Week of Feb. 11- Feb. 15

Dear parents,

I am going to begin a new process whereby I give you a basic outline of the week ahead. Because SIS is such a dynamic environment, I cannot always say with certainty our exact schedules, but at least this way, you will have an understanding of the main assignments, activities, assessments, and events for the week.

For this week, our number one goal is to get ready for our assembly this Friday from 8-9 in the SPAH. All parents are welcome to attend. We will be working with Grade 3 and presenting in a “Newscast” format wherein we will have news “anchors” introducing stories, followed by segments with “reporters” who will be discussing the stories and conducting interviews. So far, it looks to be a fun and funny production. We will be completing scripts and then doing recordings to get ready for the big show!

Other than that, we will continue doing a bit of work on our Geometry unit before launching our BIG Fractions unit early next week. After that, it’ll be all fractions, all the time for the next nearly two months. It’s my favorite unit of the year and I’m excited to get going on it!

On Tuesday, we will be kicking off our next PYP unit with our “Provocation” in the library. I have asked the kids to bring a cushion as they will be sitting for a bit on a hard surface. Sorry, can’t tell you any more than that. The rest is top-secret.

As this unit kicks off, we will be continuing our “Historical Fiction” Reading unit and will soon get started with our informational writing unit. This will largely be focused on scientific research and writing. We will likely not begin the writing part until next week and when we do, more details will follow.

I hope you all had a great CNY vacation!


The final stretch!

Hi 4C Parents!

I decided to use our class blog as the medium for the final message of 2018. It’s a busy week, and there are a number of items you’ll want to be aware of/reminded of, so, I’ll list our events by day:

Monday: Mostly preparing for tomorrow’s On Demand as well as kids getting some “Genius Hour” time.

For those of you new to “Genius Hour,” it’s essentially a mini-project that is free inquiry. In other words, the kids will have a few hours to research and plan a project of their choosing. It could be a game, it could be a recipe for something they make, it could be a presentation about a sport or activity they participate in…whatever they want! They will present these on Friday morning, during our half day. However, the bulk of our instructional time today will focus on preparation for the On Demand.

Tuesday: The kids will bring in their research notes and write their “On Demands.” They will do this between approximately 10:30-11:30. After this, they’ll have more time for their “Genius Hour” presentations.

Wednesday: Lots of time for Genius Hour as well as some other “odds and ends.”

Thursday AKA “Party Day”:

Events are yet to be determined, but there are several things happening on this day. First, we have our “Secret Santa” reveals. We will also be watching “Because of Winn Dixie” for our movie party. The school is also having its “Books & Cocoa” party, where kids can wear their pajamas and drink hot chocolate. Finally, we will be joining our PK2 Reading Buddies for a movie from about 1:30-2:15 or so.

If I had to make a decision right now, I’d probably say books and cocoa first thing in the morning, and then the movie party and Secret Santa from 10:30-12:30. However, we may need to be flexible in case of a change. If you are planning on sending in anything with your child to share at the movie party, you can just send it in the morning and we’ll get it all figured out. Thank you in advance for doing so. 🙂

Friday: Half day. Some kids will also be gone on vacation already. We will use this time to present the different “Genius Hour” projects. Kids will go in order of their choosing (in other words, I will ask who wants to go next). I believe they are all dismissed at 11:30.

So, this is the general layout for the week. If anything comes up or any changes need to be made, I will keep you informed via WeChat (or email if the message is longer…such as this one!).

Thanks, and if you have any questions, please let me know!


4C Update: Stream tables, math, and LOTS of writing!

Hi parents! I’m so sorry for the delay, but it has been HECTIC around here. We’ve been crazy busy with all sorts of cool stuff, so I’ll take this opportunity to give you some updates and a few things to look forward to as we move into our final four weeks before Christmas Break!

