of individual cubes) to determine volume and take the chapter test on geometry.

    Here is a link to a video introducing how to find volume:


    Have your child try some of these online games to practice the math skills we learned before break:
    • Grade 4  - Lines of Symmetry

      • Grade 5: Volume of Composite Figures 

      Last week students made personal connections to a short story they chose, a connection that they may use as the basis for their literary essay. This is a complex task since the plots of the stories may not have an obvious connection to my students' lives. To find a connection they have to go deeper into the story to find a more universal theme.

      For example, the plot of the short story Spaghetti (posted in this blog two weeks ago) concerns a boy who saves a kitten he finds in the street. But the theme is about feeling needed and finding your place in the world. This is what a student might connect to when writing about this story--not about finding a cat!

      Second Semester Writing Prompt
      In the coming week AISB students will complete their second semester writing prompt. For this writing assessment, students receive a writing prompt, then have 45 minutes to write the first draft of a story based on this prompt.

      Each Grade 4 & 5 student's story will be scored by both me and Mrs. Aafke using the Six Traits Rubric. Their scores will be compared to their first semester writing prompt that they completed at the beginning of the year, giving us an indication of their writing progress over the year.

      Is your child a competent keyboarder? Here is a great online resource to learn and practice keyboarding:

      Fiction Stories
      I'll be featuring here some of the fiction stories written by our Grade 4/5 students. Here is the story written by Seyni:

      The Eerie Dream
      by Seyni Traore

      The brilliant golden sun glinted through Jake’s window. The aroma of omelets was flying into his nostrils. Birds tweeted which meant it would be a wonderful day, but not for Jake. Even though it seemed like an idyllic morning, Jake was in a creepy house. Jake yawned as loud as a charming cub. But when he opened his eyes he was completely awestruck! Dust and spiderwebs everywhere! It was as if he was in the palace of the spider king! It was freaky, and his instinct was to jump out of the window and never come back!

      He carefully got out of the bed, then gently walked backwards. Suddenly he slipped down the dusty, wooden stairs like a soccer ball that just got kicked by Lionel Messi. Boom, boom, bang! When he arrived at the bottom of the stairs he was mad as a wet hen. His face was red boiling hot as if he crossed the Sahara Desert in a second! Suddenly he saw his mom. “Mom, why do you let me sleep in this creepy house filled with ghosts,” asked Jake? 

      “Come on Jake, stop your frivolous stories, you’re ten,” snapped his mom! 

      Finally his mom told him that when they first went to see the house,  Jake had fallen asleep in the car and missed the whole tour. Jake was so mad he wanted to punish the house. “Now I’m in captivity with this huge, dusty house,” murmured Jake with anger while eating his breakfast. 

      He finally decided to explore the house. He opened a stinky, dusty door that led him to the living room. He stomped as loud as he could. Finally he stopped and stared at a creepy painting with a gold frame. The lady’s hair was gray as a witch and dust was on her clothes. He looked precisely at the lady’s eyes. He started to tremble as if there was an earthquake! Then he thought the lady in the painting was staring at him with evil eyes for insulting this wonderful house. Jake hurtled back upstairs to hide under the blanket for security. 

      Suddenly a yell came from downstairs. “Jake!” It was his father. Jake ran down as fast as he could to not be punished by his father. “Come on Jake! I told you five minutes ago if you finished your breakfast to come cut the grass. Don’t tell me you forgot cutting the grass,” said his dad. 

      Jake nodded and started cutting the grass, even though he could barely push the heavy lawnmower. The kids on the street were starting to looking at Jake. When he looked in a close up in the kids eye it looked like the kids eyes were laughing. To Jake it was as if he was giving a haircut to the grass! So he just swallowed his pride and continued. The burning hot sun sparkled on Jake’s back. When he finished he went back upstairs. Mean neighbor kids, a scary was an immense nightmare!

      A few minutes later he was exhausted so he went to take a nap. But his eyes couldn’t shut, as if his burning hot eyes were glued to the top. “Mama mia,” he told himself. He would rather jump in a volcano than stay in this haunted house. He told himself it’s a dream. So he closed his eyes and opened them again and there he was, still in the haunted house. That’s when he knew this wasn’t a dream.

      “It’s enough. I must start action,” Jake said to himself. He started thinking really hard to pop an idea, but nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing! It was as if each time he was thinking to get an idea a bacteria’s ate one of his cells. Finally a great gift popped to his head.

      Jake started scribbling on plenty of papers for sneaky plans. “No time to waste Jake, you must have plenty of plans to get out of this nightmare,” said the brain of Jake. But then he ignored who talked to him. “I think it’s you that can’t stop talking Jake. This night you couldn’t stop talking like you had diarrhea of the mouth,” replied the brain of Jake with anger. 

      He dashed back downstairs with only two steps to get the supplies he needed for his sneaky plan. Finally `he was done with his plan, which were making a fake ghost in his room. The ghost had enormous eyes like a cyclope! Jake added a little bit of  dirt so it would scare their parents. Jake said in a evil way, “He, he, he.” 

      “Mommy, daddy,” yelled Jake, pretended to cry like a newborn baby. Mom dashed up the stairs before saying a word. She ran at the speed of light. “What’s wrong Jake?” Jake precisely pointed at the fake ghost he made.

      He sneaked behind his mom and clicked a button which made the ghost move forward slowly. He added a scary ghost sound. His mom’s eyes were more huge than her belly! She was trembling so hard her bones seemed to rattle! Jake’s mom yelled like a microphone. When his dad heard that sound he freaked out. He ran as fast as a blink. He had never heard his wife scream. When he saw the ghost he jumped off the window which led him to the garden. Jake exclaimed, “I have an idea, Let’s go back to our old home before the ghost eats us. His dad agreed they would all move back home. His car went with an awesome speed and zipped off.  And they never came back to that house again.

      • Ask your child what personal connections they made to the short story they chose.
      • Read Seyni's story together. Ask your child how he makes the reader feel emotion in this story. How does he keep the reader interested? What are the challenges the main character faces, and how does he handle those?

        Last week we started our final science unit of the year, Human Growth and Development. This important unit focuses on the physical, emotional, and cognitive changes that occur in children as they grow. We began by exploring how personal hygiene and grooming helps us maintain a positive body image.

        In the coming week we look at ways of handling our emotions and expressing our emotions appropriately, explore the importance of strong family relationships, and determine how to maintain solid friendships.

        • Ask your child to explain some ways to maintain good grooming.


        Thu 14 May: AISB Annual General Meeting and Board Elections, 6:30 - 9:00PM
        Thu 14 May: Elementary assembly featuring PreK 2, 7:35 - 7:55AM
        Sat 16 May: PTO Garage Sale, MPR, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM
        Wed 20 May: All library books due
        Thu 21 May: Elementary assembly featuring Beg. French, 7:35 - 7:55AM
        Fri 22 May: Q4 after school activities end
        Mon 25 May: No school: Africa Day
        Thu 28 May: Very special whole school assembly, 7:30 (details to follow!)

        Thu 4 June: High School graduation ceremony, MPR, 6:00 PM
        Fri 5 June: Last day of school 
        Fri 5 June: final assembly 10:45 AM; students dismissed 11:45 AM

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