To start off, I want to thank the whole Lower Lab community for the warm welcome back to fifth grade. It was a relief to know what good hands the classes were in with Eve while I was on leave, and it has been a pleasure catching up with everyone and getting the chance to share with you about the twins. They’re doing so well at home with my mother, who will have them writing their own literary essays in no time.

Speaking of literary essays, the fifth graders have been working hard to lift the quality of their thesis statements and choosing the richest quotations to unpack in support of their ideas. We are challenging ourselves to avoid cliches and instead make insightful inferences about the short stories we read. As we wind down this unit and prepare to publish the best of our work, we plan to jump right into another powerful essay unit – the research based argument essay. This unit will leverage the skills we are building in choosing and unpacking text evidence to support strong claims about topics in the world. Students will learn to suspend judgment as they read critically and note take before building reasoned arguments in support of their viewpoints. We’ll even appeal to our audiences and incorporate counterarguments to make our essays as convincing as possible. Prepare to be swayed!

As readers, we are drawing another cycle of book clubs to a close. The students have taken ownership of the roles Eve taught them to play in literature circles to hold themselves accountable to their club mates and have stronger, deeper conversations about their shared texts. Our next stop will be holding similarly meaningful conversations around nonfiction texts. This informational and argument reading will even spur flash debates that can provide opportunities for rehearsal for our argument essays! This work will require analytical reading and analysis as well as exploration of the author’s craft moves to determine her unspoken perspective on the topic. Readers will also synthesize across multiple texts on a topic so that they can write essays in Writing Workshop that are heavily researched and fully informed. There’s no debating that this will be a powerful unit for the fifth graders! (Are new moms allowed to make dad jokes? Hope so.)

Finally, the fifth graders are thrilled to be launching a new social studies unit on Canada! We will start by studying the origins of its national symbols and their significance. Later, we’ll tie into our argument unit by critically reading and debating about the mutual impact of polar bears and humans and the changing of the words in Canada’s national anthem. We will also study primary sources to explore what they indicate about important moments in Canada’s history. Our work will culminate in some independent research into Canada’s provinces and cities. We’re really looking forward to getting into this new area of study!

Happy to be back in the swing of things in fifth grade!

Laura