Thursday, December 17, 2009


Well, winter break is so close that you can smell it like the yule log burning in the fireplace. Everybody in room 19 is excited and ready to have a break. It’s so hard to stay focused….

But we did our best. We checked, corrected, and discussed our homework. We then finished our drawings of presents. As I said yesterday, this was an effort both to work on drawing rectangular prisms, which is a good introduction to perspective, and to creating visual rhythm through regular patterns.

Some of our presents were very fine indeed:

We made little paper bag reindeer. Most of the students took these home today so you should be able to find them in their backpacks – hopefully reasonably intact.

Then it was time for the party. We had a lot of parents here. Thanks so much for coming! It meant a lot to the students. The food was great, too.


We tried to make our party more than just a carbohydrate fest by having the students read and present picture books which they made for the occasion.



The parents really enjoyed the stories, particularly the ones with topical references like Santa getting the H1N1 flu!

We did PE to work off some of that energy, and I gave the students division and multiplication worksheets to keep them busy and quiet when we returned. They needed the practice, and I needed the peace and quiet. Perfect…. Many students finished these before the end of the day, but a number will finish them up as homework.

Homework:  Just finish the math worksheets if necessary.   

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Getting Ready

Tomorrow’s our holiday party where we’ll share our holiday stories. I sure hope that as many parents as possible can make it here to join us tomorrow.

We spent the morning, after correcting homework, working on the final drafts and illustrations.

After recess, we had a big disappointment when Ms. Richard cancelled Tech Center. I feel bad when teachers have personal issues, but getting told 5 minutes before you’re scheduled to go somewhere that it’s not happening leaves a teacher scrambling. In our case I had them read a chapter of Island, bind their Topic 6 math papers, and do a picture of a present as a way to review perspective and rhythm in art. They’ll be finishing the art tomorrow and I’ll post some of the pictures then or Friday.

We did PE as usual on Wednesdays. We finished the day with cupcakes and soda for Yuyang’s birthday.

Homework:  (1) Do “Zeroes in the Quotient,” Math pages 176-177. (2) Finish final drafts of stories and illustrations.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Stories

OK, sorry for not writing yesterday. I was really, really tired and just plain forgot about it. I hope that did not cause any confusion with homework.

Today we worked a lot on our holiday stories. As you probably know, the students had to write a story about Christmas or Hanukkah or some other seasonal theme. They will be turning these into picture books – we’ll bind them and put nice homemade covers on them – and they will be sharing their stories with the class and the parents at the holiday party on Thursday. So, far, many of the stories are just wonderful. I hope as many parents as possible can be here Thursday to hear them.

We did a couple other things. We read another chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins today. We talked about the Mexican War of Independence and how it changed California. We had Buddy Reading with our kindergarten friends. And we practiced division.

Homework:  (1) Math, pages 174-175. Please be sure to do the enrichment activity on the back of the sheet too. Several students were missing that this morning. (2) Do the “Mexican California” worksheet.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Primary Colors

The last day of conferences went pretty smoothly, and I thank parents again for being so prompt and helpful. The weather was also a little helpful today since we did manage to have a regular recess!

After checking and correcting our homework this morning, we turned our attention to Art. We are starting our unit on color, and we talked about the color wheel. The students then did abstract designs using primary and secondary colors. Some were quite striking!



We continued our work with long division at math time, and that’s the bulk of tonight’s homework.

Homework:  (1) Do pages 61-64 from the Open Court packet. (2) Do “Division,” envision Math, pages 169-170.  (3) Write the fourth paragraph of the I-Search paper. Many, many students did not finish the second source (third paragraph) of the paper last night, so they will have double the work to do.

In an additional effort to keep parents informed about grades, I will be sending our daily emails about homework and other critical grades when they are entered into the gradebook.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Classic Fourth Grade

Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever had a year where nobody missed a parent conference. Thanks to everybody for being so prompt, and, of course, for having such wonderful children.

Today was a real fourth grade day. We took a test over the mission era in History, and then after recess we started to learn long division. Two of fourth grade’s greatest hits!

Homework:  (1) Do pages 165-166 in the math book. Page 176 is NOT assigned. Be sure to do all the work on a separate paper and to bring that in tomorrow. (2) Do the third paragraph for the I-Search paper. This should be a different source from the second paragraph. We just to have a topic sentence and at least four detail sentences. Write in the first person as before. And, since it’s a rough draft, skip lines.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Getting Down to Business

What a speedy day this was! We were packed up by recess. But we still learned a lot.

We started out checking, correcting, and discussing our homework. Students did a good job in particular with the estimation homework. We had a good discussion of the “Business is Looking Up” story, too.

We then went on to math. Today we introduced the standard algorithm, or procedure, for dividing with a remainder. The numbers are still pretty small like 17 divided by 3. But the students did a good job getting the concept and the skill.

After recess, we went to the Tech Center. This is really becoming a super productive time for us. The students are writing a business plan at the same time that they are learning to use PowerPoint. I hope to have them finish this after the Winter Break and actually present these as the culmination of the unit.

We then went to lunch – it not raining we could eat outside – and then played until the bell rang.

