• All About 5F

    Dear Families,

    Welcome to fifth grade!  We hope you had a wonderful summer. Your child’s academic, social and emotional growth is of the utmost importance to us.  Here is some important information to ensure a smooth start to our fabulous year. 

    • Parents and teachers are partners.  We need to communicate with each other regularly.  Visit our class page.  We update it often.  
    • Your child will receive a labeled Boomerang Binder.  Your child should place his/her homework in the School pocket each night. We will place notices for you in the Home pocket.  Please check your child’s binder every night for general school notices, information on classroom activities and homework.   
    • Our email address fits the normal format: efarrell@tenafly.k12.nj.us.  
    • We will use Google Classroom to post student assignments


    Most children learn best by doing, employing multiple intelligences and starting from the concrete and moving to the abstract.  At this age, developing good habits of the mind is top priority. Developing process skills, internalizing reading, writing and problem-solving strategies, decision-making, critical thinking, organization and self-realization/actualization (metacognition) are essential to future academic success.  Foremost, our classroom should be a place to practice all of these, but not necessarily be perfect at all of them.  

    We want your kids to love learning, appreciate the world around them, and develop good habits of the mind so that they will know what it takes to be successful, happy and healthy in the future.

    Equity vs Equality 

    Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help. Equity does not feel fair to children, but it serves them better.  Our aim is to give each child what s/he needs to grow academically, socially and emotionally.  What works and is good for one student may not be what works or is good for another student.  Each student starts at the same place, and has different needs.

    “What is expected?”

    Follow our school rules and work hard.

    Three Rules

    Take Care of Yourself  “The wisest people follow their own direction.”

    • Think
    • Listen
    • Develop good habits of the mind
    • Work hard* (See “Why Homework?” attachment.)
    • Be healthy* (See “You Are What You Eat” attachment.)
    • Laugh (specifically at Mrs. Farrell’s jokes)
    • No growing taller than Mrs. Farrell

    Take Care of This Place “Leave it better than you found it.”

    • Your child will take an active role in maintaining our classroom and materials with jobs etc.,

    Take Care of Each Other “How you treat people is MOST important.”

    • We know that EQ trumps IQ.  A major part of our work this year will be cooperative learning.   We will work together in pairs and groups and as a class.  
      • Talking
      • Listening  
      • Thinking
      • Communicating
      • Compromising
      • Adjusting.  

    What will we study?

    Please see the units of study page on this site.  In addition to the standard subjects, our class will learn computer programming aka 'coding'.  If your child completes the unit, s/he will know more than 85% of the world...a compelling argument for bringing coding into the classroom.

    Social Studies

    We will study Social Justice in three units: Self Awareness & Respect for Others; Examples of Injustice in US History; and, Activism.  We cover essential historical content in two units incorporating as many primary documents as possible. We do not expect your child to remember all the facts and dates but want him/her to understand the “big” ideas...the “whys” and “hows” of history and behave like historians. This requires using reading and writing skills (from our Reading and Writing Workshops) authentically and purposefully.  

    We will engage in a number of hands-on activities/games/projects that require students to work cooperatively, designed to foster deeper thinking and better communication in math.  In conjunction, we will master algorithms aka rote computation skills.  We want your child to understand mathematical concepts and then efficiently compute accurate answers. 

    Language Arts - Writing

    Writers Workshop provides an authentic opportunity for children to develop six traits: ideas and content, organization, voice, word choice, fluency, and conventions, which fall into four major components: structure, craft, elaboration and meaning.  Your child will use his/her notebook to collect ideas etc., and then generate pieces through a series of plans and multiple drafts as well as access to informed feedback and responses from peers and us.  Purpose, audience and context contribute to the form and substance of writing as well as to its style, tone and stance.  Good writers read!  Good writers practice!  To that end, we formally publish narratives, nonfiction science and history I-searches, essays, and biographies, but increasingly, over the course of the year, we incorporate writing into the other discplines. Writing is hard. Art without structure is chaos, so “Yes!” we will study vocabulary, grammar, punctuation and capitalization…spelling too!  

