Wednesday, November 30, 2005

One of our environment projects with its justly proud artist. Students are making three dimensional representations of California ecosystems, combining their work in Social Studies, Science, and Art.
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Another great environment project taking shape!
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Today things were pretty normal until recess. We had reading conferences, worked on our City Wildlife HyperStudio projects, did some blending and dictation, and worked on a couple workbook pages.

After recess, though, we had to be flexible and it was not always easy -- at least for me! Mrs. Koneff was away at a training session, so I had to try to figure out @ccent, our new district library management program. It's supposed to be a huge improvement over the old one, but I had so many problems getting it to check in the books I was ready to scream! The kids were great, though, and did an amazing job of choosing books independently.

We went to lunch early because we had to change our Art time. There was a little misunderstanding about this with a certain campus aide, but the less said about that the better. After lunch Mrs Jones came, and we had what I thought was our best session ever with her. The environments they are creating are starting to look wonderful. They have another session on this before they are finished.

Please let me know as soon as possible if you can come on Friday.

Homework: Study spelling for the test TOMORROW. (2) Read "Choose the Operation," Math, page 300 and do questions 1-6 on page 301. (3) Do the Review/Test and the Chapter Review on pages 302 and 303. Be sure to show all work. Students will be tested on this tomorrow as well.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Typical Tuesday

Today all went reasonably well. Our homework showed that students are starting to get the hang of the two digit multiplication. We spent some time today reviewing the City Superheroes story focusing in particular on two key comprehension skills: identifying main idea and detail and also distinguishing fact and opinion. We also took some time to continue work on the rough drafts for our HyperStudio project on City Wildlife.

After recess we did some reading about Native Americans in the LA area before the Spanish settlers arrived. We do not have a current social studies textbook, so I am making photocopies of an obsolete but still reasonably good textbook. Please don't report me to the copyright police! I'd buy copies if they still printed it! We also worked a little more with practicing our multiplication procedures.

A couple important notes. Friday is our field trip to the L.A. zoo. Because it is a big problem to cart lunches around the zoo, we're asking students to bring about 5 dollars to buy their own lunch. The options are pretty good. Since it may rain on Friday, please bring umbrellas. If you would like to accompany us, we still need a couple volunteers. Just send me an email to tell me you're interested.

Homework: (1) Study spelling. The test is on THURSDAY this week. (2) Do the "City Superheroes" questions. Be sure to use complete sentences. (3) Practice two digit by one digit multiplication, Math, page 299, numbers 2-26. Copy the problems!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Welcome Back!

We all came back, save one, today, and judging by our sharing this morning, everybody seemed to have had a pleasant break.

We jumped back into our Monday routine today. We did silent reading and conferences first. We then did a review of short vowel sounds in both blending and dictation. The children explored the meaning of some tough vocabulary words, and they did a great job of figuring out the meaning from context. We then read the "City Superheroes" story in the Open Court text which poetically explains the near superhuman powers of rats and raccoons.

After recess, we explored doing improvised melodies over a simple ostinato. It's a great activity, but today was a sort of "dress rehearsal." We'll do it again and with luck get it on videotape. We then went to Tech Center where we continued on our City Wildlife HyperStudio project.

We did a fun variation on Dodgeball in PE today. Students had to do laps around the circle if they got out hit. It made it an aerobic activity, as well as giving them an incentive to avoid getting hit! We used some of the special foam balls that we purchased with your kind donations. In Math we started on 2 digit by 1 digit multiplication (e.g., 24 x 6). They'll need some handholding with this tonight.

Homework: (1) Study spelling. (2) Math, page 293, numbers 1-7. This can be answers only. (3) Math, pages 295-296, numbers 2 -27. Important! They MUST copy all problems on these pages and show all work!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Our "pilgrims" lining up for their Thanksgiving Feast.
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Settling down to our Thanksgiving feast!
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Students improvised high and low sounds to play with the concept of pitch. Note that some of the notes are removed -- they are using a pentatonic scale.
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Students used scarves to physically experience high and low sounds. Groups chose one of the line patterns from the board as an inspiration.
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'Twas the day before Thanksgiving

We had a lovely day before Thanksgiving. This can be a pretty long day because the kids are SO excited about the upcoming holiday. I usually try to schedule something that will force them to concentrate for at least part of the day. Today we had a math test. I’m happy to say that the results on this one were A LOT better than the last test we took. You can check your child’s results on the Gradebook.

