Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday, November 7

Short Week, Conferences

I'm looking forward to meeting with the 4/5 Blend parents this week. Mme. Jana will have information on reading and writing for her 4th grade homeroom. Please don't hesitate to contact me after conferences if you need more information.

However..... I'm leaving this Friday and will be gone the following week.  I'm going to Columbus, Georgia to meet my new grandson, David Alejandro Diaz, born last Wednesday weighing 8 pounds, 3 ounces! His big sister, Olivia (2 1/2) and I will spend some quality time together as well. Steve Poizat-Newcombe will be here in my absence.

4th Grade Language Arts
The 4th graders have been hard at work on an in depth reading comprehension assignment using a novel they selected themselves. Most students will finish by tomorrow (this is an in-class project), but incomplete papers will need to be completed at home and turned in Monday, November14. 

The spelling test in my absence will be a list of words relating to Colonial America and the American Revolution. They will get the list on Monday, Nov. 14

4/5 Blend
We are almost finished with Blood on the River, our read-aloud, and students have been writing reflections on this historical novel. They have also been writing reports on a "Remarkable Revolutionary." The first part, a 5 paragraph essay, will need to be completed by November 14 as well. Most of the students have their information and are working on their rough draft.

We have continued with French reading, writing and vocabulary, using a dictee, videos workbooks and poems.

I'll try to post some pictures from Georgia!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Week of October 24

Halloween is Coming!
The 4/5 BLEND would love some help with a Halloween Party. (LOW KEY!)
Please contact me if you would like to help.

Thank you to Lisa Ghandour, who is the 4/5 PTO rep. She will be emailing you with updates from PTO meetings. Also, thank you to Shannon Tom, who has been making copies for Mme. Jana and me twice a week. Beau Buck photo-copied and enlarged a 30 shilling note from his personal collection, dated 1776! Many thanks for supporting our classroom.


Spelling: New lists are made on Monday, as before, but this is a reminder that the tests will be on Thursday instead of Friday. Because of our 4-day schedule, I can't give the kids class time to study their words, so this is going to become a homework assignment, in addition to the packets that they bring home.

Writing: We are finishing a second 5-paragraph essay. Students have been using the first (scored) essay to help them with the second. The first will come home as soon as they have handed in the second.

Novel Study: Next Monday we will begin an individualized novel study. Each student is selecting a book from the OBOB list (even students not participating) and this unit will take us three weeks. It will involve nightly homework and an in-class book report. I want to support the students who have taken this on and to give the rest of the class the opportunity to experience some of the same books. I'm hoping that we can come up with enough books since many students own their own copies. I have some, as well. 


French: We are continuing to work on writing, spelling and comprehension with weekly dictation. The week of October 31 we will begin to work in small reading groups (4 - 5 people) with students reading short stories, books and excerpts at their appropriate level.

Social Studies: Students are very enthusiastic about our study of the thirteen original colonies along with the earlier settlements. We will have a test later next week covering this material. We watched a National Geographic video via Netflix instant view titled "The Nightmare at Jamestown." Our read aloud, Blood on the River, is echoing much of the same information, and we are also using our textbooks as source material.

The students have been working on group projects in social studies, and we are taking Monday "promenades," sometimes assigning a buddy and a topic.

I'm looking forward to seeing everybody at conferences!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Week of October 17

We still need a PTO parent rep for the 4/5 Homeroom!

4th Grade Language Arts

Spelling: Most students moved up a level either last week or will begin a new level tomorrow. Because Friday is a homeroom day, I am moving the spelling test from Fridays to Thursdays. 

Grammar: We had a quiz on sentence structure and began working on forming plurals.

Writing: I am handing back the students essays on Tolliver's Secret, and they will use these along with my edits and comments to write their next essay, which will be on the novel of their choice. The emphasis on the first composition was organization. Students will continue to develop strength in this area, but I will also be teaching and assessing paragraph development. We are beginning this project Monday.

Reading: Because I had to return the copies of Carry on, Mr. Bowditch to the IMC, we used a strategy called "jigsaw" to create a synopsis of the remainder of the book. Each student took a chapter and summarized the events. I am compiling them into one document, crediting students with their piece of the puzzle. Next week we will be using listening stations with two audio books:  Blood on the River, a story about Jamestown, and Stowaway. Both are historical novels about colonial America.

Poetry: The students are practicing cursive writing by copying poems into their journals and writing reflections after having discussed the poems and their images in class. Reading poetry requires different reading strategies, primarily an understanding of figurative language. The kids are also memorizing and presenting the poems, which have so far included Tennyson's "The Eagle," and Sandburg's "Fog."

Homework: This week we will focus on possessives but will cycle back through sentence structure and plurals as well. 

4/5 Blend

French: The students loved the video "L'Appartement de Joanna," which is giving them the opportunity to pick up the pace in their speaking. There is also an online activity which requires them to fill in missing words.  I held off on the verb quiz because conjugating is sinking in for some students more easily than for others. Memorizing is definitely the easier half of the battle! 

