Friday, November 27, 2015

November 16th - 27th, 2015

Classroom News, November 16th - 27th

Dear 4th and 5th Grade Students and Families,

Here's a bit about what we've been up to.  Please ensure your child is successfully completing their homework each night and is studying their math facts.  Let's try to delay "vacation mode" until the break begins!

Reading:  We have been investigating the author's message and continuing with the QAR strategy with a couple of texts.  Last week, the students worked through Rudyard Kipling's The Elephant's Child, analyzing his use of repetition, onomatopoeia, and alliteration.  They practiced various reading skills and did a proposition and support write-up proving what they believe was Kipling's message.  This week, we read Eve Bunting's How Many Days to America and the students attempted to generate all four levels of questions to focus on the important parts of the text.  This book is about refugees fleeing their homeland on a dangerous journey to the US and it leads us right into what's up next:  reading and analyzing poems written by refugees.

Writing:  The students have been gathering ideas for their personal essays.  They've been using prompts to push their thinking with partners and by themselves.  They've been determined to generate meaningful topics that teach the reader something unique about themselves and/or the world.  We will be developing our first thesis statements on Monday and taking our essays through the writing process.

Math:  We have taken a break from numbers and operation to focus on probability and data.  We did a number of experiments determining likely and unlikely results and various combinations.  The students made their own spinners and discovered patterns for determining the number of possible outcomes.  This week we have learned line plots and stem-and-leaf plots and the students have been creating their own survey questions and conducting research to yield numerical data.  They've been using this data to practice creating and interpreting these types of graphs.  Next up is mean, median, mode, and range.

Science:  The students are nearly done with their google slide presentations and body diagrams and will be presenting to the class on Monday.  Students have been focusing on making sure they use their own words and use quick notes or bullets rather than paragraphs in their presentation.

Mali Health Project:  We have made some headway on the comic!  The text has been transferred to the digital comic and the kids have been hard at work during art trying to finish the illustrations.  We aim to be finished by Christmas vacation.

Upcoming Important Dates:

December 16th:  AISB's Winter Show
December 17th - January 4th:  No School
January 5th:  School Resumes

Friday, November 13, 2015

November 2nd - 13th

Classroom News, November 2nd- 13th

Hello 4th and 5th Grade Families!

Thank you very much for attending conferences.  It was great to meet those of you I hadn't yet had the chance to meet and it was wonderful to get a chance to discuss your child's progress and how we can work together.

Reading:  We continue to focus on theme and proposition and support.  Lately in reading, we have been focusing on working through short yet powerful stories in a variety of genres.

We have read "All Summer in a Day" by Ray Bradbury, a science fiction story. The students found important quotes from the story and searched for the deeper meaning in them. Through this activity, students were able to locate evidence for why the antagonist of the story acted as he did.  We also looked closely at Bradbury's use of metaphor and came up with a few metaphors of our own.
The second thing we read was "The Fly", a play about a famous Vietnamese legend.   We had a couple of great socratic seminars about the stories and what they teach us about life.  The students discussed big ideas such as why people bully others, why bystanders often don't stop it, and why stories about the poor or powerless outsmarting the rich and powerful are so popular in many cultures.  We also began literature circles.  Students are meeting in small groups to discuss a common story on their level.

Writing:  We have recently begun a new unit: personal and persuasive essays.  Students have learned the basic structure of an essay (thesis statement, reasons, evidence) and practiced "flash drafting" a simple essay to get used to the format.  They have started to collect ideas for their personal essays. The focus is on big ideas rather than stories and one strategy is to think about a person who matters to you and list big ideas about that person.  The more ideas that the students generate, the more likely they are to find an excellent topic for their final piece before we move on to persuasive writing.

Math:  In 4th grade, students began to explore two-digit multiplication and in 5th grade, students worked with two-digit divisors in long division.  The students have also been engaged in daily mathematical discussions explaining their reasoning when doing various mental math problems. Students are learning from each other and expressing their thinking in new and exciting ways.  Next week we will be taking a break from numbers and operations to learn about probability, data, and graphing.