We had a splendid, splendid feast as you can see above. The food was so varied and delicious. We students did a great job of cleaning up, too. They can do this at home, too.

Homework:  Let’s just skip it for the long weekend, OK?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Fast Start on a Short Week

This is, as you all know, as short week. We're working hard to make it really productive, though.

Today we continued our City Wildlife theme by reading Robert McCloskey's classic story "Make Way for Ducklings." We also discussed the difference between the long oo sound and the long u sound and practiced those in Blending and Dictation times. In Tech Center we continued working on our City Wildlife HyperStudio stacks. The students are finally starting to really get a feel for this program. In the afternoon, we listened to a bit of A Cricket in Times Square, our City Wildlife read-aloud book, and we did the third lesson in the Hands-on Equations program.

Spencer's mom has posted a signup for a Thanksgiving potluck on the door. Please let us know, as soon as you can, what your family can contribute for this. If you can't come by to sign up, have your child do it for you.

Homework: (1) Do the "Make Way for Ducklings" study questions. (2) "Find a Rule" Math pages 168-169, all problems.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Assessing Friday

Sorry I forgot to post yesterday. I had a very busy afternoon, marked with a frustrating number of technical/mechanical problems.

Today we a pretty average Friday. We had our spelling test, and the lady from Barnsdall came around to do a new project with the students. They're working on environments, and she had them do start a three-dimensional California environment. Very good curricular tie-in, though the project won't be finished until next month and the room was an absolute disaster when she left. Oh, well. Take the bitter with the sweet.

We took and corrected our spelling test in the morning -- results quite good -- and our math test in the afternoon -- results more disappointing. These should be on the gradebook this afternoon.

Spencer's mom is working on a Thanksgiving Party list. It should be on the door by Monday at the latest.

Homework: (1) Complete the Tree Map on ecosystems. Find at least four interesting facts about each forests, deserts, and oceans/lakes. Draw a picture for each. Go over the words in dark marker; color the pictures. (2) Do Math, pages 170-171, numbers 2-28. These pages go over the order property of multiplication. (3) Math, page 173, numbers 1-6 only.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Another Great Day

Today was another wonderful day. We concentrated today on artistic creations of different kinds.

In the morning, after we finished reading and checking homework, we did line drawings of birds. We began by discussing the different types of lines -- vertical, horizontal, diagonal, zigzag, and wavy -- and the different varieties of each, such as thick, thin, long, short, broken, solid, smooth and rough. The students experimented with drawing different types on a piece of newsprint as a warm up. I then distributed pictures of birds to the students. They drew these birds using only lines and no shading. They tried to use as many types of lines as possible. The results ranged from acceptable to outstanding!

After recess we had library. Poor Mrs. Koneff is having to deal with a really irritating new computer checkout system, but she took time to give our students a great lesson on using the card catalog -- still useful when the computer stops working -- and also to read some really funny Thanksgiving poems to the class. Back in class, we did more physical exploration of musical concepts. This time I drew a few abstract lines on the board, asked the students to pick one, and then each group attempted to create movements inspired by these pictures. Tomorrow we'll finish this off with some improvised music.

PE was devoted to relay races today. We tried different forms of partner races. We did piggybacks and a couple types of three legged races. A good time was had by all, even if they did not always quite get was I intended.

Homework: (1) Study spelling. (2) Science, page A111, questions 18-23. (3) Review/Test, Math, page 160 and Cumulative Review, Math, page 161.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


What a great day! I enjoyed every minute of today, and I think the children had a good time, too.

We began as usual with Reader’s Workshop. Once again, Mr. Benitez has been really wonderful helping me out with conferences so I can concentrate on helping students with HyperStudio projects. I have no idea what I’d do without him! And, speaking of HyperStudio, our students are really getting the knack of this complex and powerful program. Their paragraphs about Los Angeles area city plants and animals are also really coming along well. We’ll start on the third of the five paragraphs tomorrow.

