Friday, March 16, 2018

Spring Happenings!

It has been wonderful meeting with so many of you over the last two weeks to discuss your child's progress.  I love sharing all the growth happening and discussing the excitement of middle school and the goals for the rest of our year together.

I hope you all are able to have a relaxing Spring Break this next week and I'm excited to hear about all the amazing adventures the kids are going on when we return.  

The last quarter of fifth grade always FLIES by and I wanted to let you know about important events coming up, to at least get them on your calendar.  

State Testing
When we return from Spring Break, we will begin our state CMAS testing in language arts, math, and science.  Fifth graders take three sessions of each type of test.  It is really helpful if students are here on time and ready each day so that they can show their best thinking on their work and then we don't have to worry about completing make up tests outside of our regular testing times.   Our testing schedule will be as follows:

March 28th, 29th, 30th - English/Language Arts - 10:15 - 12:00
April 2nd, 3rd, 4th - Math - 10:45 - 12:15
April 9th, 10th, 11th - Science - 10:00 - 11:45

Other Dates to Know
Cimarron Visit: April 25th 1pm-2pm  (Students only - more information will be sent in April)
Puberty Talk: May 10th (Tentative - more information will be sent in April, including links to the videos that will be shown)
Field Day: May 11th
Outdoor Ed Trip: May 22nd (More information will be sent in May)
Last Day of 5th Grade Picnic and Slideshow - ALL FAMILIES ARE INVITED - May 25th (More information will be sent home in May)

Just for Fun!
The kids and I have been having a lot of fun listening to all kinds of science podcasts during our morning work this year.  Our favorites so far have been, "Wow in the World", "Brains On", and "Shabam".  This link has a list and description of all types of podcasts geared to kids. If you're on a road trip, driving around to all kinds of activities, or just want something interesting to listen to and make all of you smarter while you're cooking dinner, check these out!!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

February News

Happy Heart Month!

Parent-teacher conferences will be on March 8th and March 15th.  The front office will send an email when the online scheduler opens for you to sign up.   If you'd like to meet to discuss your child's progress, please use this time for us to meet!

Our Valentine's Day party will be on the 14th at 2:30.  Everyone is welcome to join us.  Students need to bring a bag or box to collect goodies.  If they would like to pass out valentines, one needs to be given to every student.

Remember, there is no school on Friday the 16th as it is a professional development day for teachers.  Enjoy the long weekend!

Below is the focus of our learning at this time.  Please remember that you and your child can find each night's homework posted on this blog every night under the homework tab.

We are just about to finish our first unit on identifying, rounding, adding and subtracting decimals.  Students are doing a great job with thinking about place value to compare decimal amounts.  We are also using manipulatives such as base ten blocks and money to represent amounts less than one whole.  This a great time to have your children add up your bills, compare gas prices, estimate the total cost at a restaurant, or any other place you see and use decimal amounts.

Our next unit will focus on multiplication and division with fractions and decimals.  This is a great time for baking and halving or doubling recipes!  Also, as multiplication and division with fractions is something that you may need a review on as well, please don't forget about the amazing videos from our math program that I have shared previously.  You may use this link and watch all kinds of short videos on a variety of math topics and grades.  These are great to watch with your child and talk about together.

Also, about half of our class needs to continue practicing math facts at home as students are still not accurate and efficient with multiplication facts.  If you are not sure if your child is practicing or not, ask to see their latest quiz or send me an email.  Thank you for your help!

Our strategy focus at this time is on making inferences while we read.  As children are reading more difficult text with layers of meaning, they need to rely on their ability to infer to understand character motivations, author's purpose, theme, and perspectives.  We are working on using the clues found within the text as well as our own background knowledge, questions, and connections to infer.

As we work on these topics in reading, we are then working on responding to reading in writing.  We are applying our work in opinion writing to write and respond to a variety of topics in our texts with organized ideas and supporting evidence.  Students have written a lot of short responses at this time and we will now be choosing one of the shorter prompts to turn into a multi-paragraph response essay.

