What a Fifth Grader Should Know

In the fifth grade, students study a range of academic topics designed to prepare them for successful entry into middle school. Continue reading to explore academic content and study tips for fifth graders.

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School Topics for Fifth Graders

English Language Arts


In the fifth grade, students read and discuss a variety of fictional and non-fictional texts, which may include dramatic literature, poetry and biography. When reading texts, fifth graders should understand how authors use setting, plot and character development to make larger thematic points. Fifth graders may be asked to explain how characters shift throughout a story and to describe how characters' thoughts or actions reveal their motives and desires. Classroom discussions may also emphasize how an author uses sensory details to create a mood and draw a reader toward a conclusion.


Fifth graders commonly write reports that contain titles, tables of content and simple bibliographies. They may also be asked to write fictional narratives, biographies and autobiographies. By this stage of learning, students are expected to include complex and simple sentences in writing assignments and to properly identify age-appropriate synonyms, antonyms and compound words. A teacher may also ask your fifth grader to use a dictionary to proofread his work.


During the fifth grade, students will practice mastering the four arithmetic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) with positive and negative numbers, decimals and fractions. By the end of the year, students should be comfortable completing multiple-digit multiplication and division problems. Math lessons are also likely to include finding the area and volume of geometric solids, such as cylinders, cones and pyramids. Students may use a protractor to measure varied types of angles and solve geometric problems.

Fifth graders are also expected to understand median, mean and mode, and to compute them from varied data sets. Finally, they may practice reading and placing ordered number pairs on graphs.


Though schools vary in how they teach science at this level, students are likely to study topics within earth science, life science and physical science. For example, a physical science lesson might explain that matter is composed of atoms, which can combine in unique ways to form molecules. In a life sciences section, students might learn about the basic digestive functions of the mouth, stomach, intestines and colon in mammals. An earth sciences unit may cover aspects of the earth's processes, such as exploring weather patterns or how water moves through the atmosphere via evaporation and condensation.

Social Studies

Each school offers a unique social studies course; however, it's fairly common for fifth graders to study cultural and historical aspects of the North American region. Students may investigate the formation of the United States, immigration to the colonies and the Declaration of Independence. Students might also explore the Native American societies in the Americas before Columbus's arrival. Social studies students often create oral presentations and write informative reports on related topics of interest.

Study Tips

Reading 15-25 pages each evening can be a useful way for fifth graders to increase their reading fluency and develop vocabulary skills. If your fifth grader struggles to complete her reading assignments, ask her to read a passage aloud to you. Alternatively, offer her an incentive by allotting time for free reading once she completes her required reading. You might also suggest that she read in a fun setting, such as in the backyard or on a comfy couch.

To support your fifth grader with his math facts, help him make colorful note cards of his multiplication and division tables. Then you can quiz him during meals or before he goes to bed. For a new way to practice extra math problems, see if your fifth grader can compute the bill at a restaurant by looking at the menu and making an educated guess for the tax when you go out for dinner.

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