Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Penultimate Day

One of my favorite college words was penultimate. Once I learned that somebody had made up a word for the "the thing before the last thing" I just could not stop using it. Well, today was definitely a penultimate day, and the almosthereness (to make up a truly abominable word) of the winter break was felt by both teacher and students alike.

Still, we were fairly productive. The students worked on a social studies review exercise while I went over the rough drafts I-search papers with individual students. A few of these were excellent, but many students missed the point of the paper completely. Tomorrow I will be copying and distributing some of the best papers (with permission of the authors, of course) so that students who need serious work on their paper have a model to help them. The final drafts here will not be due until after break. More on that tomorrow. We also bound our holiday books. Many of them look really great!!!

We did the math test after recess and the results are already on the gradebook. After lunch, we corrected the math test and went over the history review. We went out to PE - brisk by pleasant after all the rains - and then when we returned we took our history test. It will take a few days to record this.

Tomorrow I look forward to seeing many of you at the party. Students will be sharing their holiday stories before we start eating, so it should be fun.

Homework: They're way too excited for homework tonight. Enjoy a day off.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Poems

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Reading, Writing, and Raining

Another rainy day! And I remember how much I wanted winter to come when it was so unseasonably hot in October. Be careful for you wish for, I guess. But we sure need the precipitation. At least it we did not have an ice storm. My mother in Maine was without power for 26 hours early this month.

More time on the test today. We took the Vocabulary and Spelling sections, and all the review work that students had done on this worked out well. It may have been the best showing ever on the notoriously difficult vocabulary section. We also did the final drafts of the business plan. I'll be looking at these more carefully soon, but we

On more festive notes, students finished off the acrostic poems they started as homework earlier in the week. I'll scan and post some of these soon. They were good! Students also went to Tech Center where Ms. Richards worked with them on the concept of creating perspective in art. She mentioned that when the students return from break they will be combining some of these Tux Paint pictures to create animated movies in iMovie. It sounds like fun!

Many of our students spent the afternoon with Mr. Lawton getting ready for this evening's performance, so we postponed the math test until tomorrow. The rainy day, of course, did not make our usual Wednesday PE possible. The students did not seem heartbroken to miss running laps, however....

Homework: Tonight students will finish the final drafts of their holiday stories. Most have elected to type their story, though a few chose to hand write it. They should have a front cover with title, name, and illustration. The back cover - that's the green paper - should be blank. We will bind these tomorrow and we will read them on Friday at the party.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Testing, Testing

Today was mostly devoted to beginning the Open Court Unit Two test. Parts of this test frustrate me. For example, one of the items in the Checking Skills section is identifying prepositional phrases. That's a good skill, of course, except that the book itself does not actually cover prepositional phrases until Unit 6. So we started the day discussing that skill in an effort to not lose some easy points. We then went over yesterday's homework - also preparation for the vocabulary and spelling sections of the test. We took, corrected, and discussed the comprehension section of the test.

We then started on the writing section. This one is a bit difficult. It calls for the students to create a business plan, something not many of us have even done in real life. The writing prompt asked the students to develop a business which would make enough money so they could go on a field trip. In the past, I have become painfully aware of how little they grasp how much things cost. It shocks some students to learn that they cannot pay for a trip to Paris with all their friends on the proceeds of a lemonade stand! Really, I am not making that one up! So I provided a bit more framework for the students, and we discussed how much money they might reasonably make and need. We settled on earning about 250 - 300 dollars to pay for a school bus for a day.

Writing the rough draft took longer than I initially expected. Students worked in the time between recess and lunch, and most needed about a half hour after lunch, too. But I was pleased that so many wrote very elaborate compositions full of interesting details.

We finished the day by discussing and correcting yesterday's homework in math and social studies.

Homework: (1) Write a holiday acrostic poem. Each letter of the celebration begins a different phrase which describes some aspect of the holiday. (2) Do vocabulary review sheet. Use the crossword puzzle as needed to help with the meaning of the words. (3) Do Chapter 13 review in Math, pages 256-257.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dreams to Jobs Culmination

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Wet Monday

Wet, wet, wet! But still a productive day.

