Middle School

Children are naturally eager to question, develop their own theories — even change a point of view.

Fifth Grade


The fifth grade math program supports students as they continue to transition from concrete to abstract reasoning skills.  The mastery of basic skills supports the higher-level thinking and more complex concepts of middle school mathematics

The learning environment in fifth grade is based on small group instruction, with a variety of instructional materials and methods designed to reach and students. The Harcourt Mathematics program provides the basic foundation for the program, which is supplemented by a variety of resources, including the Making Math Real program that provides a highly visual and kinesthetic approach to math. Our goal is to reach all of our learners as effectively as possible, using a variety of differentiation techniques to provide both support and challenge as needed.

Fifth grade students deepen their understanding of the relationships between numbers and and practice applying algorithms and strategies effectively. They further develop their problem solving and perseverance skills as they tackle more complex mathematical challenges requiring use of multiple strategies. Our students apply ltheir learning in our school garden, in the sixth grade kitchen, and in projects lab, where they plan, design, measure, and construct a variety of projects. Math is also deeply integrated into science, as seen in data used in science fair projects, and in our social studies explorers unit where students calculate distances and scale.

Goals and Objectives

Number Sense:

  • Identify numbers to the billions places
  • Identify numbers to the ten-thousandths place
  • Identify prime and composite numbers
  • Determine least common multiple and greatest common factor
  • Identify value of single digit numbers up to the power of 10

Data Analysis:

  • Identify range, mean, median, and mode
  • Interpret and construct graphs (bar, circle, line)
  • Interpret and analyze data (line plots, stem and leaf plots, cumulative frequency tables, and histograms)
  • Choose appropriate scale and interval


  • Calculate perimeter and area of right triangles and parallelograms
  • Estimate conversions (temperature, capacity, and length) within and between customary or metric systems
  • Accurately weigh using balance and spring scale
  • Accurately measure capacity in customary and metric units

Operations and Computation:

  • Demonstrate automaticity of multiplication and division facts 
  • Demonstrate mental math skills with the four operations
  • Multiply large numbers (beyond hundred thousandths place) by 3-digit multipliers
  • Perform steps of long division using 2-digit,whole number divisors
  • Represent quotient and reminder as a whole number or fraction
  • Perform steps of long division using a 2-digit decimal divisor; add and subtract decimals to hundred thousandths place
  • Divide double-digit whole numbers and decimal divisors
  • Relate and name equivalence of fractions, decimals, and percent
  • Add and subtract fractions and mixed numbers with like and unlike denominators; 
  • compare and order fractions and mixed numbers with like and unlike denominators
  • Reduce fractions to simplest form


  • Use a formula to find the circumference of a circle
  • Identify congruent, similar, and symmetric figures
  • Measure the angles of polygons 
  • Calculate the missing angle measurement in triangles and quadrilaterals 


  • Write algebraic expressions and equations using variables
  • Solve for “x” in basic, one-step equations using the four operations, and checks accuracy using substitution and mental math
  • Plot ordered pairs on a coordinate plane
Social Studies

Fifth grade students expand their earlier studies of history to our nation’s history beyond California. The year begins with a focus on the Age of Exploration. Students learn about the personalities of the explorers, and the political situations that led to such adventures. Drama and art are heavily integrated into this unit as students create large, old-fashioned, and accurate maps of the world, and produce an Age of Exploration play that is shared with parents. This unit culminates in a day of sailing on an historic eighty-two foot schooner on San Francisco Bay.

Coinciding with the study of explorers comes the understanding that there were already communities thriving in North and South America. The clash of cultures and the impact this had on history is a main topic, along with the in-depth study of the cultures that lived in what is now the United States. In this unit students explore the connection of all cultures to the earth and the dependence on natural resources.

Fifth grade social studies then turns to the Colonial Era through the Revolutionary War, with a focus on exploring and understanding life in the different colonies. Events leading up to the Revolutionary War, and the debate between loyalists and Patriots, always provides rich contrast and opportunities for debate. At the end of the year, the students create a colonial village in our school garden, complete with cooking and games areas.

Throughout the year, fifth grade students learn and apply study and research skills. Choosing relevant material, either in print or online, note-taking, outlining, and applying the writing process are all a part of the program. Students use Keynote presentations and podcasts to share their learning, reinforcing the communication and public speaking aspects of our program. 


