Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Welcome Back!

January 16th, 2018

Dear Families,

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a restful, healthy, and joyous holiday season. The weather has been a little crazy, but we are hopeful Winter Workshop will begin this week. Please remind your child to dress appropriately.

Math Update:

In fifth grade, we have just finished a unit on adding and subtracting fractions. We learned how to add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators (bottom part of the fraction) by using the strategy of using a clock model, using a grid model, and lastly finding a common denominator. Once they have the common denominator, they just add or subtract the pieces. This unit has included mixed numbers (a whole number and a fraction, example 3 ½ ).

Example of finding a common denominator: ⅓ + ⅘
13= 515       45= 1215

Ask your child to show you how to solve ¼ +  ⅚ or  ⅚ - ¼

We also just began a second unit on solving multi-digit multiplication and division. We reviewed strategies from the beginning of the year, and now we are working to make connections and understand the U.S Standard Algorithm. Students may use any strategy on the homework pages. Our goal is efficiency, fluency, and flexibility.  

In sixth grade, we have just finished a unit on Comparing Bits and Pieces. We studied fractions, decimals, percents, and equivalence. We have learned how to convert between these numbers and how to plot them on a number line. We also introduced negative numbers, so we could begin comparing values. We’ve been using ratio language and notation to compare quantities and solve problems. Our next unit is all about fractions! We will review addition and subtraction of fractions and move onto multiplication and division.

Homework: A review sheet is sent home at the beginning of the week and due back on Friday. It’s important to keep these skills fresh as we continue on with other units. Work should mostly be done independently and all students know they can always come see me before school or during a break to get help, if needed.


Ms. Grace

Thursday, December 21, 2017


Literacy: Spirits are high and thoughts are bright as we prepare for holiday vacation. In literacy the 5th and 6th graders are completing their poetry unit. At this week's Terrific Tuesday assembly 6 Grace presented "Arithmetic" by Carl Sandburg in speak chorus fashion, 5 Kurash presented "Casey at the Bat," by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, and 5/6 Giller presented Robert Frost's "Snowy Woods" and sang The Solstice song. Students are completing poetry gift books that contain eight of their own poems and eight poems selected with the recipient of their book in mind. We will continue to revisit poetry throughout the year keeping in mind the devices studied and how they can contribute to the effectiveness of writing. When we return from vacation we will start a nonfiction writing unit.

Our Student Council this year is a very active group of 5th and 6th graders. Their accomplishments have been great and their energy exciting. Under the helm of the sixth grade officers, events they have led or cosponsored include: "WES Family Harvest Hoedown," Hurricane Harvey support for a sister school in Houston, holiday Food Shelf drive, a "Welcome Back" assembly for Ms Mills (just this morning!) and the upcoming 5th and 6th grade social gathering "Snowball." It is a pleasure to work with them and comforting to know there are wonderful leaders in our future.
2017/2018 Student Council

Wishing you all a peaceful holiday and the best for the New Year!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Building an Empire in Social Studies

Students are currently working in cooperative groups to build an "empire" along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in a simulation that explores the development of the ancient civilization known as Mesopotamia. Individually and together, they are learning about the development of writing, government, religion, art and architecture and job specialization and public works projects in the area also know as the Fertile Crescent.

Most days begin with a challenge to complete as a group pertaining to an element of this civilization. Upon completion of the challenge, the group is awarded "moves" to use on the Fertile Crescent map. The movement of each clan's "armies" helps them to acquire resources and coins that can then be used to purchase public works projects such as irrigation systems, warehouses and city wall and additional armies. Empires grow by occupying squares on the map and defeating opposing armies.
The students in this photo are trying to write in cuniform, the first known form of writing.

In addition to the challenge, a fate is often also imposed that requires the group to use their best judgement to make a decision for their growing empire. The topics covered with each fate lead to mini-lesson and discussion on the historical aspects of this place and time period.

The Map!

