Fifth grade ELA update for April

Spring has sprung (hopefully!) and with it the long anticipated advent of the ELA exam. As I shared with the fifth graders today, they should feel confident and prepared after all their hard work. What students should do tonight to be ready for tomorrow:

  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Pack a water bottle that won’t leak and a few high-interest books
  • Wear comfy clothes, including a sweatshirt in case the AC gets chilly
  • Eat a robust breakfast (lunch will be later than usual)

With the way time has been flying, we’ll soon be on to our exciting new units of study. We’ll be spending a week-long ‘palate cleanser’ unit to honor April as National Poetry Month. After that, we’ll continue to integrate reading, writing, and social studies as we do a deep research dive into the study of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Students will read and take notes in preparation for writing research papers that highlight specific subtopics. We will be excited to share the results of this critical research work with you!

An update from 5th grade ELA…

We are hard at work in room 220! March has roared in like a lion, and we are roaring back with enthusiasm and focus.

Our argument and advocacy unit drew to a close quite literally with the creation of some thought provoking infographics. This work communicates our opinions, reasons, and evidence around some hot button issues, and we’ll be happy to display them for you to see at our conferences next week.

A sneak peek:

We also completed our opinion essay writing unit with some passionate and well researched essays on whether chocolate milk should be served in schools. All of this work will dovetail nicely with the writing we will do in our current test preparation unit!

We are preparing for the fifth grade ELA test through a mixture of guided practice, partner work, and small group instruction. The students are already experienced after all their hard work in fourth grade; this year’s job is to maintain that level of focus while fine tuning our written responses for fifth grade expectations. We’ll discuss more at parent teacher conferences so that you’ll know the specific goals we’re addressing with your child.

Enjoy your weekend and see you soon!


An ELA Update…

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!


December Update from Eve

Dear 5A and 5B Families,

It’s hard to believe 2017 is drawing to a close so quickly! The 5th graders have had quite the November, and our December learning is already well underway. Thank you as always for your continued support and partnership in your children’s learning. It has been such a wonderful experience getting to know each of them and watching them learn and grow, even in such a short time.

In reading, we have dedicated hours of passion and thoughtful research to our Inquiry Research Projects, which we are currently in the final stretch of completing. Working both collaboratively and independently to ask thought provoking questions about our topics, synthesize our sources and subtopics, and grow new knowledge about our interests has provided the students with skills they will continue to use in middle school and beyond. From building Hamilton to exotic foods, and optical illusions to the Miami Dolphins, the research the students have completed using articles, books, interviews, and by evaluating personal experiences has laid the foundation for what is sure to be an exciting and educational series of shares and presentations in the next few weeks. I have already learned so much from everyone, and I am excited to see how far this research can take them!

The first half of our journalism writing unit is also wrapping up, and the students are putting their new skills to the test as they write news reports for our class newspaper or newscast report. Writing articles that showcase the happenings of Lower Lab and the New York City community, the students have been honing their skills writing catchy headlines, strong leads that include the “who, what, when, and where,” and interweaving quotes from interviews to add depth and character to their articles. To release their hard-hitting stories to the press, some students will work together to assemble a newspaper that will be distributed around the 5th grade, and some students will get their moment in the spotlight as they read their articles in front of the camera! The footage will be edited together to create our own “newscast report” to be screened by both classes. Both the journalism articles and inquiry research have kept us working hard, and the students’ efforts have certainly showed in their pieces and projects.

In the upcoming month, we look forward to continuing our journalism unit, extending our skills as we learn to write feature articles to add to our reporting repertoire. We are also beginning a new reading unit, which will focus on the importance of reading while keeping writing about this reading in mind. December is sure to keep us busy and productive!

October update from your fifth grade teachers…


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, 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

A Note from the Fifth Grade Teachers…

Thank you for a great first full week!

Please be sure that your child has all the requested school supplies (pencil bags included) by Monday.
Please send in a check (made out to Lower Lab School) or cash for $20 to cover the cost of the magazines we mentioned at Curriculum Night.  Thank you!
Fluency Practice Results from Claudia for Week of 9/11/17:
(So much improvement since Monday, thank you for your support!)
  • Most Improved (number of correct): Adam & Mira B
  • Most Improved (time completed): Ian & Arden
  • Fastest Time: Christopher & Triton

Literacy Google Classrooms – HW is up!

Greetings from Laura!

Today we reviewed how to log into Google Classroom specifically for literacy posts and assignments. If your child is having trouble, fear not – everybody in fifth grade has Technology tomorrow and I’m sure Mr. G will be able to troubleshoot any password-related issues. If your child is having trouble with the entry code, feel free to shoot me an email with their homeroom number and I’ll send you back the correct code.

If your child already logged in and didn’t see the assignment, he or she beat me to the punch post! The assignments are posted now for both classes.

I’m copying the assignment below for the benefit of any fifth graders who have trouble logging in this evening. We’ll fix up all the bugs in the next few days!


Writing Homework for Thursday, 9/14:

Throughout the writing process, the best of writers look back over their writing and ask, “Have I used everything I know about spelling, punctuation, and grammar to make my writing clear?”
Tonight, take some time to step back and ask this question. This doesn’t mean this is all the writing you will do—I imagine you’ll also have time to collect another entry or two—but spend a bit of time looking over your past entries and doing some editing. The following list of questions will help you get started:

Questions to Ask Yourself as You Edit
1. Does this make sense? Are any words or parts missing?
2. Are all my sentences complete? Have I checked for run-ons and fragments?
3. Have I used correct capitalization (for names and the beginning of sentences)?
4. Have I used commas and quotation marks for dialogue?
5. Have I checked to see that all my verbs and subjects agree? Are my verbs in the right tense (past, present, future)?
6. Do the words all seem to be spelled right? Do they look right? Have I checked any I’m uncertain of?
7. Have I checked for frequently confused words (to, too, two; there, their)?
8. Have I paragraphed and indented?