Social Studies: We had a quiz on Friday covering the struggles faced by the Continental Army and comparing them with those faced by the British. Students were also asked to find examples of factual information from the Social Studies text that was also presented in two historical novels, Tolliver's Secret and The Fighting Ground. We will continue discussing both genres as sources of information and understanding and will add primary source documents this week.

Science: We will start a science unit in November. This will be in French. 

Art: On Friday, I will teach the students some cross-stitch techniques and we will move from plastic canvas to burlap.

P.E. We talk a 30 minute walk on Thursday, with students paired up with somebody who is not in their grade. Going up and down the neighborhood hills and focusing on one new classmate went over well, and we will have a class meeting Monday to come up with different ways to focus our Class Walks, which I would like to do once a week. The kids have promised to teach me some of their games from P.E. so that we can also get into the gym once a week. Music/ukuleles/singing will always on Friday.

IMHO: As I sit here typing, I can't help but reflect on the "largesse," of what we're trying to squeeze into each week of teaching.  I love my work, can't imagine doing anything else,  but the effects of the budget reduction are a reality for all teachers. With respect to our particular program:

Changing math to an English program addresses one set of issues but brings a different set before us.

4th and 5th graders are quickly developing their abilities to think and write abstractly. Science and social studies (content areas) require increasingly sophisticated reasoning and thinking strategies. French adds another layer to the learning process.

French needs explicit, direct instruction in order for the students to be able to function in academic areas.

There is no P.E. program, and there is no music program.

And all of a sudden, it's Friday, and I can't believe the week has gone by. I reflect on the "aha" moments, and the lessons  that worked, and the lessons that didn't work for everybody, and revisit what I even mean by "worked," and if I ever really know what sticks, what sticks but doesn't show- yet,  try to prioritize for the next week, and then drive home, grateful for the authentic relationships I have with my students, and acknowledgment of the fact that they didn't ask for budget cuts, either.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October 3, 2011

Volunteer opportunities! 
I could use some help in the classroom this Friday morning with the challenge tests. It would involve reading lists out loud to small groups of students. (8:30 - 9:00)

The 4/5 Blend is in need of a PTO rep to attend PTO meetings  on the third Tuesday of the  month at 6:30 pm. The rep is an interface between our class and the PTO:  bringing any  issues to PTO and relaying information to our 4/5class. The biggest (one time) chore is to make an email list of 4/5 parents (teachers can't share theirs) so that any information can  be conveyed in a simple group email. 

Please let me know if you are interested in either of these opportunities. 

Oregon Battle of the Books

Sign up has begun for this year's OBOB. Students in grades 4 and 5 need to turn in a signed permission slip to me or Mme Reeve with a list of team members by the end of this week. The battles will happen mid January.  

4th Grade Language Arts

Last week in review
      Most students finished their essays, we had a quiz on Carry on, Mr. Bowditch, had our spelling test on Friday and continued working on subjects and predicates. We also began working on cursive writing.

This week
      After three weekly scores of 85% or higher, students may take a challenge spelling test, which covers their entire master list. Many students fall into that category this week, so I hope you will be able to find time to help them practice! Last week's test will come home Monday, and I have indicated on the test if the student will be taking the challenge test.

     Almost everyone has finished the first essay, and I expect to send those home later this week. I am including a scoring guide so that parents and the students understand what I was looking for in this particular assignment. (The students have gone over it with me already.) If you notice an "error" that I didn't correct on your child's paper, it probably isn't an oversight.  The focus of this assignment is primarily "organization."

     We are continuing with subjects and predicates this week in order to build a conceptual foundation for our year-long work on sentence structure.

      Carry on, Mr. Bowditch will shift to an in-class activity. We will be learning about sailing ships, including terminology and even knot tying!

      Mme Jana and I have decided to assign language arts and math homework M - W nights because collecting on Friday is problematic- we don't see all of those students- only our homerooms. Instead, we will each give a French, social studies or science homework assignment on Thursday, which will be due Friday.


Last week in review
       In French, we focused on contractions, which are confusing to students particularly when they involve the subject pronoun je. The e is dropped when je is followed by a word beginning with a vowel, and many of the students use j'ai (I have) when they mean je. This may seem small, but it's impossible for a student to move into an understanding of conjugation when they aren't clear about the subject pronouns, or pronouns in general! The students also wrote an autobiographical poem.
      The students made time lines to use as reference during our reading and discussions of events and battles of the American Revolution.  
      Bargello is a style of Italian needlework that became popular in Elizabethan England and was used by Colonial Americans to create upholstery. Students designed a small pattern on paper and have begun stitching their designs on a plastic canvas. 

This week
     We will finish the biographical poems, continue working on reading and spelling using a dictee handout. Writing will include conjugation and contractions. We will also do some pre-reading/vocabulary activities prior to watching and discussing "L'appartement de Joanna"  on the Yabla website.

Social Studies
       We will continue with the time and begin looking at the lives of important political, military and social figures of the Revolutionary Period. In addition to several biographies and historical fiction, we will also read George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen From Both Sides. We will continue with Avi's historical novel, The Fighting Ground.

      Students will be finishing their bargello projects. The next project will be working with burlap and thinner wool. (Note that the article in Wikipedia comments on precision and mathematical counting!)

