Monday, September 30, 2013


We had a lot of fun in music class today. Ms. Moran used the “Alabama Gal” song to help teach the students about syncopation. They played a fun game. They passed a gentle slap from hand to hand at the person as they sang the song. The person at the end of the song was “out.” They went and played a straightforward beat on the pitched and unpitched percussion while the rest of us sang the highly syncopated song. It was fun!


Not much of the rest of the day was quite as interesting. But it was still productive and good learning. We wrote stories about courage in our journals and shared them. We went over prefixes and spelling words. We discussed our vocabulary words for the week. We corrected history homework. We listened to one more chapter from Island. And we did the last lesson in chapter 5 of the math book.

Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 1-5 ten times each in cursive. Also create an original sentence for each word. (2) Do pages 70, 71, and 72in the Practice book. (3) Do Compound Subjects, pages 178-179 in the red Language book. (4) Do the Two Times Two 1 multiplication practice paper. (5) Do pages 127-128 and 130-131 in the math book.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Light and Dark

Friday, as usual, was devoted to the usual bunch of assessments. I will get them into the grade book over the weekend. We revised our favorite journal topic of the week. We took a spelling test. We took reading and math quizzes.

After recess, we spent some more time with our bugs. The students this time tried to isolate light and dark as preferred environments for the isopods and beetles.


They did this by creating little sun shelters for the runways and observing whether the creatures stayed in the light or gravitated towards the dark.


We also started work on a new music project today – a rhythm “machine.” More on that next week.

We ended the day with a fire drill. The students were completely bored while the adults tried to make the sound system work.


Homework:  (1) Do the “Isopods and Beetles” study guide. (2) Complete, if needed, the Quick Review and Problem of the Day. (3) Do pages 124-125 in the math book. This is on order of operations – one of the trickier chapters in the book. Unfortunately, because of the fire drill, we didn’t get to spend as much time on this in class as I would have liked.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

Today we had one of the highlights of fourth grade science. We worked with bugs!

One of these “bugs” really isn’t an insect at all. It’s an isopod, commonly called a roly poly or pill bug.


The other “bug” was a true insect, the tenebrio or darkling beetle. The students initially squealed when they were given these insects, but pretty soon they were giving them names!


We will do a couple experiments with the insects before adding them to our terrariums. Today we explored what kinds of environments – dry, moist, or wet – the two creatures preferred. We will also explore in tomorrow their light or darkness preferences.

In the afternoon, the students learned to work with rhythm sticks to perform a simple rhythm. They had fun creating and performing routines with them.


Homework:   (1) Write spelling words 16-20 ten times each plus a sentence for each. (2) Do “Run on Sentences” on pages 67and 68 in the Practice book. (3) Complete the study guide for the “Mountain and Valley” chapter. (4) Do the multiplication practice sheet. (5) Do pages 122-123 in the math book.

The word search is extra credit this week.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wondrous Wednesday

We had a very busy and productive day today in room 19! We started out writing short persuasive piece in our journals. Our topic was “The Best Pet.” Students had to present arguments for what animal makes the best pet. As you can imagine, many of our students made some unusual choices. But they wrote fantastic short essays.We went on to read a short poem by Maya Angelou and to evaluate a piece of writing as part of our 6+1 Traits of Writing program.

After that, we did some art. Usually art is a Thursday activity, but we are expecting that we may be doing some special science Thursday or Friday, so we moved this up. We focused some more today on contour lines, and our project for the day was doing a still life. I picked a photograph of a bowl of fruit for the students. We discussed where the contour lines were and they drew them carefully.


Late in the day, while I was at an IEP meeting, they added color to their pictures using oil pastel.


After recess, we made “runways.” These are not for supermodels, but for darkling beetles and isopods. We will be working with these insects later this week and adding them ultimately to our terrariums.


During mixing today, students at PE had a couple great skill activities. Some concentrated on hand-eye coordination using a tennis racket and a ball.


Others concentrated on foot-eye coordination.


