Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Last Short Tuesday

Today was our last shortened day of the year. I'm not sorry! I'd rather spend the time with my students than at a faculty meeting any day!

It was a productive day. We spent our morning doing Reader's Workshop and Writer's Workshop. The current page totals are on the gradebook for you to check. Two students currently have well over 1000 pages since March! Wow! I'm a little behind on giving credit for the writing, but that should be current by Monday. I really enjoy working one-on-one with the students on their writing, discussing strategies and helping correct mistakes. We then started on the next story in Open Court, "Just Plain Fancy" by Patricia Polacco. This is a fictional account of two Amish girls who accidentally raise a peacock and fear they will be shunned because the showy bird is too "fancy." We just go started today, doing blending and vocabulary and reading about half the story.

After recess, we again split into two groups that worked on Mrs Caruso's play. I worked with the musicians on Tallis' Canon. It's starting to come together. After lunch, Mrs Caruso had to leave early to deal with an automotive crisis, so Ms Jan and I worked with both classes on their math.

Homework: Just keep working on the math workbook.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Country Fair Afterglow

Well, I had a chance to see a number of you at Country Fair on Saturday. Nida and Alejandro performed with Ms Kullman's group, and I thought they stole the show. I unfortunately miss Paolo's performance since some group times were rearranged. I'm sure he was great, too.

It was awfully hot, as I'm sure I don't need to tell you, and I spent too much time in the sun and felt it for the rest of the weekend. In fact, I still felt a little solar "hangover" today. At least my shoulders did! But I had a great time, and I was delighted to see our basket did quite well. Thank you to everybody who contributed!

Today, Mrs Caruso began rehearsing her play with the actors, and I started to work on the music. For the First Thanksgiving scene, we will be playing Thomas Tallis' famous "Canon" on recorder in four parts over a repeating "g" sounding on the metalophone to imitate a church bell. After each the canon, we will bridge over into having the whole "Pilgrim Chorus" (not Wagner's!) sing the tune to words which the students will help write.

Homework: Continue work on the math book. Students should be about 1/3 done with the text by now. Also, remember that Science Fair has been moved up from Friday to Thursday. Contributing a Science Fair project is not required, but will help students move from a "3" to a "4" in Science.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Play's the Thing

Today we started to return to what Warren Harding famously called "normalcy." Testing is over, and our field trip is done. We can now get back to that wonderfully productive routine.

Certainly that's how our morning went. We had Reader's Workshop, and then during Independent Work Time we reviewed our last story on dairy farming and began to look at the next story about the Amish. We worked on a lot of hard words today during blending. Four-syllable words are now the norm for blending, but everyone seems to understand the way to look at the words and separate them into syllables. We then discussed some vocabulary. We read and discussed the story.

After recess, we turned our attention to the play that Mrs Caruso helped to write. It is pretty long! In the story, two children pick up their mother's cell phone and are instantly transported back to the Plymouth of the first Thanksgiving. They meet up with two Wampanoag children. After some initial hesitation, they become friends. The two Native American children are concerned that their mother might die unless she receives some medication, so once they learn about the time travel phone, they want to come along to the future to get the medication. From Plymouth, the children journey through the Cumberland Gap where they meet Daniel Boone, and then attend the unveiling of the Freedman's Memorial in Washington D.C. where they meet Frederick Douglas. They go to San Francisco to see the Summer of Love, and then journey 500 years to the future where they discover the genial reason for their adventures. It's an interesting romp through American history.

I proposed to Mrs Caruso that I would watch members of both classes after lunch while she held auditions for the major roles. With Ms Jan, the RST aide, to help me, this went quite well. Mrs Caruso should be announcing the cast tomorrow or Monday. Once she is working with the actors, I will work with the musicians.

Homework: (1) Write a summary of what was seen and learned on the trip to Cabrillo. (2) Continue to work on the math workbook.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

At the tidepools.
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Our guide (and one of our mommies) -- guess which one is which.
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One giant (not that giant) starfish.
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Looking at sea creatures under the microscope.
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A most pleasant trip to the Cabrillo Marine Museum today. We boarded the bus a little after nine o'clock, and we started the LONG drive down to San Pedro. Once we arrive, we were ushered into the auditorium where we watched a most informative slideshow about tidepools led by a smart, funny, and very cool guide. They then split us into two groups to take turns visiting the tidepool touch tanks and the lab. In both places, we got to really feel the creatures. Some of us thought that they were a little slimy, while others had a great time touching away. We had a short lunch (and we kept most of it away from the seagulls) and then we walked out to the tidepools themselves. We got a chance to see a lot of the things we'd seen in the slides. On the way back to the bus, a pod of dolphins popped up out of the waves as if to say, "Come again!"