We checked and corrected the homework. All the grades are available on the Gradebook for these. We then finished off reading the “Urban Roosts” selection and discussing it in some detail. Students had a little time before recess to start on the study questions.

After recess we did math. I’ve started adding a Problem of the Day to our math routine, and I think it should help model problem solving skills to the students. We’ve now introduced all the tables save 9 and 10, and students just need to learn and MEMORIZE these facts. Remember to help them with flash cards.

In music we practice working on both rhythm and melody. Many of our activities here are based on the work of Robert Abramson who taught for years at Julliard. He is the most important exponent of the ideas of Jean-Jacques Dalcroze, the Swiss father of the Eurhythmics movement. Dalcroze believed that music ideas did not really make sense to children – or adults – until they had been experienced in physical movements. He argued that music and dance really could not be taught separately. Abramson developed some easy and fun activities for integrating movement and music. The students are having a great time with these. Today we did a particularly fun activity for feeling beat and measure by passing small balls in a group. It was a blast!

Speaking of good times, we had fun doing our ball kicking relays after lunch. It’s amazing to see how they are developing coordination as we do these kinds of activities. Thanks to all the parents who contributed to getting us more PE equipment. It’s much appreciated!

Homework may again seem heavy tonight, but students had a good bit of time to get started on all the assignments.

Homework:  (1) Study spelling. (2) Complete study questions on Urban Roosts. (3) Complete Connect Concepts, Science, page A110. (4) Do "Draw a Picture," Math, p 155 (5) Do "Practice the Facts," pp 157-158, #2-64 (answers only).

Monday, November 14, 2005

It was indeed, as you can see, a busy day. Also, thank you to all the families who have contributed to the canned food drive. If you haven't had an opportunity to drop off a little something to make somebody's Thanksgiving a little brighter, please do so this week. Thanks!
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Busy Day!

It was a busy day! Mondays usually are. But it was a great day, too. And Mondays usually are that, as well.

We began a new story in Open Court today called “Urban Roosts.” This is another fairly long nonfiction selection. It explores how different kinds of birds have adapted to life in the city. It’s an interesting but challenging selection. We’ll be having a lot of fun with it this week, exploring the ideas in the selection in art and dance as well as answering questions and other usual activities.

We also have been doing a lot in the past week to connect this theme of City Wildlife to both our Writer’s Workshop and to technology. Mrs. Gassman and Mr. Benitez have been helping me with Reader’s Workshop conferences so that I can work each day with a small group of students on their HyperStudio stacks on City Wildlife. As the children get to know this powerful program better, they will need less support from me. Right now, I’m really pleased at how well they’re doing.

After lunch we had a district-mandated “lockdown drill.” This simulated what students would have to do in the extremely unlikely event of some kind of serious police activity in the neighborhood. The students did very well and stayed very calm – and very polite, too, as some of the adults involved talked endlessly….

Homework:  (1) Study spelling. (2) Complete the Urban Roosts crossword puzzle. We started this one in class. (3) Do “Multiply by 8,” Math, page 153, all problems.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Have a Great Weekend

Students had substantial time to start the following assignments in class, and many completed most or all of them. If they did not, please complete them this weekend.

Homework:  (1) Do “Multiply by 7,” Math, pages 150-151, numbers 2-37. (2) Copy and complete vocabulary sentences, page A110, numbers 1-12 only. (3) Do the Alphabetical Order worksheet. (4) Do the spelling wordsearch. (5) Complete pages 5-8 in the Cursive writing book.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Dr Zipper's Orchestra

Sorry for the late post. I have to go to a funeral tomorrow in San Diego, and I was a little overwhelmed getting ready for the substitute.

Other than the endless meeting with the literacy "coach" after the children had left, I had a remarkably good time in school today, and I think the students did, too. I worked with a group during reading time to help them more with their HyperStudio stacks we started yesterday. Mrs. Gassman helped me out with reading conferences. Integrating technology into the curriculum this way is very exciting. It is time-consuming, however, and that sometimes makes us teachers shy away from it. Mr. Benitez helped the children review and correct their math homework. I worked with them on phonics with the long o sound. Then we rushed off to our new auditorium to hear Dr. Zipper's orchestra.

