Saturday, May 2, 2015

News of the Week: 4 - 7 May 2015

There will be no school on Friday 8 May 2015. Instead, Parent-Student-Teacher conferences are scheduled throughout the day. 

Forms went home with your child last Thursday asking parents for preferred appointment times. On Monday afternoon we will schedule all appointments, giving preference to those who returned their forms. Families with more than one child at school will receive back-to-back appointments for their children.

These 20-minute conferences are a time to discuss your child's progress over the year. For part of this particular conference your student will take the lead, explaining the following:
  • one special project he/she is proud of
  • one assignment/activity from which he/she learned the most
  • reflection on his/her yearly goal
I will also provide the results from the recent Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) and Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA).

Because the meeting times are limited to 20 minutes, please arrive a few minutes early to make sure you have the complete amount of time for your session. See you Friday!


A heartfelt thanks to the Grade 4/5 families for the kindness you showed during Teacher Appreciation Day last Wednesday. I was overwhelmed with gifts and cards--this really means the world to me. Thank you also to the families who provided treats for the teacher brunch. I ate so much of that delicious food in the morning that I skipped lunch! I am very fortunate to be part of this AISB family.


On Tuesday 5 May, our class will be heading to Kangaba to celebrate completion of our malnutrition graphic novel. This event will also include the 19 Malian students who worked with us on the project, along with three of their teachers and two staff members from Mali Health. Mrs. Arn, our music teacher, will also join us along with a local musician friend of hers. They will help our AISB students debut an original song (in 3 languages!) about hand washing. We will also formally present the published graphic novels.

We will depart school at 7:45 AM and return before 2:30 PM. The day will include lunch (chicken, fries, bisop) and swimming. Students do not need to bring money unless they want to purchase additional beverages/snacks.

Some of our Malian friends may not have swimsuits or towels. So, if you have extra swimming attire (for boys or girls) and/or towels that you can donate, we would very much appreciate if you could send these to school Monday or Tuesday. 

Please make sure your child brings the following:
  • enough water for the day
  • swim suit
  • hat
  • towel
  • sunscreen
  • snack
  • extra swimsuit or towel to donate to our Malian partners

Optional item:
  • money to purchase additional beverages/snacks

I think this will be a great celebration to end a very important service learning project! If you would like to see the finished malnutrition graphic novels, follow these links:

Last week we completed our reading unit based on the novel Loser by Jerry Spinelli, and students participated in two assessments: a paper and pencil test and a performance task in which they planned and performed an improvisation of the final scene in the novel.

I was pleased that students recalled and used the new vocabulary words at a much higher rate this time around. I believe that the improvisation technique was effective for vocabulary learning. Students told me that because they performed the words, the words stayed in their brain! Of course they also said this technique was loads of fun.

These were the final new vocabulary words:

beeline (a direct route)
stern (extremely serious)
balmy (pleasantly warm)

I also feel that the planned improvisation technique led them to a deeper understanding of the novel, as evidenced by their written answers from the test. They identified multiple themes in the novel, and connected these to their own experiences and to other books. As they reflected on the improv performances of the book's final scene, they commented on how certain aspects of the performance, like facial expressions, dialogue, and blocking, "matched the theme" better than others. 

While their final performances weren't perfect, they absolutely showed evidence of complex thinking about the story. The planning part of this technique also allowed every student to take on the role of director, either planning the sequence of scenes or casting each role, responsibilities that promote leadership and collaboration.

Here are photos of the final vocabulary improvs:

Here are photos of the final planned improvisation by two different casts:

Next week we begin a new reading unit based on the science fiction novel The Forgotten Door, by Alexander Key. In addition to the novel, students will learn much about the SciFi genre through songs, TV clips, poems, and movie clips. We will also use a theatre technique called Story Dramatization--more about that next week.

  • Ask your child to explain how the novel "Loser" ended. What is the main theme? (Zinkoff is finally "noticed." Possible themes: Don't judge a book by its cover; Treat everyone with kindness; etc.)
  • Ask your child to describe the "Next" game that we use for the vocabulary words beeline, stern, and balmy. Can he/she explain one of the scenes performed this week? How does this game help your child remember the vocabulary words?
  • Ask your child to describe the final planned improvisations performed last week. Which cast did a better job with the football scene and why? What was the most challenging part of doing this planned improvisation? How did it help him/her understand the novel?
  • Ask your child to explain the vocabulary words above. How would they use these words in every day life?
  • 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 triangles, including categorizing by angles. In the coming week they also explore quadrilaterals. Here is a link to a video that introduces quadrilaterals:

Last week, Grade 5 students learned to calculate the volume of 3D figures. In the coming week students continue to explore the volume of various three dimensional shapes.

