Literary Essays and Social Issues

Hi all,

Hope everyone had a good Tuesday! Just an update with the work going on in the 5AT classroom.

Literary Essays

We have started collecting ideas for our literary essays. So far, we have focused on three wonderful stories: Spaghetti, Marble Champ, and Fly Away Home. We have spent the past two days looking closely at the text and noticing details about the stories. We’ve built our thinking based on the details and we will soon turn these notes into Big Ideas and then into a thesis statement. Ultimately, we will go through the writing process to produce thoughtful literary essays.

Social Issues Texts and the Sustainable Development Goals

For reading, our workshops will focus on reading about social issues. A major lens for the class will be to look at issues through the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

We’ve been using the 17 goals as a way to look at the news and various articles we’ve come across as well as a way for us to discuss various issues happening in the texts we read.

It would be great for you to have discussions with your kids around these goals. For a great introduction, you can find great resources online regarding the sustainable development goals. Some videos may need a VPN. In class, we watched The World’s Largest Lesson (introduced by Malala and Emma Watson) as a way to familiarize ourselves with the goals.


We are finishing up assessments for our unit on multiplying and dividing fractions


We are beginning our Transformations of Matter Unit and we will be using the Science lab quite a bit for some hands-on Science fun!


Mr. T

455 Points!

Yup, that’s how much the 5AT high flyers scored today during World Air Toss. They showed amazing teamwork and they supported each other wonderfully during the match.

(I’ll send photos through wechat)

It was a very impressive outing. The good vibes lasted throughout the day as we had a strong math class with kids showing their thinking and reasoning skills through models. I was impressed with how confident they were in sharing their thinking and how they built on each other’s models.

(Photos through wechat)

At the end of the day, we worked on our presentation skills through a quick exercise with extemporaneous speaking. For a first try, it went very well. We had about 10 kids volunteer to give a one minute speech on a topic that was randomly selected for them. They had 3 minutes to prepare a brief outline and then speak from the heart. This is something we will try to do more often.

Have a great evening!

Mr. T


Hi all,

I hope you’ve had a good first day of the week and that you’ve stayed warm.

Here are some of the exciting things your kids have been up to.

Fantasy Writing Revisions:

We are done drafting our stories and have been focusing on our revisions. Last week, we learned various revision strategies and we’ve used them to extend our writing. We will continue building on that this week.

Book Clubs

There has been a lot of reading time as we’ve dug deeper into the fantasy genre. Kids have been reading their fantasy choice books as well as their fantasy books for book clubs. I’ve enjoyed listening in to their conversations about the books and watching them learn from each other.


Our work with fractions continues as we now move into multiplying and dividing fractions by fractions. Modeling will play a huge role this week as we set to prove what it means to actually multiply and divide fractions (instead of merely relying on an algorithm).


Hello everyone,

How are we almost done with the first week of school for 2018? Time is flying way too fast. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and everyone is over the jet lag.

It’s been a busy 4 days in 5AT. We jumped right in with our new writing and reading units of the Fantasy genre. In just 4 days, your kids have already produced a decent volume of brainstorming ideas as well as a few initial drafts.

Fantasy tends to be a unit kids enjoy because of how they can just let their imaginations run wild! A fun brainstorming strategy we’ve used is called, “What if?” where we think of various possibilities and settings for potential ideas.

Our read aloud for this unit is the book, The Thief of Always, and we just started chapter 4 today. The kids are enjoying it (though probably not as much as I am) and we can’t wait to see what happens to our protagonist, Harvey.

I’ve been impressed with the reading stamina the kids have been able to show these past 4 days. Usually, it takes a while for the kids to warm up but these kids have been super focused on their books! We will start with new book clubs next week with a focus on exploring this genre together.

For math, we will continue last quarter’s work on fractions and decimal fractions. A big focus of this module will be multiplying and dividing fractions. We will try to connect these concepts to our real lives by exploring how fractions (and operations) are a part of our daily experiences.

Our science unit will focus on health and healthy choices. Tomorrow, Friday, Jan. 12, the entire 5th grade class will have a huge Fitness activity in the dome where we will engage in a variety of exercises to get a sense of our current fitness levels. We will then set goals and develop fitness plans to help us meet our goals. It should be a fun and enriching unit!

I hope you all have a good evening! Here’s to a great 2018!


Mr. T

Essays and Fractions

Hi all,

Happy Monday! How is time flying by so fast? Can’t believe 2017 is almost over.

I hope you all had a good day. Here is what we worked on today:

Revising our Essays on History and Significant Events

During Writers Workshop, we looked at how essay writers “come full circle” by crafting a concluding paragraph that wraps up the entire essay. We drafted a few possible conclusions for our essays and the kids got to pick the conclusions they liked best.

