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

Posted by Picasa

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

Posted by Picasa

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.
Posted by Picasa

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.
Posted by Picasa

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 think.com 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

Posted by Picasa

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.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

New Products! Buy Now!

Posted by Picasa

Election Day!

Today we mostly worked on the Quarterly Math Test from the district. We did a lot of preparation for this so that students were familiar with some of the key concepts and how questions were being phrased. I think they probably did fine, but I am not going to count this towards their grade. It is supposed to "inform instruction" anyhow. Whatever that means....

We did some other stuff, too, including finishing off a couple of our advertisements which I posted above. We also practiced our Theseus & the Minotaur stage combat, and we corrected a lot of yesterday's homework.

I'm off to the gym right now, and then I'm glued to the tube tonight for election results. OK, I'll work in a dog walk, too. Edie and Eli don't understand about elections.

Homework: Watch the election results. Keep track of what states go for which candidate. Ms. Richards will be using this tomorrow in Tech Center.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Delightfully Dull

This was a delightfully routine day, even dull. That was particularly nice after all of the barely-contained Halloween energy on Friday. During Independent Work Time, we worked on syllabication and plural forms with -y. We went outside to practice our stage combat, getting ready for theater class on Wednesday. This was related to the Theseus and the Minotaur story. We started an advertisement for an imaginary product. We will finish that tomorrow.

After recess, we did the chapter 2 History test. I will work hard to get this on the gradebook as soon as possible. We needed more time to work on this after lunch, too. We then checked our homework and read a bit of Island of the Blue Dolphins. We went to PE. After that, we came back to the room where we corrected the Math test from Friday, and reviewed the idea of multiplying both sides of the equation by the same number. We working hard to get beyond just the facts of the times tables to seeing the broader patterns here. That's what algebra, in the end, is all about.

Homework: (1) Do spelling sort. All the words this week have the schwa sound. (2) Write the definitions for the "Eddie, Inc." vocabulary words in the green vocabulary booklet. (3) Complete the study questions over "Eddie, Inc." This is a handout. (4) Write a paragraph explaining which candidate for President you would vote for if you were allowed to vote. Provide as many specific details as possible. No insults to the other candidate. (5) Do "Match Words and Expressions," Math, page 163. (6) Do "Multiply Equals by Equals," Math, page 166-167, numbers 4-31.