Students have done a wonderful job participating in book clubs with Newbery Award winning books.  We are finishing the books this week and will be doing final writing reflections around the books' themes and characters.  These are wonderful stories with strong messages and character changes.  Ask your child about their book when you have a chance to hear a great story!

We are just wrapping up our earth science study.  We have examined the water cycle, the uneven heating of the earth and how both of those affect weather and climate.  Students also participated in a wonderful exploration of renewable energy resources through a collaborative teaching time with Mrs. Fleet, our technology teacher.  Ask your child about which energy source they proposed a new company should use, where in the United States they should place it, and the reasoning behind those choices.   Our next unit will be in the area of physical science and focus on mixtures and solutions.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a wonderful winter break and holiday season.  I certainly enjoyed the time with my friends and family.

It was great to be back with the students this last week and to get back into our learning lives.  We jumped right in with some wonderful books, a great review of fractions, and some New Year's Resolution writing.

Here is what we will be working on in the next few weeks.  As always, please let me know if you have questions or concerns.

We are finishing our first unit on fractions.  At this point students should be able to identify and order fractions as well as add and subtract fractions with like and unlike denominators.  This week we will be talking about adding and subtracting mixed numbers and improper fractions.  Our next unit will relate the work we have done in fractions to computation with decimals.  There are some wonderful games on our Pearson website that students can access and play at home.  I would highly recommend playing these during the week with your child.

Last week, I assessed students on their quick use of multiplication facts.  At this point in fifth grade, students should have mastered quick recall of all facts from 0-12.  This was a goal in fourth grade and continued to be the focus of our math fact practice each week last semester.  It is crucial for students to have these facts memorized as it impacts every type of computation we are learning.  Those students who have not yet reached 90/100 math facts in five minutes on our test must continue to practice math facts for at least 30 min. a week as part of weekly homework.  Students who have reached this goal no longer need to do weekly math fact practice.  I will send home the math quizzes on Tuesday so you are aware of your child's progress.

We began this week with our next reading strategy focusing on inferring, or "reading between the lines".  We will be looking at how authors leave us clues and we need to use our background knowledge as well as the text clues to understand deeper meanings of the text.  You can help at home by asking questions that go beyond what the text is about:

  • What do you think the author is trying to tell you?
  • Why would the character behave that way?
  • What is the theme or message of the story?
  • What is happening in the story that the author might not be saying directly?
Students also chose new book club books and we began our reading assignments of those books.  They can bring these books home for reading minutes and have time in class to read them as well.  All of our books this time our Newborn Award books, so we will be looking at the qualities of the book that would earn them this award.

Our next unit of writing will be around responding to our reading.  We will be starting with organized paragraphs that respond to certain topics in our reading and then move on to essays about the text.  We will use the writing strategies that we focused on in our opinion writing unit to organize this essay writing as well with a huge emphasis on supporting our opinion of our reading material with evidence from the text.

Science/Social Studies
Our next unit of science is around earth science and we will be conducting experiments about the water cycle, heating of the earth, renewable and nonrenewable resources, and weather patterns.

Our next social studies focus will be on early explorers of North America and motivations for exploration and colonization.  

It is often hard to get back into the rhythm of school after winter break and then spring fever can sometimes set in!  Just a reminder that the expectations for homework are:
  • 100 minutes of reading a week
  • 30 minutes of math facts a week (if not passing math fact quizzes)
  • a nightly math sheet
  • weekly vocabulary or spelling homework
Our homework is listed every night on this blog under the homework tab. I have reassessed the students on their spelling levels and students will be getting a new spelling list this week.  We then alternate each week between spelling and Wordly Wise.

I will be meeting with the 6th grade teachers from Cimarron on Friday of this week and we will be sending home registration packets for students for next year.  Please be on the lookout for these packets on Friday in your child's backpack.  Also, Cimarron hosts parent "coffee chats" for parents of incoming 6th graders to answer all your questions about getting ready for next year.  I would highly recommend going to one of these if it is possible.  The dates and times are listed on the link below.  The students and I will go on a tour of Cimarron in April so the coffee chats are geared just for parents.