  • United States geography and map skills
  • The Age of Exploration
  • Native Americans
  • Early English settlements and colonial life, including slavery
  • Events leading up to the American Revolutionary War
  • Current events
  • International Day (focus on one country for school-wide event)

Goals and Objectives

  • Identify important political and physical geography of the United States
  • Identify key parts of the world map: four hemispheres, compass rose, equator, prime meridian, seven continents, and four major oceans
  • Apply latitude and longitude skills to locate specific locations on Earth’s surface
  • Identify fmajor physical features of the United States (examples: the Mississippi River, the Sierra Nevada, the Great Plains, the Great Lakes, etc.)
  • Locate and name all fifty U.S. states

Age of Exploration:

  • Explain why some Europeans left for the New World
  • Create an accurate world map in the style of the 1600’s incorporating one explorer’s journey to the New World
  • Research one explorer and create a podcast, “This Explorer’s Life,” to highlight explorer’s major accomplishments; portray an explorer in the class play

Native Americans:

  • Locate seven Native American cultural regions and identify at least two tribes who inhabited each region
  • Describe how geography and climate influenced the way tribal nations lived and adjusted to the natural environment, including structures that they built, how they obtained food and clothing
  • Discuss how specific historical events shaped the lives of at least three Native American tribes
  • Compare and contrast the differences in shelter, food, clothing, and historical events of at least three Native American tribes

American Colonial Era:

  • Name three early American settlements - Roanoke, Jamestown, and Plymouth and explain how these settlements were established
  • Compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of the New England Colonies, the Middle Colonies, and the Southern Colonies
  • Describe and understand a typical day in the life of a colonist
  • Describe the introduction and institutionalization of slavery into America, and the historical struggle between proponents and opponents of slavery

American Revolutionary War:

  • Summarize key events that created tension between the colonists and Britain which led up to the American Revolutionary War
  • Prepare key arguments made by Patriots for independence and by loyalists against independence in a panel discussion

Current Event Presentations:

  • Make oral current events presentations summarizing news source and stating an opinion
  • Write a current event summary including a topic sentence
  • Take notes on other students’ current event presentations

Skill Development:

  • Reading for information
  • Outlining text
  • Note-taking
  • Editing and revising reports
Language Arts

The fifth grade language arts program supports each student’s development in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and critical thinking skills. Our ratio allows for small group and individualized attention, so that teachers have the flexibility to differentiate curriculum to meet the needs of a variety of learners in the classroom. 

Continuing to develop and foster a love of reading is an important goal in fifth grade. Small-group literature circles reinforce and encourage independent reading, and whole-class reads and teacher read-alouds give students the chance to experience written text in a variety of formats. Reading selections vary from year to year based on the class curriculum and student interest. All middle school students read at least thirty minutes daily as a part of their homework and fifth grade students use Reading Response Journals to record responses to reading. RRJs provide a medium for students to make connections between their reading and personal experience, the text itself, or the wider world.

The fifth grade writing program uses the writers’ workshop approach to support and reinforce the development of writing skills, including idea development, organization, voice, vocabulary choice, sentence fluency, spelling, and grammar. Students follow a series of steps with each piece of writing, including brainstorming and mind-mapping, first draft, peer council session, teacher edit, and final draft. Students learn that writing comes in many different forms and for different audiences, and we introduce a variety of writing styles throughout the year, including expository and narrative writing.

Along with a focused spelling program, the most effective way to become a better speller is to read and write as much as possible. Each week fifth grade students take a spelling pretest in the form of dictation. The dictated paragraph contains words that follow a certain spelling pattern or specific topic. Students are retested at the end of the week. This process allows our students to learn spelling words in context.

Public speaking is reinforced through current event presentations as well as other opportunities for students to share their knowledge in creative ways across the curriculum. Fifth grade students practice oral presentation skills every week, and respond to presentations as active listeners. Language arts is embedded across the curriculum, and skills are reinforced ubiquitously.

Goals and Objectives


  • Read aloud narrative and expository text fluently and accurately with appropriate pacing, intonation, and expression
  • Identify plot, setting, characters, and theme
  • Utilize prediction skills
  • Make connections between the novel/text and real life experiences
  • Extrapolate main idea or conflict and how it is resolved
  • Distinguish between fact and opinion in written text
  • Identify and analyze the characteristics of different types of genres, including historical fiction, science fiction, mystery, nonfiction, biography, poetry, and short stories
  • Draw inferences, conclusions, or generalizations about text and support them with textual evidence and prior knowledge.


