Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Good Night Gorilla Part 2

Back in October, we wrote about the Good Night Gorilla projects all the students were working on. If you missed that post, I will give you a brief update. Students used the children's book Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann to practice descriptive writing. It's a great, little story about a mischievous gorilla who has a knack for "borrowing" the zookeeper's keys. There is very little text in the story, so students wrote their own "delicious" (our class word for wonderfully descriptive writing) versions; then they put their words to the images of the book using Photo Story. Here are a couple of exceptional examples of student work.

Gavin had some technical difficulties, but his writing is delicioso! 

Sophia and Rajveer also demonstrate outstanding writing AND narration in this video.

You can see each student's creations by visiting their Google page:

Please comment! 
Tell us what you think of our writing.
What was your favorite part of this project?
What did you learn from participating?

Friday, December 14, 2012

November 26-30

To play music with the slideshow, hover over the bottom of the slideshow. Then click on the speaker icon to turn it on. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Art With Ms. Avera

Art with Mrs. Heywood

Students used a method called sgraffito.

They talked about what a silhouette is and how silhouettes don’t show details or textures, just detailed outlines. When they began their trees, they created interesting silhouettes but they went one step further by adding textured bark and branches. We talked about cropping a design when some of the design goes off the paper and it leaves some mystery for the viewer. Their trees were cropped on the black paper, but then were completed in the border (a way for the artist to direct the viewer’s attention from the center of interest out towards the edges.

Here are the gorgeous pieces they created!

Friday, November 30, 2012

November 19-21

To play music with the slideshow, hover over the bottom of the slideshow. Then click on the speaker icon to turn it on. 
November 19-21 - make slideshow

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Harvest Item of the Month: CARROTS!

Moroccan Carrot Salad Recipe
  From the Bellingham School District:

Creating lifelong healthy eaters by connecting the cafeteria to the classroom and the community.

Harvest Item of the Month introduces farm fresh produce or locally preserved foods to thousands of students in Bellingham cafeterias through the school lunch program. This year, students will taste fresh fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, apples, winter squash, brussel sprouts, potatoes, pears, green beans, asparagus, radishes and more. Nutrition Services will continue to make new connections with local farmers and food producers to help expand the selection of local foods.

Here are some ways that you can share the Harvest of the Month experience:
  • Talk about upcoming Harvest Item of the Month foods at home - look up fun facts about each       Harvest Item of the Month on www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.
  • Serve Harvest Item of the Month foods at home - watch for special promotions of these seasonal foods in local stores and get your children involved in shopping, selecting a recipe and preparing the foods at home. Kid-tested recipes are available at http://healthyrecipes.oregonstate.edu.
  • Buy lunch on Harvest Item of the Month days. If your children are not regular school lunch participants, buying lunch on the Harvest Item of the Month day sends a message that you support our Farm-to-School efforts to purchase local foods directly from farmers for school meals.
Each month educational materials are provided for students, teachers, and parents. Harvest of the Month provides a great opportunity to try new foods, talk about food choices and think about where our food comes from.

Please comment! 

What do you think of the Farm to School Movement? 

Did you try the carrots? What did you think? Do you prefer cooked carrots or raw carrots? 

Any fun carrot info you have to share with the class?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Making Good Observations - The Tree Project

To get outside.
To improve observation skills.
To improve writing and communication skills.

To learn about trees.
To learn about the park next to our school.
To see and feel and think about the changing seasons.

For these and many other reasons, I started The Tree Project this year. The class heads outside once a week or so and makes observations about a tree they have chosen in Memorial Park, next to Sunnyland.

They have been taught to really sit with their tree. To study it and the area around it. To compare their tree to others in the vicinity. Each trip outside, they take notes about the weather, sights, sounds and smells they observe, and about their tree. They observe the tree's size and shape, it's texture, and any changes since the last observation. When all the trees had leaves, they focused on the size, structure, shape, and texture of a leaf of their tree. The students describe their observations in great detail; they also make sketches and take photographs.

Recently, I asked the students to choose their best observation and type it, so that it could be included on their Google page. Here are a couple of fine samples of their work. You can access each student's observation by visiting their Google page.

Thanks for reading.

Student #1:
Facing south - I see different trees in the background than normal because I normally face west.
It’s chilly with a north easterly breeze. There is a clear sky. There’s no grass around my tree anymore, the soil’s moist. My trees bark is smooth in some places but ruff in others. My tree has multiple small holes in the side of it that look like it was drilled by a wood pecker. There’s a lot of liken on my tree, I wonder if the soil around my tree has silt in it of if it has clay in it. The lump on the bottom of my tree hasn’t changed.  It used to be shrinking.