Homework:  (1) Do “Dividing with Remainders” envision Math pages 162-163.Be sure to put all the work for numbers 7-24 on the purple paper. (2) Do the nontraditional greeting card. This should be a card either for a nontraditional recipient or for a nontraditional occasion. There should be a greeting and a picture on the front and an appropriate message inside. This should be neat and correctly-spelled.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

At the Fair

It was a nice, quick day in room 19 today. We started out, as usual, checking and correcting homework. We went on to read our next story, “Business is Looking Up.” This is a pretty boring story, but it does help to add to the idea of writing a business plan. We’re working on that in Tech Center.

After recess, we did math. Today’s lesson involved using rounding and comparable numbers to estimate quotients. The students had a lot of time to get started on this pretty easy assignment, so homework is pretty light today.

After lunch, we read a chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins. We then went to the Book Fair. I’m sure that was the highlight of the day for the students. No rain was the highlight of the day for the teacher.

Homework:  (1) Do the Reading Strategies page for the “Business is Looking Up” story. (2) Do the study questions for the same story. (3) Complete “Estimate Quotients,” Envision Math pages 160-161.

Monday, December 07, 2009


I know we need the rain. I know there has been a drought. I just don’t quite understand why it can’t just rain in between 2:30 in the afternoon and 8:00 in the morning. Sigh.

We started today with a look at homework from Friday. We then went on to look at Friday’s art project which some students finished as homework. The assignment here was to use rhythm – repeated images and other patterns – to create movement in the depiction of an activity. It was a hard assignment, but several students did exemplary work here:




We work on putting together portfolios for conferences. We reviewed the history chapter review from last week. We discussed using math facts to divide larger numbers mentally. Oh, and we watched The Wild at lunch. That’s probably the best part as far as the students were concerned.

Homework:  (1) Finish, if necessary, the concept for the concept-question board. (2) Do the multiplication study sheet. Be sure to show all work. Use a separate paper if necessary.  (3) Do the rest of the study review questions on page 163 of the History book. (4) Do “Using Mental Math to Divide,” Envision Math, pages 158-159. (5) Do Word Knowledge and Vocabulary from Context for “Business is Looking Up.”

Students had a lot of time to get a head start on these assignments. If they’re bringing much work home it’s only because they were not working that diligently during the morning.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


If yesterday was fast, today was faster.

We started out checking, correcting, and discussing our homework as usual. A number of the students did not receive full credit because they “forgot” the paper on which they did their work. This is essential again tonight, and I gave them a spiffy purple paper to show all their work as well as the answer sheet.

After homework, we did a math lesson. Today’s topic was three digits times two digits (for example, 324 x 26). The students had ample amount of time to work on this and many even finished it before recess.

After recess, we went to Tech Center. Ms. Richards had them work on keyboarding, and then introduced them to their first PowerPoint project. The students will be using this piece of software to write and present a business plan! This will tie in very closely with the Open Court Unit and the writing assessment at the end of that unit.

After recess, we read a bit of Island of the Blue Dolphins. Today we did our activities with the students from room 37 because they are also interested in the EPEC program.

The students stayed out on the yard because the teachers were give time to work on report cards. Dr. Oh and the aides supervised the play.

Thanks for all the parents who have returned the conference form.

Homework: (1) Do spelling words 11-20 with definitions and sentences just as we did yesterday. (2) Do pages 148-149 in the math book and be sure to show all work on the purple paper. (3) Do "Features of Informational Articles" and "Main Ideas and Details". (4) Do the contractions worksheet.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


It was a short day and it seemed to rush by so fast!

We started out checking and correcting the homework. Most of the students are coming along nicely with the multiplication, but a few of them could use a little help there. We went on to Open Court where we were faced with a long and pretty boring story. To make it less painful, I read it to the students while they used their post-it notes to practice their strategies.

I then had a meeting with Mrs. Walker and some other folk. I figured that our students should not have to suffer because some adults cannot come to school before eight o’clock, so I insisted that they get to have two recesses while I attended the meeting. You can imagine their joy at that!

After I got back, we turned our attention to prepositions. I showed them the School House Rock video on this:

Then the students wrote sentences with prepositional phrases. We cut the sentences in half and the students traded them with their partners. We then compared who could make the most ridiculous sentence with a mismatched main clause and prepositional phrases.

After lunch, we did math. Today we introduced the normal way of doing two digit multiplication (that’s the “standard algorithm” in case you ever are stuck talking to a math teacher) and most seemed to sort of get the idea. They will need some help with it tonight.

We had reading buddies with room 2 and called it a day.

Homework: (1) Write a short definition – a synonym is OK here – for words 1-10 on the list and then write a short sentence for each. (2) Do the “Food from the Hood” questions. Be sure to answer in complete sentences and use the book! (3) Also, work on the word search but do not spend too much time on it. This should be kind of fun, and it is not essential to find every word. (4) Do “Multiplication,” Envision Math, pages 146-147. Show all work on a separate paper and put the answers on the answer sheet.

Big, big thanks to Abigail’s mom for helping clean the room! Thanks also to Joshua’s mom for doing it a couple times earlier this semester. Your help is so appreciated.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I-Search and Gibberish

Well, I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving Break. My Thanksgiving Day went well – all 14 at the table seemed to have a good time – but then I became miserably sick at the weekend. I had hoped to use this time to catch up a bit on grading and then like, but I guess I will have to burn the midnight oil instead. Sigh.

Despite not feeling my best, we had a good day in room 19. We began by journal about our weekend and the experiences we had had. We shared these in pairs and then volunteers shared them with the whole class. Many of the students surprised and pleased me by the vivid details they put into some of their narratives. After that, we went to the library. Monday is not our usual library day, but Mrs. Koneff gave us this time since we will miss next Friday because of set-up for the Book Fair next week.

