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"Fifth grader asks her own questions"

I'm having fun in fifth grade in District 41.

In social studies my whole class made Indian shields, deerskins, and villages, and 3-D caravel models. We also made collages from gold-colored magazine cut-outs and we colored and pasted sea serpent window pictures.

In math we did worksheets with mazes and decoding of secret words and sentences. We interviewed 20 people and made a picture of a wolf for graphing. We've practiced about 40 math problems.

In science we made oobleck, slime, and a wave bottle. We learned about optical illusions and how toys act in space.

In reading we read the book "Lizard Music" out loud. If we lost our place, we had to do something silly, like skip around the room and sing "Happy Birthday" or say the Barney Song out an open window. We listened to a story and watched a video about Pecos Bill.

We have done a lot of acting that we tape and then watch. We put on a court trial, "Western Civ Rap," and a western melodrama we made up. Each group even made up a skit in science. We went to see "Camelot" as our field trip.

For the last half hour each day we play games like Scattergories. We also make up our own gameboards, like "What would you do". Some kids actually stuck their faces in whipped cream and other kids sprayed silly string on their clothes.

The question I have is why is fifth grade so easy? Why do some third grade kids at daycare have harder work and more homework than I do? Why are school projects like daycare projects?

I thought teachers are supposed to teach me how to do a report, read better, write better, and learn harder math. By fifth grade I thought I was supposed to learn how to take notes, how to outline, and how to study.

I'm going to middle school next year and I'm scared. My teachers don't believe in assigning homework, so I won't be ready for sixth grade. My mom says that the district average for sixth grade writing was below the state average, so I'm not the only one who isn't ready.

I feel real bad about some of my grades, when it's not my fault. I know I'm smart, but I don't know what to change to do better at school. I can't study harder or work ahead, because we aren't using books or even many worksheets. Study papers aren't handed out until the day before a test. I don't know how to study for a test in only one night, let alone when there is almost nothing to study with before that.

Without things in writing I'm not learning to read or spell hard words in social studies and science. If I don't understand something in class the day it is taught, my mom can't help me, because there is nothing to take home. Since we don't do many assignments by ourselves, my mom and I don't know when I don't really understand something.

When I was eight, I swam more than 100 lengths a night on swim team. It wasn't fun, but it takes hard work to get good at something. In gymnastics I have to practice a lot to learn new skills. How do I get good at school, if I do mostly art projects, plays, and games? Shouldn't school be different than daycare?

Stacy Soquet

P.S. My mom helped me with this letter. She said real writers write for a reason about something that matters to them and for an audience.

From "Letters to the Editor" in The [Glen Ellyn, IL] Journal, November 23, 1994