Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wrapping up 2016!

Hello 4th and 5th grade families,

It has been a very busy last few weeks with the Winter Show and all of the pre-holiday energy! Below, you can read a bit about what we've been up to in 4/5.   I apologize for the lack of pictures. I'll put "take more student pictures" at the top of my resolutions list.
Happy holidays and a wonderful start to the new year!
Ms. Fezekas

Reading:  We've been focusing on figurative language for the last few weeks; recognizing it, using it, and manipulating it.  Students have illustrated an idiom and created a "flip book" reviewing the concepts.  Concepts from the poetry and figurative language units that the students have mastered include:  alliteration, assonance, meter, rhyme scheme, onomatopoeia, repetition, allusion, simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, and idioms. Coming up during the last few weeks of the quarter, we will be exploring different current events articles and reviewing how to summarize and identify cause and effect in non-fiction texts.

Writing:  Students have been hard at work writing poetry and choosing one of their free writing pieces to take through the writing process.  With such a small class size, students are able to benefit from frequent conferences with a teacher or peer.  By the end of the quarter, students will have published two original poems and one other writing piece of their choosing.
4th Grade:  The fourth graders have learned and practiced multi-digit multiplication as well as long division.  Students have had ample practice decomposing numbers, using place value charts, and drawing arrays and rectangles to help break down division.  These strategies have been useful to show them why the algorithms work.

Ex:  96 divided by 4 can be thought of as 8 tens and 16 ones, both of which are divisible by four. That way, students can divide the tens and the ones mentally to arrive at the answer, 24.  

IXLs on these concepts:  D13, D14, D17-24, E4-14

5th Grade:  To wrap up their numbers and operations unit which included all four operations of whole numbers and decimals, the fifth graders have created their own menus and questions to go along with them.  The sixth graders will be completing the activity that each student has designed and providing them with feedback. 

IXLs on these concepts:  I5, I6, J1 - 4

Social Studies:  We are nearing the end of the Social Studies unit on Life and Change in Bamako. We have gathered information from several primary and secondary sources and, upon returning from the holiday break, students will be taking on a role and deciding whether quality of life is improving or declining for a person in that role.  Students will be synthesizing the information we've discovered and making an argument.  The final presentation will use Google Slides; I'm looking forward to what the students come up with!

Upcoming Dates

December 17th: Break begins
January 4th:  First day back
January 20th:  Last day of Q2
January 26th:  Report cards sent home

Friday, November 18, 2016

Q2 update!

Hello Fourth and Fifth Grade Families!

We are already three weeks into quarter two and only a few weeks away from December Break! We've been busy working hard on our new units.  Here's a snapshot of what we've been up to.

Ms. Fezekas

Caring Month:  November was AISB Elementary's first character trait month.  We focused on the trait of being caring.  We celebrated acts of caring by giving out "caring bracelets" made of yellow ribbon.  Students received bracelets for helping each other with problems, being kind to the younger students, and helping to clean up the environment.  It was nice to see the kids acknowledge each other in this way.  We will continue this until the end of the month.  Next up in December: Open-mindedness!

Reading:  We have begun this quarter with a focus on poetry.  As a class, we've read two books by Sharon Creech: Love that Dog and Hate that Cat.  Both of these short stories share a narrator: a boy named Jack who doesn't like or understand poetry.  Throughout the books, Jack discusses poems by famous poets such as Robert Frost, Edgar Allen Poe, and Alfred Lord Tennyson and learns about poetic devices such as alliteration, assonance, meter, simile, and metaphor.  Ask your child what they've learned from these books and how Jack's character developed!  We will be continuing with poetry and figurative language for two more weeks.

Writing:  Linking with reading, the students have been trying their hand at different types of poetry. So far, we have tried "found poems," "diamante poems," and an "If I were in Charge of the World" poem.  Students will have an opportunity to write several poems in a style of their choosing with the intent to publish a few.  Additionally, students have had time to choose their genres and topics and all are currently immersed in a piece.  Ask your child what they've been writing!

Grade 4:  The fourth grade students have reviewed area and perimeter concepts.  Students discovered not only how to find the area and perimeter, but how to solve for the unknown dimension, how to find the new area or perimeter when the object is doubled or tripled in length or width, and how to find both dimensions when only given the area and perimeter.  Students applied these skills in several word problems as well.  Area helped lead us into our current unit of multi-digit multipication.

IXLs for these skills: BB1, 2, 3, and 7, D8, 24, and 11.

Grade 5: The fifth grade students finished a unit on whole number and decimal multipication and used these new skills to convert measurements of various units.

IXLs for these skills: C15, C18, I3, 4, and 9, Z11 and 19.

Social Studies:  After we shared our Quiz Boards with the third graders (see pictures below), we began our first Social Studies unit of the year: Change and Life in the City.  We've looked at photos of major world cities and how they've changed over time.  We developed questions to ask a primary source about how Bamako has changed physically, environmentally, socially, economically, and technologically.  All students conducted an interview with someone who has lived in Bamako for a long time to get first-hand information about how the city has changed.  We also visited the hydro-electric dam in Sotuba to discover how it affects the city in a variety of ways.  Students took photos that I will share on here soon!