After library, I discussed the I-Search paper with the class. As I explained to the students, the I-Search paper is a different way of doing research. Instead of having the students pretend to be experts on a particular topic, the I-Search paper asks them to record their exploration to find out more about this topic. I’ll post an example of this later this week. For tomorrow, the students will be completing the first step in this project. They will need to write a paragraph

  • indicating a job or profession which they think they might be interested in when they are older;
  • why that job or profession interests them;
  • what they already know about that particular kind of work; and
  • what particular questions they hope to answer about that work as they do their research.

As I said, they have specific directions for this and an example of a reasonable good (but not perfect) paper from last year.

After recess, we read one short (and dull) and one long (but exciting) chapter from Island of the Blue Dolphins.

After lunch, the students had some time to get started on their history homework. We then practiced gibberish, a theater game, to help polish our skills for the play. The students liked this, as you can see below.

We also worked on the songs from Charlie Brown.

We went out PE where the students worked on cooperation, playing a game with Ms. Caruso, endurance, working with Leslie, one of the room 19 parents, and worked on kicking technique with me. I am actually learning stuff about proper PE technique from this EPEC program!

Math is pretty easy tonight. I talked about multiplying by a number in the tens place such as multiplying by 20 or 30 or 90. I pointed out that all they have to do here is to put down a zero and multiply just as they would any other number. BUT, we also took a lot of time to point out WHY they are putting down that zero.

Homework: (1) Do the first paragraph of the I-Search paper as described above. (2) In the History book, do numbers 1-13 on page 136. For numbers 1-6, just write a definition for the word: skip the crossword directions. For numbers 7-13, please copy the question as well as answering it. (3) Do “Multiply by 10,” pages 144-145 in the Envision Math book. (4) Do the Word Knowledge and Vocabulary from Context for the “Food from the ‘Hood” story.

Monday, November 23, 2009

NOT being Grateful

Forgive the belated post, but I am getting ready for Thanksgiving and feeling a little pressed for time.

We had a good, solid, productive day. We started our with a pretty fun journal prompt:  “25 things I am NOT thankful for.” As you can imagine, we had some wonderful ideas here. We then turned our attention to the final drafts of the mission field trip composition. I held writing conferences with each student as they also worked on a picture to go with their writing. Many are nearly finished with this, though others will need to finish it tonight.

After recess, we talked about food webs versus food chains. They grasped the distinction pretty easily, I think. I gave them an assignment here, but it will not be due until Wednesday. I’ll write more about it tomorrow.

After lunch, we checked homework and practiced the Charlie Brown songs. We went out to PE. Mrs. Caruso worked with them on a cooperation skill-building game, while a parent in her class had them work on pull ups and other upper-body strength building exercises. I worked with them on proper kicking with a particular emphasis on coordination and control.

Homework:  (1) Finish the final draft of the mission field trip essay and do the picture. (2) Do the Word Knowledge and Vocabulary from Context papers for “Ice Cream Cones:  A New Scoop.” (3) Do the Pronoun worksheet. Be sure to read the information in the box carefully about subjects and object pronouns. (4) Do pages 136-137 in the math book. (5) Do the Thanksgiving Math handout.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Producers and Consumers

Today we did a bit of this and a bit of that. We spent time reviewing the “Sifuentes” story and the vocabulary from the story. We’ll have a quiz on that tomorrow. We also worked on conjunctions and compound sentences – a key objective for this OCR unit. We started out by watching the famous “Conjunction Junction” episode from Schoolhouse Rock.

I modeled the difference between compound subjects, compound predicates, and compound sentences. Students wrote some original sentences based on each of these models.

After recess, we read the chapter from Island of the Blue Dolphins where Karana attacks and then befriends the leader of the dog pack that killed her brother. It’s such a great section with so much subtlety as she oscillates between revenge and compassion. We also finished writing the rough drafts of the trip to the mission composition.

After lunch, we practiced songs from Charlie Brown and we read about food chains, food webs, and food pyramids. The students readily mastered the differences between producers, first-level consumers, and second-level consumers. They then made some food webs of their own.


Homework: (1) Write one spelling sentence for each spelling word. (2) Do the “Multiplication Practice” and “Five Numbers” math worksheets.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To the Mission

Today was our field trip to the San Fernando Mission. I always feel frazzled before a field trip, and I wonder why I ever agreed to such a venture. Yet afterwards I am almost invariably glad we went and remember them as high points of the year. Today followed that pattern closely.

The trip from Third Street to the mission had some problems. Well, the bus that Dr. Fulton’s class and our class was on had a problem. The driver got lost. We drove for at least 30 minutes around the city of San Fernando fairly aimlessly. At one point the driver just stopped and asked a guy standing on the street for directions. Why don’t they just stick a Tom Tom in these buses?

But, we finally made it there. The other two classes had already started their tour and there was only one tour guide left. So that poor man had 55 students to take around the mission. But he was patient and had a sense of humor and all went well. Our first stop was in the blacksmith’s shop where he explained how the mission Indians were put to work making farm tools.


We walked past the carpentry shop (which I love because it has the coffin on the floor) and went to the weaving room where he discussed the jobs that women had on the mission.

Our next stop was the church. Our guide here did a nice job of explaining how the church had been built and rebuilt several times and that the current pictures and statues were not original, but probably looked very close to the original designs. The students loved the idea that there were people buried under the floor.


