STEM School Highlands Ranch

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Deborah Marshall » Announcements


Starting in the Fall of 2018, 5th Grade is going to implement a new schedule to better serve our students’ needs as they transition from elementary school into middle school. With the exception of Math, students will rotate through their core academic classes (Science, Engineering, Language Arts, and Social Studies) in “core cohorts” rather than stay with a single teacher for the majority of the day. This means that every 5th grader will be a student in every 5th grade teacher’s class!

Our schedule for the first “half” of the day in 5th grade will be a typical elementary school schedule. Students will start the day in (after specials) with their “core cohort” in Integrated Literacy. Your student’s Integrated Literacy teacher can be thought of as your student’s primary (or “homeroom”) teacher. We learn a variety of skills in Integrated Literacy, such as: community building, study skills, and grammar. Additionally, your student’s Integrated Literacy teacher will be your student’s case manager for any academic plans they might be on. From there, students will rotate to their math class. All four 5th grade teachers will teach math- students will be placed in the math class that will best meet their academic needs at the beginning of the semester.

The second “half” of the day in 5th grade follows a “block” schedule. After math, students will rejoin their “core cohort” and go to two of their four core classes (with recess and lunch in between!), depending on whether it is a Blue or Gold day; students will go to two of their core classes on Blue days, and the other two on Gold days, alternating according to the same Blue/Gold Schedule the Middle School and High School use. These “block” classes will be 80 minutes long, allowing us to go much greater in-depth than would otherwise be allowed by a typical elementary school schedule, and will be taught solely be a “specialist” teacher (see below for details). Additionally: each teacher will teach reading and writing within their specialized content area, meaning that your student will receive substantially more instruction in reading and writing, and that said instruction will be immediately relevant in a wide variety of authentic contexts.


In this example (your student’s schedule will vary), this student has Specials, Integrated Literacy and then math. If it is a Blue day, they go from math to Language Arts with Mr. Callahan, and then after recess and lunch, they go to Social Studies with Mrs. Marshall and are dismissed from Social Studies at the end of the day. If it were a Gold day, they would follow the same schedule for the first half of the day (Specials, Integrated Literacy, Math) and then go to Science with Ms. Molitor, and end the day in Engineering with Mr. Nelson.

On its face, this schedule may seem confusing, but we promise it will make sense in short order! What’s more, the benefits of this sort of schedule far outweigh any “head-scratching” it might cause:

  • Students will stay with their “core cohort” throughout the day (except for math), allowing us to build, within each cohort, the sorts of learning communities that 5th grade students thrive in...
  • Students will receive substantially more reading and writing instruction within a variety of relevant contexts (For example: consider how much “sense” is makes to teach students how to read and write science texts, in a science class!)...
  • The “block” schedule allows each specialist teacher to plan and implement significantly more in-depth and meaningful lessons within their content area...
  • The alternating Blue/Gold schedule prevents students from being “overwhelmed” by these in-depth classes while at the same time keeping those lessons “fresh” in their minds…

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