Friday, September 28, 2012

Stunt Ranch

Today was our field trip to the UCLA Stunt Ranch nature preserve in Calabasas. Despite the name, the Stunt Ranch has nothing to do with filming old-time westerns:  the first European family to settle in this area was named Stunt. Now a part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, it is run by UCLA as both a natural area and as a center for the study of Chumash and Tongva culture.

It is a strikingly beautiful area.


After our long bus ride, our students and parents were met by volunteer docents. This was Paul who lead the group I helped to chaperone.


We walked about a mile from the road to the heart of the nature preserve. Along the way we passed through a variety of habitats:  chaparral, grassland, savannah, and oak woodlands. We did not see any of the many animals who call this area home – they were smarter than us and decided to stay inside when it was so hot! – but we found evidence of them everywhere.


Once we reached the site of the old Stunt homestead – soon to be a lovely new interpretive center – the students engaged in a variety of activities designed to show them how the Chumash and Tongva peoples interacted with their environment. Here they worked on grinding acorns into mush.


They also practice some of the games and activities that the native children would have loved. Here they learned to swing a singing stick.


After eating lunch, they made their way back to the bus through another environment, the riparian. Along the way, they learned to identify and avoid poison oak.

Poison Oak

Homework:  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Quick Post

A busy afternoon in homework club, so let me just post the assignments right now.

Homework:  (1) Write all spelling words twice in best cursive. Also write a sentence for words 15-20. (2) Do “Run-on Sentences,” pages 67-68 in the Practice Book. (3) Do Winn Dixie review questions. (4) Do the Three times One multiplication skill sheet. (5) Do “Special Quotients,” pages 76-77 in the math book and “Analogies” on the back of the answer sheet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Our Science adventures continued today with our students using acid! Well, just vinegar, but it is acid enough for them to begin to understand how geologists can use acids as well as the other techniques we have already practiced to identify particular minerals. In this case, the students were testing for the presence of calcite in basalt, marble, sandstone, and limestone.


We also read a selection from Because of Winn-Dixie in the reading book, worked on writing longer narratives, and reviewed sentences with compound predicates. We are studying the inverse relationship between multiplication and division, something which most of the students seemed to already have figured out pretty well. So, at least math should be pretty easy!

Homework:  (1) Write all spelling words twice in best cursive. Also write a sentence for words 8-14. (2) Do “Onomatopoeia,” page 63 and “Connotation,” page 64 in the Practice Book. (3) Do Island of the Blue Dolphins chapter 17 study questions. (4) Do the Three times One multiplication skill sheet. (5) Do “Relating Multiplication and Division,” pages 74-75 in the math book and “Just the Fact(ors)” on the back of the answer sheet.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Today we started the 6+1Writing Traits program. Our first step was to look at the rubric or scoring guide for the trait of ideas and to translate this into “kid-friendly” language. We did this by making posters. Many students are still working on them, but here are a couple of the best that have already been done.



Otherwise, a pretty normal day.

Homework:  (1) Write all spelling words twice in best cursive. Also write a sentence for words 1-7. (2) Do pages 58, 59, and 60 in the Practice Book. (3) Do Island of the Blue Dolphins chapter 16 study questions. (4) Do the Three times One multiplication skill sheet. (5) Do “Division,” apges 71-72  and “Algebra” page 73 in the math book.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Children Playing

One of the nice parts of having a full week of school is that we have time for things like art. Our district adopted art curriculum for fourth grade is pretty good, and it allows people like me who have some background in art – but not a whole lot – to provide the students with some good lessons in this area.

Today we focused on both line and perspective. The students looked at several pictures on the theme of children from different periods. Their favorite was Children Playing by Pieter Breugel. This illustrated the “bird’s eye” perspective since the artist appeared to be observing the scene from above.


We used this painting as the inspiration for the lesson. I divided the class in half. We went out to the playground. First, some students played games of their own choice.


While they did this, other students drew them playing. They were encouraged to sketch quickly and to draw as many different play scenes as possible. 


After about 10 or 12 minutes, the groups switched.

When both groups had switched we went back to the classroom. On a piece of good paper, the students combined elements from their sketches to create a line drawing of our play ground.



Not Pieter Breugel, but still pretty good, I think!

Other than that, it was a pretty typical day.

Homework:  (1) Do spelling sentences for words 16-20. (2) Do “Complex Sentences,” pages 55-56 in the Practice Book. (3) Do the “Astronaut Review questions. (4) Do Island of the Blue Dolphins study sheet for chapter 14. (5) Do the multiplication worksheet. (5) Do “Factors” pages 65-67 in the Math book.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Sorry for posting the homework so late, but there was a lot going on after school today!

We had a most productive day. I’ll post some of their “life maps” tomorrow. For now, here’s what they need to be doing tonight.

Homework:  (1) Do spelling sentences for words 11-15. (2) Do “Metaphor,” page 51, “Dictionary” page 52, and “Long I” pages 53-54 in the Practice Book. (3) Do Island of the Blue Dolphins study sheet for chapter 13. (4) Do the multiplication worksheet. (5) Do “Properties” pages 62-63 in the Math book.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thanks for Coming

Homework:  (1) Do the cursive Y and Z papers. (2) Write a sentence for words 6-10 on this week’s spelling list. (3) D pages 43-44 in the Practice Book. (4)  Do the Two Times 2 worksheet. (5) Do “Patterns for Facts,” pages 60-61 and “Patterns, Patterns Everywhere” on the back of the answer sheet.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fast and Good

Today just rushed by, but it was so productive. We started off with work on descriptive writing and simple sentence with compound predicates. We reviewed long i patterns in spelling – that will be the bulk of this week’s spelling words – and looked at the vocabulary words for this week’s Treasures story, “The Astronaut and the Onion.”