What a fabulous experience! Now the the Colburn School is offering conservatory level classes for university degrees, Dr. Zipper's orchestra is now filled with energetic talented young musicians. The ensemble was crisp and the playing energetic. The children seemed to instinctively know that this time it was good, and they sat back and absorbed a challenging program including Bartok and Shostakovich. Wow!

We did our videos of the Rhythmic Machines, and they were fantastic! They will definitely be included on the end-of-the-year DVD. We also read a little about desert environment. After lunch, we did another Second Step lesson which catches us up with where I wanted to be in this program. From now on, this will be a Thursday afternoon activity.

Homework: (1) Study spelling. (2) Do the "Boy who didn't Believe in Spring" study questions. (3) Finish the Algebra and Geometry review sheets. Tomorrow is the Quarter One math test.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Some of our African masks which were on display in the auditorium on Sunday for the grand reopening reception. If you haven't seen this sparking space, stop by the auditorium soon.
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A very generous parent in our class donated a color laser printer to the school. Through the network it will be available for other classes to use, but it will be housed in room 19! Thank you!
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We had a most pleasant Monday.

Today we started on a new story in Reading called “The Boy who didn’t Believe in Spring.” It’s a strange tale of a child named King Shabazz and his friend Tony Polito. These two boys seem to live in someplace like the Bronx. King claims he does not believe there is any such thing as spring. But when he’s told that it’s just around the corner, he decides to literally go around the corner in search of spring. In doing so, he finds signs of spring – flowering bulbs and a robin’s nest – in an abandoned car in a vacant lot.

We also did more work on our Machine composition. Today we planned how the machine would malfunction, and groups showed us their machines using only the Kodaly syllables and motions. Tomorrow we’ll add instruments. In Tech Center, we started on a major project in HyperStudio. For those of you unfamiliar with this application, HyperStudio is a multimedia authoring system for presenting information.  Text and pictures are put on electronic “cards” which are then dynamically linked to other cards to move around the “stack.” It’s a little challenging program for third graders, but our students are more than up to it! Mr. Merkelson was quite pleased by how well they did.

In PE, we practice kicking using a kind of relay game. It was fun, though some of the goalies gave a little more help than they should have…. Math is review for the quarter test which will be on Wednesday.

Homework:  (1) Study spelling list 10. (2) Finish the rough draft on the second city plant or animal. (3) Do the math packet. They had ample time to start this in class.

Friday, November 04, 2005

A well-built totem pole is a joy to behold!
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Patience and Perseverance

Fridays have a special feel in a classroom. They bring the week to a close, and as such are good days for tests and other forms of evaluation. This creates a certain seriousness about the day. At the same time, many students already have special plans for the weekend. This can lead to a barely-concealed, almost giddy excitement. I think we felt all those feelings today.

After silent reading, we finished the chapter 5 test. This is one of the toughest ones in the book, despite the fact that money ought to be a relatively easy and accessible topic. Every third grade teacher has noticed this. Part of this difficulty is the fact that some of the children are still pretty weak on addition and subtraction with regrouping. More of the problem comes from the idea of equivalent sets. Now students get the idea that 2 quarters are equal to 5 dimes. They understand that these are equivalent sets. But when we ask them to find as many sets as possible for a specified amount of money -- say 35 cents -- the puzzle aspect of this problem seems to elude them.

And yet, approaching math as a puzzle, figuring out systematically all kinds of possibilities, is a lot more important to their long-term growth in mathematics than merely answering multiplication problems quickly. Children like right answers right away. But in our modern world that kind of math has been relegated to machines which can do it faster than we ever can. People are still needed, though, for careful, thoughtful problem solving. And this requires patience and perseverance, qualities that few children seem to have, particularly in our over-stimulated, plugged-in, multi-tasking age.

Fortunately, there are many ways to develop these characteristics, and Visual Art projects are particularly good. There is, after all, no way to complete a complex art assignment instantly, and children seem to understand that. So providing them with interesting and complex art assignment, and creating an atmosphere of serious concentration, does a great deal to develop patience and perseverance. I certainly noticed that yesterday when we did our leaf paintings. Today's art project was done with the Barnsdall art teacher. She has some wonderful projects that she does with the children, all of which require thoughtfulness and concentration. I would approach teaching some of these differently than she does, but I appreciate her expertise in some areas. Today the children made totem poles out of plastic bottles, construction paper, burlap, and other media. This took a lot of effort, a lot of concentration. In the picture above, you can see a smile coming from a job well done.

