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Grades

    Re: To Teach Fifth Grade or Younger?
    Amanda

    If anyone with experience could
    > give me any information on your fifth grade experience I
    > would greatly appreciate it! Thank you so much!

    I love teaching 5th through 8th. In CA, that means having both
    a multiple with supplemental authorizations and a single
    subject credential, which I have. I don't care for the lower
    grade (primary), because the kids are too dependent for my
    taste. In fifth, you will encounter some attitude, but if you
    teach with a constant sense of humor that will quickly
    evaporate. We play many curriculum related games, act a little
    silly at times, and enjoy the day.

    Your biggest challenge, depending where you are, is that you
    will need to be extremely familiar with the standards from the
    lower grades so you can quickly identify knowledge gaps. If
    you make a map for yourself showing what is taught when in
    which grade, you can identify skills that were not learned
    earlier and patch those for the low kids. For the kids who
    need enrichment, make the same kind of map but spiral up the
    grade levels. For example, we just finished an Algebra I unit
    for my high performers.

    You will need to develop the teacher "freeze and stare" along
    with an arched eyebrow. This is useful for those kids who tend
    to call out answers while you are teaching, and is much more
    effective than other methods since the kids who do this tend to
    be very intelligent and highly involved in your instruction (so
    much so that to them your lesson is directed to them alone).
    Stopping mid sentence and being quiet controls the class very
    effectively, particularly if you then say, "I am waiting on you
    to listen" in a soft voice. Keeping calm at all times is also
    necessary.

    I have a minor in theater, so I use props and body movements to
    bring home an idea. That may or may not suit your temperament.
    Kids at that age, however, love it.

    I use Cornell notes for all subjects, and the kids maintain
    spirals for each subject. For homework, they summarize a
    lesson we covered in a short form essay of three paragraphs
    (even for math). I rotate the subjects they write about. We
    also use a timer in class for writing, and by the end of the
    year they can produce a well-executed five paragraph expository
    essay in 30 minutes. My feedback from our feeder middle school
    is that the kids do extremely well because they know how to
    listen, take notes, and summarize. The parents also like it,
    because they read the homework summaries and know what the
    child is studying.

    I prefer U.S. History to California history, so I like fifth
    grade better than fourth. I also love chemistry and life
    science, which is part of our curriculum. Make sure you love
    the curriculum of the level you are teaching. You will be
    doing four or five daily preps, depending upon whether or not
    you are required to teach PE (we are). We are also required to
    complete ALL of the textbook material in math, language arts,
    and science by the time we do state testing in April. That
    means we have to come up with a month of instruction using
    materials we have to provide that are then approved by the
    District Office.

    That "gap" month is often a surprise to new teachers. I did
    not have to face that when I taught middle school (7th), but at
    5th there are many more CA standards than we have time to teach
    earlier in the year (nutrition, health education, family life,
    art, music, and dance are a few). Fourth doesn't face the same
    gap, since science and social studies are not tested in fourth.
    That means that curriculum can be spread out to fill the "gap".

    The hardest part for me is the amount of reporting that the
    district requires from fifth. We are seen as the culmination
    point of elementary, so we are expected to identify any
    students who require RSP or SDC services who were not
    identified in lower grades. That means you have to learn to
    recognize things like ADD, ADHD, Autism, ODD, and similar
    conditions. There is a lot of paperwork involved, as well as
    multiple parent meetings. Fourth doesn't have that same hurdle
    here. We also have many ELL students from various countries
    who enter the U.S. with older students. We are expected to
    handle CELDT level 1 students, and bring them up to CELDT level
    3 performance in a year. That often means teaching English as
    a second language and knowing how to use SDAIE techniques for
    instruction. You are expected to spend at least 30 minutes a
    day doing individualized ELD instruction with those students
    who have not been reclassed to English Proficient status. The
    rest of the students in your room have to be engaged in a
    silent activity during that time, so be prepared when you plan
    your day. We also have to identify students who are not grade
    level proficient in math and reading, and do everything we can
    to bring them up to speed. That means working with them in
    small groups, while again having the rest of the class working
    on some curriculum-related quiet activity. It also means
    having assessments at hand to administer to determine their
    proficiency gains. I am expected to have fluency passages that
    range from K-4 to assess Reading and math assessments for the
    core math standards from K-4. That can get expensive, unless
    you have learned how to write grant proposals. Meanwhile, the
    parents of the high kids expect you to have enrichment
    materials available in all subject areas for challenge work.
    Having the resources to fulfill all of the expectations and the
    time to do the reporting means that teaching fifth takes a lot
    of your personal time. It tends not to work well for teachers
    with young families of their own.

    I hope this information helps you decide. Let us know what you
    pick.