    Language Arts - Reading

    Reading is thinking.  Basic comprehension means getting the big idea of or salient information from the text.  To show deeper comprehension students may react or connect to the text, predict what will happen next, theorize about the text or a character, extend or apply the text, or critically evaluate the text. We will practice listening to our “inner voice” by visualizing, reacting, questioning, connecting to be able to retell, sequence, compare/contrast, draw conclusions, infer to understand literary elements and build theories about characters, character development, conflict, plot, setting, tone/mood, author's purpose and theme.  The reading program (Readers Workshop) focuses on helping your child become a more thoughtful and critical reader.  The program consists of independent, shared, partner and guided reading activities along with read-alouds, response journals, post-its, extension activities.  Your child always should have an independent text. 

    We purposefully connect Reading and Writing Workshops (narratives, nonfiction science and history I-searches, essays, literature analysis, and biographies).  These two subjects are inextricably linked. If we want students to write good essays, students need to read a number of good essays.  Like in Writing Workshop, in Reading Workshop we increasingly, over the course of the year, incorporate reading skills/thinking/strategies into the other disciplines.

    Good readers read at least twenty-five books or book equivalents in at least three different literary forms from least five different authors per year. We hope your child reads for at least 20-30 minutes every day at this age.

    • Argumentative Literacy:  A few years ago, we were trained in this model and have been using it ever since.  We will use short texts from Scope to engage in close reading and argumentation to deepen comprehension and analysis.
    • Word Study: We will engage in a weekly word study focusing on content vocabulary, Greek& Latin roots/prefixes/suffixes, and Sitton words; this includes TPS's Exploros requirement.
    • Scope: Each week your child will read and respond to different texts in this monthly subscription that includes paired texts, narratives, plays, narrative nonfiction, argumentation, and grammar/editing pieces.


    We will use technology in many different ways.  Many homework assignments require logging on to different websites e.g. Google Classroom, Wordly Wise, Khan Academy, or Code.org. I recommend Type to Learn; it can be downloaded to your home computer.  (See instructions on our class website.)  This year, we will tackle some “coding”.  It is the new frontier for this generation and really fun! 

    Why homework?

    The verdict remains “out” on the value of homework.  We believe it depends on the kind of homework. Good homework affords students opportunities to practice and extend classroom learning AND informs our teaching. We may set the bar high, but anticipate that your child’s work will look like that of a 5th grader.  


    Each day, our class discusses the homework for that evening. It is on our website. We record the assignments together. Ample opportunity is given to ask questions and seek clarification. Students never should leave class without fully understanding assignments. We use a To-Pack board in the classroom to help students remember what needs to go home and do binder checks regularly.

    Homework Expectations 

    We expect each student will spend approximately forty-five minutes to one hour each night on homework. If your child spends less time, he or she may need encouragement to apply more effort.  If your child spends more time, please encourage your child to speak to us. You may contact us as well.

    To help or not to help?

    Sometimes a child needs help with homework.  Of course, you will help.  There is a difference, however, between helping and doing your child’s homework.  If you get involved, please indicate that you assisted your child by either circling a problem/question or writing a quick note.  This lets us know what we need to teach or review the next day.  If the whole class struggles with the same question, clearly the fault lies with us or the assignment and we need to address it.  Please set up your child for success by creating a schedule that accommodates nightly homework and reading time.  If there is something unusual that interferes with completing homework on time, let’s discuss it. In Fifth Grade, we work hard to develop responsible and independent learners. 

    Responsive Classroom

    The RC approach builds a community of learners.  On the basic plan (found on my website) you will see Snack & “Meeting”.  Meeting incorporates many of the ideals of this program and should help your child feel comfortable in the room with his/her classmates. These activities establish an environment that fosters learning and communication and provides a foundation for cooperative/group activities and lessons.  We value the results of this approach because it makes every child feel known, safe and comfortable in the class.


    We cannot celebrate birthdays in school with food per the Health & Wellness policy.  We celebrate the birthday child as a class.


    This is a whole lot to take in all at once but I promise it will all make sense as the year unfolds.   Again, your child’s academic, social and emotional growth is of the utmost importance to us this year.  We look forward to working with you to ensure that your child maximizes his/her development in all three areas and has the best possible fifth grade experience. 

    Yours truly,

    Elizabeth Farrell