Dear Fifth Grade Family,
Welcome to fifth grade!  We have an exciting year ahead of us.  I think about this upcoming 5th grade year as "The Beginning to an End" as we celebrate the students' years at Wilson Elementary and prepare for their transition to Middle School.  My ultimate focus this year is helping your children be positive leaders of our school and prepare them for success at the Middle School.  Our general theme, "The Amazing Race" is a fun metaphor for the students to look at their education as part of an overall race.  We begin the year by thinking about how people prepare themselves for success in any race.  Our heavy focus on social studies and geography and landforms of America lends itself to this year being an analogy to The Amazing Race show where contestants race across states, countries and continents using all academic skills to aid them in their journeys.  Students will learn that their Student Planner will be their passport for a successful 5th grade year.

I would like to take some time to give you a general overview of my teaching philosophy.  More information on specific curricular areas and ideas for home study will be sent to you later in the year and on request.
I view READING and WRITING as a developmental process, developmental because children learn to read and write in the same way that they learn to talk.  When your child was learning to talk, you encouraged and accepted approximations and helped him/her to grow from there. Current research findings conclude that written language develops in the same manner as oral language.  We need to accept where each child is and encourage his/her growth and learning from that point.
We learn to READ BY READING; the main focus in reading will be on comprehension and not isolated sub-skills.  Important strategies and skills will be taught within the context of each child’s own learning.  For example, students could be given a worksheet on a specific phonetic usage. While they might do well on the worksheet, there might not be a transfer of the skill to their own reading.  But if students are writing and want to know how to use a word, they have a real need and purpose for that information.  They will more likely internalize this learning and use it again.  
Your child will be READING from a wide variety of printed materials this year.  Although real books will be the focus and main-stay of our reading program, we will also use magazines, newspapers, maps, pamphlets, catalogs, and text books.  If you have any of these materials to share with us, especially those that share our current theme, it would be greatly appreciated. Surrounding children with LITERATURE and PRINT will expand their vocabularies and give them insights into many worlds, real and make-believe, past and present.
Your child will be WRITING every day.  Writing requires active thinking on many levels and helps students become better thinkers.  In our WRITING WORKSHOP, your child will be encouraged to keep a notebook of personal reflections, choose his/her own topics, write, rewrite, share, edit work with peers and myself, and publish specific pieces of writing. This type of writing is known as process writing, because the emphasis is on the actual writing process and not on the final product.  This does not mean that the product is unimportant; it is, but not until the last steps of the writing process.
A writing portfolio with your child’s pieces will be kept in the classroom. You are welcome and encouraged to come in to see your child’s work.
This writing may contain INVENTED or TEMPORARY SPELLING (spelling that is an approximation of the conventional spelling of the word).  Temporary spelling encourages the uninterrupted flow of ideas and thoughts.  The idea is to write, not wait for spelling help.  Children need to realize that first-draft spellings and grammatical usage, capitalization and punctuation skills need not be as accurate as on final drafts.
I support the views on SPELLING or WORD STUDY (WORDS THEIR WAY) as an integral part of the total school program. Your child will be developing spelling strategies through purposeful daily reading and writing.  Teaching children strategies of how to spell by discovering and applying rules and patterns, proofreading and knowing what resources are available are all relevant and meaningful learning.  
Our MATH program includes the use of hands-on materials. We will focus on understanding each math concept before moving on to practicing the symbolic equations.  PROBLEM SOLVING, ESTIMATION, and MENTAL MATH will also be major focuses of our math program. Any time you can involve your child in real-life problem solving, and/or using math in daily situations will be helpful.
SOCIAL STUDIES and SCIENCE units are integrated across the curriculum. The focus will be on active, meaningful and hands-on learning, giving each student the opportunity to explore his/her own questions.  No matter what concept is being explored, reading, writing and math are viewed as tools necessary for finding new information, making new discoveries and recording findings.  This year we will explore ENVIRONMENTS, LANDFORMS, VARIABLES, EXPLORERS, COLONIAL LIFE, REVOLUTIONARY WAR, U.S. CONSTITUTION, AMERICAN GOVERNMENT, and GEOGRAPHY.
DECISION-MAKING STRATEGIES will be practiced daily as children select books to read, topics to write about, findings they want to present and interests they want to pursue.
Learning to work COOPERATIVELY IN GROUPS is also an integral part of our program.  By discussing books, conducting experiments, solving problems, writing stories and reports, resolving conflicts and achieving consensus, students learn important collaborative skill at the same time they are mastering academic skills.
Your child will be setting weekly GOALS and filling out SELF EVALUATION REPORTS.  The purpose of these reports are: 1) to give your child the opportunity to reflect on and evaluate his/her own learning and behavior and 2) to communicate with you about how and what your child is doing in school.  There will be a goal sheet for each week kept in the child’s student planner.
Each week, I will be sending a NEWSLETTER and highlight what we are studying during that week as well as important upcoming events.  Please use the information in the letter to help inspire meaningful conversations with your child about his/her school day.  Detailed questions will deliver more of a response to the question "What did you do today?" than "Nothing."  I will post these newsletters on the Wilson Website unless otherwise specified.

A big part of 5th grade is having the students develop appropriate study habits, organization and self-directed behaviors that will prepare them for Middle School.  Each student will record nightly HOMEWORK assignments Monday through Friday.  The expectation is for each student to do 20-30 minutes of reading and 20-30 minutes of other work Monday – Thursday nights. Over the weekend, students will only be asked to read to keep up with their contracts.  Other HOMEWORK may include spelling practice, math, geography, writing, science, social studies and special assignments.  Students will have a folder for each subject and bring their homework home and return it to school in the appropriate folder.  I will review these procedures and potential consequences during Parent Night.

MUSIC, P.E., COMPUTER, ART, and LIBRARY/MEDIA are our special weekly classes and will be integrated across the curriculum when appropriate.
I welcome any parent (grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc.) who would like to VOLUNTEER time in our school.  In 5th grade, we ask volunteers to help in many school functions, holiday celebrations and special events rather than during class academic time to prepare the students for the transition to Middle School.  Please fill out the school volunteer form.  
In studying American Government, we will run our class meetings in a mock government format.  Each week, one student will be drawn to be the SPEAKER OF THE CLASS.  During the week the chosen student willing be in a LEADERSHIP role facilitating our class meetings as well as teaching us more about himself/herself.  The student may bring something about herself/himself to share each day.  Students are encouraged to share pictures of himself/herself, family, pets, or share about her/his family history, favorite hobbies, etc.  

I will be teaching the class about MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES and helping your child to identify her/his strengths and weaknesses.  I believe that all people are gifted in their own special way and to celebrate these strengths and build from the strengths to improve upon weaker areas.  We will also engage in daily BRAIN GYM exercises to prepare the mind and body for learning.  Students are encouraged to keep a water bottle at school to ensure hydration throughout the day.

I welcome input on any special projects, field trips, art endeavors, etc. that you feel would enrich our year.

I look forward to working with you and your child for a successful school year!  Parent involvement is key to your child’s success in school.  Please feel free to contact me via e-mail at mkitto@tcsd,org or after school hours with any questions or concerns.

Mary Kitto
733-3077 ext. 6640

What the child can do in cooperation today . . . he/she can do alone
tomorrow. –Vygotsky

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