Happy Summer! In some ways it feels like the year has flown by, and September was just a moment ago; and in other ways it feels that we have been together for years and years, learning all we can.
It has been an amazing and productive year, full of many challenges and twists, and your children have worked to master so many skills - organization & transitions, critical reading and writing, analysis of author’s craft and themes, essay writing and elaboration, and so much more! I could go on for weeks about the many skills and strategies your children have worked to master this year.
And so in the wake of all this learning, it’s time to take a break. Summer is upon us as of today, and so it is time to relax and rejuvenate. It is time to have fun, take vacations if possible, and enjoy the hot weather. And, of course, continue to enrich yourselves and your children through the months to come.
Ways to Enrich Yourself This Summer
Thank you for all you have done to support your child and the class this year. Enjoy your summer vacation, and I look forward to seeing you again in the future!
Your children have done so many wonderful things this year, and I know that they will continue to do so much more. Each and every one is talented, wonderful, and capable of anything. I can’t wait to see all the amazing things that they achieve!
As we head toward the end of the year, I want to take a few moments to talk with you about a single word that holds a lot of meaning - transition. In school we often discuss transitions that have to do with movement: transitioning from one place to another within the classroom, or transitioning between classes and periods through the hallways. This year has been full of transitions - from one kind of learning to another, from one way of living to another, and through each one of these transitions we have been lucky enough to continue to come together in the classroom and keep our community the same. The word transition itself means “the process of changing from one thing to another” and though we think of transitions as finite things, the truth is that they are always happening.
The 2020 school year has been a time of a lot of change and transition, and while the students may be excitedly thinking about the things to come, there are still so many things that are happening right now. As we reach the end of the school year, there are so many memorable and important events coming. I have been asking the students to share things with me over the past two weeks, and next week we will share them. We will play games and activities together. We will read a few more stories. We will come together to laugh. And as we do all this, the feelings can be bittersweet. I will miss all of my students dearly, as I already do. I hope that they are all preparing for wonderful summer vacations, but I wish we had just a little more time together.
It makes me think about how this is the time to slow down and appreciate all the amazing moments that occur as the students transition from one grade to another. Be sure to have lots of conversations about lessons learned and goals for next year. Take lots of pictures of all the amazing accomplishments your child is making right now. Celebrate the successes of the year and make plans to deal with the challenges of next year. Your child has been amazing this year (truly) and I know they will do amazing things in the year to come.
Transition times are exciting. Checking in and slowing down can help us all savor the best parts of the day and realize the special things that happen each and every moment. Managing transitions can be a challenge, whether they are big or small. We don’t yet know what kind of transitions are yet to come. But I know that as we work together, and as we help each other, we will get through.
In the classroom, we will take this time to slow down, enjoy all the changes and special events, and share our thoughts with others. I hope you can, too.
Good afternoon! Recently in social studies we have begun diving into American History again, using the skills of historical thinking to make the past relevant to today. We have also been asking, “What’s the Mood?” in order to understand how the feelings of the people in the colonies changed over time. As we move toward the American Revolution and the conflict that defines our nation, we have been examining the shifting feelings in the colonies to identify what the colonists thought and why. We’re using a small mood chart to do this work, shown below:
In history, it’s easy to identify the mood. We look at the events of the past and the way people reacted to those events, and ask ourselves how those people felt. We are shifting perspective, putting ourselves into the shoes of those colonists and asking how we would have felt if we were in their position. It’s been interesting to see how the attitudes of American colonists shifted as the colonies moved toward war, and how some people began to feel more strongly than others about controversial events.
I wanted to share this with you today because as we have been thinking about the mood of the colonists, we have also been discussing our own moods and feelings. The journalling work that we developed over several weeks in social studies pushed toward this goal. We worked to pause and reflect on our day and our experiences. We tried to understand what were were feeling, knowing that all feelings are valid and important. And then we asked ourself, “What action can I take based on this feeling?” If we are in a positive mood, how can we share that with others. And when our mood turns negative, how can we take an action that will help us change our mood toward positivity.