6 Grace's class map of the Fertile Crescent. The squares with the most tacks are each clans home square.

And although this is a social studies unit, I've added an engineering task that requires groups to build a device using simple machines (the wheel was an invention in Mesopotamia) to move "water" from the river to the field. In the STEM lab, students are using rice instead of water.

The ultimate goal in addition to learning about this important ancient culture is for each clan to acquire as much land, money and resources as possible. We'll know which clans were most successful next week!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Welcome Back!

Dear Families,

I hope you all had a joyous holiday. We were all very thankful to meet with you during conferences! As a reminder, if you did not get to attend a conference, we are having make-up conferences on Wednesday, November 29th, from 7:15-7:55 and 3:00-3:45. Please contact your child’s homeroom teacher to schedule a time.

Math Update:

At conference many of you inquired about review and homework. I’ve thought about how I can best meet the needs of everyone and have decided to give a small review packet on Monday; it should be returned on Friday each week. I will have this available for both 5th and 6th graders and it will contain previous skills we have worked on this year, as well as prerequisites from prior grades to help be successful in our future units. It should be mostly independent and, if they need help, they can definitely schedule a time to meet with me during the week.

Additionally, there are two websites I highly recommend for extra practice: your child either has an account on Dream Box or Front Row and they can find this information on their google class webpage.

My hope is that each child can practice math for one hour a week outside of our regular class time. They can do this through the review packet, one of the websites, or a combination of both. If you have any questions about this, please let me know.

In 5th grade, we have just finished our unit on volume with a focus on rectangular prisms; we built these by using connecting cubes and constructing paper boxes. We studied patterns and eventually derived the formula of V=LxWxH and V=BxH. We even found the volume of our classroom by building models of different cubic measurements!
Our next unit will focus on fractions. We will be comparing, ordering, adding, and subtracting fractions and mixed numbers.

Ethan and Irie measuring the height of our classroom
Quinn, Edwin, and Phin building a cubic foot
Constructing a cubic meter and a cubic yard


In 6th grade, we are in the middle of a Ratios, Rational Numbers, and Equivalence unit. So far, we have explored fractions and ratios to help us write comparison statements.  These statements and the knowledge students already had about equivalent fractions has helped us develop strategies for finding equivalent ratios. One strategy we used for this is a rate table. We have been able to use ratio and rate reasoning to solve real-life scenarios. Next, we will extend the number line and see how negative numbers come into play.  


Ms. Grace


Thank you for attending student conferences. Many of you asked, "How can I help at home?" The number one response I have to this question is help your child find a "just right book." A just right book is a book for their independent reading that is of high interest and at an appropriate level. To detect a high interest book start with,  "What was the last book you read that you liked?" That's a good lead to finding an author or genre that will interest your child. Searching for a series that appeals to your child is a great idea. And of course, look for books about their interests and passions.

The second part is making sure it's a good fit. Their "independent level"  is where they can read and comprehend independently. A good method is to put up five fingers and for each unknown word, put a finger down. When all five fingers are down, put the book down to save for later in the year. There are always exceptions though, as some students have such a desire for the story they're able to comprehend it. Check for comprehension by asking to retell what happened and what they thought about it.

We have an incredible library and librarian at WES, so be sure to look there, as well as the Norman Williams Public Library in town. And don't forget, our very own Book Fair will be set up in the WES lobby December 7-12, a great spot for some holiday shopping.


Mrs. Giller

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

November Notes

Conferences Begin Today

Student-led conferences begin after school today. Each student will spend 45 minutes sharing completed work and learning accomplishments. Core teachers will be visit with each family with the goal of sharing first quarter successes and future goals.

All School Walkathon

This morning we came together as a school for a walkathon to raise awareness for anti-bullying. Students walked and ran laps at Vail Field, collecting a strip of paper with a suggested act of kindness written on it for each completed lap. The goal was to bring awareness to how we treat each other with kindness and students kept the earned strips in hopes of carrying out the suggested act of kindness today. In honor of anti-bullying students were encouraged to wear blue today. It was a positive and fun experience sponsored by the Safe School Committee!