Student #2:
       I am on the south side of my tree facing north. I’m standing out in the sprinkling droplets of rain with the patch of trees that have lost their colorful leaves. My hands are turning numb and bone white as I write this observation of my tree. Outside I felt like I was in a freezer.
      Leaves are constantly falling down my tree and when just one leaf falls of my tree it deeply changes the completion of my tree. The bark on my tree looks like puzzle pieces slightly separated from each other that are the color of dirt. A majestic moss green bug stands in the crevices of my tree standing there; I think the bug was waiting for the rain to stop.
       Also while I looked on the soaking wet ground I saw dozens of torn leaves on the grass. On my tree I see some dark brown twigs and leaves surrounded part of my tree, sometimes I think it’s an old nest since I don’t see birds around it. Sometimes when I listen closely I hear leaves being knocked of my tree. 

Student #3:
Today, my tree seems boney and frail in this chilly weather. As I write this the rain keeps coming down harder and harder.
To get up close to my tree you have to go through some spiky bushes bouncing up in my wake, not a very good day not to wear socks.
Since Sam (the name I gave my tree) is very near the highway I can hear the constant roaring and growling of the automobiles.
I think Samuel is at least 15 Linnea’s tall.
My tree still has most of its needles left. Its branches seem to stretch upward in hope of warmth and sunlight.

Student #4:
Today my tree has lost a lot of its flame colored leaves and the wind is a soft gust blowing more  leaves off my tree. Even if there is only a soft breeze the wind is freezing cold and it’s getting stronger and stronger every minute making me freeze like an ice cube. My tree's trunk has gotten darker on one side but on the other side it is a light shade of brown and towards the top of the tree it gets lighter and lighter and at the very top of the tree is a round, dark hole. Soon there is a strong gust of wind scattering leaves everywhere. On the road I hear the cars roaring past on the wet cement, their tires making that squashing sound.  I heard a little chirp; "m guessing that it was some sort of bird in the distance. The grass under my feet is soaked in water droplets and it feels all squishy like soaked moss. Around my tree is soaked wood chips and around my tree on the grass is several bronze colored leaves and a few yellow leaves. Some of the yellow leaves have little speckles of eather green or brown and maybe a tad little red. That is what my tree looks like today.

Student #5: 

Today I am facing south. I see a leaf blower machine and a big pile of leaves. The machine has blown all the leaves that were on Twisty’s side of the park to the other side of the park. Some grass is starting to grow around Twisty. The grass is lime green and looks like tons of little hands coming up from the ground. Twistys bark is smooth in some places but rough and jagged in others.  Twisty has small pieces of moss all over him. The weather today is sunny and warm rays of sun hit me but a chilly breeze whips through the air and goes right through my sweat shirt giving me goose bumps.  

Please comment!

What has been the best of The Tree Project?

What is something you have learned since beginning the project?

What are some examples of good observations the students in room 12 are making? 


November 13-16

Please comment! 
What is something you learned this week? 
What will you remember most about the Reptile Man? 
What good book did you read?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

November 5 - 9

Please comment!

Share something you learned this week.

Share something you will remember about this week.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Emily Carr and Charcoal Drawing

We are very fortunate this year to have such quality art instruction from Ms. Avera and from J's mom, Mrs. Heywood, who is the art teacher at Shuksan Middle School. We are continuing our in depth study of trees and art inspired by trees and the environment. Mrs. Heywood taught the class about Emily Carr, Canadian artist and author.

She emphasized Carr's profound connection, love, and respect for nature and shared images similar to the ones below (obtained from http://arttattler.com/archiveemilycarr.html on October 26, 2012) for students to see examples of her unique style.

Emily Carr, Big Raven (Cumshawa), 1931, Oil on canvas, 87.0 x 114.0cm, Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Emily Carr Trust.
Emily Carr, Totem Walk at Sitka, ca.1907, watercolor on paper, 38.5 x 38.5cm, The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, The Thomas Gardiner Keir Bequest.
Emily Carr, Untitled (Formalized Cedar), c. 1931, Charcoal on paper, 91.8 x 61.2 cm, Vancouver Art Gallery
Students learned about scale, contrast, and ways a drawing or painting can show "movement." Next, Mrs. Heywood demonstrated how to use vine charcoal to create a drawing and use shading and texture. She modeled the technique used to draw a tree "skeleton" and then the process for adding leaves or other elements to the picture.
Finally, students had the opportunity to make some art!