As we left the church we walked past Bob Hope’s grave. The students had no idea who he was. Ah, how time flies. He was such a big star when I was young. Sic transit gloria mundi and all that, I suppose.

We walked around the mission grounds.


This tour was shorter than previous tours and our guide left us in the mission library. Since I had been to the mission a number of times and remembered a fair amount from those trips, I took the students to the museum rooms of the mission. There were a lot of stuff there, and some of it, like old Eucharistic vestments, did not interest the students much. But they did like this old pipe organ, reputedly one of the oldest in the country.

IMGP0111  We had lunch across the street at the city park. Thanks to Alysoun Higgins and Ivy Andrade, my fantastic parent volunteers, lunch went very smoothly. We finished with a trip through the lovely rose garden. We posed for a picture at the fountain there. One student – grrr – posed a little too much.


The bus ride home was uneventful and quick. Deo gracias, as the padres would have said.

Homework:  Why not have a free day today?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Getting Ready for the Mission

Another productive day. We spent a good deal of time this morning checking, correcting, and discussing yesterday’s homework. Of course, since a lot of this concerned missions, it was also preparation for tomorrow’s field trip. The timing of this trip couldn’t have been better. My thanks to Mrs. Polacheck for arranging it for the grade level.

We were all excited about a concert performance today by the Colburn School Orchestra, but this was cancelled for some reason at the last moment. We substituted Thursday’s math assignment instead – much to sighs from all.

After lunch we read a chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins and we practiced the Charlie Brown theme song. We had a particularly wonderful time with reading buddies. The kindergarten kids are starting to bond with their fourth-grade mentors. It was great as you can see.

DSC07284 DSC07282

Homework: (1) Do pages 71-72 in the math workbook. (2) Do pages 127-128 and 130-131 in the math book. This seems like more than it really is. (3) Divide the spelling words into syllables. (4) Do the “Inflectional Endings” worksheet. (5) Do the study questions on the “Elias Sifuentes” story.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Busy Day!

First of all, let me thank all the families who helped contribute to our food drive. What a great response! I know we collected more than any other single class.


It was a busy Monday. I felt like we were rushing from one thing to the next trying to get time to fit everything in. We did, more or less, and learned a lot in the process.

We started by finishing off the LAUSD quarterly math assessment. The less said about this, the better. We quickly corrected Friday’s math homework. We much more time discussing the vocabulary for our next selection. We tried to figure out it there were synonyms, antonyms, homophones, and homographs for each word. It was a good discussion but hard work! We also went over the concept-question board which I assembled this weekend. Note the great art work the students did of jobs which require uniforms or other special clothing.


We read the story “Elias Sifuentes, Restaurateur” from the Open Court anthology. We worked on questioning and connecting strategies as we read this short non-fiction selection.

After lunch, we started learning the title song for You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. The play will be a daily kind of activity for the next few months. We talked more about the missions and read a chapter from the book. This is to get the students ready for Wednesday’s field trip (see below). We went out to PE where Mrs. Caruso and I divided the class into groups and did activities with them from the EPEC (Exemplary Physical Education Curriculum) program that we are piloting at Third Street. I had the students work on leaping. This was my grumpiest moment of the day because I had trouble getting them to realize just how much they needed to relearn a movement they thought they knew. Leaping and jumping are not the same thing. We’ll continue with this…. After PE, as usual, we did math. 

Student are taking home a permission slip today for Wednesday’ strip to Mission San Fernando Rey. They should also bring one dollar in for admission along with the permission slip.

Sorry for the short notice, but we only received final confirmation from the Transportation Branch this morning. If you are interested in accompanying the class, please send me an email.

Homework:  (1) Finish the “Reading Strategies” worksheet. (2) Do the “Point of View” worksheet. (3) Do the “Life in the Missions” study sheet. (4) Do the “Time Line” and “Portola” worksheets. (5) Do “Simplifying Expressions,” Envision Math, pages 124-125.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Picture Day

Today's big event was school pictures. This went pretty painlessly this year. There have been years when we stood for over an hour in the auditorium waiting to get our pictures taken, but this year we were in and back in only about 20 minutes. And that included the class photo. They gave me a copy of the preliminary shot so I could identify students for the yearbook. I hope I don't have such an idiotic grin on my face in the final selection, but I am not hopeful.

Class Photo002

Otherwise, a pretty uneventful day. We work on sentence combining skills, and we checked, corrected and discussed homework. We did independent reading and responded in journals. We slogged through a particularly long selection in the history book about the Spanish colonial system, but that was important since we should be going to Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana next week. Permission slip to follow.

Homework: (1) Do the spelling word search. (2) Write sentences for each of the spelling words. (3) Do the “Adjectives” and “Ad-lib” worksheet. (4) Do the “Multisyllabic Crossword” and “Connecting to Theme” worksheet. (5) Do the “Settling Alta California” study guide. (6) Do “Expressions with Parentheses,” Envision Math, pages 122-123.

Students can substitute a box of food or a can of food for the food drive for assignments (1) and (2). One contribution for each excused assignment.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Quiet Tuesday

Just the homework for now. I’ll update this later.

Homework:  (1) Do the spelling jumble. (2) Complete the tree map and the flow map for “Eddie, Inc.” story. (3) Do the “Eddie, Inc.” study questions. (4) Do “Equality,” Envision Math, pages 120-121.