And as the spring starts to warm us, and the sun stays out longer, moods may improve. The days are bright, warm, and beautiful. We can go outside to a park, read in the shade beneath a tree, or just have a picnic in the backyard. Looking back on history, it is important to understand how the feelings of a group of people connect to the actions they took -- what did they feel, why did they feel that way, and how did they act based on that feeling? We can do the same work for ourselves, in this challenging time. Keep checking in and asking, “What an I feeling” and “What action will I take next?”
I hope you are all well. This week was a wonderful week in many ways: the students have been working so hard, and are beginning to master the skill of digital chats and sharing. We are progressing through the curriculum and working to master new skills. This week was also hard, as we learned that we will not be back in the classroom this school year. I cannot describe how sad this makes me, to know that I will not see my students again this year, except from a distance. I miss them all terribly, and I wish I could see them all again.
We are still doing great things from a distance. Over the past weeks, we have worked to develop skills of digital independence and sharing, and continue to work on building a community digitally. We have had whole group and small group discussions, engaging in read alouds, independent work, and taking action as historians. We continue to dive into new learning each week, trying out skills and strategies together.
There are still challenges, of course. I cannot sit next to students and coach them, and sometimes students do not reach out when they need help. Conversations in virtual meetings can still be a challenge, and routines like raising your hand and sharing out have changed completely. There is a steep learning curve to distance learning, but in the past two weeks, I am seeing that we’re starting to get it.
Thank you for your time and support throughout this process. We are the pioneers, learning about new ways of learning and teaching. Every day is a new experience. And though I am very sad that I will not see the students again before the end of the school year, I am excited about all the brave and impactful work we still have yet to do. We are changing the world with our learning, one virtual meet at a time.
Sending kind thoughts,
Good afternoon! I hope that you are well and safe. We have come back from Spring Break and jumped right back into learning, and with this new phase of the school year, we have begun some new routines. I want to take a moment to share with you a snapshot of what those new routines look like in Language Arts, so that you can understand and support your child in the world that they’re doing.
I work with students throughout the week by reading their written work and leaving comments to help them push their thinking to the next level, and by having small group discussions and problem-solving on the week’s skill. If you notice that your child is having trouble with a week’s skill but I have not worked with them, please have them reach out to me. I want to help all students do their best, but it can be a challenge at a distance.
Thank you all for your continued support and all the amazing things you do each day!
Good afternoon! I hope you all continue to be well and safe in these difficult times. This afternoon begins Spring Break, and though we may not be able to travel the world and have grand adventures in person, I am happy to share with you some resources to help you make the very best of this upcoming week of rest -- and you can even take some trips from the safety of your home! This Spring Break, why don’t you...
...have a Staycation
...take a Road Trip of the USA!
...travel the World!
...or go Out of this World!
These are just a few of the suggestions of virtual trips and tours that you can take over break. I suggest matching any of these activities with another, similar one, so that you really feel like you’re travelling somewhere new. Take a virtual tour, then read a book or watch a movie set in that place. Try to cook something new if you can, and have a special meal. Write about your virtual travels and the experiences you have.
Thank you again for all your time and support. Stay safe and well, and enjoy exploring the world!
Happy Spring Break!
In the past few weeks, we have been working to develop the skills of independent work and learning through the routines of distance learning. It has been fun, and thrilling, and a challenge! Learning independently is a true life skill, and the students have been working hard and with determination each and every day. As they show that they have mastered the skills of checking in, completing assignments, we are beginning to work on deepening new skills, and using old skills in new ways. There are the skills of Discussion, Collection, and Reflection.
As we continue working and learning from a distance, there are so many new skills to master. Thank you all for your patience and support in these historical times, and know that we are working each day to master big, important skills, and use them well.
Sending well wishes and thoughts of safety to you all,
Dear parents and students,
Good afternoon and happy Friday! I hope this post finds you well. As we all adapt to the changes in the world around us, this week has been full of new experiences. We began distance learning this week, and it was a new experience for many of us. The students worked hard each day to master new routines and learn the tricks of completing assignments from home.