Here are their beatiful creations.

Charcoal Drawing on PhotoPeach

Thank you, Mrs. Heywood!

The Water Cycle

Room 12 4th graders have begun the Students for Salmon environmental science program through Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association. The introduction to this program gives students a solid understanding of water. It's as important to salmon as the air we breathe is to us. We will discuss a watershed soon, but as a quick intro, we covered the the water cycle.

This detailed image from the USGS shows how it works. Go here for a more detailed description.

Here is another, more simple image that shows how the water cycle works:
borrowed from Exploring Nature October 25, 2012

 And finally, here is our example of using Whole Body Learning to help students remember the concept.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

October 22-25

It's been another great week. Here is a little of what we have been doing...

The Noise Guy!

We have an AWESOME PTA at Sunnyland! They provide students with many fun and interesting opportunities for learning and entertainment. This week, Charlie Williams, a.k.a. "The Noise Guy" visited our school and provided us with lots of laughs and also some ideas for being creative.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Good Night Gorilla

As a way to help students improve descriptive writing skills, I enlisted the assistance of a classic children's book: Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann. There is little text in this precious story about a mischievous, little gorilla and her (or his) zoomates who sneak into the zookeeper's cozy cottage to sleep. The students individually wrote details from the action they saw on each page. Then they got into groups to refine and revise their stories. We discussed the use adjectives and adverbs, vivid descriptions of characters, the setting, and events, ways to transition from page to page or scene to scene, and delicious words ("How did you went?").

After another revision and editing, students narrated their stories and matched them with photos uploaded to Photo Story. All students' work will be put on their Google Sites when they are completed. Here is an example of a finished story that was very well written. Nice job Dyna, Phoebe, and Claire!

Friday, October 19, 2012

October 15-19

What have we been up to this week?

Mathematicians have been learning to quickly and efficiently multiply numbers 0-12, and then use that knowledge to multiply 2 digit x 1 digit numbers. They have also been representing multiplication problems with arrays and using arrays to help them identify the factors of numbers. Students already proficient with basic multiplication have learned to multiply 2 digit and 3 digit x 2 digit numbers and have begun learning the division algorithm.

Authors in room 12 are using their superior use of language to "re-write" the classic children's book Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathman. In the next phase of this process, the authors will narrate the story using Photo Story 3 for Windows. We hope to have those ready to share with you next week.

Thinkers and questioners and outstanding readers have been devouring books! Several adults have commented "You have a class of readers!" Yes, we do. Thinking about their thinking has been the task at hand; students have been asking questions before, during, and after reading to help them better comprehend the text. Many excellent learners are also seeking out the answers to their questions and recording those in their reading journals. Good readers know to look for the answers to questions later in the text, or by going to another source if necessary.

Technology skills abound! Computer whizzes in room 12 have already learned to use several different applications and web tools, and to move effortlessly between windows. "Facilitated" independence is the goal, so they are also learning various troubleshooting skills that help them when things don't quite work the way we think they should. In order to use these applications effectively, students are also learning how to save files, move files around between folders, and how to create folders in different locations and on different networks! We know that collaboration is an important aspect of successful classrooms, so students are working in small groups on technology projects and are producing unique, creative artifacts to showcase their learning.

Thank you to our awesome volunteers! Matt, Tara, Fiona, Kate, Steve, Carolyn, Jo, and John have enabled me to get so many more things done AND have been awesome support for students.

Here is the second slideshow created by Shawn, Makani, and Devin highlighting the students' learning for the week of October 15-19.


Art with Ms. Avera!

Ms. Avera and Mr. Pahl are switching classes once a week so her students can learn more technology and Mr. Pahl students can learn more about art! We are all having so much fun. Here is what room 12 students created in one of the early classes which focused on the concepts of light and shade with pastels.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Our First Slideshow: October 8-12

I have been wanting to get students more and more involved in creating content for our class blog. It is my goal to help my students become creators of technology, not just consumers of technology. (Thanks Ms. Larson) So I finally decided to have Historians as one of our class jobs. Two students take photos and take a few notes throughout the week - other students can participate in this as well; however, it is the primary responsibility of two students - and they learn how to edit, upload, and post a slideshow highlighting their learning experiences. 

