The Hess Press

Fifth Grade in Your Inbox

January Classroom Updates

This week we wrapped up our Microworlds science unit and our American Revolution social studies unit with a more in-depth study of cells and a bulletin-board sized historical timeline. We are excited to begin new units in science next week and social studies the following week.


In science, we will begin Models and Designs, which is a series of inquiry-based projects including black boxes, go carts, Humdingers, and drought stoppers that is designed to get students to answer two essential questions:

  • How do scientists use models?
  • How do scientists and engineers work together to solve societal problems?

The unit parallels our reading and writing focus on biographies about technologists and inventors. It will lead into our writing--with the help of Mr. Arango--an interactive grade-wide blog from the various perspectives of historical technologists.


In social studies, we will begin a unit on American Government which will include study of primary source documents such as the Bill of Rights. More on that soon!


We're also working hard on a new nonfiction pre-reading strategy called THIEVES. (Interested? Find more information here.) We've focused on biographies in reading, with short biography examples on Thomas Jefferson and Tecumseh, the Shawnee leader who worked to build a tribal confederacy in the late 1700 and early 1800s. Also this week, Ms. Cannon did a special presentation for us on biographies which involved dozens of present day examples from Tom Brady to Steve Jobs. Students have been reading biographies of their choice independently at home, too, and presenting these in Strive for 25 projects. (Ask your child who she chose to read about!) Students have not yet received their innovators/technologists biography assignment but will in the next several weeks.


Also in the next week or two, we'll wrap up our operations and algebraic thinking unit in math and move on to studying fraction operations. (Ask your child about our giant, rug-sized coordinate plane!) One of the big challenges in fifth grade can be how to catch students up when math lessons have been missed because of absences, which are more frequent in fifth grade than in other grades because students so often need to take time for school visits. I found a great resource I'd like to share with you as a possible first step towards catching up on missed material. The website LearnZillion.com has short videos and supporting materials broken down by specific topic, such as this video which helps students understand the steps in graphing an ordered pair on a coordinate plane. I'd love feedback on the site before I assign it to anybody as make up work! There is a survey at the bottom of this newsletter if you have a chance to check it out with your child and let me know what you think.


In other news, in writing we are taking several types of January poems through the writing process. We brainstormed, drafted, peer revised and edited, and poems are being final copied into students bare books. (Ask your child about the Diamonte and personification poems they've chosen to write!) In art class today, students use what they learned during a grade-wide illuminated letter presentation with Ms. Downes to finalize a beautiful, illuminated letter cover design on their bare book. Next week we begin persuasive writing.


We also had a really successful special event today. Mr. Deep Positivity, Bobby's father, rapped at a school-wide health event designed to kick off our new health curriculum. Bobby got up to perform his rap on Healthy Snacks, too, despite a double ear infection! Photos coming soon.

Windows at Barnard

Earlier this week, a few fifth graders from our class helped the HBS Green Team complete a survey of classroom windows to ascertain how many do and do not open throughout the building. Edie, Alexander, Yousef, and Emily went from room to room to collect three pieces of data from the classroom teachers:


1. How many windows do you have?

2. How many of your windows have handles and seem designed to open?

3. How many windows are currently working?


The number of working windows is of interest because classrooms with windows that do not open are more likely to run air conditioners more frequently and for longer periods of time in contrast to classrooms in which windows can be cracked for fresh air or cooling. The fifth graders will analyze the data when we begin working with fractions in the next few weeks.

Spelling Gets a Facelift

We've been doing the same spelling homework throughout trimester I (sentences and a family letter so students could explain patterns they'd noticed in their focus words to their family members.) This week, we opened up a new set of spelling homework options which focus on either orthography (how to spell the words) or word meaning. Students still wrote sentences for their words, but also chose to make crossword puzzles, word searches, comic books, word pyramids, and more. We shared the projects as a class and had a chance to make recommendations to each other about which projects were most helpful, which projects took longer and shorter amounts of time, and which projects were the most fun.

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