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


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 4 - Measuring Angles (Using a protractor)

    • Grade 5: Starship (identifying geometric shapes and terms)
    • Grade 5 - Shape Lab (identifying geometric shapes and terms):

    • Grade 5 - Alien Angles (estimating angles):

        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 literary essays, a type of writing that resolves around a theme in a book or story. Students chose a short story from a packet I provided, and used a number of techniques to read deeper into the story.

        The techniques include pausing at points in the story to visualize the scene, then to add to the narrative using your own thoughts and ideas. Another technique is analyzing the main characters to determine their motivations. The reflections created from these techniques will become the basis of their literary essay.

        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 Nil:

        by Nil Palacios

        That wonderful night, in which the magnificent lights of London were still on, brought awful news for everyone…

        Especially for Teo, who came trudging in the door after his workday. He was informed of the news by his son, Andrew. “So what did you read in the London news today? You know that I don't even have time to read the news,” asked Teo. 

        “Well daddy I don't have good news for us. The newspaper says that Germany took over Poland.” Teo grabbed the newspaper in a puzzled way. He was awestruck by the news. He rushed to the kitchen to Isabella - his wife - to tell her the serious problem. They lived approximately 1,400 miles away from Poland! Isabella was aghast. They went to bed thinking and thinking but finally slept.

        The bright sun shined at Teos’ face, It was Sunday so he wouldn't have to go at work. Gingerly, he woke up, He threw a yawn. He took up the newspaper and read along.

        Defend London!
        Poland is 1445.85 miles away from London. Yesterday,  September 1, 1939, Germany commanded by Adolf Hitler took over Poland. The president of Poland Wladyslaw Raczkiewicz asked for help. Of course, London will help! Churchill our president has a solution: if you are  between 18 to 40 you should go to the barracks at 10 PM today September 2.

        Teo nearly fainted. He read again the newspaper three or four times! That meant he would have to go to the war! What would he say to his family and to Andrew! A horrific movie appeared in his mind. Fire, fire, guns, death, pain..., it was just so frightful for him. He went back to his room and woke up Isabella.

        “What… haaammm...”

        “ I have a bad news for us,” Teo whispered.

        “What is it?” said Isabella, surprised.

        “Look.” He handle the newspaper to Isabella. She took it in a drowsy way. She started reading and her face got freakier and freakier, than she was astonished. “You will need to go to the war” she gasped. Slowly she started crying. Teo took her by his hand and hugged her. “How are we going to hide this from Andrew?” Teo thought a little and finally said, “I will go this morning without him.” But suddenly Andrew came in and said hello then went to the kitchen to get his breakfast.

        Isabella and Teo followed Andrew to the kitchen. “So what about now?” Mentioned Isabella to Teo. 

        “Well, I bet I will just tell him a white lie and go.” Teo got his breakfast, walked to his room, and opened his closet. Before he reached out to grab some clothes he went to the attic and looked at some of his pictures since he was a child. He almost cried. Then he went back to his closet and took one of his favorite outfits. He went down the stairs and said to Isabella, “it’s finally time to go.” He gave Isabella a big hug and he advanced to Andrew and said, " Look, I am just going on a trip.”

        “Where?” asked Andrew. “I’m going to...I’m going to Brazil for a business purpose ! Tatatra-tatatra-tatatra-tatatatra!”, he tried to dance the samba. Then he gave him an enormous, marvelous hug. “Huh… daddy I think that’s enough…”

        “Okay… I’m not going for a long time”

        “Yea, good bye dad. I hope you’ll be with us soon”. He waved his hand and,wistfully , walk to the bus that launched to the barracks. He met other frustrated and heartbroken men in the bus going to the same place. A man came over to Teo and said, “Hi, my name is Alexander.” Teo was impressed because the heavy silent was suddenly broken as an electricity shock. So, he also introduced himself. “Hi, my name is Teo.”

        “Going to the war, right?”

        “You know it.”

        “Which group are you in?” Suddenly, he remembered that in the newspaper he saw a paper that mentioned which group he was in. He reached into his pocket with his hand and took out a paper that was totally wrinkled. “In group C.”

