In fifth grade, students are academically and emotionally ready to think analytically and take on complex challenges. A growth mindset is encouraged as teachers support students in generating their own thinking through the encouragement of responsible risk-taking and the completion of problem-based learning tasks. Flexible-leveled groupings in math, reading, and writing allow teachers to differentiate instruction and meet the readiness levels of all students.
Teachers begin to prepare students for Middle School by encouraging flexibility, practicing transitions, and beginning to change classes for different subject areas. In fifth grade, each teacher provides instruction in language arts to their homeroom classes, and students switch teachers for math, science, and social studies. Organizational strategies are practiced and study habits modeled.
In math, students move from conceptual to analytical thinking as they discover real-world applications for fractions, decimals, algebra, geometry and problem solving. Language Arts reading centers provide an opportunity for students to read and discuss different novels depending on readiness levels. During discussion, the fifth graders use a Socratic seminar strategy to generate more complex questions and apply comprehension strategies. This leads to a deeper understanding of the book and a synthesis that helps them better understand the world around them. Genres presented include: fiction, non-fiction, verse, graphic, poetry, and various primary sources. The fifth grade literature is used to teach students to justify their opinions in writing, using evidence from the text. A five-paragraph essay outline is taught and applies to a variety of genres including creative, expository, persuasive, and poetry.
Problem/project-based learning in collaborative teams is an important aspect of the science curriculum. While working in groups, students generate authentic questions, conduct research, and collect data, resulting in a culminating project where their findings are presented. The scientific method and tools to measure and communicate data are emphasized. A long-term STEAM project is also completed during the year. In social studies, history is brought to life through a series of simulations, project-based learning, research, and debates. Students develop their abilities to take notes, sequence events, summarize texts, understand cause and effect relationships, work with primary resources and other various materials. Although knowing our history is important, understanding what is going on in our present day world is crucial; therefore, students will research and share current events weekly.
In music class, students learn the ins and outs of putting on a play production, culminating in the performance of The People Speak. The play is based on the Howard Zinn documentary that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans. It presents the voices of those in history who demanded equality, justice, and social change while presenting the relevance of their struggles to today's society. Not only do students participate as actors, they also run the lighting, sound, and backstage crews.
Students attend a variety of specialty classes including: Art, Spanish, Music, PE, Digital Literacy, Library, Student Support, and Instrument Instruction. Please click on the buttons to the left to learn more about Lower School specialty classes.
Genius Hour provides students with time every week to develop a project based on their own interests. During this time, students think critically and flexibly, practice research skills, collaborate with peers, build a product, synthesize information, and revise products to increase efficiency or complexity. Students may choose to work in group or alone to research and create. Sometimes students are asked to spend homework time working on their “genius project.” The teacher is merely the facilitator who converses with students, asks probing questions, and provides needed support or materials.
Problem/Project-Based Learning (PBL)
PBL is a student-centered pedagogy in which students learn about a subject through the experience of solving an open-ended problem. Students learn both thinking strategies and content knowledge. The goals of PBL are to help students develop flexible knowledge, effective problem solving skills, self-directed learning, effective collaboration skills, and intrinsic motivation. Working in groups, students identify what they already know, what they need to know, and how and where to access new information that may lead to the resolution of the problem. The role of the teacher is to facilitate learning by supporting, guiding, and monitoring the learning process. The teacher builds students' confidence to take on the problem, and encourages the students, while also stretching their understanding. Often times the learning culminates in the generation of a group project which allows students to share new knowledge and engage in service learning to address those challenges.
Early philosopher, Socrates, modeled learning strategies through questioning, inquiry, and critical thinking. During seminar circles, students engage in meaningful conversations about literature. They take notes and discuss the eight writing strategies outlined in the book Strategies That Work, and share opinions. Their intention is to build upon each other’s ideas, better comprehend the literature, and synthesize the information to understand the world around them. Socratic discussion guides students to deeper understanding of what they read through peer conversations and extended writing responses.