In fifth grade, language arts includes reading, writing, and word study. The emphasis in reading is on improving reading skills in both fiction and nonfiction texts, including textbooks. The reading program includes individualized and small group reading activities and whole group reading, and vocabulary study using Storytown, the core reading program. In addition to the core reading program, fifth grade students begin basic literary analysis through reading and discussing literature. Novels are selected based on student and teacher interest, and over the years have included No Talking, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Out of My Mind, Pictures of Hollis Woods, and Stargirl. Students are also given time each day to pursue their own independent reading interests.
The core writing program, Being a Writer, is a writing workshop approach. The program relies on the use of mentor texts and emphasizes the writing process--keeping a writer's notebook, drafting, revising for meaning, and editing. The curriculum also teaches students how to participate in the classroom writing community--being a good listener, respecting the writing of fellow students, sharing ideas and materials. Students self-select topics within a structured framework and explore the genres of personal narrative, nonfiction, poetry, fiction, and the test genre of writing on demand. Throughout the year, students maintain a writer's notebook which holds all of their draft writing and allows both student and teacher to assess student writing progress over time.
The third essential component of the language arts program is Words Their Way, a developmental word study and spelling program. Highly differentiated, word study is taught based on each child's developmental spelling level.
The fifth grade science curriculum is rich in content and hands-on experience. The science curriculum includes units on scientific investigation, matter, light and sound, the relationship between the Earth, sun, and moon, geology, ocean topography, and the five kingdoms of living organisms. Students learn how to make scientific predictions and how to collect, record, and report data. Students learn how to use scientific instruments including the compound microscope and the triple beam balance, how to calculate mass and volume, and how to use a classification key.
Social Studies: Ancient Civilizations
The fifth grade social studies curriculum strives to make the study of ancient civilizations both meaningful and relevant. Through the History Alive! program, ancient civilizations are studied individually and thematically, and are examined through the lens of social structure, technological advancements, belief systems, and language development. There is an emphasis on the use of artifacts as primary sources and the importance of viewing history from multiple perspectives. Study includes the Ice Age migration, the peopling of the Americas including the Inuit, Anasazi, Aztec, Maya, and Incas, the ancient river civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China, the Middle Ages in the middle East, Europe, and north Africa, and the civilizations of Greece and Rome.