Monday, November 09, 2009

New and Improved

First of all, a big thank you to all the parents who helped out at Culture Day. Our Drum Circle booth did reasonably well, and it was both fun and educational. 


Today we did a number of new things. We started a new unit in Open Court Reading. We started a new independent reading program and the students received a new journal as a part of this. We also started new units in History and Math. We started work on You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown by watching half of the cartoon version. We’ll start on the songs tomorrow.

Best of all, we started the EPEC program. EPEC stands for “Exemplary Physical Education Curriculum” and it is the state-of-the-art PE program that the state and the district would like us to teach. We are the first class at Third Street to attempt to implement this, and we now have the equipment we need thanks to the generosity of our fabulous room 19 families. Our students worked on two activities today. I worked with students to learn and practice proper jumping form.  Ms. Caruso did a cooperation game with the another group. After a period of time, we switched off so that both groups could do both activities.


Homework:  (1) Write each spelling word once. Underline or circle the silent letter. (2) Do the “Reading Strategies” page with the post-it notes. Be sure to write not only the page number but the phrase that prompted the prediction, connection, or question. (3) Do the Multisyllabic Words worksheet. (4) Do the “Explorers Arrive from Mexico” study sheet and the “Early Explorers” and “Routes” worksheet. (5) Do “Variables and Expressions,” Envision Math, pages 118-119 and “Who Wants Pizza” on the back.  

Friday, November 06, 2009

When I Grow Up…

Today we looked backward and forward. Several students needed additional time to finish some of yesterday’s activities like the tests or the final draft of the Open Court writing assessment, so we found some time for them to work on that. But mostly we looked forward towards the next reading theme, “Dreams to Jobs.”

I like to introduce this theme on a negative note. I ask the students, “What would you absolutely hate to do when you grow up?” They like the vocational questions in reverse and their ideas about jobs can be interesting – if not always completely accurate.


          When I grow up I don’t want to be a doctor. I don’t want to be a doctor because I would see a lot of blood. I also don’t want to be  a doctor because I would have to work all day, every week. I would be very tired. Also , I if was tired I could do something wrong. I might puke if there was too much blood. Those are the reasons why I don’t want to be a doctor.


          The job I would hate the most is to be a teacher. I would hate being a teacher because all the kids would yell when they’re supposed to be doing their work. The second thing is they would be sharpening their pencils. The third thing is because they get out of their seats and ask you questions. The last thing is when kids jump around in the bus! I WILL NEVER BE A TEACHER!!!

Actually, being a teacher is not that bad, at least at Third Street School.

The students did rough and final drafts of these paragraphs and worked on illustrations, too. This took a lot longer than I expected it would, but they seemed to be focused on the topic and having a good time, too.

In the afternoon, we had our first experience with Hands-on Equations. This is a nifty program designed to introduce algebraic concepts to students by using manipulatives. The first lessons in the program are pretty easy, but they get harder soon. Our students did quite well with it, and, as you can see, they were interested!



Homework:  (1) Do the Word Knowledge and Vocabulary from Context for the Eddie, Inc. story. This is a handout. (2) Do the math worksheet. There is a section on multiplying money and also one where the students need to solve an algebra problem for the value of x.

I look forward to seeing all of you tomorrow at Culture Day!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Quiet Movement

It was a pretty quiet day in room 19. We did a lot of testing today – it’s that time of the year. We more or less finished the OCR Unit 1 test today. The results will be posted on the gradebook a little later. It was a bit disappointing, but the first unit is often the weakest of the year.

We also did the Topic 4 math test today, and a few students will be finishing it tomorrow. I think the results will be good here. The students also worked on the Chapter 2 History test as well. I think these may be a big improvement over the first unit.

We did one fun activity at least. We discussed nonobjective art and how artists can use repeated shapes and lines in this kind of art to create a flowing sense of visual movement. We were particularly inspired by a work by Joan Miro here. The students tried their own works and many were really fine!


Homework:  (1) Do the “Dreams to Jobs” circle map. This is a handout that all the students should have. (2) Do the two math worksheets.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Hey, Buddy

At the end of every Open Court Reading unit there is a district assessment. To be perfectly honest, these are not particularly good tests. The skills tested do not perfectly match up with the materials in the unit, and the vocabulary section is often quite confusing. I spend a good bit of time preparing the students for the test since the results are logged into the district’s computers. I make up review worksheets and word searches and spelling scrambles and other things so that I feel the students will be ready. And that’s what we did today.

Yesterday I gave the students some prep materials as part of their homework, and today we spend a good bit of time – probably more than the students wanted to spend on it – going over the answers. We will be doing some more of this as part of homework tonight, and going over it tomorrow. It is valuable material; it is more than just teaching to the test. But like the students I wish it were a trifle more fun.

But the day was not without some fun. Each Tuesday is our “Buddy Reading” Day when we have an opportunity to read to kindergartners from room 2. Last week we went to their class; today they came to us. We’re still getting to know each other, but I can tell that we will have some fast friendships by the end of the year.



It’s a nice way to end our shortened days.

Homework:  (1) Create a tree map using the words from the spelling word search we  did this morning. Focus on the ending patterns like adding an extra consonant before the –ing or –ed or changing a final y to an i. (2) Do the review diagram on page 114 of the Social Studies text. (3) Do “Greater Numbers,” Envision Math pages 106-107.

