5th Grade Curriculum Guide

The Grammar School

Fifth Grade Curriculum

Fifth grade is a year of tremendous academic and social growth. Students develop core academic skills while gaining experience and confidence in independent thinking. Students are asked to become increasingly responsible for their learning and are encouraged to develop and explore new areas of skill and interest. An interdisciplinary and thematic approach to studies encourages students to discover how areas of learning interrelate.

Fifth grade is a year of emotional and physical maturation as well as social and intellectual development. Students begin to evaluate social dynamics independently. They experience a greater sense of personal responsibility and invest in the process of exploring interests and opportunities. The physical energy inherent in the fifth grade child is recognized, accepted, and channeled through hands-on learning, dynamic games, ropes course activities, a schedule of hikes to local mountain peaks, and cross-country ski tours. A conscious partnership between home and school is the foundation of each child’s positive experience.


The English curriculum for grade five rests on a foundation of extensive reading and intensive writing. Through reading, writing, and associated projects, students develop a broad array of skills. Class literature selections include My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George), James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl), Journey to Topaz (Yoshiko Uchida), The Incredible Journey of Lewis and Clark (Rhoda Blumberg), A Fair Wind for Troy (Doris Gates), Lord of the Sky (Doris Gates), The Peaceful Warrior (Ed Clayton), Gandhi (Amy Pastan), and d’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths (Ingri & Edgar d’Aulaire). Book projects, class discussions, study questions, written reading responses, creative writing, and poetry assignments promote the development of expressive and knowledgeable writers.

Fifth graders practice the writing process, which reinforces the steps of brainstorming, drafting, revising, conferencing, and editing. Selected pieces of writing are polished and shared with the class. Content for writing assignments comes from personal experiences and themes in the literature we read. The fifth grade teacher keeps writing portfolios documenting each student’s growth as a writer. We use the writing and revision process to develop grammar skills. Grammar lessons from Steps to Good Grammar (Walch Education) are used to develop grammar literacy. Everyday Words from Classical Origins is the core of our spelling instruction. Specific grammar and spelling skills are also introduced and reviewed as necessary. Fifth graders are encouraged to type final written work and expected to practice neat penmanship.


The goal of the fifth grade math program is to strengthen a student’s understanding of basic math operations and introduce the concepts necessary for a strong foundation in higher math. With the Common Core Curriculum Standards as a guide, we use the Everyday Mathematics program as a framework for the math curriculum. This curriculum reinforces skills through class activities and individual work. It also emphasizes problem solving with games and word problems integrated in the lessons. Fifth graders review basic facts and operations while working to develop an understanding of estimation, place value, fractions, percents, probability, decimals, measurement, graphs, and geometry. We also use a variety of manipulatives throughout the year to develop and strengthen skills. Mechanical drawing lessons incorporate geometry terms and reinforce measurement skills. Students are introduced to algebraic concepts through exercises in Hands-On Equations, a game-based introduction to linear equations. Student comprehension is assessed through class participation, review of constructed responses, regular homework assignments, quizzes, and periodic tests.


The focus of the fifth grade science program is to develop the basic processes of scientific investigation. Students strengthen their scientific literacy through hands-on activities and experiments. We begin in the fall with a unit on physical science. An initial study of forces leads to the construction of wooden cubes, bridges, and mechanized vehicles. Students read sections of David Macaulay’s book Building Big in conjunction with hands-on learning. The fall term also includes a number of environmentally based lessons designed to enrich our first literature project. Activities may include explorations with educators from the Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center and the Nature Museum at Grafton. During the late fall, students engage in a LEGO robotics project designed to integrate basic computer programming and engineering.

After the winter break, students conduct several air pressure experiments. Our purpose is to practice designing and organizing experiments, to communicate a scientific process or phenomenon, and to build proficiency in hypothesizing, experimenting, and reporting.

In the spring, we study the skeletal and muscular systems of the human body as well as the respiratory, circulatory, digestive, and reproductive systems. Our focus is on health and wellness. Students read and discuss selected passages from Mary Elting’s The Human Body and the Contemporary Health Series curriculum Into Adolescence: A Time of Change. Bill Nye and National Geographic videos complement our reading. Microscopy labs, building models, and dissecting hearts and chicken wings are included activities that facilitate learning and understanding.

Social Studies

During the fall term, students learn about the transcontinental exploration of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Specific U.S. geography skills are emphasized through map-drawing exercises and charting the route taken by Jefferson’s Corps of Discovery. Our investigation is enriched by independent research, map and compass work, and art projects.

In the spring term, fifth graders study life in Ancient Greece. This unit focuses on reading and interpreting Greek mythology and investigating the history of democracy. Special attention is paid to Athens under Pericles and the Peloponnesian War. Important parallels are drawn between Greek democracy and American constitutional government. Students gain practice in research methods as they work on a theme-related report. They practice note-taking skills, learn to use an outline, and become familiar with organizational strategies.