We spent much of the day today reviewing what we had learned in our Dreams to Jobs Open Court unit. Over the weekend, students did some research on most of the questions on the Concept-Question board. They wrote short reports answering these. Today we took those answers, and the concepts already posted on the board and we put them into four different categories: Business Basics, Starting a Business, Products & Services, and Problems & Possibilities. I then put the students into four groups, and assigned each group to one of these topics. Each group reviewed the concepts and the answered questions in their category. They then put these into a tree map. You can see those tree maps above. Each group also wrote a summary in paragraph form of what they learned, and a couple people from each group also presented their findings to the class.

We did a few other things besides this. We checked and correct homework. We read another chapter of Island. We attended a performance of The Grinch who Stole Christmas starring students from room 17. (A few of room 17's alumni in our class opined that it was better last year.) We read a chapter from the history book and discussed it. We also discussed how to use rounding and estimation in division. And, probably best of all from the students' perspective, we watched The Princess Bride during lunch.

Homework: (1) Do the spelling jumble. This is preparation for the Unit 2 test. (2) Do the crossword puzzle. Again, review for the unit test. (3) Do the history study sheet. (4) Do "Estimating Quotients," Math, pages 254-255.

More Holiday Art

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Staying Busy

Well, there's only a week left before winter break and so much stuff to get done At school, too!

We finishing up our Dreams to Jobs unit, and we will be doing the culminating activities next week. We took the quiz over "Salt" today, as well as a reading skills test. These are graded - they were overall quite good - and I will have them in the gradebook shortly. I collected the rough drafts of the "I-Search" paper, and I will review them over the weekend. We will do the final drafts next week. We started writing holiday picture books. Students will be working on these next week as well. The last week before vacation is a great time for a lot of writing. Helps keep everybody focused and productive.

After recess we took our spelling tests. We also corrected and discussed the math homeowork. After lunch, we read another chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins, corrected yesterday's history homework, and went over and discussed the math test. Again, the grades here were really pretty good overall. Thank you parents for all the help you have given out students with multiplication skills. We had a short PE period, but it was a good one. I have been tracking the students during exercises and laps and they are really working harder at their cardiovascular exercises. Coming back to the room, students selected a question from the Concept/Question board to research further over the weekend, and they received their homework.

Homework: (1) Research and answer the question selected from the Concept/Question board. The answer should be at least one paragraph long. Students should also indicate where and how they found the answer. (2) Finish the rough draft of the holiday story. (3) Do "Predict," Math, pages 250-251. (4) Do "Mental Math," pages 252-253. (5) Do the San Miguel Map exercise. This is a handout.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

School Logos

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Busy Thursday

We started out today with our last regularly-scheduled class with Mr. Lawton. The students had worked in pairs to compose songs and song lyrics. Some of these were near perfect, while others needed more work. Mr. Lawton collected these last week, and from all these he chose a couple of the best. The students started learning these songs. It is a pity that they do not have more time to work on them, and Mr. Lawton may give the students an extra period next week so he can record their performances.

Back in the room we finished the final step in our "I-Search" paper. I started to write about this last Friday, but never had an opportunity to finish it. An I-Search paper is an alternative to the traditional research paper. Unlike the usual "research-and-write-about-this-topic" paper, students recount how they learned what they learned. The paper is written in three stages. First students write down what they already know about a topic and why it interests them. Second, students consult a variety of sources - books, magazines, personal interviews, and so forth - to find out more. They write about this in the first person. For example, "I read a book called Being a Pilot. I learned that most pilots get their training in the Air Force...." Third, after doing some research, students write a summary of what they know now and what they would like to learn about the topic in the future.

Our students have already done the first and second steps in this project. We started on the third stage today in class, and they will finish this for homework tonight. We'll review a couple of really good rough drafts in class next week, and we will also do the final draft of the paper next week. For tonight we are just finishing the rough draft.

After recess, we went to an assembly in the auditorium. This featured some man who gave an inspirational talk, sort of a Tony Robbins for nine-year-olds, and did a bunch of yo-yo tricks. It was entertaining, though I am not sure how deeply the message penetrated. I think they will remember the yo-yo tricks more. Apparently part of this program is selling yo-yos and DVDs of yo-yo tricks in case one of our students starts asking for some cash. Mrs. Lee, our coordinator, is in charge of the merchandise for this show.