Friday, October 30, 2009

‘Twas the Day before Halloween

One of the funniest descriptions I ever heard for teaching elementary school was “trying to keep 30 corks under water at the same time.” It usually does not feel like that in room 19, but by the afternoon of the day before Halloween, well, it seemed pretty accurate.

Despite this, we had a fairly productive and even pretty fun day. We started out with the spelling test. This was pretty good; the results are already on the gradebook. We went to the library. This was our second library visit for the week because Mrs. Koneff gave us a spot on Monday to make up for missing last Friday.

We work on some of our theater skills today. We did a few exercises to work on concentration such as “The Conductor” and “Statues”. Then we turned our attention to doing “Machine.” This is the theater game where students create an imaginary machine and become its parts. We were fortunate that the first grade classes were on a field trip which allowed us to use both room 5 as well as our room for practice here. Students were placed in groups of four, and they did reasonably to very well in their first efforts at “Machine”.

After recess, we corrected our math homework and I gave the students a chance to get an early start on their history homework. After lunch, we pulled out the unpitched percussion and once again worked on rhythmic activities. We did a few different things here. As a whole class we worked on Call and Response. We took this one step further and did a bit with Question and Answer. This is not quite the same thing as call and response because the “answer” is always somewhat different from the question rather than an exact echo. Finally, students picked a famous song or rhyme and they worked on it in their groups.


After a few minutes of this, we had to guess what the song or rhyme was. The students were remarkably good both at performing and guessing.


By this time, Halloween fever was starting. We went out to PE, but their hearts clearly were not in the usual activities. And we came back to the room after that and I tried to teach a bit of math. Fortunately, it was all review because the thoughts in their heads were more costumes than quotients.

Homework: (1) Do “The King’s Fountain” study questions. (2) Do the “Subject-Verb Agreement” worksheet. (3) Do the history review questions on page 115 of the California book. Students need only do questions 1-18. (4) Do “Multiplying,” Envision Math, pages 101-102.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Special Place

Today we concentrated on our writing.

We had a special visitor today from the fifth grade. Miss Limb, our fifth grade KDLP teacher, is working on her administrative credential. As part of her coursework, she has to videotape some classes and write about them. She asked me if I would be willing to help her out. I said “Yes”, of course. I offered the students a special incentive if they helped make it a perfect video for her, and they came through magnificently.

We concentrated on descriptive writing. I asked the students to each think of their favorite place, their special place. I played part of  Tobias Pickers’s “Old and Lost Rivers” while they let pictures of that special place and memories of it drift through their brains. We shared some of these with our partners.  I shared fantastic picture book called All the Places to Love by Patricia McLaughlin. We talked about the book and the characters and the special places for those characters. I then shared a composition I had written about my special place, my grandmother’s house in the Berkshire Mountains.

The students were then challenged to write their own compositions about their own special places. They did Thinking Maps before writing, and they finished rough drafts before recess. After recess, they worked again with a partner to revise and edit the composition, and then they worked on final drafts and a picture to go with that draft. A number of students will be completing this as part of their homework tonight, while others are completely done here. These will be typed and scanned and posted as part of their first ThinkQuest project.

Thursdays is our usual art day, and today we talked about both shape and rhythm in art. Students are always surprise to hear the word rhythm in relationship to art, but they quickly grasp the concept of creating unity by repeating shapes. This is a great example of this using a series of similar shapes.


The assignment in the art book asked them to particularly focus on creating flowing rhythm by using wavy lines and organic shapes. This was a particularly great example of that. 


I promised the students as little homework as possible today in thanks for their cooperation with Miss Limb’s project, and so we spent the last 30 minutes or so doing the math. So it should be a pretty free night tonight. Enjoy!

Homework:  (1) Study the spelling words. (2) Do “Using an Expanded Algorithm” and “Mixed Problem Solving”, Envision Math, pages  96-99.

Some students will be putting finishing touches on their final drafts and the pictures as well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Beating our own Drums

Sorry for forgetting to post yesterday. I was installing Windows 7 on my laptop, and I was so engrossed in figuring it out that I just forgot about other stuff.

A nice, productive day – like usual. We started off the morning discussing complex sentences. The students needed a bit of help at first, but the quickly got the idea of identifying dependent and independent clauses in sentences and writing complex sentences of their own. We checked, corrected, and discussed the homework. We were a little short on time to start a substantive lesson at this point, so I gave them so time to get started on their reading and spelling homework.

We went to Tech Center after recess. The grand plan here was to spend time working on their homepages in ThingQuest, but there were so many connection problems that half the class ended up working on typing instead. Ms. Richard is working with the District here to see what we can do about internet connectivity in the computer lab.

After lunch we read most of a chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins. We worked with rhythm instruments to start developing a composition for unpitched percussion based on the patterns we discovered in “Pease Porridge”. You can see the students having some fun with this below.


After music we went out to PE. We came back from the yard, and started the math work for the day.

Homework:  Students had substantial time to start on the spelling and the study sheet during class. (1) Do sentences for each of the spelling words. (2) Do the study sheet for “The Girl who Loved the Wind”. (3) Do the “Complex Sentences” worksheet. (4) Do the “Dialogue” worksheet. (5) Read the section on smoking in the Health book, and then answer questions 1-4 on page D21. (6)  Do “Using Estimation,” Envision Math, pages 94-95.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Small Group Work

Well, room 19 was hit by something today. I don't know if it was H1N1 or not, but we had 9 students out of 32 out sick. I missed the students who were gone, but only 23 students has its charms, too.