This year, our school-wide cultural study focuses on the country of South Africa. History, geography, agriculture, customs, art, climate, cooking, music, and education are some of the areas that we will explore. 5th graders will work in conjunction with students in grades K-6 in this exploration of South African culture.

Study Skills

Strong study skills are emphasized in fifth grade, and each student is expected to keep an updated assignment schedule. Time management skills are fostered in class and practiced throughout the year. Homework assignments include math, reading, reading responses, illustrating work, and map work. Students are expected to complete neat and thorough work for evaluation. Students can expect to have between 20 and 45 minutes of homework each day, including 20 minutes of independent reading. Math homework is generally assigned each day. A weekly spelling lesson and one spelling test are assigned each full week. Weekend homework begins in January.

Social Curriculum

Fifth graders are continually engaged in games and group and individual challenges that are designed to promote positive social dynamics. The social curriculum at TGS is designed to complement the academic curriculum and help maintain a healthy social and learning environment. We define a healthy school community as a place where people have a sense of belonging, where adults and students extend and receive respect in their relationships with each other, and where people feel both a sense of support and personal challenge to help them learn and grow as human beings.


The fifth grade art curriculum introduces an analytical approach to looking at and thinking about art, while at the same time applying the concept of productive play. Students learn the principles and elements of design, and experiment with a variety of media and techniques. Mindfulness and sustained focus figure largely into this year’s curriculum, with a closely linked integration of math. Ratios are studied through the paintings of Wayne Thiebaud, measuring fractions through his colorful desserts. Other projects include Op Art by Victor Vasarely, horse sculptures in the style of Deborah Butterfield, and vases painted in the subtle style of Giorgio Morandi. Students work on improving overall drawing ability and familiarizing themselves with the proportions of the human head and observation of light. In the winter term they do an in-depth integrated study of Greece, creating papier mâché vases and mosaics that depict mythical characters and stories, as well as Greek banners stenciled by hand.


The 4-6 Chorus meets weekly throughout the year and performs at the K-6 Spring Concert. Additionally, the 4-6 program includes one session per week of recorder and one general music class, which alternates at different times of the year between music composition and dance. In music composition, students compose melodies while developing their knowledge of rhythm, key signatures, major and minor modes and scales, chords and chord progressions, and theme and variations form. In recorder, students choose between soprano, alto, tenor, or bass recorder and trios or quartets are added to their ensemble repertoire.


In fifth grade, we use the book QTalk, a series based on the use of flashcards. This method has students speaking rapidly about places they go, activities they do, and things they like to play with or use. We use online games and lessons to practice writing and listening comprehension. Storytelling provides another outlet for language use and practice. Class meets three times per week for 30 minutes in the French room.


In fifth grade, students are introduced to Spanish in a fun and interactive way. The main goal for this year in Spanish is to “feel” the language and have a strong desire to continue learning Spanish. We begin the year by asking questions about why it is important to study Spanish. From there we dive into an array of Spanish topics such as the alphabet, greetings, pronouns, verb conjugations, verbs, school vocabulary, seasons, Spanish poetry, and an extensive study of all the Spanish speaking countries. Within these contexts, students learn to expand meaningful sets of vocabulary, as well as develop a working knowledge of basic grammar and conversation. Students learn poems, fun songs, and perform a variety of weekly skits. During the year, students create their own beautiful books that illustrate their active learning. Throughout the year, we have opportunities to meet Spanish-speaking people in our classrooms. At the end of the year, students are comfortable with speaking, writing, and listening in the present tense. This class meets three times a week.


The fifth grade meets with the librarian once a week to share and discuss books. Fifth graders choose library materials from a variety of sources to support class work and reading for pleasure.


Basic computer skills and an introduction to music technology are important components of the fifth grade technology program. Students work in groups, individually, and with several faculty members throughout the year in different learning situations. Technology is integrated in physical science projects, writing, and music composition. A robotic Lego NXT programming unit is a featured aspect of the winter science curriculum.

Physical Skills Development (PSD)

In fifth grade, the PSD program is designed to give children the chance to develop physically through play, games, skill tasks, core exercises, and movement activities. Activities highlight various themes of the program strength and endurance (both muscular and cardiovascular), coordination, game skills, sportsmanship, and social interaction. The daily program varies in size and structure of the groups. Fall activities promote positive social dynamics, gross motor skill development, and endurance and coordination. Ground based games and low and high rope-course activities provide students the opportunity to take on “challenge by choice” and supportive roles within the grade group. After-school cross-country running practice and meets are scheduled through the fall, as well as soccer practice and games with other schools. In winter, students focus on cross-country skiing and have the opportunity to receive downhill skiing instruction. During the spring term, cardiovascular and muscular development remain the focus of our program. 5th graders traditionally punctuate the year with a rafting trip, several challenging hikes, and an overnight stay in The White Mountains.