After lunch we plowed through another chapter of Island. We discussed and read about the rancho period in California history. I demonstrated how to do long division, and we did a whole bunch of problems together in class. We did a simple art project. This was about the color wheel and complementary colors, and the students were supposed to design some kind of emblem or logo for the school using complementary colors. A number of these, such as the ones above, we pretty good. After they finished the art, they got to start on homework.

Homework: (1) Do the spelling scramble. (2) Complete the final part of the I-Search paper about the job or profession. That's the activity I was writing about in the second and third paragraphs of this post. (3) Do "Division," Math, pages 246-249. It is a fair number of problems, but they need to really get comfortable with division procedures fast for us to go on. (4) Do the "Growth of Ranchos" study sheet.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Grumpy (and maybe Sneezy, too)

Boo hiss. This was our first Wednesday without Mr. Pratt and our drama class, and our dance program has been put on indefinite hold because of the budget crisis. It just is not the same without a dose of world-class arts instruction first thing on Wednesdays. Plus, I'm not feeling quite up to snuff right now - maybe a touch of the flu or a cold - so the students had a grumpy teacher today. Ask them. They'll agree.

But we still learned some stuff. We did our independent reading and wrote in our journals. We checked, corrected, and discussed our homework. We finished reading the "Salt" story and we discussed it a bit. We had a few extra minutes here, so the students were able to get a head start on a couple homework assignments.

After recess we went to Tech Center. Ms. Richards did more holiday related assignments with the students on the Tux Paint program. This is really a nice little open source program, and it is a free download for both Windows and Mac. Check it out at the program's website. After lunch we took our math test. A few students need to finish this tomorrow morning, so results should be on the gradebook by Friday. We went out to PE. Coming back, we read a chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins. We are starting division, and we discussed the idea of remainders and how to make models to illustrate division concepts.

Homework: (1) Do the post-it note page for the "Salt" story. (2) Do the study questions for the same OCR selection. (3) Do "Remainders," Math, pages 232-233. Be sure to make models for numbers 2-9. The rest of the problems can be mental math.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Return to Normalcy

Ah, back to normal for a while. No special schedules, no interrupts. "Normalcy," as Warren Harding put it.

We are pushing to finish the second Open Court unit, Dreams to Jobs, before break. We reviewed the previous stories and added to the Concept/Question board. We also went over the Word Study and Vocabulary for this story. We began reading and discussing "Salt", but we only went about halfway through before we went off to our scheduled book fair time.

After recess, we read another chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins. We also read about and discussed Mexico's war of independence from Spain and how that affected the people in Alta California. We practiced our "Cloud Maiden" play. We will be working on performing that - at least for video - soon.

After lunch, I gave the students another chance to look at the melodrama video. Many of the students saw it yesterday, but a number were at orchestra practice and they wanted to see it, too. (I will need to reedit this for YouTube since it is over 10 minutes. Rats. But the DVD looks great.) We corrected and discussed our math homework. A significant number of the students are still having problems with the multiplication. Please double check their work here.

Homework: (1) Do the spelling sort. We discussed what to do in class. (2) Do the "Prefixes and Suffixes" worksheet. (3) Do the study questions of "Mexican War of Independence". (4) Do the chapter reviews, pages 232-233 in Math.

Monday, December 08, 2008


When parents ask "What did you do in school today?" students usually answer, "Nothing." That's what it sort of felt like for me today.

Today was the orchestra concert day, so close to 40 percent of the class was gone most of the day. It's really hard to start a new story, teach a new skill, or really do anything when so many people are not there. So we had a lot of independent work and free choice kind of activities.

We did correct Friday's math homework, and do a three pages in the OCR workbook. I showed them their melodrama performances which I put on a DVD. We did read a chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins and we had a short PE. And then in the afternoon we went to an orchestra dress rehearsal. But compared to most days, it felt like nothing.

Of course, the students who went to orchestra probably felt like they were working nonstop! I suppose it's all a matter of perspective.

We did not do anything with the research findings about the job/profession. We'll take the next step with those tomorrow when everybody is back.