Despite the near-plague situation, we had a pretty fine day. We again had library on Monday this week because Mrs. Koneff went to a conference last Friday and she was able to give us a make-up slot. We corrected the reading test test and the math test. The latter is already one the gradebook, and the results were quite helpful to the students' averages. We went out the PE. It was a pretty usual Monday.

This is Red Ribbon Week, so we will be talking a lot about drug use and abuse this week. We started by discussing the legal stuff today. We read a chapter in the health book about prescription and over-the-counter drugs. The students started making a poster about proper use of legal drugs, and they will be working on this for the next day or two.

Homework: (1) Write spelling words in syllables. (2) Do "Word Knowledge" and "Vocabulary from Context". (3) Do "Multiply" pages 90-91 of Envision Math.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Well, yesterday was pretty brutal, and I am glad I went home and went to bed and, well, stayed near the facility. Today the teacher was feeling a little weak and more than a little grumpy, but we still had a productive day.

We started out by reviewing the elements of plot and by discussing how stories have a predictable form: exposition, rising action, climax, and falling action. I admitted that “The King’s Fountain” is a bit lame as a story, but that it was great for identifying this pattern. Sure enough, the students had little difficulty in figuring out the problem – the king plans to build a fountain which will deprive the city of all its water – and the two major characters. They identified the steps in the rising action where the problem is not solved. They were quick to point out the climax where the poor man stands up to the king and saves the city. Identifying the falling action was a bit harder, but the denouement is always the dullest part of any story.

We then took these insights and created a Flow Map. You can see what a great job some students did on this.

After recess we checked and corrected our math homework. We also read about the Mojave Indians and how the native peoples of the California desert used agriculture to meet their needs.

After recess, we read a chapter – well, most of a chapter – of Island of the Blue Dolphins. The students practiced and presented their body percussion pieces.

Thursdays are our normal art day. We are starting our second unit – Shape. Today I talked briefly about geometric versus organic shapes. We’re practicing the organic shapes first. The students were asked to create an underwater scene. They had to sketch this out in pencil and then use oil pastel and water color to complete the scene. Many students will be finishing this tomorrow, but some of those that have been finished already are fantastic!


Homework: (1) Do the second group of spelling words in sentences. The words are fraction, location, notion, nutrition, objection, population, production, recollection, and subtraction. (2) Do “Test Prep,” Envision Math, pages 84-85. Since there are only fourteen multiple choice problems here, I am not supplying any special paper. (3) Do the “Multiplication Practice” worksheet. (4) Do the “Desert” study sheet and the other skill sheets that go with this. These are “Activities in the Central Valley and the Mountains,” “How to Use Tables,” and “Trade Among Native Californians.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sick, Ick!

The teacher went home sick today. We won't give too many unpleasant details here, but I think it was food poisoning. The big thing was writing a rough draft of a longer story. This had to have some kind of problem and solution, setting and characters, and some dialogue. It is three pages, but only on the front side and skipping lines. So it's really not that long at all, is it?

Homework: Unfinished work as indicated by the substitute.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Essaying the Essay

Most of us who grew up a few years ago remember one of the rites of passage in high school as learning to write a five paragraph essay. Well, school has become tougher and students are more or less expected to be able to do this in fourth grade now! But the great surprise, to me at least, is that with a little help they can do it .

We used our experience of going to the Stunt Ranch to help us learn this skill. We started out with the body of the essay. This makes sense after you’ve written a few of these, but to the students the idea that they would be writing paragraph 1 after they had already written paragraphs 2 and 3 seemed just plain wrong!

The students did a pretty good job with the introductory paragraph. I explained to them the difference between and topic and a thesis sentence, and they nodded as if it sort of made sense to them. I am sure we will talk about this many, many times again in the coming months. The concluding paragraph seemed a little easier and more straightforward to them.

Other than that, we put together folders for tomorrow morning, read a chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins, and went to the library. I allowed the students to start on the homework as soon as they finished the final paragraph, and most of these young scholars had much of their homework done by the time they left the room.

Again, please try to make the Back to School Breakfast and stop by our classroom tomorrow. There will be a very, very short presentation and an opportunity to talk about your child’s progress.

Homework:  (1) Do pages 76-77 in the math book. The handout has the wrong page numbers here, but we talked about this in class. (2) Do the “The Coast” study sheet. Students will need their history books here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Stunt Ranch Trip

Today was our field trip to the UCLA Stunt Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains. It went smashingly well – except for terrible traffic – and our students learned a lot about Southern California environments and the Chumash people.

After a fairly long bus ride to Calabasas, the Cold Creek docents met us at the side of the road. We were divided into five groups with about 10 or so to a group. Right away the guides began alerting the students to the animals and plants around them. Here one of the guides is explaining to the students how to spot a wood rat nest.


As we hike the mile or so to the Stunt Ranch preserve, the students learned about the five major environments of Southern California. They saw and learned first about the chaparral. They next learned about the coastal sage plant community. The guides took special pains to point out the yuccas here because the Chumash used them for making rope and clothing. Here the guide is showing a yucca plant which recently finished flowering.


Along the way, the students saw animal tracks, which they found fascinating, and animal scat, which they found disgusting. The guides stressed the interrelationship of everything in the ecosystem. Here the guides is explaining how the FBI – that’s “Fungus, Bacteria, and Insects” in naturalist talk – enrich the soul by breaking down dead plant material.