Please ensure that your child is practicing his or her math facts at home each night.  All operations need review for most students (multiplication, division, as well as addition and subtraction)!  Making and practicing flash cards is a simple and effective way to have them study.

Science: The students are working in groups to research a particular system in the human body.  They are making a life-size, labelled diagram.  They are also collecting notes on the parts, how the parts work together to perform various functions, how to keep the system healthy, and problems that can happen in the system.  I am encouraging students to research at home whenever possible.

Mali Health Project:  We continue to work on our graphic novel, slowly but surely!

Upcoming Dates:

November 26th - No school
December 16th - Winter Show
December 17th - January 4th - No School

Sunday, November 1, 2015

October 19th - October 30th

News of the Week:  October 19th - 30th, 2015

Hello 4th and 5th grade families!

We have had a very busy last week and a half!  Read below to learn what we've been up to. You can find some photos from our field trip at the end of this post.

Mali Health Project:  This past Monday we had the opportunity to visit the Mali Health office to learn about Ebola from a local doctor.  There, we met the 20 students that will work on the project with us.  We also visited a Malian school and AISB students were able to take a peek into what life is like for the majority of children in the city. This is very important because our graphic novel will be designed and written with them as our intended audience.  We will be keeping them in mind as we create the novel to make sure that it is something that they can relate to.  This past Friday, the same 20 students, a couple of their teachers, and a few Mali Health employees joined us to work on story boarding and taking the photos that we will soon turn into illustrations.  Communication was difficult at first but the students were able to break through barriers and complete the task at hand.  It was quite impressive!  Tendresse said it best when she said, "It was weird.  Usually things don't work like that.  It started off hard but actually ended up good!" We will see these new friends in about a month's time during our celebration once the novel is complete.

Reading:  Rather than beginning another whole group novel, we will be reading high-quality children's books and short stories to help us practice various reading skills.  We have recently read Eve Bunting's Fly Away Home and Sherry Garland's The Lotus Seed to practice the QAR strategy; QAR stands for Question-Answer-Relationship.  It is used to help students identify different levels of questioning and where we can find the answers to our questions (in one place in the text, in many places, with clues from the author, through our own connections).  We have also practiced the strategy of drawing conclusions; combining many inferences to come to a final conclusion about a text.  This worked especially well with the short, suspenseful story we read titled The Landlady by Roald Dahl. Students interacted with the text and compiled their inferences. Students are creating a well-planned paragraph that proposes and supports what they believe will be the main character's fate.

Writing:  As students are working on typing up their final drafts (it is taking much longer than anticipated!) we are using our work in reading to practice for our next writing unit.  We are using "proposition and support" language to make a strong statement and support it with details/evidence from the text.  This quarter's writing unit is on personal and persuasive essays.  We have also recently begun a daily, 5-minute "drop everything and write!" activity.  Students write to a different prompt each day and practice expressing their ideas quickly, clearly, and confidently.  So far, they love it.

Math:  The fourth graders have been hard at work on multiplication strategies.  They have worked with finding factors and multiples of a given number as well as discovering patterns for multiplying across various place values.  Students reviewed rounding and estimating and used place value patterns to find the product mentally.  The fifth graders have been focusing on long division.  We looked at the distributive property of division as well as partial products.  Students are eager to attempt more difficult problems.  I often hear, "can we try to divide a number in the millions?" Getting a strong foundation in dividing with a one-digit divisor will be very important for what's coming next: two-digit divisors!

Science: We took a slight detour from learning about different systems to focus on Ebola for our Mali Health project.  Students took notes on various videos and read a variety of articles that taught about Ebola's history, symptoms, how to protect yourself, and the different pathways scientists are researching in hopes to find a cure and a vaccine.  The high school Science teacher, Sarah Laupidus, was working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone when the most recent outbreak hit.  She came in to speak with our class and share her experience.  The students were able to conduct an interview with a first-hand source!

Regular science lessons will recommence in the upcoming week.

Upcoming Dates:

November 6th:  Parent-Teacher Conferences
November 26th:  Thanksgiving, No School