Upcoming Dates

November 25th - No school, Thanksgiving Holiday
December 9th - Winter Show, 1:30
December 12th - No School, Public Holiday
December 17th to January 3rd - December Break

One of two turbines spinning at the Barrage de Sotuba!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Wrapping up the Quarter

Hello 4th and 5th grade families!

In the last few weeks, students have been working hard to bring quarter projects to a close.  They will have a lot of things to share with you at conferences in just a few weeks!

Partners with you,
Ms. Fezekas

Reading:  We have finished our classroom novel, Rules.  It helped provide several meaningful discussions about empathy, differences, and the importance of being yourself.  Students have practiced identifying the mood of scenes through the author's choice of words, creating plot diagrams of various conflicts, and paraphrasing and identifying significants of quotes from the text. During the final week of the quarter, students will be assessed on these skills.  As a class, we'll do a final analysis of two characters by creating "body biographies" using life-size representations of Catherine and her brother, David.  Students are also deep into their small group novel, where they are each getting practice with skills tailored to their individual needs.

Writing:  Students have worked hard to complete the first drafts of their informational writing piece. We have focused on writing strong leads, adding transition words, finding places in our writing where we could improve our word choice, and ending with a memorable life lesson or big idea.  This week, students will self-edit, peer-edit, and finalize their drafts.  These essays will be turned into a class anthology to be added to our classroom library.

Math:  In both grades, we continue to focus on numbers and operations.  Students have had their first process performance where they explain and justify their mathematical thinking in pictures, words, and symbols.  Students focus on the four math processes of problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication and representation, and connections.  Students have also had several opportunities to explore mathematics through games and hands-on activities.  Ask your child which games and activities they've enjoyed!

I recommend that all students practice their multiplication and division facts from 0 - 10 until they reach mastery to help reduce frustration as we progress into advanced work in these operations.   

Grade 4:  Students completed a unit on place value, addition, and subtraction.  This week, they will finish a short unit on measurement that directly relates to the previously learned topics.

Example questions:
  • One suitcase weighs 23 kilograms 696 grams. Another suitcase weighs 25 kilograms 528 grams. What is the total weight of the two suitcases?
  • 27, 545 milliliters of gas were added to a car’s empty gas tank. If the gas tank’s capacity is 56 liters 202 milliliters, how much gas is needed to fill the tank? 
Grade 5:  Students have finished an introductory unit on place value and addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of decimals.  Currently, students are beginning work on multi-digit multiplication.

Example questions:
  • Explain how knowing 50 x 4 = 200 helps you find 500 x 400.
  • Amina is helping her father to build a rectangular garden that measures 12 m by 19 m. Find the area of the garden using a mental strategy.
  • Guy claims that (14 + 12) x (8 + 12) and (14 x 12) + (8 x 12) are equivalent because they have the same digits and the same operations.  Is he correct? Explain your thinking.
Science:  This quarter, students have learned about static and current electricity, open and closed circuits, electromagnets, and single and double switches.  As a final project, students are creating electrical circuit, light up quiz boards and writing formal lab reports that detail their scientific process.  Pictures to come!

Upcoming Important Dates

October 24th- 28th School holiday
November 4th  Parent-teacher Conferences

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The First Few Weeks of September

Hello 4th and 5th grade families!

Below, you can find a brief summary of what we've been up to lately in the 4/5 classroom.  Aside from the core subjects you'll read about, we've also had our first two sessions with our kindergarten reading buddies!  Students look forward to working with their buddies; reading to them, helping them with letter sounds and sounding out words, and listening to them read.  It's great to see.  Enjoy some photos at the end of this post.  

Reading:  As we continue our whole group novel, Rules, students have been focusing on finding particular text evidence where the main character is acting empathetically. They've been practicing the skills of paraphrasing and determining importance. They've used their examples to write a paragraph that proposes and supports their view of the character. One of the other characters is unable to speak and needs to point to words in his communication book in order to express himself. Students have reflected on word cards they'd want to have in order to express themselves if they couldn't speak or write easily. Students have also completed the first DRA of the year to assess their reading level. We will do DRAs again in May, charting their progress.  

Writing:  Students have finished the research portion for their essay and this upcoming week we will be focusing on creating a simple timeline, writing a thesis for their essay, and flash-drafting. We will then take our drafts through many revisions, focusing on the traits of good writing. Additionally, students have completed the first writing sample of the year to assess their proficiency in various traits. 


Grade 4:  Students have been practicing rounding to different place values and using rounding to make reasonable estimates.  Students have practiced addition of numbers up to the millions and showing their work using diagrams, place value blocks, and the standard algorithm. Students have also been exposed to multi-step problem solving. This is a skill that is new for many students. I encourage all fourth grade students to create and discuss these types of problems at home, to help them get used to slowing down during problem solving and completing all necessary steps. Here is an example:

Raffle tickets were sold for a school fundraiser to teachers, parents, and students.  563 tickets were sold to teachers.  888 more tickets were sold to parents than teachers.  107 more tickets were sold to students than to parents and teachers combined.  How many total tickets were sold?  