Homework: (1) Do the three OCR packet papers -- "Cause and Effect", "Compound Sentences" and "Word Knowledge" "Vocabulary from Context". (2) Do Multiplication Practice, Math, pages 228-229. Do all problems and show all work. (3) Also do "Multi-step Problems, Math, pages 230-231. Problem 1 on 231 does not make any sense unless you read page 230.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Holiday Cards

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The Funnest Day

Today had to be just the best day of the year. I mean, to begin with it was a minimum day. We spent our morning at theater class with Mr. Pratt. Not only did we do our melodramas, but he brought along all kinds of costumes so make it even more fun. All of the groups were videotaped, but I'll need a couple days to get the film edited and posted. Returning to our room, the students made the last entries in their theater journals, and then made colorful covers. I bound them into booklets. I'll be grading these, and sending them home soon. By and large, they're great! (for those of you old enough to remember the voice of Tony the Tiger....)

After lunch we went to Tech Center. The always-wonderful Ms. Richards had the students explore the Tux Paint program today. She gave them the assignment to create some kind of holiday card. The results were amazing! I scanned a couple of them as you can see above. I'll post some more in the next few days.

We had lunch, and then we went over the homework. Many students are still struggling with the multiplication by 2 digits, so they may need a bit a assistance with this at home. Once they get the hang of it, they'll be fine. But they do get a bit confused at this point about the order in which to multiply the numbers.

Homework: (1) Write a sentence for each spelling word. (2) Do "Multiply," Math, pages 224-225. (3) Continue researching the job or profession. Students should have some notes to bring in for this on Friday.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


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Sorry for not posting yesterday, but I was rushing out of here to deal with a sick dog. She went to the vet, and seems to be doing much better now.

We had a very productive day. We did some review work on different types of adjectives for Independent Work Time. We finished reading and discussing "Business is Looking Up." Since this story deal with two children who make nontraditional greeting cards, we also made some cards of our own. Some were normal cards for unexpected categories of people (such as "Happy Holidays" to grandmother's boyfriend) while others were for less common situations (for example, "Glad You're on Parole Now.") You can see some examples above.

After recess we finished this project, and we correct homework. This helped us get ready for the math test, and we took that after lunch. We'll correct that tomorrow and it should be on the gradebook soon. We finished the day by practicing our melodramas. This will be the culmination of our theater sessions with Mr. Pratt. We will get those filmed soon and on the blog.

Also, congratulations to Ricardo for finishing the Marathon reading challenge. We now have four finishers in room 19. We hope to have several more soon!

Homework: (1) Do the Reading Strategies page. This is the one with the post-it notes. (2) Do the spelling jumble. (3) Do "Multiply by Two Digits," pages 220-223. We discussed this skill a little yesterday, but some students may need a lot of help here. If they have trouble, concentrate on getting them correct instead of all finished. (4) Continue to research the job or profession they chose last week.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Temporary Post

I'll write more about the day later. For now here is the homework.

: (1) Write a paragraph about a job or profession that you find interesting. Write what you already know about this profession. This is the first step in writing a rough draft, so skip lines and write on one side of the paper. (2) Do "Estimate," Math, pages 210-211. These are not exact answers! This is mental math! Every year somebody goes to way more effort than needed to do this lesson. (3) Do "Simpler," Math, pages 214-215.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Movement in Art

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The Longest Day of the Shortest Week

Today we did the shortest story in the Open Court reader, "Ice Cream Cones: A New Scoop." I switch the order of the stories in this unit because a two page story with minimal workbook pages is just perfect for what is basically a two day week, don't you think? We also practiced our commercials for baby food. This was a project that they started with Ms. Feldman, and they will be filmed tomorrow and on the blog soon.

We also read a chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins and worked on our Indian songs and play. We're adding the Orff instruments to this! We corrected the social studies homework from last week.

After lunch we did silent reading and we had a gallery walk to appreciate the art students did last week. You can see some of the best pieces above. Students were pretty articulate in explaining how these worked used repeated lines and motifs to create a visual movement. We did some softball during PE, and returning to the classroom we corrected our math test. Results are on the gradebook.

Homework: (1) Do the chapter review, pp 162-163 in the California book. (2) Do "Mental Math," pp 206-207. Since this is mental math, the work is definitely answers only. (3) Do "Multiples of 10," pp 208-209, also in the math book. For many students most of these problems too can be solved in their heads.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


While yesterday was about doing a few things over a long period of time, today seemed to be about doing a lot of things and maybe not having quite enough time for each.

