Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Back to the Real World


First, a big thanks to all the parents who came with us yesterday on our trick to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. We had a perfect day for walking to and from, and there were enough docents there was one guide for every five students. And they were good, too! All in all, an excellent day.

Today was a bit more back to the real world. We did a lot of work in the morning on the Open Court Test. We’ll still have to do a bit more tomorrow on the final draft of the composition. We discussed and read about the rise of large scale commercial farming in California in the late nineteenth century; not a fascinating topic, admittedly, but an important one. After lunch, we read about how the Glen Canyon Dam altered the ecosystem of parts of the Colorado River and we discussed how equations are true or false.

Please sign the report card and get it back to me. Once I check off that it was received, I will send it home again for good. You can keep it for when they’re older: my mom gave me all my elementary report cards a few years ago, including the one from fourth grade where I got 2 well-deserved D’s in math.

Homework:  (1) Do spelling sentences for this week’s spelling words. They’re easy again. (2) Do the study questions on the “Farming Takes Hold” chapter. (3) Do “Equal” pages 318-319 in the Math book and “Connection Detection” on the back. (4) Do the “Further Fabulous Fractions” worksheet. Be sure to reduce to lowest terms. (5) Do the Science questions on page 157. Be sure to copy the questions and write in complete sentences.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Busy but Calm

It was a quiet day. We did a lot of work on the Open Court Test – more to follow tomorrow. We also watched the third part of the Transcontinental Railroad film and we worked on our paragraphs with personification and similes. I’ll include some examples of those tomorrow or Monday.

Homework:  (1) Write sentences for the following vocabulary words:  profusely, protect, scarcely, shock, superstitious, suture, symptoms, and verge. (2) Do “Problem Solving,” envision Math, pages 310-311 and “Test Prep” pages 312-313.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

We’re “Found” Art

Our big event today was the visit to Third Street School of Hanoch Piven. Born in Uruguay, Mr. Piven is an Israeli citizen who is currently living in Barcelona, Spain – quite an international guy! His particular art form is making caricatures with objects. This use of often-discarded object to make art is known as “found art” and kids love it. Here is his self-portrait and then his portrait of a well-known cartoon figure.



Besides this wonderful assembly, organized by our fabulous librarian, Mrs. Koneff, we went to Tech Center, watched the second part of the Transcontinental Railroad documentary, and went out to PE. 

Also, a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to any of my fellow Irish (my paternal grandmother was a Walsh).

Homework:  (1) Write sentences for the following vocabulary words:  listless, lulling, maneuvered, manipulate, meticulous, mystify, ominous, overwhelmed, pitch, and polluted. (2) Do “Multiplication and Division of Fractions,” envision Math, pages 307-308.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Today we started off with a a wordsearch to get us ready for the Spelling subtest of the Open Court Reading unit test.  We then checked, corrected, and discuss most of last night’s homework.

We had our last music class with Mr. Lawton today. We had some good work with the song writing assignment, and I hope to showcase some of these at Open House next month.

After recess, we watched the first part of the PBS film on the transcontinental railroad. This is not quite as interesting to kids as the Gold Rush documentary, but it has some really good sections about the lives of the Irish and Chinese workers who built the railroad itself. We’ll be continuing with this for the rest of the week.

After lunch we did a little more work on math and we had our reading buddies.

Tomorrow is the author visit from Hanoch Piven, the Israeli illustrator. It should be a fun day.

If you interested in coming along on next week’s field trip, please let me know. On walking field trips, we can always use extra people.

Homework:  (1) Write sentences for the following vocabulary words:  energetic, epidemic, fatally, feeble, germs, guilty, immunize, incision, innocent, inundated. (2) Do “Addition and Subtraction of Fractions,” envision Math, pages 303-304.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Springing Forward

We managed to all arrive more or less on time this morning, everybody apparently getting the message to change the clocks. It may seem odd, but I usually have one or two students each year who are stunned to come and find school already in session. But this year we had all sprung forward our hour and were ready to learn.

We are starting on the Unit Test for the “Mystery to Medicine” unit. The students did the Comprehension section, and they generally did quite well on this. The scores are in the gradebook. We then went over the crossword puzzle from last week. These are tough words and all will be on the unit test in one form or another. We will use them as vocabulary and spelling words this week. I’ll pick the easiest 20 or so for Friday’s spelling test, and we will be writing sentences on all of them during the week as well as, of course, constantly reviewing and discussing.

