Grade Five Course Descriptions

Language Arts

The fifth grade language arts program has three main learning strands- reading comprehension, critical thinking, and writing. An appreciation of different genres of literature is also encouraged.  Students learn to develop reading strategies for constructing meaning and acquiring new vocabulary in both fiction and expository text. We employ a method of interpretive reading and discussion known as Shared Inquiry. Students learn to ask interpretive questions, support their ideas with relevant evidence, and modify an argument to incorporate other perspectives. There is an emphasis on root words and suffixes in morphology, and students learn about basic grammar rules, including parts of speech, through their vocabulary studies and through their own personal writing. The goal of the writing component in the language arts curriculum is to help students become effective communicators using the written word. Students use the writing process to create several different types of written expression.  Opportunities to develop listening and speaking skills occur throughout the year.  Sample areas of study:

  • Junior Great Books

  • Strategies for Writers (six traits of writing)

  • Writing process

  • Morphology

  • Grammar (mechanics)

  • e-portfolio


The Math in Focus (the U.S. version of Singapore Math) fifth-grade program provides challenging practice problems to help broaden children’s thinking skills and extend their understanding of concepts.  The problem-solving questions are designed to challenge students to use relevant strategies for non-routine problems. Sample units of study:

  • Building problem-solving skills and strategies

  • Multiplying and dividing with 2-digit numbers, fractions, mixed numbers, and decimals

  • Solving equations and evaluating inequalities

  • Finding area of a triangle, and surface area and volume of three-dimensional shapes

  • Using ratios and percents, and finding the probability of an event

  • Applying properties of angles, triangles, and four-sided figures

Social Studies

As a complement to our year-long theme of transformation, students delve into three units of study during the year. They begin with a unit about comparative world religions, during which students learn the research process, including outlining and note-taking skills, and write an essay. While engaged in a unit about the European Renaissance, students explore the questions surrounding the transformations that occurred in Western Europe during this time period. Students also explore the transformations which took place during the 20th century, as modern inventions changed the way people lived. Extensive work with maps constitutes the fifth-grade geography focus. Sample units of study:

  • Comparative world religions

  • The Renaissance

  • 20th Century America

  • World geography and using maps


Students experience units of study that provide the opportunity to learn age-appropriate concepts and skills and to acquire scientific attitudes and habits of mind.  Students in the fifth grade begin moving through a progression of experiences that culminate with the design of controlled experiments.  Fifth grade students are also responsible for a science research project and oral presentation.  Sample units of study:

  • Ecosystems

  • Chemistry

  • Geology of US National Parks

  • The Red Cross program: Reaching Adolescents and Parents

World Language

Fifth-grade students move to the middle school to engage in 40-minute world language classes several times a week. For one semester they participate in Spanish, building on their years of lower school study. During the other semester, students ‘taste’ French as a new experience.  The year culminates in the students deciding which language to pursue for their middle school years: either Spanish or French. Through a variety of methods and activities, students are exposed to spoken and written Spanish and French. Students learn through games, songs, skits, projects, stories, and cultural activities. Sample topics:


  • Describing objects and people

  • Talking about animals including descriptions, habitats, and body parts

  • Numbers 1-1,000

  • Calendar, dates, birthdays

  • Basic conversation

  • Time

  • Introductory use of simple grammar, including subject pronouns and verbs

  • Locations and feelings


  • Greetings

  • Basic commands

  • Classroom objects

  • Describing people and animals

  • Cultural traditions including food

  • Weather

  • Family

  • Describing physical traits and personality

  • Describing people’s feelings


In the fifth grade students continue to explore the elements of art through two and three-dimensional projects. Advanced projects in drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, fiber arts, and clay round out the year. At this stage projects are more complex, typically involving four to eight class sessions to complete. Children progress at their own pace, and process is still more important than product. By fifth grade, students have developed specific skills and control of materials and tools with clay, drawing and painting, and sculpture.  Awareness of craftsmanship is emphasized. Highlights include religious architecture drawings, self-portrait drawings, and a multi-media ceramic and weaving project.  Some projects will be selected to reinforce classroom studies and may vary from year to year. Areas of focus:

  • Create advanced projects that explore line, color, texture, form and space

  • Use the vocabulary of art and design in discussions about class projects and art history

  • Observe and interpret meaning and emotion in the visual

  • Art history through imagery and books


The fifth grade music experience offers choral and instrumental opportunities. Building

on skills mastered during the previous grades, the fifth grade spends 55 minutes once is 6 day cycle in a performance choral group, reading scores in unison and two parts of music from different eras and cultures. An additional 45-minutes once in a 6 day cycle  session provides a hand chime experience. Both choral and instrumental classes require the students to creatively interpret the music, while working together as one large unit. Sample units of study:

  • Preparation for leadership role in the Grandparents’ Day Concert

  • Culminating end-of-year fifth grade concert

  • Experience large chime ensemble

Physical Education

Our goal is for fifth graders to leave the lower school with a good framework in a

variety of sports and skills, so they can be successful as they move to the middle

school. Students come to PE with their class twice a week for 30 minutes, and they come together one time a week as a whole grade for 30-minute intramural games. The fifth grade intramural time stresses cooperation and team play through a year-long games competition. Points are awarded not only for scoring, but also for good sportsmanship and effort. In class we will continue to work on sport specific skills as well as fitness concepts. Components of our program include:

  • Throwing and catching games that focus on gross motor skills

  • Sport specific units: basketball, soccer, floor hockey, Frisbee, badminton, volleyball, baseball, yoga, gymnastics and jump rope

  • Dance unit, which culminates with our annual lower school family dance

  • Field games unit, which culminates with Field Day at the end of the year

  • Fitness testing through Fall Fitness Day and the Fitness Gram

  • Intramural competition emphasizing sportsmanship and team play


The lower school library supports the Carolina Day School curriculum, encourages reading, and promotes research. More than 20,000 titles are available to students and parents via the web-based catalogue, along with a variety of electronic databases, print periodicals, DVDs, and audio resources. The library program is designed to foster a love of reading and to teach skills in locating and evaluating information. A primary focus is on providing appropriate and enticing materials for diverse reading interests and wide ranging reading abilities, so all students can find materials to support their learning and joy of reading. Lower school students are welcome to independently visit the library throughout the school day with their teacher’s permission.  Fifth graders are invited to participate in voluntary Literary Lunch Societies during their lunch times. These single gender societies vote to select the titles they read and discuss. Weekly library visits include:

  • Book talks to promote reading across genres and the North Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees

  • Analysis and evaluation of new novels and nonfiction to identify those deserving Newbery recognition

  • Voluntary participation in the Newbery Challenge reading and writing program

  • One-on-one reader advising

  • Locating, gathering, and interpreting information in the library’s print and electronic resources

  • Use of the library’s subscription databases

  • Use of the web-based catalog to locate library resources

  • Direct instruction in reading nonfiction

Discovery Time

Grade 5 Discovery time is a new program designed to expand students' learning opportunities and build on student and teacher interests. With the goal of moving beyond the curriculum and keeping the development of the whole child in mind, our offerings are intentionally including genres of technology, outdoor education, the arts, mindfulness-wellness, and athletics. Our first round of offerings included yoga, robotics, backpacking, and fantasy football. We are considering future programs such as 3D printing, trail building, compassionate communication, designing a podcast, folk singing and will adapt this list as we hear the interests of our students. With students in smaller, self-selected groups, we are able to deepen our relationships and challenge ourselves to take risks and learn beyond our traditional curriculum. 



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