Math: No doubt you’ve been hearing all about Math class lately. Seesaw has been abuzz with many posts and activities lately. I’m super proud of the kids for their focus and hard work during this unit. And, I’d like to thank all of you for your support in their endeavor to master these standards. As you’ve no doubt seen, the way we attack math problems these days looks very different than perhaps what you or I remember from our own childhoods. However, it is this deep, rich understanding that will pave the way to future success for all of the kids as they move closer and closer to MS/HS and Pre-Algebra/Algebra. The kids have been very successful, and that’s absolutely due to their determination and hard work. The class has mastered multi-digit multiplication and presently, we’re working our way through long division. Once we conclude that, we will have a heavy focus on word problems and problem solving strategies. Upon our return from holiday, we will be having our next round of MAP tests beginning in January. I am looking forward to seeing their progress. After that, we’ll be moving on to…FRACTIONS! This will be the most challenging unit by far, however, I’ve been strategic in the way I’ve been laying down the foundation all year with previewing strategies. I have no doubt that they’ll love deepening their conceptual understandings and will make some powerful connections throughout the unit.

Reading & Writing: These kids have been writing machines lately. They continue to strengthen their non-fiction reading skills, note-taking and researching abilities, and then, to synthesize this information into five paragraph essays. I’ve read a few in the last couple of days that have been really impressive. We are looking forward to holding our first ever “Publishing Party,” and hope to have an invitation out to all of you soon. The tentative date is Friday, December 7th from 8-9 AM. More details to follow. In the meantime, I hope you will be sure to check in with the kids to see what topics they’re learning about, to encourage them to discover more interests, share your own, and keep them reading!

PYP- Today, we are wrapping up our second unit, “How the World Works.” This has been an investigation into what makes up Earth, from the core to the outer crust, landforms and how they’re made (along with some GREAT presentations by ALL the kids), soil composition, and for their final act, the kids have been playing around the process of weathering, erosion, and deposition while working on “Stream Tables” in an effort to save houses from eroding river banks. The kids have been working in groups of three, and yesterday, the class voted on two to send to this weekend’s Maker’s Fair. You should have received an email from Ms. Alice Cheung with all the details.

Yesterday, as I looked at my “Countdown Timer” app, I saw that I had 30 days until I fly back to SF for Xmas. I looked at how long I’ve been here and saw that it had been 15 weeks. It just blew my mind how quickly the time has gone. I then thought about how much time the kids and I have all spent together and how much they’ve changed. I have moments in class where I look at what’s going on around me, where I hear deep and thoughtful questions and comments, and see kids working diligently and making phenomenal growth. I am beyond proud of all of them, and, as I have shared with the class, it is not my intent to slow down. I am a “race to the finish” kind of guy. I plan to keep my “foot on the gas” with rigorous instruction, high expectations, and all the learning and thinking you’d expect from an institution like SIS. We have four more weeks, and in that time, there is still lots to do. Then, we take a three-week break to refuel, and come January 7th, we hit the road again! In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the rest of 2018 together, but look forward to the second half of the school year with just as much excitement and anticipation!

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend! 

4C Update

Hi parents! It’s been a busy time in Grade 4, so I’m sorry for the delay.

As you know, last week, we finished up our first PYP unit on cultures with kids participating in a living museum. You definitely got to see lots of pictures on WeChat and hopefully, your kids shared with you the thinking that went into their presentations.

I was blown away by how well they worked together, the amount of communication that took place, their creativity, and especially their artistic talents. It was fun to give them free reign to design and create everything on their own. That’s part of what PYP is all about.

Currently, we have begun three new units.

  1. In our second PYP unit, we will shift to a Science focus as we study “How the World Works.” Students will learn about various landforms, map reading skills, and how erosion affects the Earth’s surface.
  2. In Writing, we have begun our opinion pieces. Students will self-select topics of interest, make thesis statements, then make arguments supported by details. We will work on these for approximately six weeks before shifting gears into standard five paragraph essays.
  3. Finally, in Reading, the kids have selected multiple non-fiction library books (following Mrs. Gibson’s fantastic library lessons). In class, we’re taking a close look on the structural features of non-fiction text and discussing reading strategies. The kids are reading on a variety of topics, from planets, to animals, to countries. You name it. Whatever they are interested, they may choose!

Please check Seesaw for some recent updates with regard to what, exactly, the kids have been up to, and please, keep encouraging them to post anytime they have something they’d like to share (I’m trying to get them to take the initiative on their own and get in the habit).

