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Fifth Grade

The fifth-grade year is often spoken of as “the golden year."

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This title has been given it because of the wonderful place that fifth-grade children, eleven-year-olds, mature to. They are more balanced and poised in themselves than they have ever been before and than they will be again until the completion of the coming years of puberty and its rapid intellectual development.

Fifth graders are physically balanced. Usually able to run and jump easily, they are well proportioned and know their bodies, making them graceful and capable. They have left the roundness and lack of coordination of the young child behind and have not yet begun to grow so quickly in size and strength that their bodies are a continual surprise to them.

Intellectually, fifth graders have a greatly increased capacity for examination, thought and reflection. Their actions are much more planned and considered than in previous years, and their minds can take on a depth and breadth of study previously impossible. The fifth-grade year encompasses a wider scope of study than any previous grade. The children are growing in their intellectual capacities, and the curriculum meets this expansion with the study of ancient cultures, both mythic and historic, from ancient India to classical Greece. Their work reflects this new depth to their understanding and questioning.

The fifth grader also shows a great deal more balance socially and emotionally. A fifth-grade class is usually a harmonious group, with sincere attempts to compromise and apologize being made by all children involved in an argument or dispute. By the end of year, the divisions between boys and girls and among social groupings are diminishing, leading to a smooth and comfortable classroom environment. Fifth graders are also much more capable, taking on more challenging classroom cleaning, chores and work than in previous times.

Fifth Grade Curriculum

Rhythm of the Day

Each day begins with Main Lesson. The main subjects, such as history, language arts, science and mathematics are taught in blocks of 2 hours per day, with each block lasting from 3 to 6 or even 8 weeks long.

Depending on the teacher, the fifth grade still begins with a circle time, a time of movement filled with songs, rhymes, mental math and other exercises to prepare the child for the Main Lesson work.

After Main Lesson the children have a hearty snack (brought from home) and time to play outdoors.

The afternoon consists of subject classes including handwork, movement, french, music and art, as well as lunch (brought from home) and more time to play outdoors.

The fifth-grade study of mathematics has two aspects—a continuation of fractions into decimal fractions and percent, and the introduction of geometry. Fractions are developed into decimal fractions and decimal numbers. All four operations—addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division—with decimals are introduced. Percentages are then introduced and elementary work with them completed. Fifth-grade geometry is freehand geometric drawing. The relationships between expansion and contraction and within points, lines and shapes are examined. We divide the circle into its 360 degrees and draw and examine triangles, hexagons and circles. Tools such as compasses may be introduced. The mathematical work is concluded with an introduction to area. Throughout the year there are regular practice lessons and assignments to continue to strengthen mathematical lessons from earlier years—including metric measurement, averages, means, ranges and estimation skills.


The stories of fifth grade center around five ancient cultures. Areas of study include Ancient India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece. During the year the story curriculum moves from a content based on the mythic heritage of each of these great cultures to the historical stories of Greece. This study is brought to a conclusion by spring participation in the pentathlon. This event is attended by ten midwestern schools and provides an experience of truth and beauty in athletic competition.

The fifth-grade reading curriculum is really a process of deepening and developing their already existing reading skills. Throughout the year the children are slowly called on to use their reading skills to support their learning in other areas such as ancient cultures or science. The way that each teacher works with the reading curriculum is an individual decision based on his or her knowledge of the class but may include oral reading, group reading, reading quizzes and book reports.


Writing continues to develop during fifth grade with more focus on formal writing such as report writing. Teachers work individually to develop more knowledge of, and attention to, grammatical standards, spelling, writing flow and imaginative depiction.

As with the earlier grades, the fifth graders continue with their work in flute, singing, speech and movement each morning. Flute work in the fifth grade usually includes part playing using the diatonic c-flute the children have had since third grade. The difficulty of the singing pieces also increases with a focus on harmony and part-singing. Speech work continues to develop as does the complexity and challenge of the morning movement work.

Painting and other artistic activities continue during the fifth-grade year. Painting moves into the curriculum areas of the year. Drawing includes new and more challenging techniques. Clay work begins during the fifth-grade year.

The fifth-grade play is often a play in which children take on truly independent parts for the first time, being independently responsible for their lines and role. The topic of the play is usually centered on the story curriculum for the year.

In fifth grade the focus in the science block turns to botany and the world of plants. With a slightly more rigorous focus the children examine the various phyla of the plant world, learning how to identify them as well as studying their development, reproduction and role in the natural and human world. In addition, the fifth grader takes up geometric drawing with a focus on the geometric nature of the world around us.

The study of the world around the fifth grader is deepened with an entry into the world of the plants. This builds upon the understanding of the animals that has been built up throughout fourth grade. Throughout this block a turn to a more scientific and detailed examination of the world is made, with direct observation of plants and botanical formations being made by the students. Finally, scientific terminology is also introduced for the first time in this block.

The fifth grade geography curriculum is centered on the ancient cultures studied and North America. The study of the areas of the world inhabited by the ancient cultures is focused on developing an understanding in the children for the geographic potential and limitations of an area and the way in which this has affected the development of the cultures. The study of North America is a continuation of the local geography and history completed in fourth grade when the children studied the area of Minnesota. Native American cultures are a possible way to organize the study of the geographic world of North America. The study continues the gradual reaching out away from home and familiar ground. Although the focus of the block is on geographical features of the continent, some cultural geography is usually included. Regional music, literature, history and art are brought into the classroom to give the children a specific sense of the individual place.

During the fifth-grade year there are a number of good field trip opportunities, especially around the botany block, that culminate in the spring trip to the regional pentathlon competition. The pentathlon serves as the fifth-grade camping trip and as a direct connection to the study of Greece.