Distance learning is skill-based, and is not currently graded. That means that while assignments are not receiving a numeric grade, they are targeted to review and support important skills. Some of these skills include:
These are skills that are developed with teacher support in the classroom, but now that we are engaged in distance learning, the students are being asked to use these skills on their own. They are working to manage their own time, stay organized, and push themselves as learners. And they are doing great!
Today I asked the students to pause and reflect. What strategies have them been using that helped them stay organized and on task. Here are a few of the strategies they mentioned:
All of these are fantastic strategies for managing time and work. I want to encourage all students to keep up the good work! And if you do not feel that you are managing your time or work well, that’s okay. We are still developing these skills. Make small goals each day, and work to accomplish one new thing at a time, not everything.
Today, as our school and work weeks come to a close, we have time this weekend to take a break and rest. I want to thank all of you -- students and families alike - for working so hard and for doing your best. You are all amazing and inspiring. If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. This weekend, take some time to review your personal organization strategies. What’s working? What isn’t? How can we make next week even better and better?
Good afternoon! I hope you are all well! Today I want to talk to you about one of the biggest, most important ideas in the world, which we practice every day, and are always working to master. This isn’t a writing skill, or a math skill, or even a critical thinking skill. Can you figure out what it is? Today I want to talk to you, and with you, about kindness.
Some of you may remember that I practice yoga outside of school. Recently, in a yoga class, my teacher told me that two of the most important principles of yoga are “kindness” and “observation”. This means that we must be kind to ourselves and accept the times when we struggle or fail to accomplish what set out to do. We must also be observant, listening to ourselves and noticing when we are struggling, in order to practice kindness toward ourselves. When you can practice kindness and observation toward yourself, my teacher told us, you can practice it toward others.
In the classroom, we often discuss the small kindnesses that we see others practice. This might mean that a fellow student lent you a pencil; that you said “good morning” and smiled to start off the day; that you shifted over to make room for a student who did not have space in the circle. We also talk about the kindness that we have to practice toward ourselves. This could be how we stop and breathe deeply when we are feeling worried about our homework or a test; how we read books that we love in order to learn about different kinds of people and have grand adventures in our minds; how we sometimes need to just pause and ask questions when we have a big task ahead of us. We discuss these things during our morning meeting, in groups and partnerships, and in small ways throughout the day as we work.
There are so many ways to practice kindness -- toward ourselves, toward others, and toward the world. Sometimes this practice is easy, and other days more challenging. But each day we work hard -- to slow down, to notice our feelings and the feelings of others, and to do our best to spread kindness and compassion.
How do you support the practice of kindness at home? Do you have any special routines, or play any games? What do you and your children do, each and every day?
This week we did some big thinking in Language Arts and Social Studies. We worked hard to push beyond the facts and SYNTHESIZE to build new understanding. This means that we discovered facts and brought them together in a new way, using note-taking and discussion strategies to begin to push ourselves to think new and bold thoughts. In Language Arts we began examining Argument essays, considering how bias influences perspective and the facts that a writer uses. In Social Studies we examined the practice of slavery in colonial life, considering how all the cultures coming to the American colonies influenced how those colonies grew and changed.
Synthesis is a big, essential goal of fifth grade. And it’s hard! We have to be thoughtful and creative in order to take what we know and view it in a new way. We have to ask questions, try out “What if’s”, and compare and contrast. Here are some tips for you to use at home to encourage synthesis in your child’s thinking, no matter what subject or topic you may be working on.
In the end, synthesis is the act of creation. We notice facts (identify), consider the importance of those facts and the connections between them and what we know already (analysis), and then we act on those thoughts to push our thinking in a new direction (synthesis). We do this every day, in ways big and small.
As we move forward in studying Argument Reading & Writing, and the effects of new cultures on places and society, we will be doing a lot of synthesis. We will continue to think deeply, and challenge what we already know. Your children will bring home big, important ideas that they may still be considering. Thank you for your time and support as you work with them and talk with them. They’re doing great, and amazing things, each and every day.