We ended the day by exploring algebra by using the Hands-on Equations program. This is a fun way for students to learn by basics of manipulating equations by manipulating small pieces and cubes on a balance.


Our students did amazingly well with this. They’re only in fourth grade and already successfully solving problems with x on both sides of an equation! I didn’t do things like that until eighth grade.

We were also quite delighted today to have Ms. Tova Zauderer, a teacher from one of our nearby Jewish schools, as an observer and a helper in our classroom today. She is working on her Master’s in doing observations as a part of this.

Homework:  (1) Do spelling words 11-15. Write each word ten times and write a sentence for each. (2) Do the spelling crossword. (3) Do pages 63 and 64 in the Practice book. (5) Do the multiplication practice sheet. (6) Do pages 120-121 in the math book.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Today we began the day in the Tech Center. Mr. Riko went over the basic of creating a Prezi with the students. They were dazzled when they finally completed a few text boxes and paths to connect them by how the presentation swooped and zoomed!

We returned to the classroom where we read a selection from Because of Winn Dixie. It’s the scene where Miss Franny tells about the bear coming into the library.

After recess, we went to theater class. Mr. Pratt went over the idea of tableau with the students. They grasped the concept pretty readily. After that, he helped them learn how tableau is a great technique for storytelling. They did three tableaux of The Emperor’s New Clothes. First, the old king was fitted for his marvelous new vestments.


Then the emperor went parading through the city.


Finally the young boy pointed out what was, er, lacking, and was one emperor really embarrassed!


In the afternoon, we learned about variables and expressions. We’re skipping a whole chapter in the math book because the students already know how to do it!

We finished the day with our kindergarten reading buddies.


Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 6-10 ten times each. Write a sentence for each word. (2) Do spelling jumble. (3) Do the summary of “Because of Winn Dixie” and the questions on page 119. (4) Do Four Times One 2 practice sheet. (5) Do pages 118-119 in the math book.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Alabama Gal

Monday brings us our music class with Ms. Moran. She began our time today by teaching the students a classic American folk dance, Alabama Gal. As so often happens in upper grades with this kind of music, the hand touching between partners made some students act silly. But they still had a lot of fun.


We then went on to work on ABA form and adding ostinati and alternative melodies to make a simple piece out of a melody.


After lunch we painted our almost-dry relief maps of California. Some came our quite nicely indeed.


We took math tests today and these are graded on on the grade book.

Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 1-5 ten times each in cursive. Also create an original sentence for each word. (2) Make a chart to sort the spelling words into letter-sound categories. The patterns are o, _ow, o_e, oa_, and _oe. (3) Do pages 58, 59-, and 60 in the Practice book. (4) Do the science review crossword. (5) Do the Four Times One 1 multiplication practice paper.

Friday, September 20, 2013

What a Relief!

Our big project today was making a relief map of California. Although the students know about the four regions, the topography of the state is still a little unclear to them. A relief map makes it clearer. We began by discussing relief maps like this one from the UC San Diego.

So after reviewing the idea of a relief map, the students took a blank map of California and marked the major areas on it. They then began to apply a flour and salt putty.


After some hard work and a little silliness, the results were quite good.


Other than this, a pretty normal Friday with the usual spelling tests, reading test, writing assessments and the like. We did, of course, take our usual trip to the library, too.

Homework:  (1) Do the Deserts/Rain Forest review paper. (2) Read the Social Studies Week 2 paper and do the activities on the back page. (3) Do pages 80-82 and 84-85 in the math book.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Drawing Blind

Thursday has become our art day. By Thursday, we’ve really finished off all the work in the reading text, so it’s a great day to devote an hour or so to art.

Today we worked on the idea of contour drawing, and as part of this, the students had to engage in one of the most classic of art school exercises, blind contour drawing. The idea is simple: you just keep looking at the object you are drawing and you NEVER look at your paper or pick up your pencil. Nobody has ever produced great art this way, but it can produce great artists. It forces you to look at an object intently the way you never have before.