We are hoping to publish by next Monday.


For math, we worked on adding fractions with unlike denominators. It seems that while several kids are familiar with operations of fractions, there is some work to do with modeling fractions and the operations. It’s important for all kids to have a strong conceptual understanding of what fractions mean and what happens to fractions when they are added, subtracted, divided, and multiplied.

Non-Fiction Reading

We’ve been looking at word meaning and choice for non-fiction reading and practicing how to use context to better understand the meaning of various words and phrases. More importantly, we’re making sure that we get a good chunk of reading time each day. I’m glad to know that more parents are spending the time to discuss the news and current events with the kids as well as enjoying the news articles themselves. Let’s keep it up!


Mr. T

Toilets, Fractions, and History

Hi all,

Hope this finds you well! Today was an interesting one in the 5AT classroom. When the kids asked me what we would be discussing during history class, they were shocked to hear me say, “poop.” The looks of disbelief of their faces only intensified as they realized I had not misspoken and was in fact about to start a conversation around human waste and perhaps one of the most taken for granted of all inventions: the toilet.

I’ll spare you the “details” but do feel free to chat with your kids about the historical significance of the toilet. It was an interesting conversation and it spurred a lot of discussion. It did take a while for some of the giggling to subside but eventually it led to what I hope was a better appreciation for the impact toilets have had on human society. All in a day’s work of taking about significant events, I guess.

For math, we’ve started our unit on fractions. The unit will explore equivalent fractions and multiple representations of fractions before moving on to operations with fractions. My hope is to make this unit as concrete as possible and use as many real life situations where we would talk about fractions.

Our Historical Inquiry Writing unit is going well and the kids have been taking a lot of what they learned from our previous non-fiction writing unit and transferring it to this new writing topic. Once we are further along with their writing, we will add a multimedia presentation as well. Should be quite fun!

Have a great rest of the evening. 


Mr. T

Learning is Awesome

As we were ending our lesson on Historical Inquiry today, I told the class that I was very excited for this unit and that it would be the most awesome one. As I said this, one of the kids raised his hands and said, “but just before Biomimicry, you said that would be the most awesome one!”

I laughed as he said this and all I could do was shrug and respond with, “well, learning is awesome and so whatever unit we’re on is the most awesome one.”

I share this anecdote because 1) it’s true that learning is always awesome and 2) our unit on Historical Inquiry is one I’m very excited for…especially with this particular group of learners.

Our focus for this unit will be on SIGNIFICANT HISTORICAL EVENTS and, more precisely, WHAT MAKES AN EVENT SIGNIFICANT?

During our discussion today we settled on three specific questions to help us evaluate the significance of an event:

  • How many lives were impacted?
  • How deeply were lives impacted?
  • Is the significance of the event still felt/relevant today?

Engaging with, and grappling with these questions will hopefully lead to some very rich discussions. Just today, the kids were already debating the significance of the sinking of the titanic, the invention of the telephone, and the founding of ISB. I’m so excited to see where this unit takes us!

—Mr. T


Hi all,

 Just a quick update on the learning taking place in 5AT.

Reading Workshop

Our reading workshop lesson today was a continuation of our non-fiction reading lessons from the past 2 weeks. We learned that good non-fiction readers read large chunks of the text at a time to make better meaning of the text as well as use the text features embedded in the text. 

Writers Workshop

For WWS, we continued our work on our Biomimicry articles by looking closely at another example of a feature article. We paid attention to the aesthetic of the article as well as the content. Some of the kids are starting to print out their work and are ready to move into the publishing phase of their articles. Our goal is to be done by next week.


Math work today focused on multi-digit multiplication. More of the kids are getting more comfortable with the standard algorithm yet are able to still show their multiplication work in a variety of ways.


We watched a video on Biomimicry today and it was rewarding seeing how the kids were able to make connections to what they already knew about the topic. They’ve really enjoyed this unit and have become experts in their own ways.

Engineering and Design

We had another engineering and design task today that will continue on to tomorrow. The teams were tasked to build a structure that could support a dangling cup. We will add weights to the cups tomorrow to test their structures.

Some pics from today:

Non-Fiction Leads

Today we thought about how we could write the leads of our non-fiction writing with our Biomimicry articles. We looked at 4 strong leads and then experimented with our own. While the expectation was to focus on leads, some writers went ahead and started adding even more details. I’ve been impressed with how engaged the students have been with this particular topic and I like the variety of angles they are using to view biomimicry.