Coffee Chats at Cimarron

Sunday, December 3, 2017

December Details

It's hard to believe December is already here and that we only have three more weeks until the end of the semester.  Our last day of school for 2017 is December 21st.  I will be in touch shortly with information on our holiday party that will be in the afternoon of the 21st. 

We had such a wonderful field trip to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science!  The kids did an amazing job with the lung dissection and learned a lot through all of the exhibits.  I've loaded the pictures I took into a shared Google folder.  You can access it with this link.  I hope your child told you all about the experience!

I also truly enjoyed seeing so many of you at our Celebration of Learning a few weeks ago!  I hope you enjoyed seeing just a taste of all the deep learning we've been doing so far this year.  If you weren't able to attend, your child has a collection of files to show you saved in his or her Google Drive.

Curriculum Updates

Every student is finishing up our first round of book club books.  Your child should be completing his or her book in the next two weeks.  Each week when we meet, we discuss all kinds of thinking about the texts and predictions for our next section. We will be doing some final writing about our book clubs books when we are done.  Make sure to ask your child about their book and help them finish it!

Our current reading strategy focus is around visualizing and sensory images.  We are examining how making mental images helps us understand a text differently, what language writers use to help us visualize, and how we can demonstrate our thinking using images. 

Students have picked their own topic for the next bend of our research based opinion writing work.  Please ask them what topic they've chosen and the claim or thesis they are planning to argue.  We have begun our research to support their opinion and are now currently in the phase of organizing research and our own thinking.  We are spending time in class for research, but if students don't use their time well or need more time, it may get added to our nightly homework.

We will finish our study of body systems by examining the circulatory system and digestive system.  Students will then have a chance to research more about either the immune, nervous, or musculoskeletal systems.

We have started our fraction unit by revisiting our work from 4th grade on identifying and representing fractional amounts.  We are now looking at equivalent fractions and strategies for comparing and ordering fractions.  Our work will then move on to adding and subtracting fractions with like and unlike denominators.  With the holiday baking season upon us, this is a GREAT time for looking at fractional amounts in recipes and measurements at home.  Also, please keep the work up with practicing multiplication and division facts at home.  It is incredibly hard for students to make common denominators or equivalent fractions without being secure in their fact families. 

Also, if you haven't yet read Dr. Brown's Principal's Blog, she included this great information about a website to help parents understand our math work and the way students are learning concepts.  The links that would be really beneficial for our current unit, would be under the "Fractions" hexagon and the "Addition and Subtraction: Fractions" hexagon.

The Math Words and Ideas site from the Investigations Math Series has links to math videos that explain how all concepts are taught at each grade level.

 Click here to access this site.

Simply click on your child's grade level at the left-hand side of the screen.  When you click on a math concept additional subtopics appear.  Each subtopic includes a short video explaining strategies taught at school.  In the example below, third grade was selected on left and arrays was chosen under the concept of multiplication.

Watching these short videos are a great way to review how and why concepts were taught a certain way.  You may even consider watching with your child.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

November News

It was wonderful to see so many of you at our Halloween party.  Thank you again to everyone who made that possible!

We have some exciting events in the next few weeks.  Hopefully, you are reading Dr. Brown's Principal's Blog that highlights big school events.  Last week, the blog discussed our annual Thanksgiving Feast and Celebration of Learning, which will be Wednesday, Nov. 15th.  This is a chance for you to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with your child and come see some of your child's great work in our classroom at the Celebration of Learning.  Our class schedule is the Celebration of Learning from 12:30 - 1:00 and then lunch from 1:00- 1:20.  You can read more about ordering tickets and volunteering on the Principal's Blog.

