Parent Guide to the Curriculum: Fifth Grade

Language & Literacy

Highlights of what your child will learn in fifth grade include:

  • Quoting accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • Determining the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language, such as metaphors and similes.
  • Describing how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.
  • Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a fifth-grade topic or subject area.
  • Comparing and contrasting the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in two or more texts.
  • Analyzing multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.
  • Drawing on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.
  • Integrating information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
  • Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.
  • Writing informative or explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
  • Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective techniques, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
  • Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • Conducting short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
  • Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on fifth-grade topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • Adapting speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, using formal English when appropriate to the task and situation.

Characteristics of books for proficient fifth-grade readers

  • Informational texts, high fantasy, science fiction, realistic fiction, traditional literature including myths and legends, biography, memoir, autobiography, historical fiction, mysteries, genre combinations, satire
  • Chapter books, series books, graphic texts, diaries, logs, photo essays
  • Variety of underlying structures (description, comparison/contrast, sequence, problem/solution, cause/effect) and formats (question/answer, paragraphs, boxes, legends)
  • Narratives with complex plots, multiple storylines, and multidimensional characters to understand
  • Narratives with unusual text organizations (flashbacks) and a variety of structures (parallel and circular)
  • Many texts requiring knowledge of history and current world events
  • Content requiring reader to take on diverse perspectives (culture)
  • Critical thinking required to judge authenticity of texts
  • Complex themes that build social awareness and reveal insights into human condition
  • Use of descriptive language, figurative language, and symbolism important to understanding story elements
  • Long strings of unassigned dialogue; some switching through dialogue, including time change

Characteristics of proficient fifth-grade readers

  • Process full range of genres with longer texts requiring readers to connect ideas over multiple days of reading
  • Automatically adjust strategic actions to skillfully use genre
  • Encounter mature themes that expand their knowledge of social issues
  • Encounter abstract forms of literature, such as satire, and literary devices, such as irony
  • Themes are multidimensional
  • Most reading is silent; fluency and phrasing in oral reading are well established
  • Able to read aloud with expressiveness after practice
  • Can read and understand descriptive words, complex content-specific words, and technical words that require using a variety of readers’ tools to determine meaning
  • Search for and use information in an integrated way


Highlights of what your child will learn in fifth grade include:

  • Understanding the place value system.
  • Performing operations with multi-digit whole numbers and with decimals to hundredths.
  • Converting like measurement units within a given measurement system.
  • Writing and interpreting numerical expressions.
  • Using equivalent fractions as a strategy to add and subtract fractions.
  • Applying and extending previous understandings of multiplication and division to multiply and divide fractions.
  • Analyzing patterns and relationships.
  • Understanding concepts of volume and relating volume to multiplication and to addition.
  • Classifying two-dimensional figures into categories based on their properties.
  • Representing and interpreting data.
  • Graphing points on the coordinate plane to solve real-world and mathematical problems.


Fifth-graders study science in both the classroom and science lab through hands-on lessons. Students learn about ecosystems and build eco-columns with living organisms. They also explore space by studying the sun, moon, stars and planets, and learn about the water cycle as well as chemical reactions and properties.

Science Topics

  • Ecosystems
  • Sun, moon, stars and planets
  • Chemical reactions and properties
  • Water cycle

Social Studies

In fifth grade, students strengthen their geography and map skills. They study the geography, culture and economy of North America, South America and Central America, and discuss current events.

Library/Media Program

The media center supports the grade-level skills in the Empire State Information Fluency Continuum. Media center staff teach these skills in collaboration with classroom teachers on a variety of projects, particularly in the subject areas of social studies, English Language Arts and science.

In fifth grade, children learn to:

  • Use sources to acquire background information and brainstorm ideas for further inquiry.
  • Assess questions to determine what can be answered by simple facts, what cannot be answered, and what would lead to an interesting inquiry.
  • Select and use multiple appropriate print, non-print, electronic, and human sources to answer questions.
  • Use navigation tools of a website to find information.
  • Interpret information taken from maps, graphs, charts and other visuals.
  • Determine important details.
  • Use various note-taking strategies (e.g., outlining, underlining, bulleted lists, highlighting, graphic organizers).
  • Use software (e.g., word processing, graphic organizing) to record and organize information.
  • Identify and use the organizational structures of a nonfiction book (preface, foreword and introduction) to locate information.
  • Make inferences with guidance.
  • Cite all sources used according to model provided by teacher.
  • Check for correctness and completeness.
  • Identify and evaluate the important features for a good product.
  • Assess and revise their own work with guidance.
  • Work collaboratively using technology for research to meet information needs.
  • Discuss responsible use and misuse of technology and describe personal consequences of inappropriate use of information and technology.


Academic Intervention Services (AIS) are offered in reading and math for students who need extra instruction and support. Students who are eligible for AIS services score below benchmarks according to multiple assessment tools, including:

  • New York State English Language Arts or math assessments;
  • Fountas and Pinnell running records;
  • DIBELS Next and DIBELS Math; and
  • iReady assessments.

Students may receive AIS services during the intermediate school’s Sunrise program; “pull-out” support, in which the student leaves the classroom during the day to work one-on-one or in groups with an AIS teacher; or “push-in” support, in which an AIS teacher goes into the student’s classroom to work with them. Students who do not receive direct AIS services may still receive “monitor” services, which means the child is given support and monitored closely by their classroom teacher.

AIS reading support focuses on improving student skills in decoding, comprehension and fluency. Possible interventions include:

  • System 44, a technology-based program that focuses on phonics;
  • small-group reading instruction that focuses on comprehension;
  • small-group reading instruction that focuses on phonics; and
  • individualized reading instruction that focuses on phonics.

AIS math support focuses on improving student skills in computation (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), as well as solving word problems.


Intermediate school students attend one 55-minute session of art per week. During this time, students are challenged to explore the elements and principles of art as they create using a wide range of materials (traditional and technological). The BPIS art room is a place where interdisciplinary standards converge as math and ELA concepts are infused throughout different projects.


In fifth grade, students learn computer skills that will help them succeed in middle school. Fifth-graders work to increase their typing speed and accuracy. They also discuss digital citizenship topics, such as real versus fake news posted on the internet or social media and how to cite sources used for research. Students also complete a research project that encompasses all the skills that they have learned.


In fifth grade, students continue to build on the foundation built in their elementary years. They continue to play the recorder and learn songs that connect to history and their classroom curriculum. All fifth-graders participate in chorus and prepare for and perform in three concerts.

Physical Education

During two 45-minute PE sessions each week, fifth-graders engage in a variety of activities. These activities are designed to not only to improve their gross and fine motor skills, but to help them learn to appreciate and value the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle. By the time they leave the intermediate school, students will able to:

  • Demonstrate manipulative (throwing, catching, striking, etc.), non-manipulative (stretching, twisting, bending, extending, etc.), and locomotor skills (skipping, galloping, etc.).
  • Demonstrate spatial awareness (self-space vs. general space) during activity through various pathways (curved, zig-zag, straight).
  • Demonstrate responsible personal and social behavior while engaged in physical activity.
  • Identify opportunities for extracurricular activities through local organizations, such as the YMCA and the Broadalbin and Perth youth commissions.