We started today with Mr. Lawton. Most students had done some of the work they needed for class, but many had some real problems with rhythm and meter or restricting the melody to a five note scale. Mr. Lawton was quite patient and gave them some pointers on the project. He even gave them a few extra minutes so they could help test out ideas on the Orff instruments. When we were finished, I decided to give them another 20 minutes or so to work with their partners and to begin composing the lyrics. We did a couple pages in the Reading/Writing workbook, look at time-order words and at the features of informational articles like "Food from the 'Hood."

We discussed the pages from the workbook after recess, and I also had the students work in small groups on their commercials during this time. A couple groups finished and shared their progress. We will do more on this assignment tomorrow, and we will film them next week.

After lunch was when it started felling rush. We had time for silent reading and working in our reading journal. We corrected yesterday's homework. We practiced the Native American play and the "Cloud Maiden" song. We read and discussed the rest of the "Life in the Missions" chapter from the history book, giving some of the less appealing facts about the missions which the docents in San Fernando had not bothered to mention. We started on an art lesson, but ran out of time. We'll have to finish it tomorrow! Maybe we'll all have caught our breath by that time.

Homework: (1) Do the spelling wordsearch. The test will be tomorrow before library. Please be on time! (2) Do the two papers from the History packet. I am not sure why some of the photocopies have words from a Christmas song on one side, but students should still be able to read it. (3) Do the Chapter 10 Review/Test and Cumulative Review, Math, pages 202-203. There will be a test tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Practicing Our Melodramas


Today was one of those days when an activity was going to well that as a teacher all I wanted to do was to give the students enough time to really immerse themselves in it. In our case, that activity was melodrama.

The culminating activity for the theater class, as I noted last week, is writing and staging a melodrama. Mr. Pratt gave the students the outline for the play today, and gave them a standard blocking for it. He helped put them into groups, and the groups improvised lines and worked on characters. Once we returned to the classroom, we briefly wrote reflections about this, and then the students returned to their groups and began writing their scripts. They were still working hard when the recess bell rang.

After recess, we went to the Tech Center. Ms. Richards and I collaborated on this lesson. She is having the students work on a PowerPoint slide show about "American Spirit" and I figured that our field trip to the San Fernando Mission surely pointed to an important time in California, and therefore American, history. So the students learned how to download pictures from the Internet (in this case my Picassa/Google photo albums), and they incorporated one of those pictures into their slide and added some text about how this particular picture said something about America and the American Experience.

After lunch, we had more time to work on the play script, and a couple of the groups even started practicing it. You can see some scenes from this practice session in the slide show above. We went to PE where we just did some routine rotations through activities. We corrected Tuesday's homework when we returned to the class. And then the day was over! I did not do all the things I planned to do, but I had no regrets giving the extra time to play writing because the students were so motivated and the work they were doing was so hard!

Homework: (1) Write a good sentence for each spelling word. (2) Do "Multiply by 4 Digits," Math, pages 197-199, even numbers only. Be sure to show all work again. (3) Do "Write an Equation," Math, page 201, all problems.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Quick One

Just a quick post with the homework. It was a good day, but I need to get home.

Homework: (1) Do the spelling jumble. (2) Do the "Food from the 'Hood" questions. Be sure to answer in complete sentences. (3) Do "Multiply," Math, pages 193-195, numbers 1-65 odd only. Students need to copy problems or otherwise show all work. Tomorrow we will exchange and check and no work will be marked wrong.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Smoky Days and Mondays

You may remember the song with the refrain, "Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down"? Well, it was not raining today but because of the wildfires we were on rainy day schedule all day. And that can a little too much teacher for the children, and a little too much children for the teacher.

Still, we not only survived but learned some good stuff today. We reviewed a bunch of skills during Independent Work Time, and we started to read the "Food for the Hood" story. We skipped over the "Ice Cream Cones" story, for anybody who happens to have a copy of the book handy, because it is so short that it works perfectly for Thanksgiving week.

Students worked on final drafts of their Mission San Fernando compositions. Many are already done with this, and those who are not should finish it as soon as possible. I did not mention this explicitly when I was going over homework at the end of the day, so it is not strictly due tomorrow. But as soon as possible....