Also, last week I sent home a flyer and an email about our first field trip to the Museum of Nature and Science on Wednesday, Nov. 29th.  You will need to register your child using the school's RevTrak system.

We have the week of Nov. 20-24 off for Thanksgiving Break.  I hope you know how thankful I am to have such wonderful families and students to work with each day.  Enjoy your family time together!

Here are the highlights of what we are focusing on in class at this time:

We are just wrapping up our volume unit this week.  Students conducted a performance task of measuring the volume of their desks, supplies, and cubbies to help us determine how to best organize their belongings.  They will also be taking our summative assessment online this week.  Next week, we will start our first unit on fractions.  Fractions are a HUGE part of fifth grade curriculum.  The first part of our study will be on how to represent fractional amounts, making equivalent fractions, and ordering fractions with like and unlike denominators.  You can help this work at home by involving students in cooking and baking and observing fractional amounts in recipes, talking about pizzas, pies, teams, families, and other fun things in fractional ways.  For example, 3/4 of the Hawk family are girls, 1/4 of our neighborhood kids are boys, Dad ate 5/8 of the pizza..... :)

As always, your continued work with multiplication facts at home is crucial in everything that we are working on!

We have spent a lot of time focusing on the strategy of questioning and will finish our focus on that strategy next week.  After Thanksgiving Break we will turn our attention to visualizing and sensory images.  We will look at how we use that strategy as readers, scientists, mathematicians, and writers.  This is a great time to talk to your child about ways they can "paint a picture" for you of their day, which parts of their reading they can see like a movie in their heads and why, and how they can picture the fractional amounts we are talking about before trying to solve a math problem.

Students are also all engaged in some wonderful novels in book clubs.  They have weekly reading assignments and need to be prepared each week for a lively discussion with their peers and myself.

We spent several weeks looking at how to organize a paragraph well and we are now looking at how to organize an essay.  We have all focused on the same topic of "Should Schools Sell Chocolate Milk", and have planned, researched, and written all together.  As we finalize these essays, students will then get to pick a research based opinion topic of their own to write about. 

We are loving our life science unit of systems of living things.  We first examined the processes of all living things and the cell as the building block of life.  We are now looking at how cells turn into organs and systems and the functions of different body systems.  First, we have been learning about the respiratory system, and will then move onto the circulatory system and digestive system. 

Students are alternating between a vocabulary lesson and spelling sort every other week.  Students need to be studying spelling words using a variety of approaches and analyzing the common spelling patterns within their words.  The vocabulary lessons (Wordly Wise) focus on understanding new words and using them correctly in a variety of contexts. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fall Fun!

I hope you all had a wonderful fall break!  It was so nice to have such beautiful weather after the quick snowstorm. 

I loved meeting with all of you for conferences before break and feel very lucky to work with such amazing families.  We will be starting some interesting new units this week and I wanted you to have our latest curriculum news!

We wrapped up Unit 1 before Fall Break.  Students have developed some wonderful approaches and thinking strategies for solving multiplication and division problems.  While the unit is over, our work with computations continues all year.  Unit 2 focuses on volume of rectangular prisms, so we will be discovering how to calculate volume, how it is measured, and what the different dimensions represent.  While we will be focusing on calculating volume with "boxes" in class, you can support your student's understanding of volume by looking at any types of containers and estimating volume, comparing volume, and how we use volume in filling drawers, packing boxes, filling containers, and more.

Please continue to have students practicing math facts at home!  We have a lot of games and activities in class that students are welcome to bring home if you need more ways to practice.  I cannot emphasize how important fluency with number is for success in every aspect of math.

We will be focusing our strategy work this month on the strategy of questioning.  All proficient readers question before, during, and after reading.  We will be talking about the types of questions we use, which questions can be answered and which questions cannot be answered from the text, questions that deepen our thinking, and how to ask research questions well.  The goal is for readers to identify and focus on questions that are meaningful and help them as readers. 

