Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Nice to be Back

The math training was marginally informative, though I am sure it could have been done for far less. The program which the District adopted is called “enVision” and it is published by Scott-Foresman. It has a lot of interesting features for teachers. For students it will be pretty much the same thing, though there are a bunch of optional internet features which could be helpful and fun. Mrs. Gassman indicated that the students were wonderful, and that made me very happy indeed.

Today went very smoothly. We spend a good bit of time discussing last night’s homework in an effort to make sure students were ready for their OCR and math tests. Students finished all of the multiple choice or short answer portions of the Open Court test, and most are finished with the writing sample, too. We read about and discussed the Great Depression. We did PE, as we usually do on Wednesdays, and finished the day quietly with the math test and homework.

We’ve been challenged! Akiko Morrison’s clients have agreed to fill a hundred backpacks for the Third Street Olympic Games on behalf of room 19. We have been challenged to equal this. If we do so, I am pretty sure we will be the number one class at the school next Saturday. So, if you have not yet filled two or three backpacks for a needy child, PLEASE do so in the next couple days. Out students will be taking home extra backpacks today!

Homework:  (1) Do the “Woman’s Suffrage” worksheet. (2) Finish reading “The Great Depression” in the History book and do the study questions. (3) Read “Edges, Faces, and Vertices” on page 516 in the Math book. Do pages 517 to 519. Students also need to complete the chart on the top of page 517.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Quiet Monday

Well, I never did get a chance to update the Friday blog entry. Sorry if this caused any confusion, particularly because I dropped one of the homework assignments at the last minute.

Anyhow, one of the nifty things we did on Friday was some art. Students were asked to imagine what life – plant or animal – might look like on some other world. This was part of our look at “informal balance” in art work. Some of the results do indeed show informal balance, but also a lot of creativity, don’t you think?




Today was a pretty quiet day. We did reading, and we went through our Open Court folders to organize them and find out what might be missing. We went to Tech Center. This is not our usual day, but we changed with room 17 because they’re on a field trip. After recess we worked on contributions to the Concept/Question board and our Writer’s Workshop stories. After lunch, I read part of a chapter of By the Great Horn Spoon! We watched part of a PBS documentary on Ishi, the last Yahi Indian. We went out and did about 30 minutes of physical education. We came back, checked, corrected, and discuss math, and I gave them their homework.

They will have a substitute tomorrow as I will be gone to a completely unnecessary math textbook training. Mrs. Mayra Gassman, who taught at this school with distinction for more years than I can count, will be taking good care of them.

Homework: (1) Do the Unit Four spelling jumble. (2) Do “Relate Formulas and Rules,” Math, pages 506-509. (3) Do “Find a Pattern,” Math, pages 510-511.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fantastic Friday

I’ll update this later, but for now here is the homework.

Homework:  Just a couple of math assignments for the weekend. (1) Do “Relate Area and Perimeter,” Math, pages 504-505.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Getting a Good Workout

“Sit mens sana in corpore sano,” wrote the great Roman poet Juvenal. Or, to put it in its traditional English translation, “A sound mind in a sound body.” Well, we worked on both those things in room 19 today. And both our brains and our bodies are getting pretty strong!

We did a lot of what educators called “differentiated activities” in Language Arts today. That means allowing different students to pursue different activities in a structured environment with the teacher there mostly to guide and coach. It is an important element for gifted education, and it just plain makes for great classroom learning.We did our independent reading and our journals. The students worked again in Literature Circles. They were really reading and discussing their books carefully. It was fantastic to hear the using their reading strategies like predicting, connecting, and clarifying so explicitly. Many of the students finished a bit before recess and they worked on their writer’s workshop compositions – again, a classic differentiated activity.

After recess we corrected our math test. I did not collect this, so you can feel free to ask your child to bring it home. Scores are posted on the gradebook already. We then turned our attention to California history. We talked a bit about the Progressive Era and the reform movement which Governor Hiram Johnson spearheaded. We also read about and discussed the growth of the aviation industry and the movie business in Southern California in the 1920’s as well as the impact of that “horseless carriage.”

After lunch we corrected our math homework, and I went over the basic idea of area with the class. We then went out to the yard where the students worked with Akiko Morrison. First, as part of their general fitness testing and development, she had them do pull-ups. This was not always easy for the students, but, as you can see below, they give it their best.


Later, she put cones on the grassy area. Each cone told the students to do a movement on their way to the next cone. Some of these were pretty fun! One cone, for example, had them do the classic “army crawl.”


Another cone told them to leap frog over a partner.


And, towards the end, they had to grab a friend and do a wheelbarrow movement. They really loved that one!


Homework: (1) Complete the flow map for “Anne Frank” and the Theme Connections. (2) Do the history study guide for “Changing Times.” (3) Complete the Equivalent Fractions worksheet. (4) Do “Estimate and Find Area,” Math pages 500-503.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

After Open House

First of all, a big, big thank you to everybody for a very successful Open House. Thanks to the children who patiently tolerated me for the last few days as I furiously tried to get everything ready! Thanks to all the parents who came by and supported their children! You are wonderful! And particularly big thanks to Helen Kang, who helped get the room ready on Saturday, and to Akiko Morrison who provided refreshments last night.

