5th Grade: Fire Class » Fifth Grade Curriculum Overview

Fifth Grade Curriculum Overview



With a reading workshop format, students focus on both quality fiction and non-fiction texts.  They learn to appreciate the power of the written word and how it is used to convey emotion, information, and desire.  Using a balanced literacy format, students experience literature circles, independent reading, read alouds, and shared reading.  They learn to draw interpretations from text and support their conclusions with textual evidence, as well as grapple with complex themes and symbolism. 


Working hand in hand with the reading workshop, students will engage in a writing workshop in which they will write narrative, informational, and opinion texts.  A focus on writing for real audiences, working in partnerships, and an emphasis on sharing, provide a foundation for each writing task the students undertake. Students will continue to develop their researching skills, as a means to bolster arguments, make connections, and explore the world beyond our classroom. Vocabulary, spelling, and grammar study are embedded in writing instruction, and provide students with the tools they need to write with power.  



Fifth grade students start the school year with activities to develop their number sense, focusing on topics such as a prime, composite, and square numbers. They practice how to find the prime factorization, the greatest common factor, the least common multiple, and how to test for divisibility. Another big focus is on fractions and decimals and the relationship between them. Students practice adding and subtracting fractions and decimal numbers. Throughout our math studies, the focus is on developing students’ problem solving skills, deep understanding of mathematical concepts, proficiency with key-skills, and ability to solve complex math problems. Students work on problems and investigations in the areas of number, operations, algebraic thinking, measurement, and geometry, developing their mathematical thinking and reasoning abilities. Some of these problems and investigations grow out of ventures into everyday life, while others delve more deeply into the world of mathematics itself. Students are encouraged to explore, develop, test, discuss, and apply ideas as they learn to see mathematics as something that is creative and relevant.


The fifth grade Social Studies curriculum explores United States history from the time of Columbus’s arrival to just before the Revolutionary War. Students study the effect of the European arrival in the Americas through the eyes of the Native Americans; European exploration and exploitation; and early colonial efforts. In their text study, fifth graders touch on challenging aspects of US history, including inequities throughout US history.  Issues of social justice arise quite naturally through reading and discussion. 


In the FIRE class, an emphasis is placed on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) as students engage in design and build challenges throughout the year. Curricular topics include simple machines and the human body. Through an overnight trip to the Marin Headlands, fifth grade students study ecosystems and marine life.  Additionally, the fifth grade studies human growth and development during a week of puberty education.


The FIRE Class’ year long focus on power lends itself well to looking at our approach to social justice.  We inquire into the uses and misuses of power, what having or lacking power means, and how to use power with integrity.  We delve into the social dynamics of power as it relates to friendships, adolescence, and navigating social situations.  We ask deep self-reflective questions about how to have the power to stay true to values and morals as we walk through adolescence and life.  We also explore our responsibility as humans to promote equity in our world. 



Social Emotional Learning in the fifth grade involves guiding preteens to become allies and upstanders as they transition to middle school. Because they exhibit some "middle school" behaviors themselves, it is the ideal time to raise awareness of ways to be allies to their friends. Students expand their understanding through class discussion, object lessons based on social studies reading, vocabulary development, and read aloud pertinent to the adolescent experience.