Thursday, March 31, 2005

Quick post today

As usual, I have to learn early on Thursdays for my piano lesson. We had a great day today -- the DVD is pretty amazing of their storytelling -- and I look forward to a wonderful field trip tomorrow.

Homework: (1) Do the study questions over the "Money, Money" story. (2) READ page 326 in the math book carefully. Do problems 2 to 22 on page 327.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


I'm cleaning up the room and sorting out a bunch of stuff. Yes, still trying to get caught up with the grading! But as I'm doing this I have a DVD on of three short films about Martha Graham. And I was just struck, and almost as if I had been really whacked on the head, when Graham said, "Everyone is born with genius. The tragedy is that so many hold on to it for such a brief time." She continued to say that we lose our genius because we are not willing to be disciplined, to focus and concentrate and develop our talents.

I'm so discouraged as the GATE coordinator at this school by our endless obsession with separating the sheep from the goats, discerning who are really "gifted" from those who are not. Instead, I wish we would approach all our children as gifted, though perhaps gifted in different ways, and challenge them to hold onto their "genius" and to develop it with hard work and passion. What a better school, what a better world we would have if we did so.

Homework: CAREFULLY and THOUGHTFULLY do page 325 in the math book. Try to really understand what remainders are and what they mean, not just get the procedure for dividing with remainders.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Our class in the library. Notice how quiet everybody is!
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Back from Break

It was nice to be back and see so many wonderful happy faces. Since I spent most of my break cutting back overgrown foliage in my backyard (all this rain has caused more growth than steroids!) I was happy to see everybody.

We're starting the Money Unit in Open Court. It's a bit abstract at first, but students come to really enjoy this look at what money is and what role it plays in our lives. I encourage the children to bring in coins and bills from other countries (small denominations are obviously best) to decorate the Concept/Question board. If you can loan us some bills, be sure you somehow put your name on it so we can get them back to the right person. I forgot to do this last year, and we were VERY confused six weeks later about who brought in what.

In math we are beginning the division unit. If students have really learned the multiplication tables, then this unit is a breeze. If not....

Homework: (1) Write a letter to a friend or family member telling about your Spring Break. You can make it more interesting than it really was! Be sure to use the proper return address, date, salutation, and conclusion. Indent as appropriate. Skip lines, please to make editing easier. (2) Division worksheet -- this one is not due until Wednesday.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Sliding in Towards Home Base

Well, with our field trip tomorrow, our vacation feels like it's just beginning already!

We finished the Open Court Assessment today. Students overall seemed to do quite well. Grades will be posted soon on the gradebook. I know that I have a BIG backlog of grading to put up, but I'll get it done over Spring Break. Don't worry, though. If there was a big problem with your child's work I'd have contacted you already.

We finished the last of the storytelling projects. Most students did quite well indeed for being third graders and trying this for the first time. I will be editing the video and burning it to a DVD for Open House. Some of the students have indicated they'd like to have a personal copy of the disk, and I think that can be arranged....

We still finishing the math test. We'll correct it tomorrow.

Homework: Finish the final draft of the writing component of the Open Court unit assessment. Also, be sure to get permission slips signed and returned. Remember, they need to be signed BOTH at the top and at the bottom.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

One of the bas relief paper weights. Our next steps will be to color them with permanent marker and apply a finishing coat.
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Field Trip

We continued our wrap up of the Open Court Storytelling unit today. Students took and corrected the Comprehension, Vocabulary, and Spelling sections of the Unit 4 test. They overall did fairly well, particularly because it is a very challenging unit test. Tomorrow they will take the Checking Skills section. Our storytellers are continuing to do a good job, and I look forward to editing the video next week and burning it to DVD so that we can watch it at Open House.

Today we also did a great job at PE, and managed -- somehow -- to get all that math corrected. Tomorrow is also the test over multi-digit multiplication standards. I suspect it will go well.

Friday we will reward all this hard work with a walking trip to Pan Pacific Park to play softball and other games and have a picnic. It's a "PE field trip." If any parents would like to accompany us, or would like to drive equipment or lunches to the park, please let me or Mrs Caruso know right away. As always my emails are:, johndavidbassett@comcast. net, or I cannot get my gmail at school, however, so it's best to use one of the other two if it is urgent.

Homework: Nothing specific for the evening. However, make sure you know the quotation mark rules and the difference between an adjective and an adverb for the Checking Skills subtest tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Bas Relief

Today we continued our culmination of the Storytelling theme in Open Court. Five more students shared stories today. Since many of the students who shared today tend to be quiet and shy I was particularly struck by how much courage it took to get up in front of everybody and tell and story with expression and feeling. We started the unit assessment also, taking the spelling section only today. Tomorrow we will do the vocabulary and reading comprehension sections and continuing with the folk and fairy tale presentations.