Grade 5:  Students have been practicing rounding decimals to various place values and using rounding to make reasonable estimates. Students have practiced addition and subtraction of decimal numbers using place value disks and the standard algorithm.  Rounding and estimating is especially important when working with decimals in order for students to check their answers for reasonableness.  

Science:  We've continued learning about electricity through creating electromagnets using iron bolts, copper wire, and batteries. Students discovered ways to increase the strength of their magnets through increasing the coil in the wire and ensuring that the coil is going in the same direction so that the electrons move freely in one direction. Students have also made electroscopes which we'll be testing soon to determine which materials are insulators and which are conductors.  

Important Upcoming Dates

September 21st:  Progress Reports go home
September 22nd:  Malian Independence Day, No School
September 27th, 29th, 30th:  Grade 4/5 MAP testing days

Sunday, September 4, 2016

News from the First few Weeks

Hello Grades 4 and 5 families!

It's hard to believe that we've already been in school for three weeks.  Since the last post, we've really begun to dig into the curriculum for the year.  Here you'll find an overview of what we've been learning.  Also, I've added the syllabus to the top left of this blog, along with a list of alternatives to traditional homework.  

Reading:  We began a new class novel called Rules by Cynthia Lord.  It is told from the perspective of a 12-year old girl whose brother, David, has autism.  We did some pre-reading activities where the kids learned about autism and occupational therapy.  The objectives for this unit are for students to be able to propose and support the ways Catherine changes and to compare and contrast David's view of the world to that of other people.  Students are really enjoying the book and the wonderful discussions it sparks. Ask your child to tell you about the book so far and what they've learned about autism.  Along with this whole-group novel, students meet individually with the teacher at least once each week to conference about their individual book. 

Writing:  This quarter we will be focusing on non-fiction, informational writing.  Each student has chosen a person to research who overcame a great obstacle in their life.  Students have chosen people such as Stephen Hawking, Helen Keller, and Malala Yousafzai.  We will be using print sources such as books and articles as well as internet research to gather our information.  This week students will be learning some helpful tips for doing effective internet searches.  Some research websites can be found on the left side-bar of this blog.  Ask your child who they are researching and what they've learned about them so far!

Each quarter we will be publishing a piece of writing using Google docs. I encourage students to practice typing using their student account on to help improve their typing speed and accuracy.

This week we will also begin word work.  Students will be working with specific spelling patterns or prefixes/suffixes to improve their spelling and vocabulary development.

Math:  Each day, students learn or review a new concept for their grade level with the teacher and work on fluency, problem solving, and skill practice.  Currently, both grade levels are working on place value concepts. 

Grade 4:  Fourth grade students have learned how our base-ten number system works, how to represent numbers in standard form, word form, and expanded form for numbers up to 7-digits, and how to compare and order numbers.  Students can practice the following IXL skills to review these particular concepts:  A1, A2, A3, and A9.  Here's a video to review place value:   

Grade 5:  Fifth graders have also been reviewing place value concepts by focusing on decimals up to the thousandths.  The students have examined multiplication and division patterns of 10, 100, 1,000, etc. as well as exponents and powers of ten.  IXL skills that review these concepts are G1, G3, G4, G5 and G14.  Here is a video to review decimal place value:

Science:  To begin our unit on electricity, students have been exploring static electricity.  Through many different experiments, students have learned that static electricity happens when a material becomes charged through the transfer of electrons.  Ask your child to tell you about what they've learned!  Enjoy some pictures of our experiments.

And, last but not least, here are some pictures of the skit students performed during the elementary assembly.  The kids did a great job and the audience had fun and even learned a bit about the importance of complete sentences!  I think we have some future actors and actresses in this bunch!  

Upcoming Dates:

September 6th:  Whole-school Writing Sample
September 12th and 13th:  Tabaski holiday, no school

Monday, August 22, 2016

Welcome to the 2016-2017 School year!

Welcome Grade 4 and 5 Families!

We have had a busy first week of school and I'd like to fill you in on what we've been up to!  We have been spending lots of time getting to know each other and solidifying routines and expectations for the year.  The students have explored how they think about their thinking, how to have effective discussions and show that you are listening, and the idea of "perfection" and how mistakes help us learn and prove that we are human!

This upcoming week we will really dive into the core subjects.  We are beginning with place value and our base-ten number system in math, learning about electricity in science, and reviewing the traits of good writing during writing time.  For reading, we will be having our first Socratic Seminar discussing the book "Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Day" by Stephen Manes which we read the first week of school.  We will start a new novel next week titled "Rules" by Cynthia Lord.

Future posts will be longer and have more specific details (and hopefully more pictures!).   For now, enjoy photos of some of the work we've been doing.

Some upcoming dates to be aware of:

September 1st:   Assembly hosted by 4/5, 7:30am
September 1st:  Back-to-School Night
September 3rd:  Back-to-School Barbecue

Sunday, June 12, 2016