Many of you had a chance to come to the parent meeting yesterday, and some of you VERY generously contributed. Mrs. Caruso and I will be splitting responsibility for the play that she and Talia's mom wrote together. She will be in charge of directing the play and designing sets and costumes. I will be responsible for working with a group to develop and perform appropriate music for the play. I'll help her out as I can with the sets, but I'm not nearly the artist she is! We don't have much time, but we'll give it our all.

Homework: Keep working on the math textbook. Other than that, nada.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Another of our Ox-Cart Man pictures. Note the wonderful use of color and the sense of perspective.
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New Math

Today was the Language Arts section of the CAT 6. This is currently the section of the testing used to evaluate students for placement in gifted programs, so I have always urged the students to do it with particular care. I think they did reasonably well, though I try not to look over their shoulders. The urge to say, "Think about that one again!" is so strong when you see a silly mistake. Unfortunately, the state does not let us give that kind of assistance on tests.

Since we are basically finished with the math book -- it's such a rush to "cover" everything by the first of May -- I gave the students some math books I've had in my cupboard for a few years. These will help review some of the number sense and problem solving skills and will also give them a taste of what to expect next year in fourth grade. They will be working on these books in school and at home for the next month. Students seem pretty excited by their new texts.

I just learned today that we will be putting on a play next month. The inspiration for this came from Mrs Caruso, and we will be involved with room 17 in doing this. There will be a special meeting about the play and about upcoming events next Tuesday at 7:45 am. If you can possibly attend, please come. If you cannot make it, please email Mrs Caruso to get details. Write her at kcaruso@lausd.k12.ca.us.

Homework: Finish Heartland questions if these were not completed in class. Continue work innew math books.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The ox-cart man starting to walk home from Portsmouth market with the kettle he bought.
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Hanging In

Today was the last day of the California Standards Test. Tomorrow we start the CAT 6 portion. By Monday, deity of your choice willing, will be done. It's hard for them to keep the energy up. But they're really trying. I can tell that.

We checked yesterday's work first thing, and we read and discussed the "Heartland" poem. We talked about what the "heartland" is and why people call it that. We also scanned several lines of the poem so that students could learn what couplets are and about iambic. (The poem is written in irregular stanzas of iambic quadrameter). After recess, we also had Reader's Workshop and Writer's Workshop.

In the afternoon we finished up Minnie and Moo, a rather odd book about a ragtag group of animals who try to save the farm. We reviewed "Ox-Cart Man" and students were assigned lines of the poem to illustrate as a first step towards the culminating project. One of the works is shown above.

Homework: No homework is the only really good part of testing week, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Just a picture I found from one of our trips to LACMA. The appeal of bunny ears in pictures is truly timeless, isn't it? Posted by Hello

Finishing Lap Two

Sunday was the Kentucky Derby. I did not watch it, but watching the reports about the race on the news made me wonder what exactly the horses thing about it. Do they get a thrill from seeing how fast they can run around the track? Do they want to win? Or do they just wonder why the heck they have to run around in circles?

State testing is sort of like this, I think. Some students seem to sense that there is some kind of competition going on here, and you can tell they take it seriously. There's an energy there. Other children just have a resignation which lets you know that they think that this is sort of a pointless as running around a short track a whole bunch of times.

Either way, we finished "lap two." This concludes both sections of the English Language Arts section of the California Standards Test. It's probably the most tiring for the children. Two days of math testing follow. These tests seem shorter, though they're actually the trickiest.

Homework: All have earned a day off.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Testing begins

Students did the first section of the CST (California Standards Test) today. I think it is one of the hardest sections, so it's nice that we're done with that. Tomorrow, we'll continue with the language arts sections, and then start the math on Wednesday.

Today was -- groan! -- rainy day schedule. And I wasn't in the mood for it. We had a really whiny lunch recess, so I dug out every worksheet I could find and assigned them for an afternoon independent work session. Suddenly, all was calm and pleasant. If they worked hard during this time, they should NOT have much if any homework. Everything listed below was assigned to them at 1:00 pm, and they had 90 minutes to work on it.