After recess, we started studying the transcontinental railroad. This is just as important as the Gold Rush, though it is not as immediately interesting to the students. Again, we have a great American Experience documentary that we will start watching tomorrow.

After recess, we took another look at our plants and read about the cleanup of Lake Erie. We went out to Physical Education, and when we returned, we studied how to add decimals. They key, of course, is lining them up by the decimal place, and once the students remember this, the skill is one of the easiest of the year.

Homework:  (1) Do sentences for each of these spelling and vocabulary words:  antibiotics, artificially, bacteria, brink, clean, condemned, confident, contaminated, disinfected, end. (2) Do the “Linking East to West” study sheet. Also do the handouts about the railroad and railroad time tables. (3) Do “Addition and Subtraction,” envision Math, pages 299-300 and “Where Do You Live?” (4) Do Fraction Review and Massive Multiplication worksheets. Be sure to show all work on the multiplication.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Testing Tolerance

No, not my tolerance! Though some days really do test that…. This is a science experiment. But I’ll come to that later.

We began today by giving the students who needed to complete the social studies test or the check step on last night’s homework. Those who did not need this extra time got a chance to work on the Unit 3 crossword puzzle, one of tonight’s homework assignments.

We then turned our attention to Science. Our latest investigation tests tolerance for water. This is a simple example of isolating a factor, one of the key scientific method skills. The students planted four different types of seeds in four cups. The only difference from one cup to another is how much water was placed in each. One cup was not watered, another received a mere moistening, and third received a hefty amount of water, and the fourth was really drenched. DSC07540DSC07542

The students hypothesized that the dry soil would be the least productive and that the moist soil would be the best environment. We will be checking back on our seeds regularly to see what the optimal water tolerance for each kind of seed is.


After recess, we read about the advent of the stagecoach, the Pony Express, and the telegraph in California. After lunch, we did a little time with Charlie Brown. Parts will be assigned next week.

  • Students interested in Charlie need to learn the “lunchtime” monologue on the top of page 3.
  • Students interested in Lucy and Linus need to learn the “queen scene” – middle of page 6 to the middle of page 7.
  • Students interested in the part of Patty and Linus need to learn the “rabbit” scene on pages 10 to 11.
  • Finally, anyone interested in Schroeder should learn the “crabby” monologue on page 13.

We talked about rounding decimals in math. Students then had the rest of the day to work on the mosaic art project that we started last week. This one will still need work; it is a slow project which tests their tolerance for slow methodical work. That’s why it’s so great!

Homework:  (1) Study spelling for tomorrow’s test. (2) Complete the Unit 3 Vocabulary crossword. (3) Do the “New Links to the East” study sheet and the worksheet about Morse Code. (4) Do “Rounding Decimals,” envision Math pages 293-294 and the enrichment activity on the back of the answer page.

Monday, March 08, 2010

After Oscar

We did some catching up this morning about our weekends, as we often do on Mondays, and I was quite surprised by how many of the students had watched the Academy Awards last night. They could remember who won what, and some even had strong opinions about whether awards were deserved or not. So, today was room 19’s post Oscar party. Well, party of sorts. We did mostly serious things. But we did end the day on a fun note.

We worked a bit this morning on the kinds of reading skills that will come up on the testing in May. I am not a big believer in test prep, but many of our students are not good test takers and their scores from last year do not represent their best abilities. So we would like to help them to show how smart they really are. This is helpful in the race for a good junior high school spot as all the parent know. We also took the spelling test, and the results were wonderful. That is already on the gradebook.

After recess, I read a bit of By the Great Horn Spoon! and we talked about the first California constitutional convention. If you are in Monterey, be sure to stop by Colton Hall where the original desks – many with quill pens – are still on display from this historic event. After lunch, we turned our attention in math to changing fractions and mixed numbers into decimals and placing them on the number line.

We did PE, as usual, with rooms 19 and 37. I was not sure at first how mixing the grade levels would work, but it had been a big success. In fact, the second and third graders are beating our fourth graders at the soccer skills game!

After PE, we paining our bas reliefs that we did Friday. The results here were really good as you can see. I put this last so that students who finished early could have the opportunity to get a head start on homework.

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Homework:  (1) Do spelling sentences. (2) Do “31st State” study guide. (3) Do “Mixed Number and Fractions on a Number Line,” envision Math, page 282-283. (4) Do the fractions to decimals worksheet.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


It was a great day. I was completely prepared, the students were completely focused:  it couldn’t have been better.