Today we had our annual school stroll. We wandered through most of the classrooms from kindergarten to fifth grade. This is not one of those activities which is likely to provide any appreciable improvement in test scores, but it sure is fun. And the students deserve a little of that.

We read a selection from Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl as part of our Open Court reading today. It is not the most interesting excerpt from that book, but it does tie in closely to the theme of “Surviving.” We took time to discuss World War II and the Shoah. I was surprised – and quite pleased – to discover how much of 20th century history our students know. I think they’d win hands-down on Do You Know More than a Fifth Grader? over your average American adult.

We had Tech Center today as we usually do on Wednesday. Ms. Richards had them working with the Flip cameras today. They were working on short, short films about Earth Day which they will later incorporate in their PowerPoint presentations.

After lunch we read a chapter of By the Great Horn Spoon! We checked and discuss yesterday’s math. We went out to PE. We took a math test. And we started on homework. All in all, a very pleasant and productive day.

Homework:  (1) Do “Anne Frank” study questions. (2) Do “Dictionary Skills” worksheet. (3) Do Great Horn Spoon! summary sheet. (4) Do the Multiplication Practice worksheet. (5) Do “Estimate Perimeter,” Math, pages 498-499.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gettin’ Ready

For the students, today was a series of classwork assignments, mostly pretty fun. For the teacher, it was the one of the last days of rushing to get things ready for Open House tomorrow. I will not spend much time talking about the assignments we did today because they will be on display tomorrow. It’s like one of those book reports which ends with “And you have to read the book!” You have to come to Open House.

Homework:  (1) Do Word Knowledge and Vocabulary from Context for “Anne Frank.” (2) Complete the “Hetch-Hetchy” handout. (3) Do “Division” and “Adding and Subtracting Fractions” worksheet. (4) Do “Review/Test” and “Cumulative Review,” Math, pages 492-493.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Terrific Thursday

Our play was a great experience, but in order to find time to practice and perform we had to drop a few things for a while. One of them was Literature Circles. Today we finally got back on track and the students were again reading their books with fellow students in small groups. I provided the students with a little outline to guide their reading. We used the strategies which we learned as part of our Open Court Reading – predicting, checking predictions, connecting, and so forth – and which we have also used during our Independent Reading. Students were quite involved with their books as you can see from the pictures below.


After literature circles, the students started Writer’s Workshop. We’re starting to have students finish some of their final drafts. As promised, I’ll publish some of the best of them. I thought this one was both sweet and clever.


Just call me L.A. Times. Life as a newspaper is really hard. And I mean really hard. Newspapers are treated with no respect! They throw us off like we’re a piece of paper … oh wait I am a piece of paper. Anyway I’ll tell you my story.

I’m peacefully riding on the newspaper boy’s bike. I was always lucky so I didn’t have to worry about being thrown off. But then I get thrown off! I was scared. Then I saw my worst nightmare. A huge Rottweiler with sticky drool coming out of its mouth. He looked at his new toy. I panicked. Next thing you know I’m all ripped up. The owner comes out disappointed. He throws me into the filthy trashcan.

The next day the garbage man came. During the ride I met other newspapers. Finally we got dropped off at the junkyard.

A hobo came along delighted to find newspapers. It took me a while to figure out that was me.

That was all 60 years ago. Now I have found my fellow relatives. I always tell my grandchildren my story. They love it.

After recess we worked on the Quarter 3 Math Test. This one of the controversial periodic assessments. United Teachers-Los Angeles has called for teachers to boycott the tests as a huge waste of money. I am inclined to agree with the union, but at our school we discussed this and came to a compromise of sorts. We decided to administer the tests, but not to submit the results to the district. We will scores the tests ourselves – not that hard since you just have the students exchange and correct test booklets – but we are not sending the Scantron forms to the Local District 3 office (or wherever they go). Again, it is not really much of a sacrifice for us and I do not know anybody who finds the test analysis reported by the Princeton Review people to be useful at all. I will have our students results on the on-line gradebook.

We did more music after lunch focusing on the idea of creating melodies today. The students wrote down their birth dates first in regular form and then as an 8 digit number. Mine is below:

July 4, 1957


We then changed these numbers into the notes on a pentatonic scale. O and 5 became C, 1 and 6 became D, 2 and 7 became E, 3 and 8 became G, and finally 4 and 9 became A. My birthday then became the following sequence of notes:


Each student did this, and then were took turns performing our “Birthday Melodies” as a student provided a simple ostinato accompaniment.

We also started a new physical education program today. The ever-capable Akiko Morrison, Mac’s mom, was our instructor. She gave the students some background on the different muscle groups and the work each did. She emphasized that the heart is the most important muscle, constantly working.


