Diligence and Dancing

We had a fabulously focused morning of research, continuing our inquiry into essays. Students worked diligently to gathering information and piece it together into an instructional presentation. It was exciting to see all the pieces come together and to see how deeply we understood this new genre of writing.


In math, we used base ten blocks to explore decimals in concrete, pictorial, and abstract ways. Students use the manipulatives to represent a decimal, which their partner had to identify and explain. Most students were able to share their learning on Seesaw. As some prepared their Seesaw presentations, they made some minor mistakes, which were very valuable for learning. We love to celebrate mistakes because they provide us an opportunity to reflect and be open-minded.

Check out the following video from YouCubed (one of my favorite math and mindset resources).


How does this video connect to our central idea related to struggle and survival?

Here’s another one that celebrates the brain-growing power of mistakes.

  • What mistakes can you celebrate today?
  • How did your mistakes provide an opportunity for you to struggle?
  • How did your mistakes help your brain grow?

Challenge: Think of a metaphor or simile to illustrate the power of mistakes?


This afternoon, after P.E., we went to music to practice for Wednesday’s International Day performance. Ms. Paula and Ms. TaShawndra dropped in during the practice and were quite amazed at our voices.


Mr. Sheldrick and his kindergarten and first grade students shared their learning with us during their student-led assembly. We were able to make some connections to our compass point activities this past week.

After the assembly, we headed straight to Mrs. Fischer’s room for a top secret practice. I can’t say much more because… it’s top secret.

Here’s a link to the video, if you’re interested in practicing.

Word Work Beyond Our Words of the Week

After a brief investigation into our words of the week, we continued with some word analysis related to the Primary Year Program (PYP) and our transdisciplinary theme. Using some of the same tools, we broke down the word and gained a better understanding of how the PYP is organized.

We then began to examine our theme for our current unit – Where We Are in Time and Place. Working in our table groups, we read the description of the theme and noted words and phrases that were interesting and into which we might inquire further. Working together, students annotated the description. This will be a document we revisit throughout our unit as we become more knowledgeable about and make connections with our central idea through our lines of inquiry.

We then continued our investigative work by conducting research about… essays (see related post).

We also continued our work with decimals, looking at how to create number lines… with hundredths in an effective and efficient way.

Expanding Our Writing Repertoire with… Expository Essays

We had a incredible day of investigation. Whether we were using multiple sources to find the meaning or origin of new words or thinking about our new transdisciplinary theme or digging in to decimals, students demonstrated dedication and determination in delightful ways today.

As we move into our third unit of inquiry, we will be looking at a new genre of writing… expository essays. This type of essay is designed to explain. Beginning with a thesis or belief statement, students will seek to identify reasons for this belief and will work to support these reasons with elaboration in the form of anecdotes (mini-story), examples, and / or descriptions.

Today, we inquired into what an essay is. Students had a number of print and digital resources to explore. As students dug into the materials, parts, purpose, procedure, and perfecting were areas about which to research.


Made with Padlet


With Thanksgiving coming up, we will soon be presented with a prompt and determine what it is asking (part of the procedure). We will be writing about gratitude. After discussing this idea deeply, we will craft a thesis statement and record two reasons with supporting examples on our graphic organizers. We will use this information to draft our hook and body paragraphs. This will be a sample setting us up for a more significant essay about struggle.

The creators of Flocabulary use rap to review the elements of an essay and the purpose of each.

Flocabulary: Five Paragraph Essay

Optional Multiple Source: NoRedInk: Essay Essentials

Word Walk. Decimal Talk.

Wednesday began with word work, with our special guest Mrs. Kovacs. We continued our work with the Frayer model, especially focusing on connections and sentences related to our words. Upon completion of our posters, we conducted a focused gallery walk, providing sticky note feedback for one another. Some sticky notes highlighted learning, others posed questions, and still others offered scholarly suggestions for further consideration.


During math, we began to explore decimals. Using a 10 x 10 grid as a pictorial / visual tool, we were able to identify the whole as 100/100 = 100 hundredths (1.00) = 10 tenths (1.0). We then proceeded to look at parts of the whole, making connections to fractions. Connections to the place value chart and our understanding of place, value, and equivalence were helpful.

As you watch the following video, keep in mind THE WHOLE.

  • How is the whole in this video different than the whole we used in class.
  • How does that affect our representation?


Gallery Walk. Grid Book. Game Time!

This morning, we started by finishing our Compass Points visible thinking routine. We jotted down things what Worries (W) us about the ideas of struggle and survival. Students then conducted a gallery walk, reading and reflecting on one another’s ideas. Observations, questions, and additional thinking were added to our recording sheets for future consideration. A number of powerful ideas worth pursuing were noted and shared. This will definitely be an interesting, introspective, and impactful inquiry.

