Fifth grade: More emphasis on writing, thinking, listening

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com Fifth-grade students in Rachel Beasley’s class at Lawndale Elementary discuss their answer to a question based on a passage they read. The new Common Core standards call for students to work together more.

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Fifth-grade students in Rachel Beasley’s class at Lawndale Elementary discuss their answer to a question based on a passage they read. The new Common Core standards call for students to work together more.

State of Our Schools series

By Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

TUPELO – While listening to Dorothy Moore’s “Misty Blue,” the fifth-graders at Lawndale Elementary took notes.

They just had finished Little Milton’s “The Blues Is Alright,” and teacher Rachel Beasley instructed them to record each singer’s voice and tone. They then compared and contrasted the two, as they worked to interpret their meanings.

Next, they read the lyrics of each song, noticing clues they had missed in their initial listening to the two Mississippi Blues tunes.

As Beasley switches to Common Core in her classroom, she said, it will require her to emphasize such skills as writing, thinking, listening and determining theme. Those can be practiced by using texts, but also with songs, such as those that are part of the state’s heritage.

The school participates in the Mississippi Arts Commission’s arts integration program, and Beasley said the initiative meshes well with the new Common Core standards.

The language arts lesson began with students reading a passage about beavers and answering a question in small groups by making a tableau – using their bodies to create a still image that demonstrates their answer.

“Using art gets kids engaged,” she said. “You appeal to music, visual, dance. If they are engaged, they will want to learn something … The more visuals students have, the better they can comprehend.”

The biggest difference she’s noticed is that the Common Core requires fewer skills but more depth.

“I think the fewer standards I have to teach and the deeper I can go with content will be beneficial for students,” she said. “I don’t have to jump from one thing to the next. I can spend more time on something to make sure students really master it.”

It is important for the students to work together and to justify answers, Beasley said.

“Common Core is incorporating 21st century skills and getting students ready for college and life outside of school,” Beasley said. “It has made me think about what they need for the workforce and for life.”

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com