In the afternoon, we worked some more on rhythmic machine. This is a tough project because it works on so many skills at once. Carl Orff said, "Let the children be their own composers." Easier said than done, Mr. Orff! Composition is a real important skill for children, but it creates a lot of management challenges in the classroom. It is so much easier to simply present the students with one prepared piece for them to learn. And yet a process of improvisation, composition, practice, and performance creates so much long-term growth that it is worth risking the noise and confusion. We made a lot of progress. But we have more to do.

Homework: Homework for children will return Monday. Have a good weekend. I hope to see everybody Sunday at the auditorium rededication.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A very atmospheric leaf painting. Most were more realistic, but I liked the colors here.
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The leaf that was the inspiration for the painting.
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One of the Machine groups notating their instrumentation and rhythm.
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Just Another Day in Paradise

If the days keep being this wonderful, I’m going to have to PAY to be a teacher!

Today we did leaf paintings in our Open Court time. You’ll see an example of one above. It was an activity which helped them really observe nature closely -- an important Science skill, too – and connect all this “City Lots” stuff to their own urban environment. We will be putting up the paintings next to the actual leaf, so stop by the classroom next week for a look!

After recess, we discussed Forest ecosystems, discussing the similarities and differences among the four major types of forests:  deciduous forests, tropical rain forests, temperate rain forests, and coniferous forests. After that, we continued with the music machine project. Today, we took a really had step and started to notate our rhythms. We used both the traditional note values and the Kodaly syllables here. Again, you can see an example above.

In the afternoon, we did another Second Step lesson. This one was done in small rotating groups. I worked with each group discussing a picture situation, while Mr. Benitez worked with each group doing role plays. It went really, really well! We’ll be doing this again next week, and we give you some pictures of the role plays in action. Mr. Benitez did an awesome job!

Homework:  Light night tonight. Study spelling for the test tomorrow, and if you know anything is not completed, work on that, too.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Wonderful Wednesday

Just an all around great day! We had particular fun doing relays at PE. Maybe not as much fun doing our Math test, but the results look pretty good. Check the gradebook as I will post results fairly soon.

Homework: (1) Study spelling. (2) Do the "City Lots" study questions. Be sure to copy the vocabulary sentences and to answer the others in complete sentences. We discussed each question in class and located the answers in the book. (3) Using the Circle Map we created in class, write a rough draft of a descriptive paragraph about sycamore trees. Be sure to have a topic sentence and lots of supporting details. Also, skip lines for easier correcting! (4) Do the chapter 5 review, pages 90-91. Equivalent sets are just similar coins with the same value here: 2 dimes and 1 nickel, 4 nickels and 5 pennies are equivalent sets.

ALSO, this is VERY IMPORTANT! Bring a largish leaf, preferably mostly green or yellow and red rather than already brown, for a favorite art activity tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Second Step

Today was a great day, despite all the dire warnings some parents gave me about a “sugar high.” We started on one of the toughest stories in the Open Court series, a nonfiction selection called “City Lots.” This essay explains how children can see nature changing in vacant, trash-filled lots in their neighborhood. Of course, you can probably see that with land values being what they are in our area, there aren’t too many vacant lots! Plus, the selection has them looking for all kinds of trees and plants which may be common in Brooklyn, but are not in Southern California. There’s a lot of tough vocabulary in the selection, as well as the difficult content. We spent more of our time with this story trying to define all the unfamiliar words. We made an elaborate wall of word definitions on the white board. All of these words are the ones that show up in the crossword tonight.

After lunch, we started on the Second Step program. This is a district-approved approach to teaching students social skills and conflict resolution skills. It involves discussing situations which are portrayed in cards or on videos and then in using role-play and writing to practice the skills and to reflect on how to handle similar situations. I used to program at a former school, and the students generally enjoyed it and we had some good discussions. This will be a regular Tuesday activity for us.

Homework:  (1) Study spelling. (2) Complete the crossword puzzle. (3) Do Review/Test, Math, page 392, and Cumulative Review, Math, page 393.