Sierra School

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4th & 5th Grade: Mrs. Hurshman & Mrs. Mishra

Get to Know the Teachers

My name is Laurie Hurshman, and I am very glad to be teaching at Sierra School, as I love the small class sizes and the emphasis on mastery and differentiation. I spent most of my life in southern New England, but am now in my fourth year of living in California. I earned my BA in Psychology from Williams College, and my MAT in Elementary Education from Western Governors University, which allowed me to receive a California teaching credential.

Mrs. Mishra is our classroom aide, and she is highly involved in the students’ day-to-day activities. She spends time with the students working one-on-one with them and assisting them in group work activities. We are so thankful to have Mrs. Mishra in the classroom!


What do we do in the 4/5 classroom?

Math: Students take a math pre-test at the beginning of the year to determine their placement in math. Currently, there are two main math placement groups in our 4/5 classroom. Every day, students in these groups are taught a new lesson from the textbook. When they finish their work early, they can either work on anchor, extension, or enrichment activities, or they can request to challenge a chapter in order to test out of it. If they score a 90% or higher on their challenge test, then they test out of the chapter and move on to the next chapter. Students who have been working ahead may look over a chapter and focus their study only on the parts they haven't yet mastered before taking the chapter test. Students are also given unique challenges that fall outside a standard mathematical curriculum.

Reading: This year in reading, we are doing an immersive experience with Native American literature. In differentiated groups, students will read leveled texts of increasing reading difficulty over the course of the year. With all literature, students will focus on key reading skills to align with Common Core standards, such as summarizing a text and identifying themes. 

Writing: Students work through the writing process on particular kinds of writing, such as persuasive arguments, narratives, and informational text. In accordance with Common Core state standards, students have both long-term writing assignments and "quick write" opportunities, which emphasize different skills. For long-term assignments, students are taken through the writing stages of research or brainstorming, planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing.


Social Studies: Students learn about historical people and events. Part of this is accomplished through the textbook, but this is supplemented by other resources such as documentary video. Fourth grade focuses on California history, while fifth grade focuses on the history of the United States as a whole. Emphasis is on critical thinking, understanding the forces that shape history, and thinking about the motivations and experiences of people as they shaped and were shaped by the circumstances of their time and place. In this way, students should be able to see how the past relates to the present, building a foundation which will allow them to learn lessons from history and avoid repeating its mistakes.

Science: Students learn both through direct instruction and through doing labs that help them to see facts and concepts for themselves. Students participate in hands-on experiments such as observing how water coheres and moves atop waxed paper and making a bottle barometer. Emphasis is on understanding concepts, particularly those highlighted for each grade in the Next Generation Science Standards, rather than on memorization of facts and details. This year there are units on Earth Science and Physical Science. 


What Field Trips Are We Going on This Year?

Mission Santa Clara, Pumpkin Patch, Giving Tuesday Community Service Field Trip, Guadalupe River Nature Conservancy, the San Jose Museum of Art, Theater Works Play, and Science Camp

Please feel free to contact Mrs. Hurshman at or by calling 408-247-4740.

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