February Update

Enjoy your winter break!!

It has been a busy February in fifth grade so far:

The Science Fair this week was a great success. In the weeks leading up to the big event, students thought of scientific questions they could answer through experiments, and then committed to taking on one question and experiment to share at the fair. It was a wonderful culmination to our units on chemistry and heat; students applied what they had learned to their own experiments, and were proud to share their work with the school community on Tuesday. We’ll switch gears and learn about microscopes and cells after the break.

Our “workshop”-style math class has been working well for the last couple of weeks. Students have been moving through a variety of tasks at their own pace, sometimes independently, and sometimes in partnerships or small groups. Our work has been focused on fractions, with students working through ideas having to do with visual models, equivalent fractions, and adding and subtracting fractions with like and unlike denominators. Some students are also working through a collection of challenge problems in between their other assignments. When we get back from the break, we’ll expand the workshop model to include some games and projects in a menu of options from which students can choose throughout the week. Some activities on the list will be requirements, others will be optional, and students will have some choice about when and how they complete their work during the week.

Writing For Understanding: Classes have recently discussed The Boston Massacre and analyzed various depictions of the event. We have also read from multiple sources about the battles of Lexington and Concord and are comparing our research to Longfellow’s poem, Paul Revere’s Ride. When we return from February break students will work with partners to research specific events and important people that impacted the road to the Revolutionary War. Partners will design a slide for their topic and we will compile class slide shows to share our findings. Upon completion of this Prelude to the Revolution project, students will select a book from this era and we will hold small group book studies. Students will read and reflect on various texts and then choose a format to share with the whole class. We are continuing with our class read aloud, Chains, and will conclude this unit with an opinion piece.

Extras:      We had a fun Valentines Day class celebration, and also spent some time with our Buddy Class weaving paper heart baskets. It’s always nice to watch the older and younger students interact; helping each other and learning more about others’ interests.

                  Our class bunnies, Ollie and Ari, have settled in well. The students are really enjoying their company and have been great about taking on the responsibility of caring for them. Our Lagomorph* friends have been a positive, fun addition to our class. Thank you to Liam and his family for hosting “house guests” over vacation.
*they are not in the rodent family…

January News

January has gone by quickly! Please read to learn about how we’ve been spending our time in fifth grade and what we will be doing next:

In Writing For Understanding class, students have finished their Colonial Times letters. Students wrote from the perspective of a Colonial Times tradesperson to a friend or family member back home in Europe. They explained how things were going for them in the New World and whether or not they felt that they were in the right trade. They then “weathered” the letters with tea and posted them below their trade signs. This was a lot of fun, and students are still referring to each other by their Colonial names. Feel free to take a stroll through the hall outside our classroom to read their work.

We are now walking through the events that led up to the American Revolution; prelude to the revolution. We have been doing a lot of close reading, highlighting evidence in texts to support our answers and then summarizing. We are also making visual aides and graphs to demonstrate our understandings, and will be working with partners and small groups to research major historical events and people (such as certain battles, acts and influential people) in more depth. Small groups will design slides for their topics and we will put together class slideshows. We are currently reading Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson for read aloud. This is a powerful historical fiction novel with multiple perspectives on this time period. Towards the end of this unit students will choose a perspective that they have been exposed to in the novel, independently research this further and write an opinion piece. I will keep you posted on the progression of this unit and we would love to host another Writers’ Breakfast to celebrate student work in early April.

In Math, our focus has been on deepening our understanding of fractions: what they mean, what they look like, and when they matter. In the last few weeks, students worked with story problems involving improper fractions and mixed numbers, and then moved on to learning about decimal equivalents for the most common fractions we see in the classroom. They “discovered” these equivalents using visual models, shading in hundredths grids in various fractional pieces to determine how many tenths, hundredths, and sometimes thousandths, corresponded to each unit fraction (1/2, 1/3, 1/4, etc.) Throughout this unit, we have also played a variety of math games to help review and practice the fraction equivalents and comparisons we’ve been studying.

Students need to have a solid understanding of the meaning of fractions and equivalents in place before we can move on to adding and subtracting fractions with unlike denominators. Last week, students completed a mid-unit check-in assessment to help Ms. Harrington get a better sense of where their strengths and challenges lie. She’ll be using what she learned from this assessment to help target specific instruction where different students need it most. As a result, our math class may look more like a “workshop” for the foreseeable future, with different groups of students working on different tasks around the room.

In Science, we’ve been learning all about heat energy. Working in groups, students have performed a number of experiments designed to help them learn about conduction in different solids (metal, wood, and plastic), conduction by different states of matter (solid and liquid), the relationship between mass and heat energy, and making predictions about what happens when two water samples of different temperatures are combined. In each experiment, students gathered data and graphed and analyzed their results.

This week, we’ll start getting ready for the Science Fair. Each student, working individually or in partners, will choose their own testable question and design an experiment to help answer it. These questions can come from our recent unit on heat, or our fall unit on mixtures, solutions, and chemical reactions. If all goes well, they’ll conduct these experiments later this week or early next, and have plenty of time to create posters to share what they discovered before the Science Fair on February 13th.