I picked a very simple object, a box of crayons.


Students were divided into pairs. One drew while the other watched to see if he or she was peeking at the paper or picking up the marker. The results looked remarkably little like the crayon box.


They then had the opportunity to sketch the crayon box looking both at the object and at their papers. The results this time were not bad at all.


Other than this, a perfectly ordinary day. We wrote in our journals, read a chapter in the history book, listened to some more of Island of the Blue Dolphins and had a super easy lesson today in the math series.

Homework:   (1) Write spelling words 16-20 ten times each plus a sentence for each. (2) Do “Complex Sentences” on pages 55 and 45 in the Practice book. (3) Complete the four short, easy Island of the Blue Dolphins skills sheet. (4) Do the study guide for “The Coast.” (5) Do the multiplication practice sheet. (6) Do pages 78-79 in the math book.

The word search is extra credit this week.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I Used To …

It was a quiet and pleasant day today in room 19. We did most of the usual things. We started off with journaling where the students imagined what it would be like to be an astronaut. We read a poem called the “Piñ̃on Gatherers.” We talked about the qualities of free verse, and we also discussed simile, metaphor, and personification. Since our Treasures theme is about changing, we used today to write a free verse poem about how we have changed. Here is one example:

I used to crawl everywhere I went,

     but now I run, skip and walk.

I used to live in Korea for many years,

     but now I live in California.

I used to be the shortest kid in preschool,

     but now I am like the tallest in the class.

I used to wear purple glasses,

     but now my eyes are better and I don’t wear them.

I used to be in preschool,

     but now I’m in elementary school.

I used to have a little bit of hair,

     but now I have a lot of hair.

The students also did illustrations to accompany their poems.

Blog Pix

Homework:  (1) Do spelling words 11-15. Write each word ten times and write a sentence for each. (2) Do the spelling crossword. (3) Do pages 51 and 52 in the Practice book. (4) Do the “Astronaut and Onion” study guide. This will prepare the students quite well for the quiz on Friday. (5) Do the multiplication practice sheet. (6) Do pages 76-77 in the math book.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Whizzing Along!

Tuesdays just whizz along! We started the day in Tech Center where we finished up working on some of our Microsoft Word skills and where the students signed up for Prezi accounts. We’ll be creating prezis based on our history text in the next month.

We returned to the room and we read and discussed The Astronaut and the Onion, a charming little story that is apparently loosely based on Mae Jemison.

After recess, we went to theater class. Mr. Pratt had the students work on their pantomime skills some more, and they created “machines” based on fairly tales. This is a Goldilocks and the Tree Bears machines.


Right after theater class, Ian’s parents hosted a wonderful pizza lunch in honor of his birthday.


After lunch, we did math. We then went to room 2, Mr. Ricker’s class, where we had our first session of reading buddies.


Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 6-10 ten times each. Write a sentence for each word. (2) Do spelling jumble. (3) Do Three Times One 2 practice sheet. (4) Do pages 74-75 in the math book.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Salami (or sol la mi)

Today was generally a pretty ordinary Monday, but we did have a really fantastic music class with Ms. Moran. She introduced the class to solfeggio, the way to read pitches using the classic Italian do re mi syllables. One way to do this is to use the Curwen hand gestures. She taught these to our class.

We then played a fun game. The students listened and watched her and echoed back whatever she did with her voice and her hands – unless “sol la mi” – we cheated and read it is salami – was somewhere in there. If she tricked the class, she received a point. If she failed to trick the class, they received the point. And, guess what? The class beat the music teacher! Our room 19 students can be amazing listeners (at least when they want to).

The rest of the day was pretty ordinary. We read and discussed a chapter in the social studies book. We read a chapter in Island of the Blue Dolphins. We went over the week’s spelling patterns. We reviewed the idea of division as the inverse of multiplication.