In literacy class we are deep into studying how nonfiction text becomes more complex. We're studying how there are multiple main ideas in more complex text, main ideas become implicit, vocabulary is more technical and authors use various text structures. Strategies taught to aid comprehension with complex texts include: identify main ideas by reading chunks of text at a time, look for repeated nouns and technical words, study "around" challenging vocabulary, study "within words," looking for prefixes, suffixes and roots, as well as learning how to identify structures the author used. We will culminate this reading of nonfiction text after Thanksgiving break.

Coats, gloves, hats....

As we knew it would, the cold weather has arrived, brrrrrr... Please help insure that your child will be comfortable outside by checking they have enough layers on to keep warm. Unless the temperatures fall below 10 degrees, our school policy is to get the children outside for recess every day.

Here's a few pictures from this morning's event!

                                     The whole school came together to walk for kindness!
                                               Claudia walks with her kindergarten friend.
The WES Wildcat makes his debut appearance with Phoebe from Safe School Committee!

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Big Week!

              Everybody Engineering Week

Everybody Engineering Week culminated today with a great celebration. Each multi-aged group was challenged to create a device that would power a voltmeter using human energy. Needless to say there were some very creative ideas! Today we all met to share our devices, challenges faced and celebrations. Thank you to Ms. Gauvin for organizing a wonderful week of engineering and camaraderie!


If you haven't received a conference sign-up sheet, please check with your child as they have been sent home. The first quarter closes next Friday, report cards will be mailed home the week of November 6 and conferences will take place the following week. 


We completed our first writing unit this week. Each 5th and 6th grader wrote a narrative piece, blowing up a small moment of time in their life. The focus was on creating a well structured piece with elaborating strategies: dialogue, internal thinking and figurative language. The students will share their published piece during their conference in November. Next week we will focus on grammar skills and  writing responses to reading. Our next unit of study will be reading and responding to nonfiction text.  

Enjoy the beautiful fall weekend!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Updates and Math

Dear Families,

This week we launched the “Golden Paw.” This award recognizes students who consistently, across disciplines and all areas of the school, model our school rules: be safe, be respectful, and be ready to learn. This week in 5th and 6th grade we celebrate Levi Halley, Carter Willis, and Leah Kuhnert. Congratulations to our recipients! We can’t wait to see who earns it next week. Check back each week to see who earned the “Golden Paw.”

We are gearing up for a very exciting week next week, Everybody Engineering Week! Teams are composed vertically, 1-6, with 6th graders as facilitators. Teams will work together from 8:15-10:15 each day to design and build something. We are all excited to see what innovative and collaborative ideas everyone comes up with. Check back for pictures next week!

Additionally, be on the lookout for a conference sign-up. They are due back on October 27 but are first come first serve, so the sooner we receive it, the better.  We will do our best to accommodate everyone and look forward to meeting with you to discuss your child’s progress. These will take place November 14 and 15.


In fifth grade, we have been busy learning about and building on the relationship between multiplication and division. They have been solving 2-digit by 2-digit multiplication problems by using different strategies, including breaking numbers apart, solving an equivalent problem, and solving related problems. We are constantly using problems we already know to build off. In addition to this, we have also been developing strategies for solving division problems with 2-digit divisors. Ask your child to show you some of the math we have been learning about. The strategies they come up with are amazing!

In sixth grade, we have been studying the properties of numbers. We began by building on their knowledge of factors and multiples, which led to problem solving surrounding the least common multiple and the greatest common factor. These are all building blocks for future units. We also had some fun with prime factorization and have an understanding to the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic now, which states, “a whole number can be written as a product of primes in exactly one way, disregarding order.” We worked through some challenging tasks to discover these rules, and one of my favorites is the the locker challenge. Be sure to ask your child about their strategy for figuring out which lockers would be open after the one hundredth student passed through the hall. Some of the strategies we used are shown in the pictures below. Again, it’s amazing to see the strategies they utilize when problem solving.

Have a great weekend,


Ms. Grace