We watched The Wild during our indoor lunch time. Then afterwards we did a gallery walk and discussed Friday's art project, corrected Friday's math test, and read a chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins.

Homework: (1) Do tree map as a spelling sort. (2) Do "Mental Math," Math, pages 186-187, and (3) "Estimate Products," pages 188-189 in the same book.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Culture Day

How fantastic to see so many people here today for Culture Day! I understand our class booth was a huge hit (there's a pun intended here) and closed up shop early because we were sold out of prizes.

Congratulations to Helen Kang for organizing the whole day. Also many thanks to the parents who staffed the booth (I'd mention the ones I know were there but I don't accidentally want to leave anybody out). You guys are the BEST!!!

Flowing Rhythm

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Artsy Friday

Our day began today with Mr. Lawton. We missed his class yesterday because we were at the field trip, so he rearranged his schedule to accommodate us. He started the class working on a music composition project. This will be the culmination of their work with him. This is a pretty challenging assignment, but I am sure that our students will do an excellent job. Keep posted here and on Mr. Lawton's blog for more updates.

Returning to the classroom, we discussed yesterday's field trip and started a composition about what we learned about this mission and other missions. We did a couple of Thinking Maps as pre-writing, and then students worked on the rough drafts. This should be a five paragraph essay. Most finished their drafts by the end of the day, but a few students will need to finish these with homework.

After recess, we took the district Science test and the Open Court Reading quiz over "Elias Sifuentes." After lunch, we took the Chapter 9 math test. We will have results on these tests posted soon. Since we had not had art on Thursday because of the field trip, we did our weekly art lesson today. We reviewed the idea of rhythm in art, and then we discussed how artists can use rhythm to create a sense of motion in the work. We did some abstract pieces to illustrate these. I will have some of these scanned and posted by Monday.

Homework: (1) Do the Word Study and Vocabulary for the next story. This is a handout. (2) Do the Math worksheet.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Our Trip

Well, it was touch and go at first. The buses were almost an hour late, and it looked like one of them might not even show up. But we made it to the mission!

The missions are so important to California history that it is almost essential that students should have an opportunity to visit one. All but one, however, are active Roman Catholic parishes and the expectations of the devout docents and the reality of easily bored fourth graders are not always easy to reconcile. Still, we were fortunate today to have a really patient guide who had to deal with an unusually large group. And, I must say, this year's fourth graders are some of the best-behaved students I've ever seen. So it all went pretty well.

Some pictures of the trip are posted below to give those parents who have never been there a chance to see a bit of the mission.

Homework: The students were awfully good on the trip, so why not take a day off now and then?

Mission Pictures

The interior of the mission church.

A detail from the reredos behind the high altar. Saint Ferdinand,
King of Spain, after whome the mission is named, is the central figure.

The entry to the cloister with its almost Moorish flavor.
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More Mission Pictures.

John, our guide, was patient and knowledgeable.

Students had a chance to see and touch abobe bricks. The
original mission was made out of adobe. It has been mostly reconstructed.

However, in one part of the old building, some original adobe bricks
and wall painting remains behind protective glass.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Field Trip Tomorrow!

Our field trip will happen tomorrow! We did not discover until Monday afternoon that the funding for the bus had finally come through. Now here are the important parts:

  • Students must have a signed field trip. As of lunch time on Wednesday, 8 students still needed to return the form.
  • Students must bring a lunch including something to drink.
  • Students should bring one dollar to pay for admission.
  • Students will NOT be going to the gift shop, so please do not send money with them for this.

Adult volunteers are welcome. Adults are four dollars each.

In other news, we had the usual fun Wednesday. We started out with Theater class with Mr. Pratt. We will only have two more theater classes for the year, and our culminating project will be writing and performing a melodrama. During the Gold Rush era, long before television and movies, melodramas performed by troupes of traveling actors were a common form of entertainment. Actors in the early Hollywood silent movies had all been trained in the conventions of melodrama. So, you can see how nicely this project will tie into our Social Studies work!

We also went to Tech Center today where Ms. Richards worked with the students more on PowerPoint. They are starting work on Presentations about "American Spirit." These should be interesting: I think they once they are finished the students will be setup with accounts and these presentations will be embedded into their pages on that website.

