Friday, February 24, 2017

Q3 Update

Hello 4th and 5th Grade Families,

It's hard to believe we're already half way through third quarter!  The end of the school year always sneaks up on you.  We've been hard at work here in the 4/5 classroom. Here's a look into what we've been learning and some suggestions to inspire discussion about this learning at home.

Reading:  Students continue to work in small groups reading novels that share similar themes.  Your child is either reading The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Patterson, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, or Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis.  The central character in each story is either an orphan or a foster child searching for a sense of home.  Racism and racial bias also play a large role in each novel.  Ask your child to recount the story to you and discuss the characters and their experiences! As a class, we have explored racial bias and read articles and short stories that help us understand the causes and impacts of it both in the past and today.  We will be coming together as a class to discuss these and many other big ideas as we finish the novels.

Writing:  This quarter, we have been focusing on persuasion.  All writing is persuasive, but the specific persuasive genre focuses on writing with the primary purpose of convincing someone of your point of view.  Students have explored common persuasive techniques such as (logos - facts and figures, pathos - appealing to people's emotions, and ethos - appearing fair, trustworthy, and credible). We've looked at advertisements to identify and evaluate these techniques.  Currently, the students are writing persuasive letters to an audience of their choosing to persuade action on the plastic pollution problem here in Bamako.  We've researched together and the students are getting valuable practice writing using these persuasive techniques. Starting next week, students will choose a personally inspiring topic for their persuasive essay during the last few weeks of the quarter.  We continue to have time to work as well on phonics, etymology, and free writing.

Math: Both grade levels have been focusing on fractions.

Grade 4:  The fourth graders have been doing several things with fractions and I try to emphasize conceptualizing fractions throughout the unit.  So far students have been introduced to equivalent fractions, comparing and ordering fractions, improper fractions and mixed numbers, and adding and subtracting fractions when the denominators are the same.

Optional IXLs on topics we've covered:  Any P or Q!

Some big ideas are:

  • Fractions are numbers that are smaller than one.
  • Fractions have equal parts. 
  • The numerator and denominator help us represent how many parts are in one whole and how many of those parts are included in the fraction itself.
  • Often you can compare fractions by using benchmarks such as 0, 1/2, and 1
  • Flexibility with fractions is very important.  Manipulating fractions helps us to simplify, compare, add, and subtract them.  
  • When you need to manipulate, or rename, a fraction you must change the denominator and numerator in exactly the same way, otherwise you have made a different fraction (one with a different size and value).  

Fractions are a key part to pre-algebra.  The more your child can talk about and explain fractions and operations with fractions, the more success they will have as they move onto more complex math in the coming years.  Help your child see fractions in their every day life and encourage exploration and discussion of the beauty of math.

Grade 5:  The fifth graders have been extending concepts they learned last year such as comparing, ordering, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing fractions, as well as the big ideas mentioned above.   Flexibility with numbers (fractions, decimals, and integers) is a key focus and helps students ready for algebra.  One example of this is when students "rename" fractions.  Both from mixed number to improper as well as to allow for "borrowing" during subtraction.

Ex.  6 1/3 - 4 2/3.  Since you cannot take 2/3 from 1/3, you can manipulate 6 1/3 to become 5 4/3! Then you can now subtract 5 4/3 - 4 2/3 to arrive at the answer, 1 2/3.  Alternatively, you can use a number line split into thirds or draw a visual representation.  Ask your child how they would answer this one.

Suggested activity:  Find a recipe that uses fractions and work with your child to halve it, double it, or change it in another way.  

Optional IXLs on topics we have covered:  Any K, L, M, or N!  

Science:  Ms. Yaa has been teaching the students about energy, particularly light and sound energy. Among other things, students have explored how sound can actually cause movement, how different materials create different frequencies, made periscopes to explore reflection and refraction, found rainbows in prisms, and discovered why the sky is blue!  Next up, we will be exploring renewable and non-renewable energy sources and students will be designing a "Green City".

Upcoming Important Dates

End of Q3, Francophonie Assembly:  March 24th
Spring Break:  March 25th to April 2nd
Q3 Report Cards:  April 6th

The fourth and fifth graders continue to build a relationship with their kindergarten buddy, 
showing that everyone is both a teacher and a student.   

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