Today, as we continued to launch into our new unit, we tackled a tough text titled A Song for Cambodia by Michelle Lord. This story takes us on a treacherous journey with Arn, a boy from a village in northern Cambodia. With well-chosen words, the author allows us to step into Arn’s shoes (an idiomatic phrase meaning to see life from someone else’s perspective). This story prompted a number of important inquiry questions related to survival and struggle and Cambodia’s history, which we will investigate further in the days ahead.

Pausing periodically allowed us to ponder Arn’s experience deeply. Throughout, questions were posed – perfect for our pursuit into a tough topic. We also spent quite a bit of time talking about the foreword, which contains important historical information that made us yearn for more information. Another one of our wonderings was about the genre of the book – is it fiction or nonfiction? If fiction, is it realistic or historical? If nonfiction, is it narrative nonfiction? How can we tell? We highlighted a number of keywords we could use to find out more about this story and whether or not it is true? What other factual information related to the setting (time and place) would help use better understand this story? What kinds of multiple sources would be most helpful? Lots to think and wonder about…

In the days ahead, we will complete our summary graphic organizer, which will require us to think critically about the main character’s motivation, conflict, plot, and theme. We will also have opportunity to compare Arn’s story with others as we pursue the following lines of inquiry:

  • People adapt and change over time as a result of conflict
  • People’s personal responses to adversity
  • Action as a result of adversity

Multiple Source

Watch the following video featuring the REAL Arn Chorn Pond. In his own words, he shares about his struggle to survive in Cambodia and the different, but equally challenging, struggles he had in his new home in New Hampshire. It is amazing to hear his story and to think about our own stories and the stories of those around us.

In math, we worked to apply our learning about comparing fractions by ordering a set of fractions. Using pictorial / visual tools like fraction bars and number lines, we were able to consider fractions’ relationship to the whole and to one another. We used what we knew about common numerators, common denominators, benchmarks, and equivalent fractions to help us.

We did not learn the following strategy in class, but it is another way to efficiently compare and order fractions. Your mom and dad probably know this way. The question is… why does it work? Hmmm…

This afternoon, we had a visit from Ms. TaShawndra. She reshared with us one of our favorite books, The Invisible Boy. As with any rereading, we were able to think more deeply about the ideas and were able to connect to our central idea – People respond differently to conflict. After reading and discussing the big idea in the book, we began a game of empathy jeopardy. Teams worked together to respond to the following categories of questions:

  1. Act It Out
  2. Sketch It
  3. True or False
  4. Imagine If…
  5. Risk 

Each group, when presented with a scenario, has a short time to discuss their responses prior to sharing. All groups were excited about the game and thoughtful in their responses. Unfortunately, we were not able to finish the game, but we were able to schedule Ms. TaShawndra for a follow up session tomorrow. Can’t wait to continue conversing about empathy and ways to share caring to our community members.


Compass Points. Comparing. Cupcakes.

While we are still finishing up bits and pieces of our inquiry into movement as a change agent, we launched into our new unit today with a reflective quick write and a visible thinking routine: Compass Points. We began by considering our Needs (N) related to struggle and survival. We followed that up by making a Stance (S) and exploring what Excites (E) us about this central idea. Tomorrow, we will consider what Worries (W) us.

Challenge: Compass Points

As an extension of our visible thinking routine, consider the formation and purpose of a compass and compass rose. Start by labeling the four cardinal directions (north – N, south – S, east – E, and west – W). Connect your work with fractions, by dividing your compass into eighths, adding the intermediate directions (northwest – NW, northeast – NE, southwest – SW, southeast – SE). To challenge your brain, divide the eighths in half to make sixteenths. Using your detective skills, determine how to label these tertiary directions, combining the adjacent cardinal and intermediate directions (north northwest – NNW, west northwest – WNW, west southwest – WSW, south southwest – SSW,  north northeast – NNE, east northeast – ENE, east southeast – ESE, south southeast – SSE).

As a connection to our unit on Japan, check out this tutorial on making your own compass rose.

If you’d like to really exercise your brain, check out the following video that includes fractions, directions, and… degrees (angles), a math topic we will focus more on later in the year.

Challenge: Pointing Us in the Right Direction Padlet

  • What questions do you have about the compass?
  • How could you find out more?
  • How could a compass help us explore our area of focus?
  • How does a compass connect to our central idea of struggle and survival?

Made with Padlet



Made with Padlet

We moved further into our exploration of fractions today by considering how to compare fractions using like numerators, like denominators, benchmarks, and equivalent fractions. Number lines and strip diagrams / fraction bars were especially helpful as we tried to grappled with this concept.

To top off the day, we had an opportunity to celebrate Keira. While she is a special ray of sunshine each and every day, today Keira brought an extra bit of flare with her brightly-colored, sparkly-sprinkled cupcakes. Not only were they dazzling, they were delicious! Happy birthday, Keira!