      Fifth graders will have a homework assignment Thursday, due Friday. They are to read and make one entry in their reading log/journal. Fourth graders will begin a reading journal in November.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


        My (first!) blog (ever!) is here to keep parents and students informed about weekly routines and activities for my morning 4th grade language arts classes and for the afternoon 4th/5th blended class In addition to information about upcoming events, I will review the previous week's highlights. These weekly updates will be posted by Monday. If something comes up during the week, I'll send an email.   

       I will, from time to time, post my reflections on what's happening day-to-day, as well as my personal educational philosophies. I will leave the blog open to your comments/questions, with the understanding that issues about your child or problems you wish to discuss with me be handled privately. The blog will start with 4th grade language arts and then move to the 4th/5th homeroom.

Last Week in Review

      The students took their second weekly spelling test on Friday, and overall, the scores were greatly improved. They are getting back into the rhythm of school and learning new routines, including how to create and study their individualized weekly spelling lists. They made daily journal entries, primarily responses to quotations or proverbs. 
      We started reading Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, a Newbery Award historical novel, which we will be studying in class for the next three weeks. Please make sure these books travel back to school in the morning!
      They heard an interactive read aloud (that means questions, discussions, etc.) of Tolliver's Secret, an historical novel about a ten year old girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to deliver a note baked inside a loaf of bread to a courier who will take it by horseback to General Washington.  It was VERY exciting and served as a springboard into our social studies focus for this term, which is Colonial America, covering roughly, the 15th - 18th centuries with special emphasis on the American Revolution.
      I am using Toliver's Secret to introduce the 5 paragraph essay structure. We started last week with a pre-write, and most students have completed their rough drafts. 
Week of September 26
      We will make a new list on Monday- the test is on Friday. I'm encouraging the students to practice at home.

      We will continue with the 5 paragraph essay and finish up by Thursday. This is NOT homework. 

      Students will work on sentence structure, learning to identify simple and complete subjects and predicates. (I actually love teaching this, and the kids seem to really like it....  who knew?)

      We are going to be working our way through Carry On, Mr. Bowditch all week.This will be reflected in the homework.

      I  generally pass out a two page "packet" on Monday, which has the homework assignments for the week. Students keep this in their binder and complete one assignment each night, M - Th. It may be word study, reading or writing, but this week it will be reading. It is designed to take 20 minutes, but no more than 30. If homework is taking too long, please let me know. Students may work ahead, but we only correct/discuss one assignment per day, and I assess the Thursday night assignment after I collect the packet on Friday.


Last Week in Review
        The students have been getting to know each other and working together on class activities. Our afternoons consist of 60 - 90 minutes of French language arts (direct instruction), and P.E. or Music on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. All students have music once and P.E. twice. We are also going to be teaching science and social studies and art during this time, as well as on Friday, when all students are with their homerooms. Last week in French we practiced reading, writing and dictation. Mme. Jana, Mme Grabowski and I are also introducing verb conjugation. This is a very challenging concept for native English speakers, but we are, nonetheless, seeing progress.  We will all three continue to teach French language concepts at the same time. 

        Fifth Graders have begun a reading log/journal which they will give to me every Monday. Each student has selected an historical novel and they will keep a record of what they read along with reflections on the books. I am simultaneously working with the 4th graders on the geography of the United States. Once the Fourth Graders are finished with Carry on Mr. Bowditch, they, too, will begin reading an historical novel independently. 
        We are using short texts and dictation paragraphs for our study of French grammar, spelling and reading comprehension. Later in October, we will begin practicing French cadence and pronunciation using online resources. We will start science in mid-October, and our materials are in French. Our first area of study will be trees, emphasizing observation skills.

Week of September 26
      We will move into a slightly more challenging dictee series, allowing the students to acquire vocabulary at a faster pace. We will be reading and working with Paul Eluard's poem "Dans Paris."

Social Studies
       The students will have a 20 minute read aloud of The Fighting Ground by Avi each day. We are discussing the American Revolution both in language arts and in the blend. We are also working on geography. This week we will begin timelines.

       This year I am teaching your children basic fiber arts skills, in particular, those used during the 18th and 19th century. We will be learning knot tying (connecting it with ships) crocheting, needle point/embroidery, knitting and a quilting technique called "English paper piecing." This is ongoing, meaning that students always have a project in progress. These can be worked on at home. Each project is to be completed within given parameters of design and materials. Students work on these projects during read aloud and on Friday afternoons.

A word about French....
        As a staff, we have made a commitment to teaching French directly, as well as through immersion. Charlemagne's ambitious undertaking presents a distinct challenge to the teachers as well as a rigorous program for the students. Because math is being discussed/presented in French as well as English in grades 4 and 5,  these students are spending about as much time "in French" as they would had we not re-structured our program. Please stay in touch, ask questions when they come up, and know that I am dedicated to presenting your children with the most engaging opportunities for learning and thinking that I can.


Charlemagne 4th and 5th Grade

This is an informational blog for parents of students in my 4th and 5th grades classes at Charlemagne French Immersion School. Enjoy!