Wednesday, December 14, 2016



I must travel a couple days early, so here's a short note.

                                              RAZ-Kids has begun and everyone loves it!! 

I can easily monitor reading productivity and comprehension strengths or weaknesses. The kids get a rich resource of fiction and non-fiction titles at each's independent reading level. Plus, a reader can personalize a virtual robot and rocket with incentive points for correctly answered comprehension questions.  So, more points mean a cooler robot and rocket. It's a fun deal! 


RAZ-Kids will not be graded, though it does yield data to diagnose comprehension and fluency skills. Notably, this online tool reflects computer-based assessment formats encountered in today's schools (e.g. MAP test). Thus, RAZ-Kids builds stamina for inevitable computer-based tests.

Most importantly, again, our third graders really like RAZ-Kids! With an exit quiz for every book read and robot/rocket building "star" rewards, the program is a clever way to promote reading and a dynamic view of where individual skills instruction is needed most. 

Log in! Read! Build robots! Build rockets! Build literacy! Build Knowledge! Build community! Hopefully, your home schedule can include some time for RAZ-Kids. 

All of the RAZ-Kids log-in details were in last Friday's email. Please contact me anytime for log-in issues. 


Our Fall Break Books were a success, so let's try Winter Break Books. The WBB is the same idea: five entries or more. Student effort will be reported in the Q2 report card. 


A Creation Station is coming in 2017. Our Creation Station will be a space were kids can make anything imagined out of old boxes, bottle, sticks, cans, tape, dough, and so on. If you have bottles or boxes or wood or miscellaneous scraps around, please let me know. A good imagination can turn an old bottle or two into a home cooling system. Seriously. Inventing will commence January 9.   

Contact Ms. Oumou with any immediate concerns (e.g. attendance) in the next two days. You can email me throughout the holidays, if you'd like.


Travel safe and sound. See you in the 2017! 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Measuring Up


This week we worked on rounding (i.e. estimating) numbers to the nearest 10. For example, 354 rounded to the nearest ten is 350. Eighteen rounded to the nearest ten is 20.

How is this important or useful? One reason is that estimating amounts means faster answers. Although, yes, the answers will be imprecise. In many situations an estimate might be okay. Let’s say, for example, stating a past date as only a month or year, or describing the size of a book roughly in pages.

The rounding process also helps us to visualize amounts. In the kids’ case, as learners, this visualization will initially be seen as a number line with fives or tens. We used a variety of number lines this week, including graduated cylinders and rulers.





You can help us practice rounding by simply asking your child questions about any numbers you come across this weekend or whenever. If the amount is greater than ##5 the answer goes up to #10 (e.g. 435 to 440). If the amount is less than ##5 the answer goes down to ##0 (e.g. 82 to 80).  Ask and you’ll see. The kids got the idea really well.


We had a fascinating Show and Tell session with mineral samples. Then we had an impromptu look at minerals on You Tube. Interesting stuff to end the day. 

Hands-on Minerals

In-depth Minerals

Here are next Friday’s spelling words.

And that’s all for this week.

Have a fun weekend! 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

How-to Everything


This week we finished How-to articles. The writing objective was revision for a concise and presentable product. The class did well overall. However, the goal was working to become better writers rather than just finishing the assignment. If your child eagerly wants to just be finished, let’s slow down together and exercise improvement as an ongoing theme or concept for everything. “Is that your best work?” is a question that often yields a better effort.  Together, let’s keep asking that question.

How-to Articles

How-to Make a Milkshake

Tuesday, we will have a math mid-term exam. The test reviews the previous 10 lessons. We previewed the actual test yesterday. The kids have the worksheet at home to study and then officially take the exam Tuesday. The test requires answers to be explained graphically and or in writing. The goal is to articulate problem solving. We will review the concepts again Monday.

Measuring apples

If you’d like to supplement your child’s schoolwork with activities on IXL, I will be sending out the access code today. Please keep in mind that, beyond daily reading of 30-minutes or so for pleasure, I only assign homework when an assignment is due. The absence of official homework hopefully allows you to help your child exercise behaviors that support classroom learning and success like patience, effort, courtesy, and focus.

Show and Tell, we love it, but please question Show and Tell choices. We only use 30-minutes at the end of the week with no time to simply show or tell everday items. We strive to highlight unusual, educational, sentimental or strange things that offer meaningful stories. So far so good.  Thanks.

Reused materials Tuk Tuk


are the spelling words for next Friday’s spelling test.

We were delighted to have Hans Christian Andersen stories brought in to share. I loved reading and discussing these morality tales. When you’re book shopping, I recommend picking up Milbourne, Doherty & Brocklehurst's version Andersen's clever stories.

Classic tales!

"If it wasn't for bad luck..."

Finally, we started the week with a story that involved a scavenger hunt of sorts for color. We even found purple. Interestingly, blue was not a quickly identified natural color for some students (e.g. sky, distant water, some eyes). Let’s not let natural beauty go unnoticed as we move around Bamako and life.

Butterfly bonanza!


Banana blossoms

Enjoy your weekend,


Friday, November 18, 2016

Concentration Power


Monday morning, first thing, yearbook photos will be retaken. The early start should help our morning fresh kids stay tidy for photos. Fingers crossed.

Indeed, emailing you the spelling words before the test worked out well, so here are next Friday's words. No need to study over the weekend. The kids will receive the words Monday and can begin studying from then on.

Alexander Graham Bell once said,"Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The Sun's rays do not burn until brought into focus."  To demonstrate his view of focus, we tried to concentrate the sun's rays with a magnifying glass. It worked! The sun's beam burned through a notebook and a leaf or two, safely. So, hopeful, Bell's point and mine were taken into mind by the kids. There's power in concentration.

The Power of Concentration

As our math continues to exercise measurements, the kids were asked to mark a water bottle from zero to 500ml with increments of 100ml. The challenge was how to mark the bottle with only one exact 100ml portion of water, a cup, a water bottle, a marker, and access to a sink. Not all of the kids got the idea at first, but eventually it clicked. Use the first 100ml portion to mark the cup and then use the marked cup for subsequent measures and pours.

Here are some watermark photos.

Watermark 1

Watermark 2

Watermark 3

Watermark 4

That's all for now.

Enjoy your weekend!