September 2017: Nuts and Bolts


September 2017

Welcome to a new school year! As a fifth grader, your child is well into his/her intermediate education.  I am so delighted that he/she is in my class. Together, we will work to make this an engaging and exciting year.  I am confident that you will be amazed by what you see the students are accomplishing during the next 10 months!

fall-leafThis year, your child will build on academic skills from previous years, as well as learn many new concepts and skills.  We will also concentrate on the responsibilities and independence needed to prepare for middle school. To help facilitate this, we will be focusing on particular organizational and study skills throughout the year.

Fifth graders are entering a special, preadolescence time in their lives.  Many 10-11 year olds experience changes in their bodies and attitudes.  Friends become a more integral part of their lives.  The 5th grade child might begin to exert more independence from adults.  Guiding your child through this time is important.  Keeping the lines of communication open and non-confrontational is crucial.  Remember, you are the parents!! Your guidance and tough decisions will help your child know what acceptable behavior is. For more information about the 10-11 year old child  click here.

One of the ways that I will get to know your child is with a student profile for your 5th grader that is completed by you.  The information that you record helps me to come to know your child’s unique qualities and hear your perspective on his/her academic, social, and religious journey thus far.. And, as I view our relationship as being a partnership, hearing from you about the goals and priorities you have for your child allows me to plan and monitor for growth in these areas. Please take the time you need to complete the form and send it back to school with your child. I will look for it to be returned by Friday, September 11.  To download a copy of the Student Profile click here

The first week of school will be spent learning procedures, routines, and getting to know each other.  I have activities planned that will help us to share a bit about who we are. We will begin getting into our academic subjects right away as well.  This year, we are using a program called Word Voyage to teach vocabulary. This program allows us to create words lists specific to the novels we read as well as any of our content areas. For example, as part of our Social Studies unit, we will be reading Children of the Longhouse. An entire unit of vocabulary and grammar study has been created based on the book. As the year progresses, we will create units specific to the work we are doing in class. We are excited for this change and feel it will better fit the needs of our 5th graders.

In addition to vocabulary study, there will be a weekly spelling component to our Language Arts program. The words studied are based on words that are used most often in writing. The students will be given a list of 9-12 words to study each wee in preparation for a 4 sentence dictation test. The following week, words missed should be added to the list of core words. These words are being constantly repeated in the dictation sentences throughout the year. Thus, the students are responsible for knowing them long after the test is given.

Our Social Studies focus is the study of the United States.  As part of this study, the students will choose a state to research through the coming months.  One of the first writing assignments will be a poem about our states that contains facts that the students will have gathered from a variety of sources.

Over the course of the year we will be concentrating on the geography of the United States. We begin with a general overview of the 5 distinct geographic regions of the United States followed by a more in-depth study of each region throughout the year.  Mr. Richey will be teaching the geography component of our studies to both classes.

Next, we will dive into the early history of the United States, which will be our focus during the first semester.   We begin by looking at several native peoples of the Western Hemisphere. We will discover that much of what these civilizations developed within their cultures was adopted by early Europeans and later influenced how our cities and government were shaped. We will also look at the connection between early native groups and European explorers who set sail for North America. Our history study will begin following the completion of our first unit of science with the study of the properties of energy, weather, and water cycle in our Earth and Sun Unit. We will also begin to introduce the steps of the Scientific Process as is appropriate to the work we are doing. This science unit depends somewhat on the sun being out and our best bet it to get through it while the getting is good in September!!

Later, in the second semester, we continue our science curriculum. We will continue to delve into the scientific process, learning what it takes to conduct controlled experiments. Forming questions and observing is just the beginning. From there we make predictions and hypothesize about what we believe might happen. We conduct tests and draw conclusions based on the evidence we discover. All of this lays the foundation for the many investigations we conduct throughout the Spring. To begin to prepare us for what the students will be learning at camp in April, they will become detectives and try to discover the environmental cause to thousands of fish dying in a fictitious land known as the Gray Area. We will look at a variety of causes such as acid rain, chemicals in water, alga blooms, oil spills, and clear cut logging. To end the year, we will be dabbling in some chemistry in our Mixtures and Solutions Unit as our final unit. Science is definitely alive and well in 5th grade.  For your convenience, you can download our daily schedule here.

Communication is key to your child having a great year.  You can expect regular updates from me via this website.  At times, I will recap what we have been doing and let you know where we will be going next.  Mostly, I will be keeping you abreast of what is currently happening in the classroom and assignments that your child should be working on at home. Should your student be experiencing a particular challenge, I will contact you personally by phone or email. Likewise, should you have any questions or concerns, you are most welcome to phone me at extension 235 or email me at . I will get back to you within 24 hours if not sooner.

