Math Mania

Today as our first round of math mania.

Students rotated through 4 stations, which included:

  • problem solving multiplication equations using math tiles.
  • applying the concrete, pictorial, abstract process and showing evidence and of thinking in their math journals.
  • modeling multiplication equations by building representations with base ten blocks.
  • collaboratively constructing our puzzle of the Taj Mahal.

This STRUCTURE allowed scholars to really apply their thinking, communication, and self-management skills during each of the 30-minute stations.

At one point, Ms. Paula popped in. Pleased with the progress on our puzzle, she climbed on top of some desks to get a tweetable picture.

Once again today, Ben brought in some samples of his rock and mineral collection. Rather than passing samples around the circle, he opted to share using the document camera and big screen. Very professional!

Fragments or Full? From Parts to Paragraphs.

During our word work time today, Mrs. Kovacs invited us to consider elements of an essay by analyzing and assembling colored strips containing parts of sentences. Working collaboratively, we pieced together sentences. As we explored options, we realized that some strips could be torn in two to create simple, complex, and compound sentences. One of the challenges we encountered was ensuring that the strips made complete sentences and not fragments. Once sentences were assembled, we pieced them together into a paragraph, which included a thesis and supporting details.

To extend our learning, we were presented with another set of sentence strips containing content about different types of rocks. Once again, we pieced together the information considering complete sentences and paragraph structure. When we were done, we captured our final paragraph on lined paper. These informational paragraphs were shared in a jigsaw format, so everyone had an opportunity to learn about the different types of rock.

Multiple Sources

Transforming Fact into Fiction

After focusing extensively on reading yesterday, today we focused on writing. One of the articles featured in yesterday’s reading task was from Teaching Kids News. The article by Nancy Miller entitled “Japan’s 2011 Tsunami Sends Balls 8,000 Kilometers to Alaska” explained how a soccer ball and volleyball that were swept out to sea ended up being reunited with their owners. Today’s challenge required students to step into the skin of either the soccer ball or volleyball and to write a fictional story about the journey experienced from its perspective. Using facts from the article, learning from their inquiry into movement, and understanding about strong story development, students began crafting creative tales. Prior to writing, students identified the following criteria for a scholarly story:

  • realistic details
  • voice
  • dialogue
  • word choice
  • sentence structure
  • punctuation
  • figurative language (onomatopoeia, simile, metaphor, alliteration)

This prompt prompted a plethora of plot possibilities including:

  • meetings with sea creatures (ea urchin, beluga, krill, barnacles, birds / seagull).
    • sharks (bite, poke, nudge, slap, swallow).
  • deflation and sinking.
  • encounters with boats (ship, yacht, ferry, aircraft carrier, submarine, propeller).
  • being nabbed in a fisherman’s net.

Prior to beginning, students also considered the following options to hook their readers:

  • quote
  • dialogue
  • sound
  • action
  • question
  • description
  • small moment

After students got started, we paused to share some of our stories’ starts.

Multiple Sources

In an effort to dig more deeply into the idea of struggle and survival, we shared a read aloud of the book The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh by Frederick Lipp. Prior to reading, we paused to make predictions about the text, based on the title and Ronald Himler’s illustrations. To guide our predictions and our ponderings, we used a summary-style mneumonic device – SWBST-F (Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then, Finally). This graphic organizer will be used again on Wednesday when we revisit the text. Then, as we read, we paused after each page to peruse the pictures, ponder the plot, find figurative phrases, and consider connections to our compass point conversation.

Our discussions were deep and diverse, often diverting to delve into interesting individual incidences (here in Kinshasa, in our home countries, and from our travels around the world) that have influenced our ideas and impacted our lives. How will all these things intersect as we conduct our inquiry?

We also began to explore metric prefixes today. How could we incorporate these into our stories?

Of course, being a rainy day, we also had some fun with dominoes. It is interesting to see how problem solving, movement, and struggle and survival collide with these creations.

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!

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.

