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

Reading, Research, and Revelry

Our week finished off with a mixture of reading, research, and revelry.

MAP Reading was ready for us when we returned from French. Having warmed up with language earlier in the week, we were eager to engage with the texts and put forth a great deal of effort to meet or exceed our goals.  It was exciting to see many experience the “exhilaration of victory.”

We were equally ready when it was time to re-research of setting cities. Each internet investigator had his or her sights set on very specific snippets of information. While some scoured the sites individually, others shared the resources… all n very scholarly ways.

Of course, we were most ready for a time of revelry, celebrating Ali’s birthday. We were treated to some scrumptious cinnamon rolls and mouthwateringly (if that’s a word) moist mom-made chocolate cake. Mmmmm… What delight to be able to celebrate this scholars with singing and smiles.


Learning about Leads and Storing Up Subtraction Strategies

Today, as we took another look at our writing, we specifically focused on the hook or lead.

Some of the most common ways we started our stories include:

  • One day…
  • One night…
  • It as Saturday morning…
  • It was dark, stormy, and windy…
  • On a cold night…

Crafting a captivating beginning is one of the biggest problems or challenges a writer faces.

How can we make some adjustments, though, to truly hook our readers or lead them into the story?

Multiple Source: Scholastic

The following video is a GREAT lesson on how to piece together all the parts of a story.

Note: There are some valuable secret agent codes hidden throughout, so keep your eyes open.

Not only did we add to our writing toolbox, but also to our math-magical multiple source. Like leads, there were both common and captivating options for calculating.

Scan through some of these subtraction strategies. Which ones do you find to be both effective and efficient?

The following video includes a few other strategies we did not explore in class. Phew… there are just so many options to consider!

Les Mots and The Muffin Code

Today we started out with our words for the week. As we made notes and noticings, our powers of observation allowed us to identify synonyms, familiar endings (-er, -or) that change verbs to nouns, and word parts that made us wonder (vis-).

Challenge: What other words can you think of that contain that part?

Visuwords: vision

Etymology Online: vision

We also continued our exploration of mathematical structures and patterns in an effort to solve problems, and we got to use our secret agent powers to “crack the muffin code.”
While showing our thinking was especially important, we also:

  • made mistakes and learned from them.
  • were open-minded and changed our thinking.
  • asked questions.
  • listened to others’ ideas to consider different points of view.


MAP and More…

While some might have entered into today with trepidation, it did not show. As scholars settled into their seats after French, they thoughtfully reviewed their goals and plans for today’s MAP session. Scholars took their time, read questions and answer choices carefully, maintained focus, and respected the thinking time of those who took a little longer to finish. The language portion of the assessment is designed to identify next steps for revising for purpose and audience, editing for grammar, and editing for mechanics. It will be exciting to see the specific areas for which goals can be set and growth realized.

MAP testing days do not just happen without a lot of planning and effort. We were especially grateful for all the support we received from Mr. Ricky, Mr. Jean-Marie, and Mr. Minu. On MAP days, they come especially early to ensure that the technology and internet connection are ready and running smoothly. We were also thankful that Mr. Mullen and Ms. Paula popped in to help us get logged in quickly.

Later in the day, we took some time to ponder… packaging. Students were challenged to think about how a set of items could be grouped or packaged for distribution. Using mathematical structures and patterns, students worked to make sense of the problem. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division were all considerations as students sought to box up Bob’s Bagels. To extend this activity, students used a variety of resources, including peers at their tables, to identify an item found in the area of China in which their mystery is set. As problem solvers, students were tasked with creating a company and proposing packaging options for their product in preparation for prospective orders. Clear and concise distribution instructions were also to be composed for all future employees.

At lunch recess, students interested in student leadership were invited to join Ms. Paula for an introductory session to Student Council. This first session involved in inquiry into STUCO:

  • What is STUCO?
  • What is STUCO not?
  • Who is STUCO for?
  • Why would you join STUCO?

Exercising student agency, a few fourth grade scholars opted in to this first session. I trust more will get involved and will experience the joy of student action. Additional STUCO sessions will be help throughout the week with discussions related to leadership and student action.




The Plot Thickens

Monday morning started out like most, with French. Upon returning to the classroom, though, we took time to talk about tomorrow’s MAP assessment. We began by looking at the learner profile traits and discussing which ones might be most useful during the assessment. While several were initially identified, it was determined that ALL of the traits would probably be beneficial at some point during the process.

Guided by a Prezi, we then examined a set of anonymous results, thoughtfully making observations and inferences about why the results looked the way they did. Students then had an opportunity to review their own results from last year, reflect, and set goals for their beginning-of-the-year assessments. After each goal was set, students took time to write an action plan, specific to each subject. Sentence stems were provided for students to ponder. The process is a powerful one as we seek to show what we know.