Supporting Smiles. Encouraging Endurance.

Today, TASOK welcomed hundreds of students from schools across the city to join in on a journey through the jungle. The cross country meet provided opportunities for some students to run a rigorous race and for others to stand by and support. As a bunch of bystanders, fourth graders were able to witness the power of words to strengthen and spur others on.  With outreached hands, we heartened competitors and community-members alike, participating in each person’s pursuit of perseverance.  With simple words of encouragement, we saw smiles shine on fatigued and frustrated faces. With the clapping of hands and the chanting of cheers, we saw slow, struggling steps transform into speedy, strong strides.

We were grateful for the chance to serve with smiles and support and to see how easy and essential encouragement is.



The perseverance of the runners reminded me of this baby bear. NEVER give up!

Word Work Sandwich with Movement as the Meat in the Middle

Our morning began with Word Work Wednesday… on Thursday. It was wonderful to see how much agency students showed one words were captured in their journals. Immediately, students began consulting multiple sources and jotting down notes and noticings.

Movement was definitely a change agent today as scholar diligently worked to make progress on their projects. Each idea, selected to communicate learning in a powerful way, began to take shape in kamishibai theaters, folded fans, flip books, volcanoes, and tsunami simulations. We can’t wait to see how our movement museum will manifest and how deep and wide our learning will be evidenced.

This afternoon, we had a special guest join us for a recap of word work. Mrs. Kovacs introduced us to a new word study strategy – the Frayer Model. Having had a preview of the activity, it was exciting to see our English language learners step up as learning leaders during today’s activity. Students were first given a task card containing directions about roles and responsibilities. Once students had identified roles, they were challenged to collaborate on creating posters featuring some of this morning’s words. A definition, picture, sentence, and connection were the critical components for which each group was responsible. We noticed that in our short session, ALL AtL categories were covered. Students had to use their thinking, communication, research, social, and self-management skills to get the task done.

Lessons from the Field: A Trip to C2TV Sports

Today we had the privilege of traveling to the C2TV Sports station. Linked to multiple inquiries, in French and our homeroom, we went with scholarly curiosity and a willingness to learn.

Our goals in venturing beyond our walls included adding to our understanding of the following central ideas and lines of inquiry.


Central Idea: We all belong to the same community of learners.

Lines of Inquiry:

  • The people and members that compose our school community.
  • The roles and responsibilities of members of our school community.
  • Our school system helps us learn.


Central Idea: Unit 1: Individuals approach problems in order to reach solutions.

Lines of Inquiry:

  • Characteristics of problem solvers
  • Problem solving processes
  • Processes applied in various contexts

Central Idea: Unit 2: Movement is a change agent.

Lines of Inquiry:

  • Types of movement
  • Forces that cause movement
  • Changes resulting from movement

In addition to learning how problem solvers at the TV station produce a newscast, we sought to develop a variety of approaches to learning skills.

  1. Self-management Skills
    • I take responsibility for my actions
      • Practice self control with words and actions
  2. Communication Skills
    • I listen to directions and instructions and ask clarifying questions when necessary.
    • I listen to the information and the perspectives of others respectfully
  3. Research Skills
    • I gather information from a variety of resources.


We are grateful to Madame Michele and Madame Eale for coordinating this trip and to Mr. Kibadhi, one of our very own dads, who was gracious enough to allow us this opportunity to explore his facility.


Rockin’ Our Research Skills

Having spent time yesterday conducting research, mostly online, we discussed the importance of print resources and strategies for reading and gathering information. To learn more about the value of print resources and expand our understanding of movement as a change agent, we began with a close look at the rock cycle.  As we began our read aloud of a nonfiction text, we first looked at the table of contents and identified topics about which we would learn. Depending on what we wanted to know, we could have jumped directly to a section of the book that was most relevant to a specific topic.

Prior to reading our first section, we examined the pages and noted a number of important text and graphic features – titles, subtitles, insets, captions, diagrams, photos. Each element was specifically selected to draw our attention to important information.

Multiple Sources:

We then began our investigation with a look at igneous rock. Using a main idea-detail web, we paused to process what we read and capture key ideas and details.

Below is a slightly different version of the same strategy.

Rock Cycle Resources

We spent much of the rest of the day researching. After recess, Ms. Paula came in to observe our inquiry skills. She had some important questions for us as we explored various resources and valuable feedback – both glows and grows – related to our approaches to learning (thinking, research, self-management, social, and communication skills). In the days ahead, we will make adjustments based on her noticings and our own reflections.

Number lines were also on our agenda for today. Exploring how number lines are related to fraction bars enables us to add another tool to our mathematical toolkit.

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