The afternoon was devoted to finishing up some work for the morning, doing some PE activities, and beginning our study of the mission system. It's perfect timing that we pay a visit to a real-life mission just when we start to read about them in history class.

Homework: (1) Do the "Settling Alta California" worksheet. Students will need their California book for this, particularly since we did not completely finish reading the chapter in class. (2) Do "Review/Test" and "Cumulative Review" on pages 176 and 177 respectively of the Math book.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Flowing Rhythm

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Repetition and Rhythm

We started out today with Mr. Lawton and music class. He is starting a project with them on line and melody, and I am sure that you can find more information about that on his blog.

Back in the classroom we correct and discussed our extensive homework from yesterday. It really was a lot - I wanted to give them a lot of work so they'd work hard during their study hall in the last 45 minutes - so you'll notice that tonight is pretty much a free day.

We did a poem project today. It is one of my favorite composition projects of the year. Students brainstormed what life was like when they were younger and how it is different now they are older. They then wrote their poem. Instead of a rhyme and rhythm scheme, their poems used a couplet scheme the repetition of certain words to create the poetic form. Here's one example:

I used to ride a tricycle,
but now I ride a bicycle.
I used to watch Curious George,
but now I watch Hellboy.
I used to drink juice all the time,
but now I like to drink soda.
I used to play with my pet turtles,
but now I play video games.
I used to play with my friends,
but now we "hang out."
I used to play with my baby toys,
but now I play basketball.

We also did pictures to go with the final drafts of the poems and mounted both on construction paper.

Thursday is the regular visual arts lesson day, and today we focused on flowing rhythm. Last week's class had been about regular and random rhythm. Students picked flowing line shapes and cut these out of construction paper and pasted them onto another piece of construction paper. You can see some examples above. They then wrote about this project in their Arts Journals and we finished with a gallery walk and shared compliments with each other.

Homework: (1) Study for tomorrow's spelling test. (2) Do "Equations with Variables," Math, pages 170-171.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Stage Combat

The Day After

Many of us felt pretty tired after last night. I sure was! Fortunately for me, I did not have to teach as much today. But that did not mean that the students did not learn. They sure did!

We began today with our Theater class with Mr. Pratt. We continued our work with stage combat. This is a great lesson for several reasons. First, it covers basic stage movement. Students learn ideas of upstage and downstage, stage right and stage left. Second, students learn that fights on stage are very carefully choreographed and are NOT improvised. That keeps the actors safe. You'll notice in the video above, that the combat moves are identical in each set. And this also helps the students learn that the fighting they see in movies and on television is completely fake. During our lesson, nobody actually ever touches anybody else. And yet, as you can see if the video, it often looks pretty realistic. Third, students learn to develop characters and they do improvise dialogue for these characters. They have fun making insults, but they know that the insults are aimed at the character, not at the fellow-student actor. Finally, the story introduces the students to the story of the Greek hero Theseus who defeats the half-man, half-bull Minotaur in the Cretan labyrinth. Talk about cultural literacy!

After recess, we went to Tech Center where Ms. Richards and Ms. D did more work with the students on either PowerPoint or Internet research. These are two absolutely incredible teachers, and they are doing some a wonderful job in our computer lab. Many thanks to Friends of Third for making this great program possible.

After lunch, we did continued with California history. We finished reading a chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins, and we practiced our acorn songs and dances. (These are the acorns which grow on oak trees, and they have nothing to do with the voter registration!) We also started a discussion of the first Spanish explorers.

I had to leave early to deal with appliance problems. You know how they will only tell you, "Between 1 and 5 in the afternoon" no matter how much you plead that you have a job. Mrs. Caruso and her assistant, Mrs. Garcia, helped me out here. Many thanks. The students had a good 45 minutes to start on their homework after PE today.

Homework: (1) Do the spelling scramble and wordsearch. (2) Do the subtraction and multiplication worksheets. Be sure to show regrouping. This is a review of third grade skills. (3) Finish reading the chapter on "Explorers" in the California book and do the study sheet. Page numbers are provided next to each study question to make it easier. (4) Do "Variables," Math, pages 168-169.