One of the environments they saw along the way was the riparian plant community. The guides talked about willows and how the Chumash used them for housing. But the plant in this community that the students found most interesting was poison oak. The guides told them how to spot poison oak and what to do if they accidentally touched some.


After about 45 minutes of walking, we finally arrived at the Stunt Ranch property. This has that name not because of any connection to movie production but because that was the name of the family who first established a homestead in this part of what is now Calabasas. This property, now owned by UCLA, serves as a center for the study and interpretation of Chumash culture. The students rotated through several different centers where they learned about the Chumash and how they live. At one of the centers, shown below, the learned how to grind acorns and make them into mush.


At another station, the students made simple sand paintings using Chumash symbols.


There were other stations where the students learned Chumash games and played Chumash musical instruments. There was a small shed there where there were stuffed – as in taxidermy, not FAO Schwartz – animals from the local mountains such as bobcat. You can imagine how much the students liked that!

We ate lunch and hiked back. Our guides were so chatty that we were about 20 minutes late when we got to the bus. Traffic was also just horrendous on the Ventura Freeway, so we did not get back until about 2:50!

Homework:  Students lucked out because the bus was so late! Have a great weekend!

Be sure to come to the Back to School Breakfast Activity on Tuesday, October 20th. Among other things we will be signing up for conferences in December.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


We spent a lot of today working on the final drafts of our Thinking Map stories. Several students finished and bound them together as books, and the finished books will be part of our update at the School Breakfast on Tuesday. Even though we have already had our own Back-to-School Evening, please try to attend this event. You will get a more complete update on how your child is doing and you will be able to sign up for December conferences.

The big event today was the Shake Drill in the afternoon. This was a statewide simulation. It went pretty smoothly at Third Street though some of the students complained about how sunny and hot it was. Of course, they were not entirely happy about the rain yesterday. Some people are hard to please....

Tomorrow is our field trip. Warm weather is now predicted, so please pack a hat and some water for your child. We will be doing some walking through the chaparral, so long pants are probably better than short. Please make sure that the lunch is packed in a paper or plastic bag that can be easily carried. 

Homework:  Students lucked out today. My printer ran out of toner and I had no easy way to print out the math or other assignments. So, I told them if they were good I would not get too creative about networking my computer to another printer today. And, no surprise, they were great! Enjoy the evening.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rainy Days get Me Down

Frankly, I don’t know how teachers do it in Seattle or Portland or one of those other rainy places. By the end of the day – a pretty productive one – I felt as charming as an old Rottweiler.

But, as I indicated, we did a lot. We discussed and practiced inflectional verb endings. We checked, corrected, and discussed homework. We finished reading “Two Tickets to Freedom.” We started a new composition based on the Bridge Map. The Bridge Map helps students to understand analogies, and our analogy was “______ takes care of me the way I take care of ______.”

We were very disappointed that Ms. Richard was unexpectedly absent and Tech Center was cancelled. We used the time to continue working on final drafts of our compositions. After lunch, we read another chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins and the last few students did their “Marco Polo” body percussion routines. We did an art project where the students used contour lines to create portraits. I was amazed at how much better these portraits were than the ones we did on the first day. Our students have made strides as young artists!





Homework:  Light tonight because I had to leave early and I had to cancel homework club. (1) Study spelling. (2) Do the “Two Tickets” study questions. (3) Do “Division” Math pages 74-75.   

Also, for those who have no yet turned in the permission slip and the five dollars for Friday’s field trip, it is imperative that I get that as soon as possible.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Some Rain Must Fall

Into each life some rain must fall. As a teacher, of course, I would prefer this only occur between 2:30 pm and 8:00 am….

Despite rainy day schedule, it all went quite well today in room 19. We went over homework and we started on a new Open Court Reading story. We read a chapter from the Social Studies text on the migration of the first Native Californians over the Bering Sea land bridge. This helped us get ready for Friday’s field trip. We watched part of a cute movie during lunch time. We did a pretty easy lesson in Math about the basic concepts of division.

They had lots and lots of time to get started on the homework. There should be few complaints tonight.

Homework:  (1) Write the spelling words in syllables. (2) Do the Two Tickets vocabulary crossword. (3) Do the history study sheet. (4) Do “Division,” Envision Math, pages 70-73.

Monday, October 12, 2009

It is Written

Today was mostly about getting caught up on our compositions. We have been working our way through the Thinking Maps and doing compositions for each one.

Today I gave them a assignment to write about “My Goal in Life” and gave them a sample. They worked with the Multi-Flow Map here: 

Thinking Map006

While they wrote the rough drafts on this one – I made them  write two full paragraphs on this topic – I held individual writing conferences to go over some of the earlier rough drafts. The students worked hard on the final drafts from the previous compositions as soon as they finished with this new rough draft. I look forward to reading them over the next day or two.

Of course, we did other things, too. We checked homework from Friday and we did math. We went out to PE and we read Island of the Blue Dolphins. And we had a little time to get started on homework before going home.

Homework:  (1) Do the spelling jumble. Note that all the words this week have the –tion suffix. (2) Do “Amazon Rain Forest” study sheet. Students need to take home the purple Science Resources book. (3) Do “Word Knowledge” and “Vocabulary from Context” for the next Open Court Reading Story. Note that students will need a dictionary for one part of this. (4) Do “Look for a Pattern,” Envision Math pages 68-69. (5) Do the Multiplication Practice worksheet.