The Hess Press

Fifth Grade in Your Inbox

December and January News:

Here are some of the highlights of the our work in the last months:

  • We had a blast at our Polygon Party! Thank you so much to everyone that was able to join us! (See the pictures below!)
  • We finished our historical fiction lit circles books in December. Several of the groups wrote letters to the authors of their books. In past years, students have received written responses from authors like Touch Blue's Cynthia Lord, so we are hopeful!
  • We wrapped up the Mircoworlds science kit and began Models and Designs. We'll be studying technologists, reading their biographies, looking into inventions, and experimenting with (you guessed it!) both models and designs!
  • We took on the roles of Loyalists and Patriots and reenacted the Boston Tea Party Debate at the Old South Meeting House during our pre-Revolutionary War US history unit.
  • We read about the famous and not so famous midnight rides of Paul Revere and Sybil Ludington.
  • We made tessellations, named shapes, measured and considered attributes of polygons, created hierarchies, and graphed points on a coordinate plane in 2-D geometry.
  • We wrote historical fiction short stories and added poetry to our bare books.
  • We began a series of health lessons with Nurse Blessing. Our first lessons were about communicable and noncommunicable diseases. We learned about fungi, viruses, parasites, and bacteria that can cause diseases and so much more.
  • Ms. Day, our new student teacher, arrives this week. We are so excited for her to join our classroom!

What's on the docket for the rest of January and February? Please mark these events on your calendar!

  • January 19: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Holiday. NO SCHOOL.
  • February 6: 100th Day (weather permitting)
  • February 13: School dismisses at 11:30am Teachers Co-Planning Meeting.
  • February 16-18: Presidents Day recess. (NOTE: 3 days only) NO SCHOOL.
  • February 19: School resumes.
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Hess Press Spotlight on Writing

Each time I send a newsletter, I will focus on a different subject. Here is a snapshot of writing in the fifth grade.

Writing Workshop

Most of our writing blocks are set up as a Writing Workshop. They begin with a mini-lesson on anything from grammar (How do we punctuate dialogue?) to peer conferencing (How can we help each other improve our writing?) to poetic technique (How can we use personification to bring our poetry to life?). After our mini-lesson, we have independent writing and conferencing time before we end by sharing our writing. Although we occasional have time for everyone to share their piece with the entire class, it is more typical for students share their writing in pairs or small groups.

Writing Process

We talk about writing as a process. A typical piece of writing cycles through a series of steps, although the path is not always perfectly linear. Students practice planning (also called pre-writing or brainstorming), drafting, revising, editing, and publishing their work. We also have teacher conferences and peer conferences during many of these stages.

Writing Traits

Just like characters in books have traits, good writing has traits. This system of teaching writing as traits was created in the 1980s by teachers across the country. We zero in on these one at a time, developing common a common vocabulary for what makes some writing so powerful. So far we have explored the traits of ideas, organization, sentence fluency, and conventions. Next we'll study word choice, and by the end of the year we will explore voice and presentation. Our traits lessons typically begin with a demonstration of a piece of writing which exemplifies this trait in a good way and a counter example. For example, we read Gary Provost's "This Sentence Has Five Words" when we talked about how sentence fluency means writing not just in complete sentences but also with varied sentence length and diverse of beginnings and endings to our sentences.

Below is Provost's writing about sentence fluency that we studied as a class:


This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It's like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals--sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

So write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader's ear. Don't just write words. Write music.

Types of Writing

We practice opinion, narrative, and informational writing throughout the year. We are currently in the middle of a poetry unit. Ask your student about his or her metaphor, simile and personification poetry! For this unit, we're focused on free verse poem that incorporate literary elements but might not take on a specific form.

Ask students to share the work they've been doing in their bare books, writing journals, and writing notebooks with you!

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