Homework: (1) Science, questions WB 97. Copy questions. (2) "Ox-Cart Man" open-book quiz. (3) Alphabetical order worksheet. (4) Equivalent fractions WS. (5) Multiplication WS.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Country Life

Today we began our final Open Court unit, "Country Life". I particularly like this unit because it really allows the students to think about urban and rural life, past and present. We began today by starting to create our Concept/Question board. The children understood that there were lots of farms and therefore animals in the country, but were a little unclear about anything else. Our unit will help, I think, to broaden this understanding.

We started reading and discussing the first selection, "Ox-Cart Man", a poem by Donald Hall. (I have a particular fondness for this poem, and I developed a lesson plan for the Education Devision of the LA County Music Center based on it. We will be following this lesson plan in its broadest outlines, though I'm making some changes.) The poem helps students see the rhythm of life for a family on a farm in New Hampshire in the 1850's. I admit another bias here: the poet was one of my professors at the University of Michigan back in the 1970's.

The selections which follow help students see country life today. "I am the Heartland" is a paen to the agricultural sector. It provides students with the opportunity to see that urban and rural life are intertwined, even though it has a political undertone which sometimes makes me wonder if it was not commissioned by Archer-Daniels-Midland. There is an informative selection on dairy farming called "Cows in the Parlor".

There are a couple of selections about the Amish. These probably cause the students to assume that there are a lot more Amish farming families than there really are, but they find the life of the Amish interesting. Neither really explains the religious motivations of the Amish, so I try to provide a succinct and objective introduction to Anabaptist movement to place these in context. They usually look a little blankly at me when I do this, but I feel like I need to explain that the Amish are not doing this just to look cute.

There is a long and hard to read selection to the problem of urban sprawl called "Whatever Happened to the Baxter Place?". This is an important one for me because my sister is a professor of urban planning at Michigan State University and stopping urban sprawl is one of her professional and personal passions. I've got to figure out a way this year to make this selection for lively to the students.

The unit ends with a big question and a little answer. The question is, "Which is better, rural or urban life?" Unfortunately, the only thing that McGraw Hill seemed able to find to address this question was the tedious old Aesop fable about the "Country Mouse and the City Mouse". I suppose that student's cultural literacy would not be complete without knowing this, but it seems like a trite answer. We'll do better in class.

Homework: The students have had a heavy load lately, and they're getting a night off. Unless they have some classwork to finish, they should have a free evening. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Putting it all Together

Today we spent most of the morning reviewing what we learned from our study of money. Students were called on one by one. Each could either recall something from memory about what they learned about money or go to the Concept/Question board and take off and read one of the entries. You can guess what choice appealed to most of them. As each idea was recalled, I put it on cluster or webs on the board. The students carefully copied the webs down. After they finished the webs, we brainstormed a sentence which could be used as a sentence which seemed to introduce or sum up the cluster. They will use these tonight to help guide writing a multiple paragraph essay. The sentences we brainstormed can be used as topic sentences for the various paragraphs. This is really a fourth grade kind of assignment, but I think they're ready to give it a try!

In math, students are learning to compare decimals. This is always a little tricky. Student instinctively think that 0.11 must be bigger than 0.9 because 11 is bigger than 9! It sort of makes sense, no matter how wrong it is! For this reason, we really must insist that they say "zero point one one" instead of "zero point eleven" which most of them will want to do. Of course, translating the decimals into equivalent fractions is what REALLY shows understanding.

Homework: (1) Math, Decimals p. 159, #1-14. (2) Write a three to five paragraph essay about money. Summarize what we discussed throughout the unit. Use the three clusters/webs developed in class this morning to guide you, including the sample topic sentences.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Finishing up

Today we did the final parts of our LAST Open Court test of the year. We did the Vocabulary test and the Writing Assessment. The first was pretty hard; the second was somewhat ludicrous. It asked the students to suppose that one of their friends had written a letter to them asking them how to earn and save money. Yeah, right. A nine year old Warren Buffett, I suppose.

Still, the students seemed to do quite well on both parts. Grades will be posted shortly on the Internet: www.teacherease.com.

Homework: (1) Math, page 525, #1-14, 16-20. (2) Math, pages 527, all problems. (3) Science, page C37, #20-29.