SAISA Spirit and Scholarly Seesaws on the 100th Day of School

Our week ended on the 100th day of school, a major milestone in every school year. Not only was it the 100th day, though, it was the beginning of the SAISA Basketball Tournament. We had the opportunity to witness the Parade of Athletes, including two teams from other countries – The Republic of Congo and Zambia. We also tuned into the welcome address by Mr. Bergh and Ms. Peacock, which included a moment of silence in honor of Kobe Bryant.

Of course, we couldn’t leave without watching a game – TASOK vs. the International School of Lusaka. In true Condor style, we were supportive fans and scholars… often asking thoughtful questions about structure – warm up structures, shooting structures, passing structures, strategy structures… Also, as bucket fillers, we provided support for both the TASOK AND the Zambian team. Chants of Zam-bi-a! Zam-bi-a! confused the TASOK bench, but completely warmed my heart and those of our guests. While the Zambian team of 6 was incredibly skilled, I would like to think our bucket-filling gave them the extra boost they needed to pull off a win.

By the end of the game, ISL had developed quite the fan club and was swarmed by fans during recess who wanted their autographs!

In honor of the 100th day, we inquired into… hundredths. Using base ten blocks, we represented a variety of decimals and fractions and then created our own addition equations written in both fraction and decimal form. The twist today was… we got to use dry erase markers to write on the desks. Fun!

Each equation was then captured on Seesaw. Stay tuned for approved posts.

Comparing, Contrasting and… Collecting.

This week, we have had the opportunity to get into others students’ classroom to observe, using a See. Think. Wonder. visible thinking routine. As part of our research in preparation for I Love to Read and Write Week, we want to see what kinds of structures other classrooms have in place. Since teachers have allowed us into their learning spaces, we thought it might be a good idea to express our gratitude through the writing of a letter. Before doing that, though, we needed to know how letters are structured and how they compare to other forms of writing like essays and poems. As part of our inquiry into letter writing, teaching teams used used multiple sources and a triple Venn diagram structure to identify similarities and differences between the three genres of writing.

Some teaching teams expanded their inquiry to include other genres of writing like emails and stories, which required them to alter their Venn structure.

After a wonderful session during which thinking and research skills were stretched, it was icing on the cake to see self and social management skills applied during clean up! Thank you, gentlemen, for taking action and working together.

In library this afternoon, Ms. Kraft helped us think about read aloud book selection for the upcoming I Love to Read and Write Week. She shared with us a variety of books and highlighted some of the features that made them engaging and appropriate for various levels of readers.

We then had time to select some books and practice reading them outloud in our teaching teams. Holding and reading books aloud is easier said than done.

Finally, to end our day, we revisited our simile of how a poem is like a puzzle and explored the second stanza.

This puzzle’s pieced together

With meaning, shape, and sound in mind.

Each word is chosen carefully,

Search. The perfect one you’ll find.

With a focus on word choice, we examined the words brainstormed yesterday and narrowed our list down to one word we wanted to explore more deeply. Using a Frayer model structure, we considered and collected:

    1. related words (affixes).
    2. synonyms (and antonyms).
    3. adjectives.
    4. rhyming (or similar sounds)

This resource will be valuable as we set out to compose our poem in the days ahead. Again, this will be a lesson that we share to other readers and writers during I Love to Read and Write Week.

A Poem’s Like a Puzzle…

A poem’s like a puzzle


This is the statement we started with today. With just this one line, students considered how this can be true. During our initial discussion students suggested things like:

  • Both are human-made
  • Both are mysterious
  • Both paint a picture
  • Word choice in a poem is like finding the right puzzle piece

Students also noticed that this statement was a simile and could serve as a thesis.

We then continued by revealing and reflecting on the remainder of the poem:

A poem’s like a puzzle

Made of up many parts.

With words and lines and stanzas

It’s assembled from the heart.


Students then had an opportunity to piece together a personal puzzle, unique to a topic of interest each identified last week. As students worked, the following sounds of puzzle making were captured.

  • Does this fit?
  • This is hard!
  • The pieces are shaky.
  • Where does this fit?
  • This is tricky.
  • This is easy.
  • Where’s the color?
  • It’s not quite right.
  • I give up.
  • Hooray, I persevered!
  • Can we do another?
  • I’m missing a piece.
  • I need help.
  • Something doesn’t seem right.
  • Can I help?
  • You did it, even though it was hard.

Once puzzles were complete, we paused to reflect on the original statement in relation to the sounds of puzzle making. Could all of these things be said while writing a poem, too? Probably!

Our next step in the process was to describe our puzzle. One a piece of blank paper, students individually generated a list of words to describe what they see, think, and wonder. After a few moments, students had the opportunity to add words to others’ lists, affirming strong word choice and offering an alternative point of view.

Today’s lesson will be one students replicate during I Love to Read and Write week, when we set out to teach students in other classes about poetry.

We hope others enjoy the lesson and learn as much as we did!




Announcement: Global School Play Day

Global School Play Day

Fourth Grade scholars have been inquiring into the impact of structure on individuals, communities, and societies. As part of our inquiry, we have decided to participate in Global School Play Day, which is described as “The grassroots effort created by educators in support of unSTRUCTured playtime for students around the world.”

One of the questions someone asked today when this day was announced was, “UNstructured? How can it be UNstructured?”

I guess we will find out tomorrow.

We hope to be able to reflect on our experience and explain how unSTRUCTured play helped us inquire further into STRUCTURE.

Alert: Mr. Wilson will also be participating, so be sure to remember your swimsuit for P.E.


Pressing on in Pajamas

On this, the last day of January, we were able to finish off the month with some fun. Thanks to STUCO for planning this special spirit day!

