Greetings from Fifth Grade!
April showers bring May flowers – spring has sprung! This month fifth graders are keeping active and busy as their final year at Goshen is on the downhill end. Here's what we have for the month:
Language Arts – In reading we are continuing to follow the life of Bud in the novel Bud, Not Buddy. The story takes place during 1936, in Flint, Michigan. Ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but he's on a mission. His momma never told him who his father was, but she left a clue: posters of Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression! Bud holds all the remnants of his once loving home in a cardboard suitcase: some flyers advertising Herman E. Calloway and various bands, a few mysteriously labeled rocks and his blanket. Bud gets an idea that those posters will lead to his father. Once he decides to hit the road and find this mystery man, nothing can stop him.
There are, of course, many set-backs on the way and many people who lend a hand. At the mission where Bud is too late for the evening meal, another homeless family pretends that he's with them. A very kind man who turns out to be a labor union organizer finds Bud hiding at the side of the road near a very intolerant town and takes Bud home to his own family before transporting him to his supposed father.
Bud's irrepressible good nature, his innocence and his survival skills make him memorable. His literal interpretation of language, his belief system which includes vampires, tokens and ritual behavior all serve to allow us to see the world through the eyes of a ten year old. The students can relate to Bud because of his age and are really getting in to his character (primarily because he speaks a lot of slang and has a best friend named Bugs). With the setting of the book taking place in the 30s and the small tastes of racism that the author weaves in so skillfully make this book a springboard for bigger topics that are a part of our social studies curriculum, such as the Depression and Civil Rights Movement.
Towards the end of the month we will be reading The View From Saturday. It is about an uproarious Florida wedding, a rain-soaked rescue of sea turtles, and a mysterious invitation to afternoon tea that draw sixth-graders Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian into a fast friendship. The author, E.L. Konigsburg, gives each of these memorable characters a turn telling how they formed an unbeatable team in their school's Academic Bowl, in this brilliant but complex novel. In alternating chapters, each one tells a different piece of the story of how they became friends. The calamitous wedding of Nadia's grandfather and Ethan's grandmother, where Noah fills in as best man, is just the beginning. Mrs. Olinski, who is paraplegic, proves to be an indomitable coach as the foursome wins one victory after another.
Together, the four band together into a group called The Souls. They are selected by Mrs. Olinski (though for a long time she doesn't know why) as her newest Quiz Bowl team and work effortlessly together in a group as friends and teammates. One of the things this book dares to say, and says so well, is how awfully mean people can be. That's a pretty loaded idea. Books today enjoy showing a mean person and then revealing the back story to their crimes. Here, we understand that sometimes a person's just mean to be mean, and it makes them unsuitable as friends as a result. This idea is a great conversation starter with your child as they prepare to "leave this friendly place" and continue their educational journey into middle school.
Once we return from Washington, D.C. we will enter the world of graduation speeches; it's hard to believe it's time to start planning for graduation already! Each student works very hard to generate a speech that is heart-felt and speaks to who they are as an individual. I look forward to seeing the writing process unfold and being a part of the students' speeches from beginning to end. *A note to parents – students will be writing their speeches solely at school. You have supported them along the way as they have traveled from grade to grade here at Goshen, and the speeches will be your child's swan song and a "thank you" for all you have done to help them grow. Therefore, the content of the speeches are intended to be a surprise for you.
Social Studies – Through the novel, Bud, Not Buddy, we have explored the Great Depression and will continue to talk about it as we finish the story. The fifth graders are doing research projects on various museums and monuments within the Mall area of Washington, D.C. as they study the history of Washington, D.C. in preparation for our trip on April 10th and 11th. The four areas the students will be reporting on are the National Museum of the American Indian, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery. These research projects give each student the opportunity to be the "expert" as we travel to each of these four places while in D.C. Along with their oral report, students will be creating a visual aid to share what they have learned during this research project. The final products will be on display in the lower school hallway – I encourage you to come check them out!
Science – Towards the end of the month students will begin their final unit in science: the human body. In this unit, students learn about the structure and function of the respiratory system and excretory system. Students will also learn about causes, spread, and prevention of communicable diseases. Students will identify noncommunicable diseases and how they can be treated. Finally, students learn how to achieve a healthy lifestyle through nutrition; exercise; and not using alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. The major concepts addressed during this unit are that the human body exchanges oxygen for carbon dioxide and removes waste through the excretory system; and that some diseases are communicable while others are not. Lifestyle choices such as eating right and exercising help people stay healthy.
Through out this unit, the students and I will be taking breaks from our science textbook and will be conducting experiments that complement our science curriculum. It states on the Kids Science Labs website that "whether a child gains an interest in becoming a doctor, lawyer, teacher, investor, or entrepreneur, developing a scientific mindset with questioning and problem solving is critical to enhancing a child's cognitive growth, logic, and reasoning." When conducting a science experiment students should not be afraid to try something new—part of the fun of experimenting is learning about things along the way. I encourage the fifth graders to come up with topics they would like to further learn about so we can incorporate them into our experiments.
