News & Blog

3 Benefits to the 4th and 5th Grade “Loop” Model 

Janie Fahey
The 4th and 5th grades at Highlands are a vital transition during our students’ academic careers. Not only is the 4th grade the halfway point on the K-8 journey, but it is also the first time students change from a self-contained classroom to a departmentalized setting. Additionally, the students “loop” with the team of teachers for the fifth-grade year. The Highlands administration was very intentional in implementing this looping model as there are many benefits that contribute to student success. 

  • Builds Strong Relationships with Students 
Relationships are a key component of the success of our students. Having students two years in a row allows the opportunity to build strong relationships between teachers and students. The relationship between a student and teacher begins in the fourth-grade year and continues to develop the following year in fifth grade. Teachers learn about their students, their personalities, their strengths, and areas for growth as the year begins. In turn, the students learn about their teachers, their expectations, and routines in each classroom. 

When the fifth-grade year begins, the relationship between students and teachers is already in place. This allows the teacher to know where the child is in their learning journey at the very beginning of the year. Thus, allowing the teacher to accelerate the learning and development during this second year of looping because there isn’t a “get to know you” period. They can “hit the ground running” at the beginning of the year.

  • Builds Strong Relationships with Families 
Open and regular communication with parents is an important part of the Highlands experience. During the fourth grade year, because both students’ and parents’ experience quite a bit of change, the relationships between teachers and parents is very important to the success of the student. These two years together are an opportunity for teachers and parents to work together as a team to support the children. This is a relationship built on trust and communication. Often there are some “growing pains” during the fourth-grade year because a departmentalized classroom varies so greatly from a self-contained classroom, but through the year, the relationship grows between teacher and family. Parents feel more comfortable the second year checking in and/or asking questions about assignments for their child.

  • Enables Teachers to Manage the Classroom Effectively 
Because students are with the same teachers for a second year, they already know the class expectations and routines. Much of the beginning of the year is spent on students learning daily routines. But since they have already spent a year with the teachers, only a minimal review is needed at the beginning of the second year. The returning students know the routines and norms for the classroom in fifth grade, which helps new students quickly pick-up on the rules of the classroom and integrate. 

This looping model helps our students become more confident learners and build their self-esteem, helping prepare them for the next step in their journey, Middle School. 
Highlands School, 4901 Old Leeds Road, Birmingham, AL 35213, (205) 956-9731
Highlands School's 'whole child' approach to education and commitment to academic excellence, creative expression, and leadership development prepare and motivate students in grades 4k through 8 to make a positive difference in an ever-changing world. Located in Birmingham, Alabama, Highlands School holds dual accrediation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Southern Associations of Independent Schools (SAIS).

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