Homework: (1) Do spelling words 1-5. Write each word ten times and write a sentence for each. Sort the spelling words on the paper provided.(2) Do pages 46, 47, and 48 in the Practice book. (3) Do the “Early Peoples” study guide. (4) Do the Three times One practice sheet. (5) Do “meaning of Division, pages 71-72 and “Algebra Connections” page 73 in the math book.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Children’s Games

Thursdays can be a kind of boring day since we have no music, art, library, or tech center. So, particularly since we’re usually just about finished with all our language arts stuff for the week by Thursday, it’s a great day for art.

Today we focused on an artist’s perspective. We used a couple of pictures to inspire us, notably Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s Children’s Games.

We discussed how the artist appears to be positioned high above the scene that he is depicting. We talked about how this is sometimes called “bird’s eye view.” We contrasted that with “ant’s eye view” where the artist is below the subject. We also discussed near and far as parts of the perspective.

After this, we went out to the yard. Half of the class played and while the other half sketched them. After about 10 minutes, the two groups switched.


Many of our young artists observed and drew very carefully indeed!


Returning to the room, the students took their sketches and combined them into a scene using multiple points of view. That’s a technique that is often used by modern artists such as muralists. Many of the results were great!

Children Playing1

Children Playing2

Children Playing3

The rest of the day was indeed pretty boring – checking homework, reviewing for a history test, working on comparing and contrasting paragraphs. But boring things are part of school as much as “children’s games” are!

Homework:   (1) Write spelling words 16-20 ten times each plus a sentence for each. (20 Do page 40 in the Practice book. (3) Complete the two chapter review papers for the first chapter in the history text. This is the MOST important of the homework assignments as the questions on the review are direct preparation for the test AND the students will be able to use on the test. (4) Do the odd problems only on the multiplication sheet. (5) Do pages 65-67 in the math book.

The word search is optional. Don’t spend any time on it until EVERYTHING else is done.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Getting Techie

After all the Back-to-School Breakfast stuff yesterday, today seemed quite subdued! But that’s not a bad thing, at least as far as teachers are concerned.

We focused in the morning on the “Kid Reporters” story from Treasures. In their journals, I asked the students to imagine interviewing a famous person. They wrote down the questions they would like to ask that person and the answers they thought he or she would give. There were a number of clever entries, but this one was truly amazing:

An Interview with Aaron Levie

N:  Aaron, what is the name of the company you own?

A:  I own Box, a cloud computing company.

N: What does your company do?

A:  My company lets people save things on our website.

N:  Who can use your web site?

A:  Anybody!  Businesses, single people, other web sites, and a lot of other things.

N:  What can you save on your web site?

A:  Anything! You can save personal things or things for business.

N:  Where is your office located?

A:  My main office is located in Palo Alto, but we have other offices as far away as London.

N:  Thank you for coming.

A:  You are welcome.

After we shared our journals, we read the main story. It dealt with two young people who covered stories related to people or groups trying to improve the lives of children in the developing world. In contrast, they also read about problems with child labor in the nineteenth century and in parts of the Third World today.

Mr. Riko was gracious enough to give us a make up time as we missed Tech Center yesterday because of the breakfast. The students continued to develop their skills in Microsoft Word, particularly learning how to place pictures and format text. I bet there are a lot of grownups who can do that nearly as well as our students did!


Homework:  (1) Do spelling words 11-15. Write each word ten times and write a sentence for each. (2) Do the spelling crossword. (3) Do pages 35 and 38 in the Practice book. (4) Do the Kid Reporters study guide. This will prepare the students quite well for the quiz on Friday. (5) Do the multiplication practice sheet. (6) Do pages 62-63 in the math book.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


It was a real please to see so many parents this morning at Back-to-School Breakfast. The parents who came took advantage of the opportunity to sign up for parent conferences in November. If you couldn’t make it, please stop by the classroom sometime in the next week and sign up for your time. It’s a lot easier than having me assign a time that’s inconvenient for you.