This is the students' first experience with this, so we'd love some of your feedback. What do you think? Do you like what you see? Why or why not? Are there things you would like to see more of less of? Is there a way the captions can be improved? Any specific suggestions would be greatly appreciated. 

We hope you enjoy. Come back soon to see what a fun field trip we had this week! 

Mr. Pahl  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Welcome to Ms. Avera's Class

4th graders in Ms. Avera's class,

I'd like to welcome you to the first of our weekly technology classes. After you take a look at what the 4th graders did last year, please comment below. What is something you are looking forward to learning? What do you like about computers and technology? I look forward to our time together!

Mr. Pahl

Friday, September 7, 2012

I Hope You Had a Great First Week!

Room 12 students. It has been a real pleasure getting to know you this week. Please share something you have learned, something you're excited about for 4th grade, or something memorable about this first week of school.

Have a great weekend!
Me. Pahl

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What's It Like In 4th Grade In Room 12?

It is best said from the students' point of view. Here are a few examples. You can see more examples by visiting the students' Google site pages at Room 12 Google Site and clicking the student's name on the left.

Here is what Sara thinks:

and this is what Julian said:

and from Tatum's perspective:

Friday, June 15, 2012

They Did It!

Students in room 12 read over 200,000 minutes combined this year! As a reward, I climbed up on the roof after the Artfest and had a wonderful night's sleep. Congratulations room 12 students. Thanks for working so hard this year.

Monday, June 11, 2012

On The Way to 200,000

Well folks, they're going to do it. So far students in room 12 have read...
free logo - http://www.sparklee.com

They have assured me they will keep reading the last week of school (and beyond) to finally reach the goal of reading 200,000 minutes this school year. Way to go 2011-12 room 12 fourth graders! I'm very proud of you.

Mr. Pahl

Monday, May 7, 2012

Reading Minutes Update

Our readers have been busy. They are now up to

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I asked the custodian to help me figure out where to pitch a tent on the roof today. I think this class is going to meet their goal of reading 200,000 minutes this year. It's going to be awfully close.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ansel Adams and the ARTWALK!

Each spring, 4th graders in Mr. Pahl’s class participate in a learning experience about one of America’s greatest photographers and environmentalists, Ansel Adams. The unit begins with information about Mr. Adams’ life and upbringing. They learn about his social and academic difficulties in school due to his misshapen nose, his fits of hyperactivity, and his struggles with dyslexia. The 4th graders also examine his transition from pianist to photographer. It was said that art “brought substance, discipline, and structure to his frustrating and erratic youth” (William Turnage, Adams’ biographer).

Photo taken by Mari
 They are taught some of the specific characteristics of his approach to photography: carefully picking and thinking about your subject, “creating your shot,” being technically accurate, using “grayscale” (a concept he created), and taking pictures from interesting angles. Next, students carefully study his photographs noting the different elements they have learned and begin thinking about what they would like to photograph on our school grounds and neighboring Memorial Park.

Photo taken by Claire

Photo taken by Niklas

Photo taken by Georgia

Students also learn about Ansel Adams’ contribution to environmentalism. He was a fierce advocate for Yosemite National Park and the national park system as a whole. Adams also spoke out in favor of wilderness preservation, clean air and water, and the protection of many marine mammals. With the information from the Ansel Adams Unit combined with a program called Students For Salmon by Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, Mr. Pahl’s 4th graders are discovering many different ways they can have a positive impact on their natural environment.

Photo taken by Sterling

Thank you Allied Arts for the Children’s Art Walk and special thanks to Belle Flora for hosting our work. Arts give children like us and like the young Ansel Adams an outlet and means to express ourselves that is invaluable. Thank you for your support.

Mr. Pahl and the students of room 12 at Sunnyland Elementary School

Here is a compilation of the students' work:

And you can see examples of student created slideshows of their work on each of their Google sites. Visit https://sites.google.com/site/sunnylandroom12/ and then click on the name of a student on the left.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What Should I Do Over Spring Break?

There is so much to do in our lovely state over Spring Break. In order to help us decide what to do, our class is making Glogs that highlight some of the wonderful places and activities in our area. Below is Mr. Pahl's example. The students will have their Glogs done by Friday.

Please comment! What do you like to do over your spring break? Are there really fun things to do or places to go where you live?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Two Circles Art Project

I came across this fun art project that is sometimes used as an art school entrance activity. You draw sets of 2 circles all over your paper; then you draw as many different things as you can think of that would have 2 circles in them.

