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.

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

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!

Data, Degrees, Descriptions, and… the Digits of Pi

After starting our day with an intense encounter between Tua and the mahouts, we dove into data like she dove into a pile of cabbages.

After reflecting on our work from yesterday, today’s data allowed us to think more about the importance of a clear number line. As a result of scholarly curiosity, we also mulled over mean, median, and mode. While this was not a planned part of our lesson, we investigated these ideas because we were interested.

More Math Antics

We also revisited the idea of angles today. After watching a PBS video called, “What’s a 360?” we looked at a circle that had been divided into 360/360. Each slice represented a rotation of 1 degree.

Circle with 360 Degrees

We then thought about what we have been learning about fractions, equivalent fractions, and… the clock. The clock was today’s very valuable multiple source.  We started by thinking about the different ways a WHOLE clock is divided. We discovered that a WHOLE clock can be divided into:

  • 2/2 (There are 2 sections, 1 for each half hour)
  • 4/4 (There are 4 sections, 1 for each quarter hour.)
  • 12/12 (There are 12 sections, 1 for each hour.)
  • 60/60 (There are 60 sections, 1 for each minute.)

We then examined the angle of the clock’s hands when it is 3:00 p.m. When the minute hand is on the 12 and the hour hand is on the 3, the rays make a right angle or a 90 degree angle. We then connected this to our understanding for fractions – if we slice the clock into 4 pieces, the portion represented when it is 3:00 p.m. is 1/4 (one fourth).

  • 1/4 = 3/12 = 15/60 = 90/360
  • These are all equivalent.
  • 90/360 represents the number of degrees (90 °) when it is 3:00 p.m.

We then looked at how many degrees each set of 5 minutes represents.

  • 1/12 = 5/60 = 30/360
  • These are all equivalent fractions.
  • 30/360 represents the number of degrees (30°) when the hands are separated by 5 minutes (eg. 1:00 p.m.)

Finally, we looked at how many degrees each minute represented.

  • 1/60 = 6/360
  • These are equivalent fractions.
  • 6/360 represents the number of degrees (6 °) when the hands are separated by 1 minute.

Image result for degrees and clock

Based on what you know about fractions, equivalent fractions, and angles… what is the size of the angle represented on the clock above. How do you know?

As I started looking for video resources, I just couldn’t stop. There were so, SO many options for using this model to solve problems about fractions, angles, and time. Here are just few samples. As a scholar, definitely consider these multiple sources. Which one exercises your brain the most?

JoAnn’s School


The final chunk of our day was spent working on our symbols and symbol descriptions. Our deadline for completion is tomorrow. It might be a struggle, but… we will survive.


Pi Day!!!!

While we didn’t talk about this today, because we were working with circles today and because the date is March 13 (3-14), it is important to include some information acknowledge… Pi Day.

Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. To learn more, check out the following resources. Pi is really math-magical!


Visualizing Pi

From Visually.

Many… MANY multiple sources:

Sizing Things Up

Tuesday was typically teeming with tons of tasks.

We started by reading about Tua and her elephant. What do you do with an fugitive elephant? Well, bring her into the kitchen, of course. As we track Tua’s troubles in our plot diagram, we are also talking about tricky words and terrific ways the author shows not tells. As was true in our last read aloud, figurative language continues to be a critical component of a writer’s craft.

After having explored multiple ways to represent fractional number stories, we captured a variety of strategies for solving problems involving mixed numbers in our multiple source grid books.

Then, we set our to apply what we know about halves and wholes to measuring each other’s heads to the nearest half centimeter. Everyone had the opportunity to try out the measuring tape and to read and record the fraction noted on this number line tool. Our results will be used to create a line plot tomorrow.


Our biggest head size was 63 centimeters. Our smallest head size was 45 centimeters. Tomorrow, we will figure out what the most common (mode) head size is in fourth grade. Care to venture a guess?

Part of our day was also dedicated to drafting a poem related to our learner profile trait of the month – risk taker. Thinking about some of our recent vocabulary words and reflecting on our knowledge about risk takers, we brainstormed a list of related words. Then, we chose one word with which to start an “I am…” poem. While some are still drafting, many manage to manipulate words in a way that resulted in rich descriptions of who risk takers are. After revising, these poem will be posted publicly for others to ponder.

Here’s a preview of a few poems in their draft forms. Reflection and revision are still needed prior to publishing, but these are off to a great start.

I am… by Leslee Rupp

We ended our day by working on our symbols of struggle and survival. We reviewed the expectations on our single-point rubric and got right to work. As some finished up their artifacts, they began work on the description, which is to detail the parts, process, and purpose of their symbol. The end products will be powerful.


Skip to toolbar