Remember, your child has many of the answers to your questions. To foster a greater sense of independence, I would ask that you be sure to include him/her in the loop by checking with your child first before contacting me.  Also, if your student is frustrated or has a question about an assignment, encourage him/her to email me directly for clarification. I will be checking my email regularly each evening until 9 p.m. and will answer promptly. This helps to hold your student accountable for the information and works toward preparing for middle school. Should it happen that I do not see the email until the morning, we can deal with the situation when your child arrives at school. No worries!

Speaking of accountability, independence, and responsibility, during the first weeks of school, the students will be introduced to Google Classroom. Google Classroom with the students in a modified way. Google Classroom is a blended learning platform developed by Google for classroom use. Google Classroom combines Google Drive for assignment creation and distribution, Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for writing, gmail for communication, and Google Calendar for scheduling. Students are invited to classes created by the teacher and accesses it using their student logins.

Our goal in using Google Classroom  is to provide the students with a “backup tool” should they lose an assignment, forget a due date, or any number of organizational needs. Any assignment for which I provide written directions, worksheets, packets, etc.  will also be posted in the appropriate Topic Folder in the class 5A 2017-2018 to which all students will have access. The intent is to continue to develop a sense of student responsibility whereby, if a student forgets an assignment at school, or loses it all together, it will their responsibility to track down the assignment in Google Classroom. Most assignments will be in a PDF format for easy printing.

As assignments are placed in Google Classroom, if there is a specific due date associated with the work, the date and assignment name will appear on a calendar for easy tracking. If there is no due date associated with the assignment, it means that this is an ongoing activity and I track our progress toward completion in class.

Because it is an expectation that all students use Google Classroom, there will be no more excuses for why homework isn’t completed due to not having it, and I will be running to the copier less due to recopying lost worksheets!

Google Classroom provides a great tool for communication between school and home as it related to assignments. I invite you as the parent to secure your child’s login information and periodically check the calendar so you have visibility of what is flapping in the wind and may need attention from your student. In addition, when your child says, “I can’t find my spelling list for this week,” you can gently remind him/her to go find it on Google Classroom. The stress level will be greatly reduced as students learn to rely on this tool more and more! Academic independence and being responsible for one’s own learning becomes much more attainable! Exciting!

Your child will spend approximately 45-60 minutes each night completing homework. Homework comes in many different forms; completing an assignment begun in class, studying for a test, working on a project, or reading. The time spent will vary depending on the assignments and your child’s learning style.  Keep in mind that most assignments allow for a couple of days to be completed, waiting until the night before to begin the work is never a good idea! Good management of time is a must so as not to get behind. Providing your child with a study area that is quiet and has the necessary tools and materials will maximize his/her progress. I will be spending a great deal of time working with the class on efficiently and effectively writing down their homework. However, if they don’t look at the planner when they get home, it is of little use. I would ask that you encourage your child to routinely review the daily planner at the beginning and end of homework time to minimize the “I forgot” syndrome.

Knowing that there may be the occasional family circumstance that prevents your student from completing homework, a note from you letting me know this will be appreciated. Though generally the assignment will be due the next day, I will work with your child on negotiating an alternate due date should the circumstances warrant it. Should your child come to school without having completed an assignment that is due and there is no note from you, you will be asked to sign a slip notifying you of the missing assignment. I would ask that you discuss ways to prevent a repeat of not getting work done on time. To review a copy of the 5th grade Homework Policy click here

To continue to encourage independence, let your child seek you for assistance.  When asking for help, suggest to your student that he/she ask specific questions rather than simply say, “I don’t get it!” Often times, just talking it through is all that your child needs to trigger a memory that will allow her to complete the assignment. Be the role of “supporter“ rather than “doer.” Giving too much assistance may send the message to your child that he is not capable of completing the task successfully without you! We will be spending a lot of time developing growth mindsets this year, changing the “I can’t” attitude to “I am capable of figuring this out!” I am excited to share this concept more fully with you at Curriculum Night and am looking forward to seeing all of you at Thursday evening, September 14th.  In the meantime, here are a few bits and pieces that will tide you over until then.

This year, the students will be keeping special binders for Science, Social Studies, Reading and Writing. Many of the things we do will be incorporated into these portfolios. I invite you to stop by at any time to leaf through your child’s work or ask that one of the portfolios be brought home over a weekend to share. However, it is important that these binders come back to school right away as they contain work that is in process as well.

Completed work that does not go into these portfolios will be sent home approximately once a month. Your child will have a folder with assignments that he/she has completed.  I invite you  to review these assignments together.  Ask your child to explain what he has have been learning. Celebrate successes and discuss how to handle challenges in the future. Note the written comments, if any.  They can be informative. These assignments may stay home unless otherwise noted.  If there is a “Please Sign and Return” stamped on any paper, please send that assignment back to school after signing it. Finally, if you would add your signature and date on the front of the folder, I would appreciate it.

