Grade 5: December Update


Dear Fifth Grade Families,

Math: We have finished our fractions unit, in which students learned addition and subtraction of fractions with unlike denominators as well as mixed numbers (including regrouping and simplifying when necessary).  

Last week, we launched our fifth unit, place value and decimals.  Place value in fifth grade involves multiplying and dividing by powers of ten (without using the standard algorithm), knowing how to rewrite each place value as a power of ten, and being able to convert units within the metric system.  The work with place value helps students understand decimals in a more sophisticated way. As the month continues, we will cover rounding, ordering, comparing, adding, and subtracting decimals. 

Science:  Students enjoyed our field trip to the Museum of Natural History in conjunction with the culmination of our first science unit, Patterns of Earth and Sky.  They were able to dive more deeply into the concepts studied in class about the universe.

Beginning this week, we will start our second unit in science, Modeling Matter.  During this unit, students will act as food chemists for a fictional food manufacturing company.  Throughout the learning progression, students learn that molecules can have different shapes, sizes, weights, and attractions to other molecules.  They will apply their understanding of these properties as they explore how the process of chromatography works to separate mixtures of molecules.  

Writing: Your fifth-grade writers are bringing our Journalism unit to a thrilling conclusion by publishing their own feature articles inspired by the issues they notice in their lives. These hybrid texts teach information on a topic while (mostly) subtly communicating the author’s perspective through careful word choice and quote selection. They leveraged key journalistic moves and knowledge they learned from Lab alumni, Max Goodman, who came to share an exciting presentation on his written and filmed sports news reporting. Max was one of Claudia’s first students and is the son to our own Gina Goodman who many of you interact with often. Please feel free to follow Max’s work in his new role writing for on the New York Yankees ( After finishing their feature articles, the fifth graders will culminate this unit with an “in class” publishing party where they will rotate, read, and respond to their classmates’ articles. Their comments will transfer directly into goals for our next unit: literary essay writing! (Feature articles and literary essays are more alike than you think!) We expect this to be a challenging, enlightening, and fun – yes, fun – unit for these already skillful writers about literature.

Reading: As readers, the fifth graders have tangled with some very complex informational texts in their research into European exploration. While our nonfiction reading unit is drawing to a close, this work will continue through our Social Studies curriculum to culminate in our very own recorded “TED Talks”  that address facets of our focus question: How do issues of power, wealth, and morality influence exploration and colonization? Meanwhile, during our reading workshops, our attention is shifting back to fiction as we work in partnerships and clubs on our literary analysis. This reading work won’t only support our writing of literary essays, it’ll also challenge us to think in deeper and more nuanced ways about how authors develop characters and themes across texts. We’ll be reading both short stories and novels for this work, and we expect to see evidence of this raised level of interpretation in our reading journals as well as in the literary essays we’ll workshop and publish!

On the subject of books, we’d like to share a general reminder to you and your students about our classroom library. During this time of the year, we often find that many of our classroom books tend to “disappear.” Students do not need more than 2 classroom library books at a time, nor do they need to be dragging these back and forth to school every day. Please remind your fifth grader to return these books to our library as they finish so that everyone can enjoy them!

Please let us know if you have any questions!