A Marvelous Monday… BECAUSE of the Rain

While some could easily have said Monday was miserable, in our class, we had a most marvelous day. Despite the rain, or perhaps because of the rain, we managed to conjure up all our creative juices and collaborate on a number of projects.

Of course, a significant amount of time was spent reading and reflecting on our novels with our reading groups. Several groups really dug in and discussed ideas deeply. Many connections were made to our shared text, The Big Wave, and even to our previous read aloud, Chu Ju’s House.

At recess, students continued to work together to build castles and domino trains. In addition to the calm and cooperation, the connections to movement were especially exciting.

During our math time today, we inquired into the identity property and how our understanding of that (connected to our learning about factors and multiples) can help us with equivalent fractions. Knowing how to represent a whole as 1/1, 2/2, 3/3. 20/20, 100/100… helps us understand how to find equivalent fractions using an abstract strategy.

Multiple Source: Math is Fun – Equivalent Fractions

Multiple Source: Khan Academy – Fractions Series


Multiple Source: Math Antics – Fractions Series

This afternoon, we used our time to consult multiple sources and gather information about our research topics. Some resources were worth sharing and occasionally caused a crowd to gather. Conversations around the Chromebook can really push our thinking and cause new questions to be asked.

Fishbowl, Finding Out, Fractions, and… Finishing Well

To finish off our week, we started with a Friday fishbowl activity to observe an effective and efficient reading group. Five scholarly risk takers were willing to be the “fish,” masterfully demonstrating how readers read, speak, think, and write when studying a novel together. Observers were able to notice areas where the group and group members glowed and were able to make suggestions for growth. Through the observation process, both the observers and the observed were able to reflect on their process and make adjustments.

As we have been gathering more and more exposure to and experience with movement as a change agent, we were anxious to continue our reading of The Big Wave. The first chapter introduced us to the main characters and a huge movement-related problem. The details provided by the author caused us, as readers, to QUESTION… an important (and scholarly) reading strategy. Our inquiring minds caused us to wonder about volcanoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and more.

In an effort to satisfy our curiosity, we dug into our resources and worked to collect and cite information about our topics. As we read, we tried using Cornell Notes to save and organize our ideas. Since this was our first official attempt at Cornell Notes this year, we realized there is a lot of room to grow.

To learn about Cornell Notes as a note taking structure, listen to Mr. G explain. While it sounds like he is talking to an older audience, I think his visuals will be beneficial.

If you’d like to take your Cornell Notes to the next level by combining them with Sketchnotes, check out Doug Neill’s video. I think you’ll LOVE this as an option for learning.

In the personal example he shares, I was especially amazed at the neatness of his work and how purposeful and patient he was in putting together all 11 pages. I can infer that the book he read and the topic he was researching was important to him.

Another topic of today was representing fractions on a number line. Like fraction circles and fraction bars, a number line is a great tool for visually representing fractions… including those greater than one whole.

This evening, several scholars participated in the second annual Night Run hosted by TASOK’s cross-country and track teams. Runners embraced the challenge, ran with perseverance, and experienced the “exhilaration of victory” of a race well run. Two of our very own scholars, Celeste and Filip, placed, about which we are very proud! It was especially exciting to see and hear how runners celebrated one another. What encouragement!


Approaches to Learning, Arithmetic, Agency and Action

While we didn’t have any tricks today, we certainly had plenty of treats.

W began our day with a time of reflection, in preparation for next week’s three-way conferences. Using a Seesaw sort, students read through a set of descriptors related to the approaches to learning and the learner profile. Each student was to identify things they were proud of so far in fourth grade, and things on which they still need to work. Students were extremely thoughtful, which will provide a very firm foundation on which to develop goals.

Approaches to Learning & Learner Profile Descriptors

While some students were working on their Seesaw sort, others celebrated and showed evidence of learning on their math assessment. By exercising their brains, using multiple sources, and showing a great deal of perseverance, students were able to demonstrate understanding of a variety of important skills and concepts explored over the last few weeks. It was especially exciting to see the level of effort and engagement when presented with the final challenge question.