Despite being in our pajamas, our day was anything but sleepy. Drawing on our own poetry-writing experience, we used our Writer’s Express book as a resource for researching special aspect of poetry and considering a plan for presentation. We worked together to plug in the pieces to our schedule. Sequencing of the lessons was a critical component of the structure that needed careful consideration.

As we continued our pursuit of parts, we were presented with a set of perplexing problems… how to find the whole when given a part as a fraction.

How would you solve the question: If 2 fifths pieces are 1/3 of the whole, then what is the whole?   Tricky!

To end our day, we were treated to an assembly hosted by Grade 2. They shared with us their learning about endangered animals and invited the audience to get involved. They were very knowledgeable.

Problem Solvers in Action

Since our Who We Are: Problem Solvers unit is yearlong, we are always on the lookout for real life problem solvers. Today, they were out in full force, trying to find and diagnose a problem with… the power. Early this morning, long before students arrived, Papas Louis, Dennis, Medard, Axel, and Ricky were hard at work tracking down the trouble. With extreme efficiency, they tested the lines, turning lights on and off to isolate the missing link in the line. Before the bell rang, they found the fault in the server room and were able to find a temporary fix to ensure learning continued throughout the day.


Grateful the lights were on, we got into some serious problem solving of our own. With self-selected thinking buddies and an opinion writing checklist in hand, we sat down and shared our essays and evaluated ourselves in the areas of structure, development, and conventions. Using teacher, peer, and personal feedback, we proceeded to make adjustments to our writing. Development or elaboration seemed to be the most common area in need to revision.

We also continued our work with fraction decomposition, looking at home to represent fractions as sums of unit fractions and sums of fractions.

MathMania: Putting Together PARTitioning

For math-mania today, we cycled through a series of stations with a focus on our new learning with fractions and our previous unit focused on multiplication. The highlight of the day was seeing how students were able to show so many strategies for solving multiplication problems. Partitioned rectangles, partial products, and the lattice method were all featured on Seesaw posts today.

Partitioned Rectangles

Partial Products

Lattice Method

Alert: This is a GREAT video explaining WHY lattice works. What connections can you see to the PARTitioned rectangle?

From Paragraph to Poem

After reading a portion of Varsha Bajaj‘s book T is for Taj Mahal yesterday, we began our day, using this text as a mentor, to inquire further about structure The book, through a combination of prose and verse, highlight important people, places, and elements of India and its culture. After reviewing ideas on the W portion of their KWHLAQ charts, each student identified a topic of interest and used a variety of informational / nonfiction texts to gather facts. Using the facts gathered, researchers began to freewrite in paragraph form.

Once paragraphs were written, students reread their work and considered reSTRUCTuring by adding line breaks to create a poem. While somewhat challenging to rethink reading with poetic pauses, students worked through the process of transforming a paragraph into a poem. The final step involved revising with poetic elements like rhyme, rhythm, repetition, and figurative language in mind. This final step often requires rewriting, multiple attempts at lines and stanzas until the sound is satisfying.

This afternoon, during art with Ms. Rydah, we continued our work on our hands. Ms. Paula came by to admire the art.


An Inquiry Into…

Our Monday started with our usual inquiry into… words. Today’s list lead some into literary terms, while others explored planning structures and mathematical vocabulary. It was especially interesting to see how students are beginning to experiment with visual thinking structures in their word work notebooks. Students captured their learning in charts, tables, webs, word maps, and lists. Some also opted for color-coded systems to expand their thinking and make connections.

Based on feedback received from student-created survey’s, scholars began to think about ideas for their student-planned I Love to Read and Write Week lessons. Together in their teaching teams, students:

  • made a list of reading / writing focus ideas.
  • numbered the choices in order from most to least important / valuable.
  • brainstormed activities to go with each idea.

Similar to what teachers do, students considered the structure of planning and learned about the importance of keeping the end in mind. Throughout the next few days and weeks, we will continue to explore the what, why, and who of learning and teaching.

Today, we also dove in to our new math unit by inquiring into the structure of fractions. The concept of decomposition was on full display as students moved through a variety of stations with a thinking buddy. Methods and models, sums, partitioned rectangles, and more-than-one-answer math tiles were all options open for observation, interaction, and reflection. Many thinkers and problem solvers engaged in thoughtful discussion, posing questions to one another and on paper for further investigation.

Multiple Sources

We ended the day with a read aloud of Varsha Bajaj‘s book T is for Taj Mahal.

Solving with STRUCTURE

Today, as INQUIRING readers, we set out to use WORD STRUCTURE to determine the meaning of new or tricky words. Affixes were on the agenda.

We began by thinking about a word with the root “touch” introduced in Gloria Whelan’s book In Andal’s House and in Kids Discover: Ancient India.

We then looked at how the word can be modified by adding PREfix before the root and SUFfixes after the root. We also learned a new secret agent code: PqRS. We then had the opportunity to explore the STRUCTURE of words found in one of our resources. Each scholars was challenged to:

  • Look through the Kids Discover magazine.
  • Identify a ROOT word.
  • ReSTRUCTURE the word by adding prefixes and suffixes.
  • Explain how the restructuring changes the meaning of the word.
  • Create a learning poster to make your thinking visible.
  • Seesaw your process. (We did not get to this today, but will try to Seesaw tomorrow.)

Multiple Sources

Ms. Chofi also suggested we try:

We also continued practicing PARTitioning rectangles and connecting our pictorial presentation to the more abstract PARTial products. Using these two strategies, we multiplied four-digit by one-digit factors.

To end the day, students began to access our prior knowledge about India. With STRUCTURE in mind, we began a KWHLAQ process. In small groups, students began to:

  • Ponder what they already KNOW about India.
  • Pick and prioritize things they WANT to know more about. 

As we worked through the remainder of this process, we will be able to narrow down and focus our inquiries.

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