Fourth and Fifth
Welcome to 4th and 5th grade at St. Thomas Academy!
We are a fun, high energy, 21st century classroom. We are a leadership class. We do leadership projects and set the example for the younger students at school. We are working on being responsible learners as we get ready for middle school: working independently and tracking our days work and school events in our weekly agendas. Our jobs that rotate weekly, and. students are paid for their work in bonus bucks that they can spend at a class auction three times a year. The students enjoy learning about commerce and hard work, while having fun.
Our class goes on many field trips that rotate every other year, including OMSI in Portland, the End of the Oregon Trail Museum in Oregon City, St. Vincent De Paul, End of the Metolius, Warm Springs Museum, DD Ranch, and Caroling for the elderly. I use field trips in two ways: as a culmination of units, and to front load a unit to give it context.
The split level grades offer a great opportunity to get to know my students well, and work with them for two whole school years. I have an odd and even year rotation for content areas like science and social studies, so students get new grade level information and engaging integrated units. I have used the Storyline to teach students our larger units. For example, during our 4th grade Oregon Trail unit, students created a character, listing character traits and describing their role in our story. They create 3D portraits of their character, taking on that role as we journey the Oregon Trail. We map the route, journaling from our characters perspective at various stops. I emphasis journaling in the context of the time, asking students to challenge their modern world view, while learning about what a person in their role would do along the trail.
I believe that math, science, and engineering are fun! I create a hands on and exploratory approach to these content areas. Students play math games, create math art, and challenge themselves with problem solving and design projects. Each student has a science journal, beginning the year learning to make qualitative and quantitative observations in science both in and outside the classroom. We go through the scientific method and engineering design process during our hands on lab activities, with each student responsible for a lab role.
I believe teachers need to be committed to a lifetime of learning. Throughout any one teacher’s career, there will be many changes in the field of teaching. Some of these changes will be new; some will simply be a shift in the ever-swinging pedagogy pendulum. It is up to the teacher to be aware of and monitor these shifts, while taking into consideration real classroom application. Teachers need to monitor their practice by questioning the validity of what they apply in their teaching. In an era of scripted curriculum, the choice is not often left up to the teacher. On the other hand, a gifted teacher will find any opportunity to make learning meaningful for all their students, regardless of the circumstances. Teachers need to always be thinking about new ways to do this, by either their own creative means or through learning from others. Continuing to read literature in the field, engaging in dialogue with other teachers, and attending professional development workshops are all important tools for keeping teachers oriented to developments in pedagogy.
I believe teachers who use routines to keep organized while bringing in new and exciting activities for students will create stability, high expectations and invoke respect, while allowing students to have fun.
I believe that by asking students to rise to high levels of achievement, they will do so with enthusiasm and determination. Discipline of faith and instruction of church values creates a consistent and strong message for students. This message translates into interpersonal relationships and life goals. I believe that students benefit emotionally, spiritually, academically, socially (and consequentially even physically) when these values are part of their life and students are asked to rise not only to the expectations of their teachers, but of their Lord.