She led our students in a vigorous workout. They started with a great running exercise. The students were paired up. The students ran for two minutes and then walked for a minute. They repeated this pattern a couple times. The partners had to stay together as the went around the track. They could pass other runners, but only if both partners were faster than the runners ahead of them.


The students also were instructed in the finer points of doing sit-ups and push ups. Again, they worked in partners to make sure they were doing the exercises correctly.


We had such a great time and worked so hard for at PE that we did not have time for the History test. The students, as I am sure you can imagine, were inconsolable….

Homework: (1) Do spelling sentences. (2) Do “Relationships,” Math pages 466-467. (3) Also do “Review/Test” and “Cumulative Review,” pages 468-469 in the same book.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Quick Post

Just time to briefly put up the homework today. As usual, it was a nice, productive day.

Homework:  (1) Do the “Reading Strategies” page for the “Big Wave” story. (2) Do the study guide questions for the same story. Be sure to use complete sentences. (3) Do "Graph an Equation," Math pages 464-465.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

More Vacation Pictures

Okay, a couple more vaguely educational trip pictures. Here we are at Manzanar. The human found this place rather deeply affecting. The dogs were bored out of their minds.

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But they seemed to sense there might be something wrong when I maliciously brought them to this section of the old detention camp:

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OK, enough of the doggie snapshots. We had a great day, once again. The students are really getting the hang of the Writer's Workshop. I am looking forward to publishing some of their work shortly. I am seeing some very creative work!

After recess we had a good discussion of the early twentieth century water projects in California. We talked a lot about William Mulholland and the diversion of the Owens River into the Los Angeles Aquaduct. I showed the students some of my pictures of the sand flat which is now Owens Lake, and told them that it was over 30 feet deep in the nineteenth century. We also discussed the building of the O'Shaughnessy Dam in the Hetch Hetchy Valley of Yosemite. The students were outraged by the idea of flooding a national park.

After lunch we corrected our math homework. We also started talking about functions. Now, for some of you who have not taken a math class for a while, a function is an equation which has a potentially infinite number of correct answers. These usually involve two variables which are generally x and y. A simple example of this would be x + 3 = y. So the answers here would be (0,3), (1,4), (2,5) and so on. All of these can also be graphed on a coordinate grid, and we will be doing that quite soon. Aren't you amazed at what they're learning in fourth grade now? I am not sure I was doing this kind of stuff when I was in junior high school (way back in the middle of the last century).

Homework: (1) Do the spelling wordsearch. (2) Finish reading "Water for a Thirsty Land" and do the study questions. (3) Do "Equation," pages 460-461 in the Math book. We did page 459 together in class.

Additionally, some students need to finish the By the Great Horn Spoon! work from this morning.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Back from Break!

I hope everybody had a pretty good break. I am feeling much more refreshed after getting away. Of course, as the completely dedicated fourth grade teacher I am, I went around California for a few days so I could have some more experience for teaching social studies. And, Edie and Eli insisted on coming with me.

Here we are in Death Valley. I’m the one in the cloud of sand. The dogs were perplexed by this weird human behavior, but willing to go along with it.

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And here we are at Owens Lake with the Sierra in the background. This was right before Edie decided to roll in this alkali  waste.Apr 06 2009_0092_edited-1

Then we went up to June Lake where the weather was decidedly less warm. I have never been crazy about snow – bad memories of a youth spent in the upper midwest – but Edie positively adored snow. Eli was no so sure about it.

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So back to real life now. We had a good day as usual in room 19. We did Independent Reading as usual. We went over homework and did some preparation for reading the next story in the Open Court anthology. We did some free writing in Writer’s Workshop. More on that later this week.

We went over our history homework. I finally found my DVD of Charlie Brown explaining the Transcontinental Railroad, so we watched that. It’s a little lame, but a good review of the facts.

After lunch we did music. We worked on understanding binary form in music, and the students improvised “questions” and “answer” motifs. We went out to PE. We came back, corrected and discussed our math homework and went over a few key concepts for today’s homework.

Homework:  (1) Do the spelling jumble. The works this week all have “qu” in them. (2) Do the history chapter review. I was not completely happy with the way this was in the book, so I altered it slightly and made a handout for the students. (3) Do “Length on a Coordinate Grid,” Math, pages 465-457. (4) Do “Lines of Symmetry,” Math, pages 488-489.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Survival Tools

Today we did a little creative writing and art work. The students had previously done very clever advertisements for medicines during the last Open Court Reading unit, so I thought it might be worth seeing how they could create and pitch a product dealing with the idea of “surviving.” The results were predictable good. Here are a few of the best:

Survive001 Survive002


We also went to Tech Center today where students both worked on their keyboarding skills and added to their PowerPoint presentation.

After lunch, we corrected homework, went to PE, and took a math test.

Homework:  Very light today (and that’s no April Fools’ joke). Just do “Lines and Angles,” Math, pp 478-481. This is basically review from third grade, and the students should read the first two pages to refresh their memories.