  • Utilize the steps of the writing process 
  • Construct a paragraph using topic sentence, supporting details and conclusion
  • Organize a how-to paragraph describing an activity in simple, clear steps
  • Write poetry using descriptive vocabulary, similes, metaphors, and personification
  • Write a weekly practiced dictation with minimal mistakes 
  • Write a proper personal letter
  • Cite research information for research papers
  • Create a persuasive essay with an established topic, clear examples and a concluding paragraph that summarizes student’s opinion
  • Summarize a current event in a paragraph including who, what, when, where, how, and why

 Handwriting and Typing:

  • Write cursive legibly and read cursive
  • Demonstrate mastery of basic keyboard skills


  • Identify nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, conjunctions and prepositions
  • Use punctuation appropriately (periods, question marks, exclamation marks, quotation marks, and basic comma rules)


  • Use context clues to derive understanding of an unfamiliar word
  • Apply words studied through the Wordly Wise program effectively

Listening and Speaking:

  • Give clear current event and other subject presentations
  • Listen and take notes on various class presentations (current events, social studies, and science topics)

Our fifth grade Spanish program focuses on communication. Students take Spanish four times a week in order to focus on consistent speaking, listening, and language comprehension without sacrificing the teaching of grammar and vocabulary. Our teaching approach maximizes the students’ communication skills. The model is based on working in small groups so the students can practice newly acquired skills together.

The fifth grade curriculum revolves around a series of thematic units that can be considered bridges which the students cross to reach aspects of the Hispanic culture and content areas. Each unit focuses on a Spanish-speaking country. We learn about their daily activities, points of interest, and culture. 

In fifth grade, students find themselves learning about high interest topics in greater depth. We use the inductive approach to present and reinforce grammar and language practice. With this approach students hear, see, and read specific examples of grammar. The students learn the skills and use the Spanish language more frequently.

Goals and Objectives 

Listening Comprehension:

  • Discriminate sounds in meaningful contexts
  • Distinguish intonation patterns
  • Understand basic instructions in Spanish
  • Interpret common words in context


  • Respond to most routine statements, questions, and commands
  • Employ appropriate stress and intonation patterns in oral communication
  • Use words, idiomatic expressions, phrases, and sentences as they apply to common, real-life situations
  • Use their conversational skills during a field trip to a Spanish speaking local restaurant


  • Decode most common expressions learned orally
  • Read nontechnical passages on familiar themes
  • Pronounce correctly sounds segments, stress patterns, and intonation patterns
  • Use cognates as tool for reading comprehension


  • Be able to use basic constructions and vocabulary to communicate essential information related to common, real-life situations
  • Write familiar materials and simple dictation within the norms of Spanish orthography
  • Develop an outside the classroom experience through “Pen-pal Program” giving the students opportunities of global education

Major Projects:

  • “Day of the Dead” (varies every year)
  • Dioramas
  • Written communication with Pen-pals in México
  • Animated stories (iPads)

Integrated Curriculum:

  • Physical Education: rules of some sports, parts of the body, nutrition
  • Social Studies: Spanish speaking countries and their culture, special assemblies concentrated in the music and dances of the Spanish speaking countries (Youth in Arts)
  • Life Skills: different life styles in the Spanish speaking countries – how it compares to ours

Community Ingegration:

  • Kermess: a unique festival common to the Spanish-speaking countries where the whole school community participates
  • “Día de los Muertos” altar project
  • Written communication with Pen-pals in México


The Spanish grade is based on four factors of equal importance:

  • Homework/special project
  • Tests/quizzes
  • Individual participation
  • Group interaction

The fifth grade science curriculum covers topics in earth, physical, and life science. Our framework is based on a variety of resources, including the Science Content Standards for California Schools, and includes flexibility to integrate current science ideas and themes. A big focus in 5th grade is learning about “disposability consciousness”. Using resources sustainably, caring for the Earth, and reducing our carbon imprint are important themes woven into the classroom curriculum daily. During science lessons, students are participating in experiments that embody problem solving activities, working on global problems, and are learning about careers in a variety of scientific and engineering fields. Learning takes place in the classroom, science lab, and in our school garden, where hands-on activities, projects, and simulations help to make the curriculum come alive. A range of single day field trips bring additional depth and breadth to the program, and the expertise and experience of outside naturalists adds value to overnight trips to Point Reyes and Yosemite. Science is also deeply integrated with other subjects in fifth grade, particularly social studies. Students discuss, observe, read, do research, write, and engage in hands-on projects and experiments. Developing critical thinking and problem solving skills is a primary goal as students form an understanding and respect for how science relates to the individual and his/her environment.