        “Me too!” Then they started talking till the moment the bus stopped in front on the barracks, a kind of little cabins made of wood. The groups were painted in big letters: A, B, C… Teo and Alexander went together to the barrack C. Several men were in an enormous queue waiting to enter. Once inside, a gigantic man with a gun said, “I’m your commander. Please, sign your paper and follow me” Teo looked at the paper he had, in which two boxes where drawn, one showing at the top Defense and the other showing Attack. Teo knew that “defense” would be less dangerous than “attack” and when he was about to sign, the commander said, “Sorry, there are already too many men on that, you have to sign on the attack box. The same for your mate”, he was referring to Alexander. 

        They followed the commander to a shelter where other men were. It was somber inside. The Commander said “Uniforms here” and they change in a military clothes. A sergeant, that was walking back and forth, said,” today may be your first day of touching a gun. Today could be your most horrifying day. It could even be your last day. Okay! I want everyone who knows how to use a gun to the left”. About 30 soldiers went to the left. Then he said,”if you don’t know how to use a gun go to the right.” Alexander and Teo went to the right with about 60 other soldier. They all went to the practice room to learn shooting for one day. At the end of the day, they were so tired and excited. The war for them had started!

        Teo went to a plane the day after with 20 other men. Alexander wasn’t there. The plane slowly took off, and it was somber. After a one hour flight the commander said, “Teo, you will shoot at the enemy from the plane while the other will jump off to Poland ”

        Teo was afraid, he never shot a gun before. He observed the city and started shooting! The others had already jumped of the plane. 

        “OUOUOUOUOUOUOUOU!” The alarm busted and he looked at the red alarm. It said: Fire. He was going down and it turned, turned, and turned. He saw a button that said: EJECT. He clicked it and found himself in the air slowly going down. He saw a base. There were planes, so he could maybe escape with the plane. He saw two soldiers. He slowly tried to come near them and shoot. BAM! BAM! OUOUOUOUOUOUOUOU! The alarm of the base shouted. He dashed, got a plane, and took off.

        Then the time stopped. It was all dark, I could only see dark. Then white and some people all around me. i could see in a flashy way. Then I saw someone familiar it has blond hair it was Andrew. After an hour his vision got better. A doctor came over and said “hi right now you are in the hospital because you crashed .Isabella started crying. “Why are you crying mom?” Asked Andrew,

        “He actually went to the war!”

        Andrew was shocked. He started asking zillions of question to Teo. But here again all the lights of London were still on.

        • Ask your child about the short story they read from the packet I gave the students. How did they "read inside the story?" Which part of the story did they visualize and write about? What did they decide about the main character?
        • Read Nil'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 completed our science unit on light and sound. Students participated in a Sound Lab, rotating throughout the room to engage in five sound-related activities. Students also completed the second quiz--you can see their quiz in their science notebook. Here are some photos from the Sound Lab:

          • Ask your child to explain the activities in the Sound Lab pictured above. What are some of the things they discovered about sound? (e.g. sound travels better through an object) 
          • How did your child do on the final science quiz? 
          • What are some of the concepts he/she learned from this unit on light and sound? 


          In the coming week we begin the 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. It includes instruction about the different stages of physical growth and development, information about reproduction, strategies for interpersonal skills, and guidelines for healthy behavior. Boys and girls will be separated and instructed by gender for some of these lessons, with a female teacher instructing the girls' group.


          The last AISB Book Fair for this year will be on Parent-Student-Teacher Conferences Day, Friday 8 May. The stands will be set up in the main hall. The fair will run from 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM. It is a great opportunity to purchase brand new and used books of all reading levels at a very low cost. Don’t miss the chance to offer your child/children and yourselves exciting books for the summer reading. We look forward to seeing you all.

          COMING SOON

          Mon 4 May: Q4 Progress Reports sent home for selected students
          Tue 5 May: Grade 4/5 Kangaba trip to celebrate our service learning project
          Thu 7 May: AISB Board meeting (all are invited) 5:30 PM
          Thu 14 May: AISB General Meeting
          Thu 14 May: Elementary assembly featuring PreK 2, 7:35 - 7:55am
          Fri 8 May: No school: Parent-Teacher-Student conferences
          Fri 8 May: Arts Show & Book Fair (all day)
          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: 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

          No comments:

          Post a Comment