Here is what the class came up with!

Long Division - They're Getting It!

Carmi from Ms. Avera's class solved the following problem:

Thanks for doing this, Carmi!

Reading Minutes Update!

The latest Reading Minutes Update is pretty exciting. The most recent total of the class' reading minutes is...

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If they keep up this pace EVERY week until June, I think they are going to reach 200,000 minutes. I am so proud of how much reading my students have been doing!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rhyming Poems

There is no need for poetry to rhyme, but when it does, it is necessary for us to be able to identify the rhyming pattern. In the last week of the mini poetry unit, we read, discussed, and wrote AA BB... and AB AB... ryhming poems.

Please share your rhyming poems in the Comments! 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Long Division

4th graders are learning long division and most of them are loving it! Here is a video tutorial to help you remember the steps in the process. Don't forget to check your answer using multiplication!

Friday, March 2, 2012


A Haiku is a poem with 3 lines. The first has 5 syllabes. The second line has 7 syllables. The third line has 5 syllabes. Kidzone has a good page on them here:


Please write your Haikus in the Comments!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Assembly

Every Monday morning, Sunnyland has an assembly to welcome students and staff back to school and to get us all started off on the right foot. We say the Pledge, sing the school song, and share ideas about how we can all make our school better. One of the things we can do is: "Be a good learner."

Mr. Pahl has been reading some research lately that talks about how many kids think you are either born smart or you're not. It is called "growth mindset." Many kids (and probably many adults) think you are born as smart as you are going to get. They think you can learn a few new things, but not much. They think that there are smart kids and dumb kids and maybe something in between, but that's it; there's nothing you can do about it. Well, the great thing this research is finding is that there IS something we can do about it. EVERYONE has the ability to get smarter. 

It begins with believing in yourself. Then there is a lot of hard work to follow. I hope to be writing more about this soon. In the meantime, here is the video room 12 created to help spread the idea that "Everyone CAN Learn!!!"

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

More Poetry! Who? What? When? Where? Why?

This has been a really popular poem structure with my previous classes, so I continue to introduce it each year. The way to write this poem is to answer each question on each line. It's easiest to start with a really basic idea, then do some revising to make it "delicious!"

Why does Mr. Pahl call vivid language "delicious?" Well, several years ago, I read Grace Lin's Year of the Dog to my class. She writes beautifully of the feasts her Chinese American family had on special occasions when she was growing up. Each time we read a passage about one of these feasts, several students would exclaim, "That sounds so delicious!" And this is how "delicious words" came to be. Grace Lin's books are full of this exceptional, descriptive language. I highly recommend them.

Please share your  Who? What? When? Where? Why? Poems in the comments!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Poetry! ACROSTIC Poems

In order to improve students' use of descriptive language, 4th graders are participating in a brief poetry unit to mix things up and to learn to infuse their writing with the most delicious and exquisite words and phrases possible.

The first kind of poetry practiced was Acrostic Poems about ourselves. It is easy to describe yourself. We discussed the importance of using long phrases or sentences on each line, writing with descriptive, VIVID language, and incorporating at least a few similes and metaphors.

Please share your Acrostic Poem about yourself!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reading Minutes Update!

If you follow our blog, then you know that I have made a promise to the class. If they read 200,000 minutes between September and June 1, I will spend a night on the roof of the school. I have made this agreement with classes I have taught in the past, but none of them have quite risen to the occasion. This group of students is...different. Today is the last day of the first semester, the half way point through the school year, and up to this point, this AWESOME group of students has read a total of

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Wow. We are only half way through the school year, and they have read more than half of the minutes they need to reach their goal. This class might actually do it. Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

We Celebrate the Life and Accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In preparation for the assembly to honor the life of Martin Luther King, we discussed many of his accomplishments and the accomplishments of the various people who worked with him in the struggle for Civil Rights.

The discussion was as valuable and informative as any we have had this year. This group of students continues to prove itself as being extremely thoughtful and inquisitive. Here is an Animoto we created based on our conversation.

This is a video shown at the assembly to help us think about how we can carry Dr. King's dream forward.

Thank you:

  • Mr. Strobel and Ms. Short for preparing the students to sing such wonderful songs at the assembly. 
  • to all the students who shared the personal and heartfelt poems. We all appreciated your sincerity and honesty.
  • Ms. Avera's class for the detailed and informative timeline.
  • to all the parents and family members who attended. It means a lot to us that you were there.