Goals and Objectives


  • Identify the major oceans, global surface currents, and five major gyres
  • Determine ocean depths (feet, meter, fathoms) and bathymetric features
  • Determine ocean salinity and temperature in degrees Fahrenheit and Celsius
  • Examine quality of ocean water and health of marine mammals
  • Discuss the affects of plastic in the gyres
  • Explain the cycle of tides and interpret tide charts
  • Identify wave anatomy; explain how waves form, travel (fetch), and affect coastal shores

Selected project:

  • Creation of a three-dimensional dioramas identifying features of the ocean floor.
  • Research on a specific region in the ocean and creation of a map with: latitude/longitude; predominant weather patterns, prevailing winds, and ocean currents; depth range; winter/summer water temperature range; major bathymetric features; marine mammals specific to the region, including their current status and conservation.
  • Tracking of winter swells in Northern California culminating in a field trip to see “Mavericks,” the big wave surfing contest Half Moon Bay. Students interview big wave surfers and winter swell forecasters, and explore tide pools.

Weather, Weather Forecasting, and Climate Change:

  • Build weather stations; collect and record weather data
  • Forecast with weather instruments; decode data
  • Examine air pressure, isobars and isotherms
  • Classify clouds and severe storms
  • Discuss folklore and forecasting
  • Examine Climate Change trends and patterns
  • Discuss Global Warming Issues 

Selected Project:

Students create a three-dimensional model of the carbon cycle; weather stations, pastel cloud formations, and conduct weather experiments. Some examples include: creating clouds and tornados and constructing wind vanes, barometers, and rain gauges.

Elements of the Periodic Table: 

  • Identify the three states of matter: gas, liquid, solid
  • Identify common elements and compounds
  • Examine properties of metals, alloys, and metalloids
  • Organize and group elements on the periodic table by their physical properties
  • Name the elements in the human body and their percentage
  • Examine chemical properties and acids and bases

Selected Project:

Projects vary: students create an interactive hanging model of various elements in the periodic table based on personal interest. Example: elements found in the human body, ocean, or atmosphere.

Structures of Living Things:

  • Examine how vascular plants transport materials
  • Explain the function of vascular tissue, xylem, and phloem
  • Examine leaf structures
  • Classify common angiosperms and gymnosperms
  • Examine flower structure and reproduction
  • Identify the different parts of a flower
  • Identify and compare plant and animal cell structure and functions
  • Examine human structure and reproduction (Life Skills Program: dives deeper into puberty and specific changes the body goes through during adolescence)
  • Compare human and plant reproduction
  • Identify major human body systems
  • Name the major bones of the skeletal system

Selected Projects:

  • Students spend time in the garden observing and sketching leaf and flower structure. Students will dissect a flower and identify the reproductive parts.
  • Students create a detailed diagram of their skeletal system and name the major bones.
  • Body Investigators: students research various body responses, such as hiccups, sneezing, blinking, etc. and create a short informative skit, interview, or commercial on iMovie.

 Innovation and Design Thinking/STEM Science Fair:

  • Identify what it takes to be an inventor, review the Engineering Process, identify a problem, build background research, make a plan and build a prototype, test and collect data, improve and redesign, and draw conclusions and communicate.
  • Compare how the design process is similar/different to the scientific method. Examine how the design process causes technology to develop
  • Identify tools scientists use to make qualitative and quantitative observations: thermometer, dropper, tape measurer, ruler, spring scale, forceps, hand lens, magnifying box, timer, microscope, graduated cylinder, safety goggles.
  • Design an invention using the STEM Science Fair 
  • Present your invention 

Selected Project:

  • Design an invention using the STEM Science Fair 
  • Present your invention
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