At any given time, a student or parent is welcome to talk with me about the child’s progress in any area.  If you have questions about a grade or an assignment, I would encourage you to first speak with your child to get his/her perspective. If he/she is unable to answer the question for you, have him/her ask me for an explanation. If after this, you still have a question, please don’t hesitate to ask me about it. We will be working on “advocating for ourselves” this year and this is a great place to get practice.

Should your child be absent due to illness or vacation, I will work with him/her to get caught up on missed assignments.  However, because much of what we do is experiential and hard to duplicate outside of the classroom, I will not be able to provide all assignments that your child will miss while away from class. In general, I do not provide assignments to be done while away on vacation. I will be happy to meet with him/her upon his/her return and negotiate what needs to be completed and by when. Remember, any planned absences must be documented on an Absence Form which can be found on the school’s main website. For your convenience, I am attaching a class schedule for those times when planning for an absence during part of the day is unavoidable. Just click here to download. Here’s to a healthy year!

Assessment of your child will take place in a variety of ways.  Informal observation occurs daily in a variety of ways. How is your child feeling on a given day? What is the content of casual conversations? How does your child perform in a group or individually? Can he/she stay on task? Does he/she contribute to the group effort? Individual and group assignments are evaluated for different purposes. These might include knowledge of content, creative problem solving, or clear presentation.

Formal assessment in the form of tests and quizzes give students an opportunity to demonstrate and/or apply what they have been learning.  It is not enough to just memorize facts. Can the students clearly communicate what they have learned or possibly relate it to the “larger picture?”

The students will be provided with ample notification of tests and quizzes that are forthcoming.  In many cases a study guide will be provided as well.  It is my goal that your student, with adequate preparation, finds success on these tests. Research suggests that smaller bits of time preparing over an extended period is apt to produce more positive results than simply cramming for a longer length of time the night before. As the scouts say…Be prepared!!!

Another piece of the puzzle includes normed referenced testing. As in the past, the fifth graders will be taking the CTP IV test in the fall. The dates are tentatively scheduled for October 23rd through the 27th. The information we get helps to inform our decisions about program to better serve each of our students. We ask that you please NOT schedule any appointments or vacations during this period of time. While we will make every effort to make up tests missed, students will not be pulled from other classes during the day to take them. They will be administered after school on dates TBD at a later time.  After a long day of classwork makes it difficult to duplicate the ideal conditions that allow for maximum success, so being present in class is extremely important. If you have any further questions regarding testing, please do not hesitate to contact me!

SNACKS are important for some students and not so much for others. To meet everyone’s needs, we will have a set snack time in the morning each day. All students are invited to bring a healthy snack to give a boost of energy mid morning. Food suggestions might include fruits, vegetables, crackers (particularly whole grain), energy/protein bars, and the like. Sugary snacks such as candy, cookies, and brownies are discouraged. REMEMBER: Students are to avoid bringing snacks that may have peanuts or tree nuts as we have students in our  class and school with severe allergies. Please read labels carefully, especially for ALL snack bars and such!!  This is particularly important since we are eating in the classroom. Students should also avoid sticky snacks, as often we are in the middle of an assignment when snack time comes upon us. If your child finds that he/she gets hungry at other times of the day,  snacks are allowed on an as needed basis. These snacks are to be “invisible” in that they cause no disruption for the student or the flow of the class. For a  list of allergy friendly snacks click here.T hank you in advance for monitoring your child’s snack selections!

Everyone loves celebrations!  If your child is planning on sharing his/her birthday fun with friends, school policy allows that party invitations may be passed out at school only if everyone in the class or of the same gender is invited.  If this is not the case, we ask that invitations be mailed to the homes of those invited. We will celebrate birthdays individually with the birthday child receiving good wishes from the class and a couple of special little “gifts” from me on the day of his/her special day! Summer birthdays will be celebrated on the half-birthday date. We ask that no treats be sent to school to celebrate birthdays.

Halloween and Valentine’s Day will be celebrated with our Buddy class. This year. Fifth grade will be responsible for Halloween and First grade will plan Valentine’s day! More information will be forthcoming!

I look forward for sharing with you more about your child’s 5th grade experience on Curriculum Night which will take place on Thursday, September 14th at 7:00 pm beginning in the Theater.

Finally, mark your calendars for the Italian Dinner, scheduled for Friday evening, September 29th  and for class and individual pictures to be taken on September 28th and 29th. Ciao!

Fifth grade is a year of change and preparation for Middle School. So sit down, hold on, and get set for an exciting ride. I am looking forward to partnering and sharing this year with you!


Karen :)

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