After recess, we worked on making bas relief plaques out of clay. We will use these as paper weights at Open House so things don't go flying it the day is windy. This project is a lot of fun for kids! I wish I could say it was a lot of fun for teachers, but it's not. I had one of those "What was I thinking?" moments as I was cutting up the clay and watching the desks get covered with a thin layer of gray dirt.... But the results will be worth it.

Homework: (1) Finish the math packet. It will be checked tomorrow. (2) Finish the rough draft of the "memorable event" story. This is the writing part of the OCR assessment. (3) Do the crossword puzzle. The words on this puzzle are the ones that will be tested on that section of the test tomorrow.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Balance is an important physical fitness skill.
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Slow Motion Week

This is a week for teachers and children which seems to usually go by like a slow motion replay on ESPN! Somehow, with Spring Break so near, every day seems to last a little longer than it usually does.

But while it may be a hard week for children, OUR children continue to do quite well. We are beginning our storytelling performances today. They were extraordinary. I'm glad that I borrowed the video camera and recorded them. Tomorrow another group of children will be performing. ALL of the performances will be on the television during Open House.

(1) Unscramble the words on the spelling review worksheet. (2) Work on the math packet. Remember that the packet will be corrected on Wednesday and that we will have the test on Thursday.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The wisteria is in full bloom on the fence not far from our room.
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We're coming to the end of our storytelling unit in OCR. I wasn't too keen on this section of the reading series the first time I used it with a class. I thought the stories were sometimes hard, and often quite dull.

I've changed my mind. As a teacher, I've come to learn to focus more on the theme and less on the individual selections, and to use each new story as a way to help "construct" a richer and more complex map of the world in my students' minds. I think they've come to understand a bit about how oral language and literature predates the written word, and how inanimate objects can both be storytellers in their own right (such as the totem pole in Carving the Pole) or as an associative object for storytellers (like the hats in Aunt Flossy's Hats and Crab Cakes Later).

Next week students will be telling the folktale or fairy tale they chose to the rest of the class. We will videotape these, and they will be available during Open House for everyone to appreciate.

Homework: (1) Continue work on math packet. (2) Practice telling and acting out the chosen folk or fairy tale.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Pleine Aire

Today was the last visit from the Barnsdall art teacher. Students sat in the school vegetable and flower garden where they sketched and watercolored. This is what is known as "pleine aire" painting. The results were surprisingly wonderful. Many of these paintings will be up for Open House.

We will be attending a performance tomorrow by the Southland Opera as part of a special assembly at 10:00 a.m.

Next Friday, we will be traveling to Pan Pacific Park for a day of physical activity and a picnic prior to Spring Break.

Homework: (1) Finish the questions on Keeping Quilt. (2) Continue work on the math packet.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Eve Caruso Whitman finished the library's Marathon Book Challenge. She received a medal and a certificate. Way to go, Eve!
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Students worked in partners to explore duple meter. On the downbeat one partner moved, while the other froze; on the upbeat, the other partner moved while the first froze.
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One of the most interesting things I've tried this year with students has been our exploration of Eurythmics. I'm not talking here about the pop group from the 1980's. Eurhythmics is an approach to music and movement created a century ago by Jean-Jacques Dalcroze, a Swiss music professor. Dalcroze observed that most of his students, though on the surface highly competent pianists or violinists, could not play with much real expression nor did they seem to have much sense of rhythm. Dalcroze decided that these two problems both stemmed from the fact that students were not taught to experience music physically. He developed a series of exercises designed so that students would experience musical concepts like tempo, dynamics, and phrasing through movements of their bodies.

We have been using some materials developed for elementary school students by Robert Abramson, a professor at Julliard and the nation's leading exponent of Eurhythmics. It's been really fun for the kids, and a great learning experience for me.
Homework: (1) Finish pages WB 59, WB 63 and WB 64 in the science packet. (2) Continue work on the math packet. (3) Practice telling and acting out the folktale. Note that there is no spelling this week.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Our reading chart. One student extends halfway around the OTHER SIDE of the door! Just amazing!
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Free Reading

I have been just delighted by the amount of independent reading that out students have been doing lately. If you haven't had a chance to check lately, you may find that your son or daughter is literally "off the chart." This means that they have done close to 1000 pages of free reading since December. It is particularly heartening that much of this reading has been good quality children's literature. All the best research in the field of reading instruction shows that once students have mastered basic phonics and learned some simple sight words, nothing improves reading fluency, textual comprehension, and vocabulary development like free independent self-selected reading. Way to go, room 19!

(1) Finish the second draft of the dialogue between two characters. Remember, the content here is less important that the correct use of quotation marks and other punctuation. (2) Finish pages WB54, WB 55, and WB 58 in the science packet. (3) Begin work on the math packet. It will be due a week from tomorrow. (4) Practice telling your fairy or folk tale.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Students are developing flexibility through stretching, both in large groups and with partners.
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The Last Few Miles

Yesterday thousands of runners participating in the Los Angeles marathon came past Third Street School. They were beginning the hardest phase of the marathon, the last few miles as the passed June Street. In a way, our students also feel like they are in those last few miles. The days before Spring Break can pass so slowly! And only a few weeks remains before Open House and Testing. So much to do, so little time!