Also, we have a fun and helpful activity planned with our buddy class! We will work together in a collaborative, healthy competition to raise food for the Thetford Food Shelf. Please see the link below for more information:

Happy Holidays

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday! We had a nice wrap up before break at school. Here are some highlights from the last few weeks, and some insight into what we will be doing upon our return:

We have spent much of our math time in 5th grade focused on the base-10 place value system, but in the last few weeks we have transitioned to thinking about fractions. We started by building fractions with paper strips, and discussing the meaning of the numerator and the denominator. We then applied this understanding to an extended word problem in which students needed to estimate the size of illustrated fractions, and multiply those fractions by different wholes. Students moved flexibly between visual models, story problems, and numerical representations, which is exactly what they need to be able to do when working with fractions (or any other mathematical idea).  Much of our work so far has been a review of concepts and skills students encountered in 4th grade, and this will lay a solid foundation for the work we will do with adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing fractions when we get back from the break. Fractions, and all the concepts that go with them, are one of the “big ideas” of 5th grade mathematics; students will be learning a lot in the months to come!

We have wrapped up our first big science unit on Mixtures, Solutions, and Chemical Reactions. In these last weeks, students learned to compare the concentration of different solutions, and conducted several experiments to help them learn about chemical reactions. They learned to identify some common signs of chemical reactions, as well as the concept that chemical reactions result in the formation of a new material. We will start a new unit on Heat Energy when we get back from the break. In February, students will have an opportunity to explore some of the ideas from both units in more depth through their own experiments for the Science Fair.

Our learning about Colonial America has included mapping activities, brief research on the 13 Colonies, and we are currently choosing trades to research. Students are making signs to represent their selected trade and after break they will write perspective letters as a tradesperson to their family back in their country of origin.

We have reassessed our word study program and will be taking a break from spelling quizzes to incorporate daily paragraph editing into our weekly routine. Every day students will edit a paragraph and we will correct it together as a warm up to writing time. At the end of the week students will be given a dictation from previous work to write as an assessment. The goal is that as students become more familiar with and adept at this, we will see these skills transfer to their own independent writing.

Our class is looking forward to Mr. Schmidt returning to TES with the parts to our stand that TA students made. We will assemble them together in our classroom and move Hoover to his new area! Thanks again to Chris Schmidt and his students for taking on this project with us. It has been an engaging learning experience!

Also, a belated thank you to all who brought food for our Writers’ Breakfast. Your  interest in student work and feedback were great contributions!

We had a nice time yesterday with our buddy class making ornaments out of pinecones. Today we celebrated the holiday season by sharing Secret Santa gifts. Students were very thoughtful and appreciative. It was a lovely way to end 2017 together.

Enjoy the break and we’ll see you in 2018!

Class Update


Happy December!

It was nice to have a full week back at school after Thanksgiving break. We are wrapping up our Native American study unit and are looking forward to having a special visitor help us do this. Next Tuesday, December 5th, Maurice Crandall, Ira’s dad, will come in to fifth grade to tell Native American tribal origin stories from the native perspective and address any questions that students may have. Maurice is a Native American studies Dartmouth professor and we’re looking forward to learning from him. And please remember our Writers’ Potluck Breakfast next Friday, Dec. 7th at 9:00. The students are looking forward to showcasing their work, and of course indulging in a second breakfast! Later that day we will take a fifth grade hike on the TA trails to the Thetford town forest to learn about the different native trees and observe signs of early settlement.

Fifth grade mathematicians have been hard at work this month solidifying their understanding of the base-10 place value system on both sides of the decimal point, and using this understanding to solve meaningful problems. We have also been working to build fluency with mathematical representations of arithmetic operations, including number lines, tape diagrams, and set models. In one of our most interesting projects, we processed the money TES students collected for UNICEF on Halloween. All 5th graders computed the total amount of money raised ($191.55) based on the counts of different types of coins. They needed to use their place value understanding to make sense of this situation, as well as lots of addition, multiplication, and division computation. From there, different student teams investigated different questions about this total, including “What could UNICEF spend this money on?”; “What was the average amount of money raised by each student?” and “How much money could the school raise next year if every student in the school raised this much money again?” Students were engaged and thoughtful throughout this project, and we shared some of our findings at this morning’s All School Meeting! Students completed an assessment on adding and subtracting decimals in class today. We’ll continue to practice these skills in our Daily Review sessions, and in the next few weeks before the break, we’ll shift our attention to fractions.

 In science, we have been working with mixtures and solutions; learning about saturation, solubility, and concentration. Experiments have worked with the solubility of different materials (for example, citric acid verses salt) and identifying a “mystery chemical” based on the mass of the saturated solution.

Our class will be hosting the next All School Meeting on Friday, Dec. 15th. Please feel free to join us in the gym from 10:30-11:00 if you are available.

Have a nice weekend.

Writers’ Breakfast

Please come to our

Writers’ Potluck Breakfast

When: Friday, Dec. 8th from 9:00-10:00 am

Where: both Fifth Grade Classrooms

What: Fifth graders will present their informative pieces on early Native American culture, receive and share feedback, and invite you to partake in potluck celebratory snacks.

Why: To recognize hard work and effort, and share new knowledge and take-aways with an audience.

Hope to see you then!

Ms. Kendall & Ms. Harrington