We did some of the usual boring things on this short day, but we also did something really fun – theater class! Mr. Pratt introduced on of the classic theater games today, the machine. Here the students are creating a homework machine based on Shel Silverstein’s classic poem of the same name. It was fun!


Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 6-10 ten times each. Write a sentence for each word. (2) Do spelling jumble. (3) Do pages 33-34 and 43-44 in the Practice book. (4) Do Two Times One 2 practice sheet. (5) Do pages 60-61 in the math book.

Monday, September 09, 2013

New and Old

We spent more of today finishing up our writing projects and binding them into books. Many of them are just amazing! But we did a few fun out-of-the-classroom things, too. For example, we went to Music class where the amazing Ms. Moran helped us create a rondo using the old song “Make New Friends” and creating rhythmic interludes on using the tonic and dominant notes. Our students did really well!


Then we went off to the auditorium for an anti-bullying assembly. As usual, room 19 students happily volunteered.


Homework: (1) Do spelling words 1-5. Write each word ten times and write a sentence for each. Sort the spelling words on the paper provided. (2) Do the skill and study sheets for Island of the Blue Dolphins. These are “Cause and Effect,” “Meaning Through Context” and “Remembering Details.” (3) Do pages 57-59 in the math book. Also do the “Two Times One 1” multiplication practice paper.

Please come to Back to School Breakfast tomorrow. You can see some of your child’s work and will be able to sign up for November conferences.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Hard to Focus

Today felt a little unfocused. This was the annual CELDT (California English Language Development Test). Not many of our students had to take it, but a few went to Mrs. Choi who administered it and a number of her students came to our class to do independent work. We tried to keep the focus on our reading and writing activities, but it was harder with people coming in and out of the room.

Today was also the first day of our students going to orchestra. We had a large group after recess go for violin. While they were there, we measured our plants again. Wow! Have they grown!


We then read a chapter from the social studies book about California’s natural resources.

In the afternoon, we listened to a chapter from Island of the Blue Dolphins. We checked our math homework. We had a short PE time (though we skipped some of the exercises because of the heat).

We sent home a family information form today to help our room mom communicate better with the class. If needed, please make any corrections and then sign and return it by Tuesday. If all the forms are back by Tuesday, we will have a pizza party on September 13.

To all those who celebrating the holiday tomorrow, l’shanah tovah!

Homework:  (1) Do the Natural Resources study sheet. (2) Do Subtracting Across Middle Zeros 2. (3) Do pages 44-46  and 48-49 in the math book.

There will be a math chapter test Friday as well as a subtraction quiz. There will be no spelling or reading tests.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Cause and Effect

Welcome back! I hope everybody had a nice three or four day weekend. Just a reminder that we will also have this Thursday off school as well in commemoration of Rosh Hashanah. Alas, no more breaks after that until Veterans’ Day in November.

We started off the day in Tech Center. The students worked on both their online research and Microsoft Word skills with Mr. Riko.


After this, we returned to the classroom where we looked at the Multiflow Map. This is designed to help students visualize cause and effect.

The students created their Multiflow Map on “My Amazing Future.” They then wrote a rough draft about what they would achieve, how they would achieve it, and how this in turn would affect their lives.

After recess, the students went to Mr. Pratt for Theater Arts class. They focused this week on improving their pantomime skills, and also learning to add emotional intensity to their mimes. They did a variety of activities including statues, walkabouts, and acting out stories.


After lunch, we listened to another chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins and we briefly reviewed subtraction with zeros.

Homework:  (1) Be sure that the final drafts are finished for the first five Thinking Maps. The topics are “All About Me,” “My Character,” “My Friend and I,” “My Perfect Day,” and “My Stuff.” (2) Do the three worksheets on Island of the Blue Dolphins. They are “Getting the Main Idea,” “Fact and Opinion,” and “Remembering Details.” (3) Do pages 42-43 in the math book odd numbers only. (4) Do Middle Zeros 1 practice sheet even numbers only.

There is no spelling this week as there are only three days.