A note from your 5th grade teachers…

We had a wonderful first day in fifth grade! Your child should be bringing home a letter from both Claudia and Laura with important notes and our contact information. We’re pasting it to the end of this blog post in case it does not make it to your home tonight.

Thank you for ordering and/or sending in all of the supplies! Our classrooms are fully stocked and ready to go. Students will need a pencil bag for the fifth grade school year, and these were not included in the supply order sent to school. If possible, please have a pencil bag for your child by Monday to facilitate independence and organization.

Thank you so much!

Claudia & Laura

—————————————text of letter follows below—————————————————–

September 7, 2017

Dear Fifth Grade Families,

Welcome back!  We hope everyone had a restful summer and we are looking forward to working with you and your child during this important transition year.

We will discuss our curriculum and routines in detail during the upcoming Parent Night on September 13, 2017. We will be updating the school blog monthly; please subscribe!

Today, students who ordered supplies were given a black ‘Home/School’ Folder that will be used to transport homework and notes to and from school each day.  Until it becomes a routine, please ask your child if they have any ‘mail’ on a daily basis.  If you have a note for anyone in the school community, please put it in the black folder and it will be delivered as marked.  (This folder tends to get ‘full’ very quickly; students should not be keeping academic papers in this folder full time.  We will teach them how to manage their papers, but please encourage them to stay organized!

During class we discussed that our expectation of the students is that they come to school each day prepared with the following:

  • Pencil Bag (2 pens, 2 pencils, small scissors, 6” ruler, a fine tip Sharpie, a white out pen, a small pack of post-its and an eraser)
  • Independent Reading Book
  • Planner
  • Home/School Folder
  • Completed Homework & relevant notebooks/resources

On this back of this note, we have included your child’s daily schedule.  We have reviewed this in class and will support them as they learn these new routines. If your child has a question about the schedule or any other Fifth Grade procedures, please have him/her speak with us.

If you haven’t already, please let us know your child’s dismissal schedule for each day of the week.

Please feel free to email us at / with any questions. We look forward to an exciting and productive year at The Lower Lab School!


Claudia Coia (Math & Science Teacher)

Laura King Haas (Literacy & Social Studies Teacher)



Lunch and snack reminders for tomorrow’s trip!

As we gear up for tomorrow’s field trip to Symphony Space, some brief reminders:

  • Unless you have already made arrangements with Kevin or Laura, please send your student to school with a packed lunch. This does NOT need to be in a brown bag, normal lunch boxes and water bottles are fine. Including any necessary utensils would be a major plus!
  • Please also send your child to school with a small snack. Students won’t be having lunch until nearly 1pm, so they will eat their snacks before getting on the bus to tide themselves over.

Thank you so much! We promise to come back bursting with stories about Latin American performing arts.

May’s Marvelous Update!

Hello, third grade families!

The weather is finally starting to feel like spring as we gear up for our final units of study in third grade. It’s hard to believe that fourth grade is just around the corner!

In Reading Workshop, we are wrapping up our final cycles of nonfiction research clubs. Students have studied and learned note-taking strategies for several groups of animals, and they have developed questions and conjectured possible answers, such as “Why do penguins take care of their young, but frogs lay their eggs and leave? Could it be that penguins need to protect their young and teach them, but tadpoles survive because of their instinctive behaviors?” Looking ahead, we are excited to finish off our year as readers who participate in social issues book clubs, reading and analyzing fiction to discover how our characters respond to challenges like friendship trouble, loss, or bullying.

In Writing Workshop, we are exploring the art of poetry! We’ve immersed ourselves in reading poems to study the moves that poets make and the subjects – great and small – that poets explore. We’re studying how to use line breaks to change how readers experience our writing, and we’ll soon be revising the poems we’ve already written to incorporate author’s craft techniques like repetition, metaphor, and personification. We look forward to sharing our work with you!

In Math Workshop, we are tackling new challenges as we study numerical data collection and statistical analysis. We’ve made single and double bar graphs and line plots, and now we’re learning how statisticians describe the shape of data and explore ways to know what a “typical” piece of data might be for a given group. The third graders have been eager to learn and explore statistical vocabulary words like outlier and median, and we’ll be learning even more as the unit goes on!

In Social Studies, we are eagerly immersing ourselves in the study of China. We’ve been lucky enough to have two visits from Symphony Space to teach us about Chinese opera and the art of ribbon dancing, and we’ve also had the new opportunity to work with the China Institute, who brought us fascinating multimedia presentations about the Forbidden City and the symbolism of Chinese imagery. Through the rest of the month, we will continue to study and research, reading texts about ancient and modern China and exploring topics of inquiry through technology. We’ve even got a few more special events in store thanks to our scheduled trip to Symphony Space next week and a special guest instructor who will join us at the end of the month!

As the weather gets warmer, we’ve noticed that students are starting to slide into a summery mentality and bending more rules. We would greatly appreciate it if you could brush up with your child about behavioral expectations, whether it comes to bringing toys and candy to school, turning in homework, or following directions given by any adult in the school (not just the classroom teacher). We can’t help but realize (maybe you have, too) that the children are only a few months from fourth grade, and we want to send them there well-prepared for the challenges they will face, both academic and behavioral.

Thank you as ever for your support!

All best,

Kevin and Laura