Still, I am happy to report that everybody is working hard and making good progress. We will be wrapping up our Storytelling Unit in the next couple weeks. We began a new story today called The Keeping Quilt. We will be practicing our folktales and getting ready to put them on videotape soon. We will be beginning a new unit in math this week, this time on multi-digit multiplication. We're also going to be aiming at real "automaticity" with our math facts as we do this. We want to know them COLD!

Today we had some really great PE participation, so maybe some of you "had a talk" with your children. Thank you so much.

Homework: (1) Complete the study questions on Aunt Flossy's Hats. (2) Write a rough draft of a dialogue between two friends. Be sure to use quotation marks correctly. Begin a new paragraph every time a different person speaks.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

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Some of the marvelous masks the students make with Ms Silva, the art teacher, today.
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On Intelligence

I've just started to read a new book -- well, listen to it on my famous Hancock Park dog walks -- by the guy who invented the Palm Pilot. It's pretty technical in parts, but I think it has some big implications for education.

The book is On Intelligence and the author is Jeff Hawkins. In brief, Hawkins argues that intelligence fundamentally consists of (1) stored memories of past experiences which (2) allow us to make reasonably accurate predictions about future experiences, and (3) sensory imputs which allow us to correct our predictions and add new experiences. Hawkins argues that we should not confused "intelligence" with "intelligent behavior." The latter may or may not be a sign of intelligence; it could merely reflect training or conditioning. The essence of intelligence, in contrast, is the correction of the paradigm our brains create about the world.

I think this has a lot to say about the classroom. We spend a lot of time in schools assessing and rewarding intelligent behavior. Isn't that what most of our homework, classwork, and standardized test scores are about? And yet, if a student earns a perfect score, the student probably has LEARNED nothing from the experience. If, however, a student makes some reasonable mistakes and then comes to understand WHY the answers were wrong, then that is the moment when the student actually is learning and the brain is growing.

That means that we need to make classrooms safe places to make mistakes. Not that we should accept laziness or sloppiness. But it is even worse to make children overly cautious and afraid of making mistakes. When that happens, students are afraid to take the kind of risks involved in making reasonable mistakes or in questioning why an answer was inadequate. And that is the point at which intelligence increases.

More about this as I continue the book....

Homework: Study the spelling words. Review the math material in preparation for tomorrow's test.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Students using their spinners to explore probability. One students spins, another records and they work together harmoniously.
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A sort of different day

Today we started out our day with a celebration of the birthday of Theodore Geisel, better known to the world as Dr Seuss. I've always felt a little connection here because Dr Seuss and I both hail from the small city of Springfield, Masschusetts. I suppose he's probably now Springfield's most famous son. I don't think I'm on the list at all.... Anyhow, we had a spirited contest to see who could answer the most Dr Seuss trivia questions correctly, and then we paired up with first graders to read from Dr Seuss books. Many thanks to Mrs Marks for arranging this special event.

After we returned from library we corrected and discuss our Oral History questions and our spelling words. That pretty much took our time until recess! Then after recess we discuss the technique of mosaic and students tried making mosaics out of tiny bits of torn paper. The project isn't finished yet, but you will be very pleased, I think, when you see their work at Open House next month.

We had PE after lunch. I'm a little concerned that a number of our students are not putting enough effort into the activities that we do to improve their strength, flexibility, and endurance. Some parents may not be completely happy with the PE grades this marking period, but I have to be honest about the actual level of effort and achievement here.

We concluded our day by doing our last probability assignment. Here students worked in partners to make spinners and to collect data about the results of spins. We will discuss this assignment more tomorrow so that they really grasp the what they saw prior to taking the test on Friday.

Homework: (1) Finish the math packet. It will be corrected tomorrow. Please have it all cut and stapled. (2) Do the final draft of the solar system paragraph. It should be either in cursive or typed.

We did little buddy reading with room 5 to celebrate Dr Seuss' birthday today.
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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Oral History & Probability

Today we spent more time discussing the Oral History story in the reader. It's not one of the most fascinating selection in the reading series, but it does introduce the students to an important idea about storytellers.

They had a lot more fun with math. We continued our unit on probability. We discussed the ideas of "equally possible" and outcomes. We figured out that the outcomes for a coin toss were head and tails. The students hypothesized that heads and tails were equally likely. We then created an experiment to test this. Students worked in partners. They flipped a penny 100 times. They made a tally chart to track the data. We then added up all the results using a calculator. There was only a difference of 1 between heads and tails. Students then did a quickwrite paragraph about what they had learned.

Homework: (1) Spelling sentences in cursive. Words are clothes, choral, coral, chews, choose, coarse, course, ewe, you, and yew. (2) Do the study questions on Oral History. (3) Continue work on the math packet. (4) Practice telling the chosen folk or fairy tale.