Math – During the second semester, fifth graders have been doing things a little bit differently in math class: they are all working at their own pace! As evident in our Learning Pathways program, differentiating the curriculum remains at the center of what we strive to accomplish here at Goshen. What better way to differentiate the curriculum than to give the students the flexibility to move at their own pace through our new math program, EnVision math. Students are pretested on each topic, or chapter, and then focus on the concepts they are still learning to master. They are not required to relearn the concepts they have already mastered as evident on the pre-assessment. While working independently, students are guided through the math program at their own pace, not at the overall pace of the class. Ddepending on what type of learner they are, some students quickly move through the text and others take more time to understand each math concept. If students hit a snag, or need further instruction, they turn to me for guidance and support. Or, often times they will turn to a classmate that can lend a helping hand. This type of instruction takes intrinsic motivation, a lot of organization, and hard work – all of which will help prepare our students for the next journey of their educational career.
Upcoming events:Thursday, April 3rd – Unique Boutique and 5th Grade Bake SaleWednesday, April 9th – All-School GatheringThursday, April 10th & Friday, April 11th – Fifth grade travels to Washington, D.C.Friday, April 11th – All School DanceFriday, April 18th – No SchoolMonday, April 28th – Thursday, May 1st – International Week celebrating the people and cultures of Canada, Israel, and Nigeria.Thursday, May 1st – One World Café in the evening
This year, in conjunction with Learning Pathways, the fifth (and fourth) graders have been conducting an independent study project. An independent study is a student-centered project that involves students working individually to investigate self-selected topics. These topics are connected to the curriculum and the students' personal interests. Differentiating the curriculum remains at the center of our new initiative – Learning Pathways. An independent study project is the most effective strategy to use in addressing the needs of all learners in the group. It provides an opportunity for students to study topics of interest in-depth while learning and practicing a variety of skills.
And independent study meets the needs, readiness, interests and learning preferences of students. It also allows students to experience learning beyond the classroom and encourages independence. Additionally, it teaches research skills and improves reading, writing and presentation skills. The semester-long project provides opportunity and time to explore in-depth topics. The fifth graders came to school in September with a chosen topic to study, and hit the ground running on their research and planning.
The goal of having the student's conduct an independent study project was to:• Develop in-depth understanding of a topic• Provide an opportunity to develop independent learning and research skills• Develop self-directed learners who can investigate real-life problems in areas ofinterest and value to them• Introduce students to the techniques of organizing, researching and presenting the results of their studies• Stimulate critical thinking and logical analysis• Develop individual abilities and initiative
The outcome of the independent study project was to create a formal writing piece at the completion of this assignment, as well as a presentation that reflected the child's learning preference. Focus topics that were chosen by the fifth graders included Italian architecture in Rome, stingrays, Chester County's involvement in the Civil War, and placodermi. The fifth graders chose to present their findings in a variety of ways. John read from his written report and then shared his 3-D model of an architectural structure that had elements influenced by classic Italian architectural designs. Joe also read from his written report, shared a model of the railroad that led to the expansion of Chester County, and concluded his presentation with a jeopardy-style question and answer session that tested the audiences knowledge of the information he shared. Jonathan shared what he learned through a PowerPoint, and Lindsey created a museum for the audience to enjoy and view the placodermi fossils she had excavated over the summer on a fossil dig.
Please click on the following links to read the student's independent study reports.
Lindsey's Placodermi report
John's Italian Architecturein Rome, Italy report
Jonathan's Stingray report
Joe's Chester County andthe Civil War report
Upon completion of the independent study project, the fifth graders reflected on what they had learned over the course of the five-month project.
"I learned that it is good to get a project finished early before it's too late. Also, pick something you can handle in the time given. My favorite part of the project was seeing my project come together at the end because all your hard work shows." Jonathan
"During this project I learned that the project takes time to finish because it is a very big project. I enjoyed learning and seeing other peoples' projects and the activities that other people were doing. Also, the work sessions in school were helpful because it helps to have people around you, supporting you and your report to make it better." John
"Other than learning about placodermi, I learned how to budget when you have a time line of when things are due. Also, how to organize a certain type of project, and to problem solve. I liked putting together the final presentation and getting the facts. Putting things together is art for me (I like art). Getting facts was fun because you find out interesting things." Lindsey
"Other than learning about Chester County's involvement in the Civil War, I've learned about others' projects, they were really interesting. My favorite part of the project was finishing it, because it was a long-term project and it was a relief to be done." Joe
Goshen teachers are not married to “Teaching to the Test.” They tailor their teaching style to the needs of each class. The freedom to be flexible allows each teacher to discover and address the strengths and weaknesses of each boy and girl.