We spent a good bit of time working on our books. Most of the students will have these on their desks tomorrow for Back to School Breakfast. These completed our work on our eight Thinking Maps. The students wrote an illustrate the books; I bound them; and for the most part they look great.

Our students went to Mr. Pratt for Social Studies today where they began work on Native California tribes and their environment.

During mixing time today, I worked with students from all four fourth grade classes on the inside dribble.


Homework:  (1) Do the cursive W and X papers. (2) Write a sentence for words 1-5 on this week’s spelling list. (3) Do “Long I,” page 46, “Vocabulary,” page 47, and “Character” page 48, all in the green Practice Book. (4) Read chapter 12 in Island of the Blue Dolphins and answer the study sheet questions. (5) Do the Two Times 1 worksheet. (6) Do “Meaning of Multiplication,” pages 57-59 and “Hurray Array” on the back of the answer sheet.

You can find most of the handouts for the week here.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Scratch Test

Today we did a couple of particularly interesting things. After all our usual opening business like journals and correcting homework, we worked a bit more on our Thinking Maps. Today we focused on the Bridge Map. This is a great graphic tool for introducing analogies to children. We used some easy ones at first like kitten is to cat as puppy is to dog.

Thinking Map008

Our writing assignment based on this is one of the most interesting of the unit. The analogy is based on “taking care of.” So the students have to think, “Who takes care of me?” and Who do I take care of?” This lead them into writing a two paragraph reflection on these questions.

After recess, we work more in Science on the idea of hardness as a property of minerals. The students took their four mystery minerals and scratched them – or at least attempted to – with a fingernail, a penny, and a paperclip.


Based on the results they were able to identify the minerals correctly as calcite, quartz, gypsum, and fluorite.

In the afternoon, we read a chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins, started looking at body percussion in music, and discussed how graphic organizers can help them solve word problems in math.

Homework:  (1) Study spelling. The test will be tomorrow. (2) Do the cursive U and V papers. (3) Do the “Kid Reporters” review questions. This will prepare the students for all the quiz on these reading selections tomorrow. (4) Do the Island of the Blue Dolphins chapter 10 review sheet. (5) Do “Draw a Picture,” pages 44-46 and “Test Prep,” pages 48-49 in the math book. Also do “Flying High” on the back of the answer sheet.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Rocks on our Minds

Today was a strange kind of early September day. It looked like it was going to be yet another blazingly hot day in the early morning, and then all of a sudden it became cool and humid and cloudy. It was even sprinkling at the beginning of recess. The students were all hoping for rainy day schedule; the teachers were all praying for a regular recess. And we teachers had our wishes granted for a change!

We worked for a bit on descriptive writing this morning and we also worked on the difference between the simple and complete predicate in a sentence. We checked and corrected our math homework. We read a short informational article called “Kid Reporters” in the Treasures book. The third story in each unit is taken from back issues of Time for Kids. This story was about two young reporters from the magazine. One went to the UN Special Session on Children, while the  other interviewed a talented young boy who had started a charity for children in the Third World. This helped us work on our skills of comparing and contrasting as well as drawing out inferences. We worked some more on our Thinking maps. We worked on the Brace Map today.

Thinking Map007

The students wrote about their favorite meal and they broke down the foods into different component parts, e.g., pizza as flour/water, tomato/onion/spices, and mozzarella cheese.

After recess, we started our second part of our rocks and minerals unit. Here the students were examining four different mystery minerals.


They focused today on just the visible properties.


Tomorrow they will be looking at hardness and the scratch test. This will lead up to learning to use the Mohs Hardness Scale.

In math we worked a bit more on subtraction.

Homework:  (1) Study the spelling words. (2) Do the S and T cursive worksheets. (3) Do “Library,” page 38, “Writing,” page 39, and “Antonyms,” page 40 in the Practice Book. (4) Complete the rough and final drafts of “My Favorite Meal.” (5) Do the “Mining for Minerals” study sheet. Students had ample time to work on this after lunch. (6) Do “Zeroes,” pages 42-43  in the math book and “Transportation Conclusions” on the back of the answer sheet.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

After Labor Day

It’s hard not to think that this should have been the first day of school, isn’t it? Well, despite starting so ridiculously early, we are doing quite well (other than the heat!)

We started out today with the Tech Center. After that, we discussed simple and complete subjects in sentences and we worked on our journals. We read a short story in the Treasures book. In Science, the students completed their observations on “mock rocks” and started reading and doing some study questions on how mock rocks help us understand what real rocks are like.

In the afternoon, we worked on the tree map. This one is familiar to adults since it looks like a corporate organization chart. Students were writing about “My Stuff” on this. They will be finishing this for homework tonight.

The subtraction quizzes are in the gradebook. Many of these were great, but there were also quite a number of low scores. If your child did not score well, please go over the math homework with him or her tonight. I will give the students a second chance to show their prowess at this skill.

Homework:  (1) Study spelling words. (2) Do cursive Q and R practice sheets. (3) Do pages 33, 34, and 35 in the Practice Book. (4) Do “Subtracting” pages 40-41 in the math book.

Additionally, students will need to finish their Science packets for Investigation One. They also need to finish rough and final drafts of the “My Stuff” composition.