You can support this work at home by discussing the questions you have while you are reading anything: a blog, the paper, magazines, books, emails, and more.  You can also ask your child what they are wondering before they read and afterwards to see if their questions were answered and if new questions arose.

Students turned in a published narrative story before break.  We will reflect on this work this week and how we could still improve as narrative writers.  If you haven't read your child's final story, please ask to see it on their Google Drive.

Following this work, we will enter "Paragraph Bootcamp"!  This is a review of how to write well-organized paragraphs.  This work is crucial as we will then move on to opinion writing which will be in essay format.  In order to write a great essay, we need to be able to write strong paragraphs.  One way you can help your child write in organized paragraphs is to ask them to speak in complete sentences!

We finished our geography unit before break.  Make sure to ask your child where they decided to put a new NFL team!

We will now begin our first science unit around life science.  Our goals in this area are to analyze the structures of all living systems and the living systems interact with their environment.  We will begin this by looking at living and non-living things, life processes, and the cell as a building block of all living things.  We will then move on to human body systems and how all the body systems have separate functions, structures, and needs.  This unit culminates with our yearly field trip to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to dissect a sheep's lung and see the exhibit, "Nature's Amazing Machines".  I will be sending more information about this field trip as we get closer to the date.

Upcoming Dates to Know
Oct. 31st - Halloween party and parade - more details to follow but it is always first thing in the morning.
Nov. 7th - No School for Students

Thursday, September 7, 2017

September Happenings

We are well under way into our fifth grade journey and we are getting into some great routines and learning experiences.  Below is information about the focus of our work right now in each subject as well as important dates to know.  There are a lot of fun opportunities going on or starting soon at GRE, so please make sure you are reading the Thursday folder email and the information on our Principal's Blog.

As mentioned in my August 20th post, we are focusing our reading strategy work right now on making connections.  This will also be discussed as using our schema, and activating our background or prior knowledge.  Right now we are focusing on our schema of different genres of text and how making new connections in any text adds to, modifies, or confirms our schema.

The best thing you can do at home with your child in reading is to support all kinds of reading activities!  Talk to your child about what they are reading and what you are reading.  Ask them about the plot, what is surprising, what predictions they have, or how the character is acting or changing.  Go to the library together, read news articles together, create a parent/child book club, and/or listen to audiobooks in the car or while you make dinner!  The more that students are thinking about text, what they already know about a subject, what is new, etc... the more they are thinking about what they read.

The students finished their "10 Question" articles last week and they are wonderful! The students did such a good job of coming up with creative questions and topics to interview themselves about.  We are now generating ideas for our personal narratives unit.  These are stories from our own lives, sometimes called "small moments".  You can support this work at home by reminding students of funny, exciting, sad, or milestone moments they've had in their own lives.  Help your child add details to the story as they retell it out loud.

This week we are practicing how to do a Words Their Way spelling sort.  This is an activity that most students will be doing as spelling practice at home starting next week.  I will send home ways to practice these sorts with their first lists next week.

We are focusing our mathematical minds right now on multiplication strategies.  The goal is for students to truly understand what multiplication represents and how to manipulate the numbers mentally and when solving on paper.  We are analyzing where in the world we use multiplication, what the numbers represent in our solution strategies, and multiple strategies to get to an answer.

We added math fact practice to our homework routine this week.  Students are expected to do 30 minutes of math fact practice at home during the week and record it on their reading and math log.  We are discussing ways to practice this each day in class.  Students have access to some great games through our Pearson website that students can access through any computer from here or our Google Classroom site.  We also have played games that students can play at home, and have discussed how to even do it orally.  Yesterday in the car, I practiced facts with my own daughters for 10 minutes by asking them to count by 12, 9, and 8; find all the factors of 96, 100, and 48; and did a random set of multiplication facts.

Dates to Know About:
Western Night - Sept. 15th
Teacher Professional Development Day (no school for students) - Sept. 22nd
Digger Dash - Sept. 29th
Parent/Teacher Conferences - Sept. 27th and Oct. 5th