Dear Fifth Grade Families,

Hard to believe it’s October… Here’s what’s been going on and a peek into what’s to come…

The fifth grade mathematicians have been working on order of operations and strategies for the multiplication and division of whole numbers.  One of the goals of this unit is for the students to be able to look at the numbers that are being multiplied or divided and decide which strategy is the most efficient.  I often ask the students to solve in two ways; it’s a great habit to check your work in a different way to assure accuracy.  (Standard algorithm is a Class of 2018 favorite!)

This week, the students are using their knowledge of multiplication and factors to think about packing boxes of peaches in rows, columns, and layers.  This work will lead us into our next unit of 3D Geometry and Measurement.  

The fluency practice routine is well underway, and the students really look forward to the opportunity to improve over the week.  Having your math facts solid really supports the work when solving a more challenging problem, and let’s face it, knowing your facts quickly is just cool!  😉  If you’re looking for a way to practice, quizlet.com provides students with a chance to make their own flashcards or use sets that have already been made and posted on the site.   

As scientists, we have completed two science labs in our Variables unit using the pendulums that we made (38cm long) and have conducted a baseline test as well as a release point test.  If you keep all the variables the same except for one, you will know which variable is affecting your results.  Students keep track of trials, calculate averages, and sketch detailed drawings of their lab set-up.

Science World magazine has been a hit with the students and so many wonderful responses were posted on Google Classroom!  (In case you haven’t heard, I’ll be giving the students a magazine every two-three weeks and in that time they need to post a response to a question for one (or more!) of the articles.  This can be a family activity, you are welcome to work together.)

As readers, the fifth graders have jumped into their book clubs with gusto. Our goal for the unit has been interpretation of our texts, so we have been pushing ourselves to look for deeper themes and messages within our novels and then reading on with those big ideas as a lens for collecting further evidence or shifting our thinking. In our clubs, our discussion goal is to build bigger ideas by adding on to each other’s thinking. Rather than simply waiting for a turn to speak and changing the subject, we’re using small ideas like Legos to build towering theories together. As our novels draw to a close by the end of this week or early next week, we will be looking across different texts to find similar themes. In this way, students will make connections across texts and explore how different authors can convey the same message or theme using entirely different characters, plots, and techniques.

As a part of their book club work, all students should be reading and jotting for 35 minutes each night. These jots can range from a short paragraph exploring a specific scene to a longer musing about how a big idea or theme appears across many chapters. By this point, this work should be a natural part of students’ homework routine so that they are always prepared for the next day’s Reading Workshop and book club meeting.

When our book club work draws to a close, we will shift gears to start on a nonfiction reading unit that centers around tackling complex texts. We’ll be teasing out more accurate main ideas from these texts and analyzing author’s craft. Our comparative text work from this unit will come into play as we compare and contrast nonfiction texts, as well.

As writers, the fifth grades have made monumental strides in the difficult work of revision. Our personal narratives have grown from hastily dashed off flash drafts into works with layers of meaning that evoke larger truths about life. Students have completed multiple versions of their drafts while writing for vastly different purposes, whether to bring out the deeper meaning of the story, play with structure, or rewrite it from the point of view of an expert storyteller.

This week, we have been experimenting with elaboration by finding key moments in our narratives and teasing them out into longer, more meaningful scenes through the addition of small details and gestures, dialogue, inner thought, and developing tension. We’ve also started playing with the addition of flashback and flashforward to transport the reader through time to a specific memory that supplements the true goal of writing the personal narrative.

Before this unit is over, we will recapitulate these steps with a brand new personal narrative, leaving us with two thoughtfully revised drafts ready for publication. We look forward to sharing this writing!

Looking ahead, our writers will eagerly tackle the art of journalism next. Our revision work will carry through as we explore the use of various text structures to convey our intended messages, and we will lift the level of our writing through the use of expert vocabulary. Get ready to read all about it!

If you haven’t already, please send $20 to cover the cost of the Science World & Junior Scholastic.  Also, please send your Rocking Horse Ranch deposits by Friday. (Thank you to those who have expressed interest in volunteering! We will let you know if we need you by December.)

Claudia & Laura