Prezi: MAP Goal Setting

Once goals were set, we spent time relishing our read aloud – Chu Ju’s House. The first chapter enable us to get to know the characters – their past, present, and personalities. We also spent time talking about the primary problem facing the main character and her family. Curiosity about the impact of the country (setting) and culture caused a number of critical questions to be asked. Of course, we had to pause -always and inopportune time when reading a good book. There’s nothing like suspense to make us hungry to read again tomorrow.

With a marvelous mentor text as our guide, we started to think about the events that will be pieced together to develop the plot of our own stories. Using the plot diagram, we focused today on identifying the main events that our problem solver will face. Taking time to plan prior to writing and to think about the problem solving process of both our character and ourselves as writers is imperative.

In math, using our UPSC (Understand-Plan-Solve-Check) problem solving process and some of China’s “talls” (the tallest buildings in China), we explored a variety of addition strategies (column, partial sums, algorithm). Always striving to reach the sweet spot, effectiveness and efficiency were key considerations.

Partial Sums

Column Addition

U.S. Standard (Traditional) Algorithm

Setting the Scene

As we finished out our week, we focused on using the details researched on Wednesday and the observations made yesterday to begin crafting a description of a setting-specific scene for our mysteries. As we wrote, we were reminded to use our senses; slow down and describe what we see, hear, smell, and feel; and add in details about what we experienced there. In an effort to craft the most vivid descriptions possible, many scholars opted to use a variety of multiple sources like the dictionary and thesaurus (hard copy or online). Our goal is not only to create a setting in which our detective can operate, but a scene that transports our readers to another time and place. 


Exercising the Brain… Big Time!

Today was a BIG day for our brains. After adding another list of words to our word work journal, we readied our brains for some rigorous reading.

As we get closer to crafting scenes in which our problem solver solves problems, we took time to analyze and annotate examples of strong sensory-laden settings excerpted from Chu Ju’s House by Gloria Whelan. Working in pairs, students read through a sample of text and used an Icon Glossary created by Gretchen Bernabei. Students then, independently, did a quick sketch of the scene to see how vividly the author had painted a picture in their minds.Partners then compared their sketches, noticing, despite reviewing the scene together, they had envisioned different details.

Icon Glossary

As we prepare to draft, it is our responsibility as writers to craft scenes that enable our readers to envision clearly.


Walls and Talls

With our brains warmed up, we then worked in groups to compare and order a set of cards featuring 64 of China’s tallest buildings. Using understanding of place value and number comparison strategies, students collaborated and communicated to completed the task. Once the cards were organized, students reflected on the problem solving process and the learner profile traits needed for the task. Finally, students embraced the final challenge of determining which combination of buildings would be closest to the length of the Great Wall of China.


Ready for Research

As part of our mystery-making mission, students used some more multiple sources today to identify a city for their setting and research and record important facts that could be incorporated into their writing. Using our Chromebooks and laptops, students conducted targeted searches and shared information and ideas with one another. While there was tremendous level of excitement at the outset, students became increasingly serious and focused throughout the process, gathering a wide variety of vivid and valuable details to weave into their story.


Thank you, Parents, for venturing out this evening to learn more about life and learning in our classroom. Thank you, too, for taking time prior to the presentation to write a bucket-filler for your scholar. I know they will be thrilled to read your words of love and encouragement in the morning.

(Photo Credit: Paula Baxter)

For those parents who were unable to attend Back-to-School-Night, please  look through the evening’s presentation using the following link:

Back-to-School Night 2019-2020

Know it is an absolute joy and privilege to learn with, from, and about your scholar each and every day!

Working with Words… and Numbers

After an extra day of weekend, we were ready to start off the week with word work. Students set up their new notebook and entered our first list of words… the learner profile traits. In addition to the list, we used our secret agent skills and captured “notes and noticings” on the facing page. Looking at the endings -er, -or, and -ar, and thinking about the parts of speech were some aspects of the words we considered today.  Since this is our setup week, we will be making several entries. After this week, though, entries in our word work journal will take place on Wednesdays. We look forward to growing this multiple source, our vocabularies, and our understanding of words.

Note: One of the headings above has been adjusted to reflect our current practice of working with words. In addition, the main page provides a number of resources that can help inquiring minds explore and become excited about… words. Three of Mrs. Rupp’s favorites are listed below:


We also spent some time exploring estimation. Students were presented with the following question (set in China).

To find the answer, most students initially used column addition with regrouping  (U.S. addition algorithm) to find the EXACT sum, which they determined was GREATER THAN 20,000 kg. When asked if it was necessary to find the EXACT sum, scholarly students considered different points of view and tried a variety of estimation strategies that enabled them to respond to the question effectively and efficiently. Strategies included:

  • front-end estimation
  • close-to estimation
  • rounding (to the thousands and/or hundreds)

As a variety of students shared their strategies with the class, we were able to think about and discuss the effectiveness and efficiency of each option and circumstances when each might be appropriate.

Reflection: Which estimation strategy might you use at the grocery store? Why?


Estimation Strategy: Rounding


Estimation Strategy: Front-End


Skip to toolbar