We started with a wordsearch to help with Friday’s spelling test. After that, we went on to our usual opening business. The students were intrigued by today being Doll Day in Japan and learning about this custom. We corrected and discussed the language arts homework, and I think they have the rules for writing titles down pretty solid. We read and discussed the story “Susan LaFlesche Picotte” in the reader. This is a slightly fictionalized account of the life of the first female Native American doctor.

After recess we went to the Tech Center where Ms. Richard worked with the students on Microsoft Word. After lunch, we read and discussed a chapter from the history book. Much of the information here had been already discussed in the documentary we watched, so this went quite smoothly and quickly. I gave the students time to start on their history homework before sending them to PE. We did our usual rotations today. After PE, we did math. Our topic today was converting fractions into decimals and vice-versa. The students seemed to get the idea pretty well.

There’s definitely a bit more homework tonight than the last couple nights, but there will be little if any on Friday. I also gave the students a good bit of time in class to start both the history and math assignments.

Homework:  (1) Do the “Reading Strategies” pages – that’s the one for the post-it notes – for “Susan La Flesche Picotte”. (2) Do the study questions for the same story. (3) Do the “Good Times, Bad Times” study questions. (4) Do “Fractions and Decimals,” envision Math, pages 276-277.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dr Seuss!

We started out today with a mid-year math assessment. This was a pretty easy test, and students generally did quite well on it. I sent it home to be signed; it is a pretty good indication of whether or not your child is on track in math at this time. A score of 20 or better (80 percent) is a good sign.

I then gave the students some time to work on their song writing assignment for Mr. Lawton. I gave them some help correctly annotating the note and rhythm for this task, but I gave them the responsibility to add the lyrics. They had a surprising amount of trouble with this even though the basic requirement – have an equal number of syllables as notes in the measure – seemed pretty simple to me.

We went over to room 33 and Mr. Lawton worked with them a bit on their songs. He saw the same problems I did, though he noted that many of the fourth grade classes had encountered this difficulty. We will be working on it later this week. Music class ran over a bit, so I let the students have second recess instead of first.

After recess we corrected our math homework. After lunch, we got ready to celebrate “Read  Across America” Day. This is the annual celebration of the birthday of Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. I had always felt a special affinity for Dr. Seuss since we are bothreadcat native sons of Springfield, Massachusetts. Mrs. Mark and I have always done things together to celebrate Read Across American Day, and this year I figured we could include room 2 since it was taking place on the day we usually have buddy reading. The plan was to divide the fourth graders, first graders, and kindergartners into three groups and have them rotate from room to room with special activities in each. Mr. Rios, subbing for Mr. Ricker who is off for the birth of his daughter, had the older kids share Dr. Seuss books with the younger ones. Mrs. Mark had the students complete Dr. Seuss puzzles and word searches.

I had the students make Cat in the Hat hats. I first taught the skill to the fourth graders, and they in turn taught the project to their young charges.


Not every had came out, but the students were thrilled when they did.


Meanwhile, in room 5, the students were busy coloring and solving puzzles. Again, the older students ably helped the younger ones.

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Homework: Light tonight since we were so busy with other things today. (1) Complete the “Capitalization of Titles” worksheet. (2) Do pages 273-274 in the math book. We did not have much time to go over this, so the students will need to pay careful attention to the information at the top of the page. They will also do the “Quick Review” and “Problem of the Day” which we usually do together in class.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Mellow Monday

The day started out with a well-intentioned, but extremely dull assembly about tree planting and school beautification. Tom LaBonge, our local member of the City Council was there. He talked at length though I cannot really remember a single thing he said.

After that we went back to the classroom where we had the math test that was postponed on Friday for lack of time. The students tended to either get everything right or almost everything wrong. I have already sent home the test results by email. We will continue to work on adding and subtracting fractions for the rest of the year. Like long division, it is one of the essential fourth grade skills. We also went over Friday’s homework, and I gave the students some vocabulary work to help get them ready for this week’s story in the reader.

After recess, we finished watching the last part of the Gold Rush film. In a related vein, after lunch I started reading By the Great Horn Spoon! to the students. We practice Charlie Brown a bit, too, and we went to PE where we had some new activities to add to our rotation today. Coming back, we had math. We are starting on decimals, a topic which is usually a little easier for the students.

We ended the day with a short birthday celebration for Joshua.

Homework:  Do sentences for each of the spelling words. This is an easy list this week. (2) Do the Story Map & Double Bubble Map about “The New Doctor”. (3) Do Math pages 270-271. (4) Do the fraction worksheet.