“Life is always hard, but when I started writing, I felt something different, something changed.”
~ Valery L., Ms. Chat’s class
The Untold Truth About 5th Grade: Essays is an anthology of research-based essays written by the fifth-grade students of P.S. 90. The title is sprung from a cheeky cohort of students looking to delight in what is otherwise considered (by your average fifth- grader) a dreary obligation: ugh, essays. My primary objective as writer-in-residence was to dismantle the resistant assumptions that make research essays unapproachable, and unleash the joy inherent in any genre of writing that liberates the authentic voice.
Central to the process was a thorough investigation of source material and text — what does it mean to gather research, and how does that information inform a writer’s choices? Citing sources, articulating questions, and synthesizing material was central to our work together.
The residency was broken into three sections, integrating academic material students were learning in other areas specific to the fifth-grade curriculum: Early Explorers/Colonialists, Ecosystems, and Health & Nutrition. Each essay and correlating research was designed to cater to the subject. Our history essays, for example, involved a number of articles and textbook excerpts that revealed all history has perspective. As writers, students had to be conscious of where their information was coming from, and in so doing, claim an individual perspective with greater awareness and deliberation. For the ecosystem essays, students worked collaboratively to research the various aspects of an ecosystem of their choosing, looking to pictures and descriptions to accurately portray the environment, and how human beings engage with that environment. Finally, on the subject of health, students were tasked to compose argumentative essays wherein they provide evidence to back a claim regarding what they believe is the key to a healthy lifestyle. Research for these included everything from articles, posters, and videos to parental advice.
With three essay drafts under their belts, students chose one that resonated with them most, one they wanted to return to and work on further — to rewrite, edit, sculpt more thoroughly. Those chosen essays are the ones published here.
None of this could have been made possible without the tremendous support of my glorious collaborating teachers: Ms. Chat, Ms. Rust, Mr. Escobar, and Mr. Fries. My hat’s off to you! I feel so grateful to have landed alongside teachers so fully committed to the well-being of their students and always game to play, work, and keep vibes copacetic. And none of this would have been made possible without the determination and chutzpah of Principal Hawkins — I feel so grateful to have worked with a leader who understands the importance of this work.
And last — but certainly not least! — a shout out to the fifth-grade class of 2018. You are a clever bunch and it’s been a delight to witness your growth. Remember, to write is to speak to a compassionate listener.