5th Grade: What to Expect

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5th grade what to expect

Nicholas and his teacher at graduation.

Photo by Dlp11494

As we count down the days to back to school, the Daily Buzz talks with moms and public school teachers about what you and your child can expect in the coming year.

Today elementary school teacher debbymichelle and and post-fifth grade mom Dlp11494 give us the inside scoop about ...


Dlp11494 At my son's school, the whole emphasis was to prepare him for the next big step -- middle school. The children were in a separate section of the school, had lockers (without locks), more homework, and took on more responsibilities in the classrooms. Even the class parties were planned by the children, and not many parents were involved this year.



Reading By 5th grade, your child should be a confident reader.  While teachers will continue reviewing decoding skills, the focus is now on reading comprehension.  Students should be reading daily for knowledge and enjoyment.

Math Content will build on 4th grade skills. Your child should be able to add and subtract mentally, and know their times tables by heart. This will help them to be successful when asked to multiply and divide larger numbers and decimals. Fifth graders will also work with fractions on a higher level, learn to graph equations and ordered pairs in four quadrants, and there will be an emphasis on systems of measurement and conversions. 

Social Studies The overarching theme is likely to be United States history.

Science Themes may include the solar system and the human body.

Behavioral Issues

debbymichelle If your child's school only goes up to 5th grade, your child will be feeling like a "top dog."  As the year goes on, students may begin testing their teachers and principals to see how much they can get away with. Be consistent with your discipline at home, and continue to express your expectations that your child still does his best until the end of the school year. Communicate with your child's teacher about behavior and work habits and be vigilant and encouraging that your child develops and maintains good study habits at home.

Dlp11494 My son had a bit of a difficult time because the other children seemed to be maturing faster than he was. There were issues with foul language being used by other children as well as some bullying. My son is very sensitive to that.


debbymichelle You are likely to see close to an hour of homework, four nights a week, and required daily reading of up to 60 minutes. If that seems excessive to you and him, speak to the teacher to see if there's an underlying issue (i.e. -- not paying attention in class) and possibly modifying assignments. Just remember, your child's teacher is trying to prepare him for middle school, where he may have as many as six or seven teachers, each giving a homework assignment every night.

Dlp11494  There was a lot more this year. It was overwhelming for my son at times, but he dove right into it each day as soon as he got home from school.

Social Scene

debbymichelle Children begin forming alliances with certain friends and deciding they don't want to spend time with others. In most schools, 5th graders are still in a self-contained classroom with the same kids all day long, so they are taught to work respectfully with other students, even if they are not friends outside of the classroom.  As "top dogs" in their school, there is a tendency to form cliques, as certain students are excluded from social circles, and some students may exhibit bullying behaviors as they try to assert themselves as the eldest. 

By maintaining open communication with your child on a daily basis, and about events both in and out of the classroom, you will be better able to watch for signs that your child may be excluding or bullying others, or that they may be a victim of these behaviors. Make sure you bring it to the teacher's attention and work with her toward a solution.

Dlp11494 It seemed as if there were more cliques forming. The larger groups of friends seemed to be separating into smaller groups. No dating yet.  A lot of the boys were still in the "buddy" stages with the girls.


debbymichelle Many 5th grade teachers will continue to use a reward system to encourage positive behavior, such as class points, team points, or reward tickets, while also enforcing consequences, such as loss of recess time or time-outs to increase student responsibility. If your school plans 5th grade culmination activities, such as picnics, field trips, or ceremonies, students may not be allowed to participate if they are not showing appropriate behaviors or completing their school work. 


Dlp11494 There was definitely less of an opportunity to volunteer in the classroom this year.  As I mentioned earlier, the children took on the responsibility of planning class parties and projects. But the parents were still needed for field trips.

debbymichelle Most 5th grade teachers I know don't rely on having parent volunteers, but appreciate the help when it is offered and will try to find a way for parents to participate if they want to.

If you are interested in volunteering, let your child's teacher know what your availability is. She may have tasks that you can help with which may range from working with students in the classroom, to correcting completed student work, to preparing for future activities by cutting and pasting or collating papers at home.

Busing and Transportation

Dlp11494 My son had some issues with bullies, as well as the unruliness and noise level on the bus. My son is small for his age, and although he grew up with many of these children, they seemed more inclined to make fun of him than they did when they were younger.  

It also seemed that as the children get older, the bus driver is less able to keep them in line. My son came home crying several times, at times just from the amount of noise on the bus. I talked with the school principal, and it seemed to have helped for a short while.

What was the biggest challenge for your child in 5th grade?

Dlp11494 He didn't want to leave elementary school and move on to middle school and all of it's challenges. He enjoyed the smaller school and the friends he'd had since kindergarten. He has told me many times this year that he doesn't want to leave, that he is not ready to "grow up and be a teenager." In addition to that, the large amount of homework was a challenge.

What's the biggest concern you hear from parents of 5th graders?

debbymichelle The struggle with their child's increasing independence. Their 5th graders are beginning to assert themselves more and want to make more of their own decisions. But parents still need to be in charge. While they can find ways to encourage their children to express themselves, they must still lovingly teach them to fulfill their obligations as students and sons and daughters. 

Staying informed about their child's academic life demonstrates to the child that education is valued and encourages the child to strive to do their very best. Allowing their child to choose one or two chores (if they don't already have one) teaches responsibility at home. Setting clear standards for behavior and enforcing them through example and discipline will help your child adjust into adolescence as a responsible, respectful youth.

Since schools and activities vary depending on the district and where you live, tell us what the 5th grade experience was like for you and your big kid!


Also find out What to Expect in ...

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2nd Grade

3rd Grade

4th Grade

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