Thanks for stopping by!

On Demand Writing

Today’s the big day! The kids are hard at work doing their final “On Demand” writing piece for our “Realistic Fiction” unit. They’re putting into place everything they’ve learned and practiced since school began. We’re looking at effective intros/conclusions, transitional language, “Show not Tell,” pacing, paragraphing, and of course, the art of the story arc. I’m excited to see their progress!

Busy Week Ahead!

Hello parents! This will serve to follow up the email I just sent to give you a bit more detail about the week ahead. Even though we only have a four-day week ahead, there is still lots to do. I describe this as a final push, a “race to the finish” of sorts. We have the end of many units coming up, so the kids will need to be ready for some big assessments. We will do this today and tomorrow to get them ready.

Math- The final Math assessment will be given Friday. Today, we “connected the dots” on the math lessons that we’ve been doing since the beginning of school. We will practice a couple more skills and concepts and do some “test prep” before the last day of school this week. It is vitally important for the kids to be here every day so they don’t miss anything!

Writing- We’ve been working on Realistic Fiction. Last week, the kids were given back their first published story (with feedback), and today, we will begin discussing the “on demand” that they will be given on Thursday. We will brainstorm story ideas and go over a few more lessons before they do this story.

PYP Culture Unit- Today, we will begin discussing the kids’ final project. We will break into groups and examine the requirements a bit more closely. They will likely have a bit of time before we go on break to begin discussing ideas, and then when we return next week, they will be working in their groups on the final project. We hope to have the presentations done on Thursday, October 11th.

Thank you for your continued support! Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Weekend Roundup

Dear parents. What a busy week! Here is a summary of what we were up to. 🙂

In Reading, students have been focusing on studying characters in their story books and using academic language to describe  what they see and hear. This is linking in with their own story writing that they are working towards.

This week in writing, students in 4C published their first realistic fiction story. A few students were brave enough to share with the class on the carpet and received feedback from other students. From here, we will now begin our second piece of work and continue refining by using more transitional language and adding sensory details. 

In Math, we wrapped up the first half of their Unit 1 Module. The kids have gained a deeper understanding of place value, the Base-10 system, inequalities, and rounding using number lines. We will now move into fluently adding and subtracting whole numbers using tape diagrams as well as the standard algorithm.

And finally, this week in our Cultural Unit we explored other cultures in our classroom as well as our own culture. From here, students will be creating interview questions to gain a deeper understanding of their family background.  

Please be aware that due to the incoming typhoon, school may be canceled on Monday. While I certainly hope this is not the case, do look for an email from me giving the kids some activities to complete during the day.

And one last thing…on Wednesday, we will have our first round of Parent-Student-Teacher conferences. Hopefully by now, you’ve signed up for a time using SignUpGenius. I look forward to seeing you all then!

Have a safe and dry weekend!


Teaspoons of Change


Today, our Grades 4 & 5 were treated to an informative assembly by d’Arcy, the founder of the organization, “Teaspoons of Change,” wherein he shared stories of his experiences living and volunteering aboard. The kids were challenged to think of ways they could positively affect their communities. Even what seems to be the smallest act, he shared, could snowball into something powerful. When we returned to class, the kids began thinking of things they could do and did a Seesaw post about it. However, this was just the beginning. It is a conversation we will return to throughout the year as I believe that these kids, as the future leaders of the free world, are in the best position to make big changes.

I, myself, shared the story of one of the orphanages I’ve worked with in Honduras for several summers and also extolled the virtues of the life of service and volunteering as it is something I am very passionate about. We’d like to encourage you to have this same conversation at home with your kids as it is an important one to have when they’re young. I have added a link in the “Links” section where you can check out his good work for yourselves!

MAP Testing…it has begun

Dear parents,

MAP Testing began today with our first assessment, Math. On Thursday, we will take the Reading portion and then on Monday of next week, we will finish with the Language Usage tests. Any students absent or who needed more time to finish will do so towards the middle of next week (after all classes have finished their regularly scheduled assessments).