Expressing Ourselves – Multiple Means and Methods

After French this morning, we spent some time reading Homeless Bird. One group was able to finish the book and proposed a number of ideas for expressing their thoughts and feelings in response to the book, including writing a letter to the author and writing an alternate ending. Students will also be working on a visual plot diagram to document the main events in the story, changes in the character, symbols included by the author, and themes developed.

Once again today, we went to the CAC to refine our performances for tomorrow’s Arts Festival. Getting on and off stage like professionals takes practice.

After recess, we had an opportunity to venture over to MS4 to see Grade 10 students share their design projects. Their challenge was to create a functional pieces of furniture, which were designed and crafted with community needs in mind.

While we expected it to be a great learning experience, we didn’t realize just how much it would tie into and support our current inquiry into how we express ourselves and our central ideas: Industries are impacted by creativity.

When we returned to the classroom, we debriefed our experience and had a great discussion about the term “industries.” Several students used multiples sources to help define the word and gain better understanding of what industries are and how creativity impacts them. We realized even the furniture industry is impacted by creativity.

Multiple Sources


This afternoon, we continued work on our poster consolidating our understanding of the relationship between fractions, angles, and division.

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.

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!


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