This afternoon, students spent some time with Ms. Kraft in the library “tuning in” to topics related to our current unit of inquiry. Using the list of ideas brainstormed during a previous session, students identified their top three topics of interest and provided persuasive evidence to substantiate their selection. Ms. Kraft was grateful for the amount of detail provided on the selection forms.

As a PYP librarian, Ms. Kraft plays a critical role in supporting student inquiry and facilitating research and ethical documentation. She is a valuable multiple source, particularly in the development of research skills, one of the five approaches to learning categories.

Article: Tuning in… to tuning in… by Kath Murdoch

Ms. Kraft did a great job tuning in to students’ interests today.

At the end of our day, we finished off with a video about plate tectonics. Pausing frequently, we engaged in really powerful conversations related to our central idea: Movement is a change agent and our key concepts and lines of inquiry:

  • Form – Types of movement
  • Causation: Forces that cause movement

A new idea we learned today was about the role of heat as a force that causes movement.

Thanks to Luca, who demonstrated a scholarly curiosity, willingness to learn, and use of multiple sources, we were able to learn about the idea of convection (and… began to wonder about the con- part of the word found in many other words we know – convergence, continent, convert, convertible, conversation, consider, conveyor. Does con- have the same meaning in each of these words?)

Multiple Source: Windows to the Universe: How do Plates Move?

ALERT: As you are listening, pay attention to words and phrases like:

  • scientists believe…
  • some people think…
  • geologists suspect…
  • one theory is…
  • many hypothesize…

These indicate that these are ideas that people have wondered about and researched, but do not necessarily have definitive proof.

Finally, today, we ended with an awesome example of student agency and action. Since it is Halloween, Alex and Khaleel wanted to do something special for their peers. With much planning and a great deal of time and effort, they hand made a set of foldable drawings… one for each student. At the end of the day, after taking the initiative to tidy off the table tops and keeping it top secret all day, the boys presented their project with an enthusiastic “Happy Halloween.” One of the first responses was… “This is so creative!”

What a bucket-filling way to end the afternoon!!

Challenge: October Observations – Break and Beyond

Over the break, whether you were traveling or stuck close to home, you had an opportunity to be an eagle-eyed observer. As a scholarly sleuth, did you search for clues proving weathering, erosion, or deposition has taken place. If you suspected that wind, water, ice, or roots caused weathering, erosion, or deposition, did you get a picture of the evidence? If so, submit them with the hashtags:




Additionally, were  you on the lookout for landforms and bodies of water – mountains, hills, valleys, plateaus, cliffs, caves, sand dunes, bays, ponds, lakes, rivers,… and so many more. If you saw a landform or body of water, send in a picture with the hashtag:

#Look! A landform

What about other examples of movement?


Or, geometry?


Secret agents, did you accept this challenge? The challenge continues this week…

Send all photographic evidence to Mrs. Rupp’s email.

Silk Worms, Story Structure, and Symmetry

Today’s tasks brought up lots of questions and piqued our curiosities on a number of topics. Check out a few resources to add to your knowledge of China.

How does the description of this fishing community compare to the description by Gloria Whelan in Chu Ju’s House?

The following video depicts a different fishing strategy.

How is this type of fishing similar to and different from the way Chu Ju fished with Wu and Yi Yi? How are these fishermen problem solvers?

After Chu Ju left Wu and Yi Yi, she ended up at a silk worm farm. Of all the challenges Chu Ju faced in her new “home,” it was the sound of the worms chewing that was most problematic.  What will she do with this problem? Will it become an opportunity?

Multiple Source: Kiddle: Silkworm Facts

As part of our Dot Day celebration and… our next lesson in math, we started to explore some of the most basic elements of geometry. We began by examining some images of modern architecture in China. We then proceeded to identify the elements of geometry, which we then used in a Dot Day symmetry task. As we worked to complete the task, pondering the problem-solving process was paramount.

Multiple Source: Math is Fun: Geometry

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