Grade 5


Once the students have reached 5th Grade, they are skilled at interpreting texts from a reader’s point of view and have begun to simultaneously consider the author’s point of view and impact on a text. Reading Workshop continues to build students’ reading stamina while teaching them to move from concrete reading practices to more abstract analyses. The units of study expose them to a variety of fiction and informational genres while giving them the tools they need to navigate more complex structures and examine themes and point of view. Using the workshop model, students listen to a read aloud story that demonstrates comprehension strategies that they then apply to their independent reading lives. Extending their work in 4th Grade, students investigate the ways in which an author uses characters to convey universal themes. This character analysis then becomes a means for understanding the biographical subjects and perspectives in narrative nonfiction. In studying expository and hybrid nonfiction, students examine the different text structures authors use to convey ideas and how writers communicate main ideas and supporting details. Gathering in book clubs for an historical fiction unit, students collectively confront and discuss challenging themes presented in books during a historical time period, while analyzing how authors’ perspectives affect style, structure, and other literary elements. Students then read and compare nonfiction text sets, using both articles and opinion pieces, about a debatable issue. During our fantasy unit, students dive into the world of fantasy, analyzing the use of symbols and the struggle between good and evil. At the conclusion of the year, students will use nonfiction texts to support their research in a social studies project.

As the children continue to develop as readers and their stamina builds, they learn to go beyond the concrete storyline and appreciate text on an increasingly abstract level. In their study of various genres, students develop the skills to comprehend increasingly complex texts and to recognize and contemplate the larger ideas communicated through literature. Students learn to summarize the main points of what they have read and use textual evidence to make logical predictions and insightful inferences. As they read, students are able to recognize the structure of a text and to understand the relationship of different parts of the text to each other and to the whole. They identify main ideas and are able to synthesize multiple ideas to arrive at original thinking. In addition, students learn to describe the theme or the author’s purpose and to cite supporting evidence in their explanations. They are also able to show how an author chooses information and employs a certain style and tone to serve his point of view.  Students learn how an author uses specific reasons and evidence to support each idea in a text and precise words to create tone. When reading narratives, students pay special attention to how and why individuals, events and ideas change. Students learn to compare and integrate information from multiple sources. Throughout the year, students continue to use decoding and context clues to read and understand unfamiliar words.


The Writing Workshop aims to teach students to communicate their ideas in a variety of written forms. In all units of study, the students follow the writing process of idea generation, planning, drafting, revising, and editing. They begin the year by writing a personal narrative from another point of view, using descriptive and dramatic details, and now requiring the development of a theme. Turning their focus to nonfiction, students choose a topic of interest to help them create a feature article. Building on their persuasive essay writing skills, students develop a research-based argument essay on a topic of their choice. Students write a memoir about one event that happened to them at school during their time at the Lower School. For the year’s final project, students use their research to help them write a research report on a topic in social studies.

In 5th Grade, students build on their experience writing narratives and research reports to produce more complex and varied compositions. In their narrative writing, students enhance their writing with rich details that enliven the story while also conveying point of view and theme. Research skills take a major role during the year, as students focus on expressing ideas that they support with evidence. In writing opinion pieces, they hone their ability to express a view in a thesis statement and support it with solid reasons and evidence. In addition to printed texts, students independently use technology to conduct research on the Internet. Seeking out multiple sources on a topic, they learn to assess the reliability of each one and work on taking effective notes. Then they either paraphrase or quote the information, always citing their sources. When planning and drafting, students learn to always keep their purpose and audience in mind. Finally, they strengthen the potency and clarity of their writing through revision and editing. They place particular emphasis on sentence fluency, word choice, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.


Throughout the year, students become fluent with formulas, algorithms, and problem-solving strategies through teamwork and self-exploration. The overarching themes of 5th Grade Math include fluency with numbers and numeration, operations and computation, data, measurement, geometry, and algebra. They develop an understanding of formulas and algorithms to solve problems involving whole numbers, fractions, and decimals using the four operations. Measurement concepts involving data, capacity, area, volume, and coordinate systems, as well as geometry concepts, including finding surface area, perimeter, density, and volume are explored throughout the year. Students are also introduced to the concepts of variables and equations.

Students are encouraged to apply a variety of strategies to solve problems as they practice problem-solving skills in independent, small-group, and large-group configurations. Throughout the course of study, students demonstrate their ability to read and write whole numbers and decimals, identify place value, and use expanded notation. Students also learn multiple strategies to multiply and divide whole numbers, decimals, and fractions. After developing an understanding of fractions, they begin to discover the relationships among fractions, percentiles, decimals, rates, and ratios. Using their knowledge of input and output carts, they solve equations with one variable. Students investigate geometric properties to describe, compare, and classify plane and solid figures and apply formulas to find surface area, circumference, area, and perimeter of shapes.


The 5th Grade Science curriculum explores science through collaborative discovery and a process based on fact and support for concepts involving the earth. In addition, the curriculum emphasizes nonfiction reading in the sciences, and writing to record and analyze experimental observations. Students spend the year studying earth science. The earth science units include an exploration of meteorology, the study of astronomy, an in-depth look at plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, the rock cycle, and rock and mineral properties and identification.

Students reinforce the basic principles of the scientific method while incorporating components of the IB lab report. Students learn all aspects of experimentation by collaborating with lab partners, reading and following instructions, using proper safety procedures, recording data, and cleaning up materials appropriately. They organize their data and develop the proper technique for drawing conclusions. In the meteorology unit, students explain and analyze different weather patterns in order to create a weather report. Students then research a specific planet in order to create a hotel with excursions appropriate to their planet’s atmosphere for a travel expo in our astronomy unit. Students investigate the theories of plate tectonics to explain the effect the movement has on various landforms with an in-depth look at the formation of earthquakes and volcanoes. Students finish the year studying rocks and minerals in order to compare them based on their properties and characteristics.

Social Studies

During 5th Grade Social Studies, students gain a deeper understanding of the forces that shape countries physically and culturally by researching characteristics of geography and ancient civilizations.  The goal is for students to engage in the process of inquiry by exploring the features of civilizations, how they are constructed, and how they have changed/developed over time to meet the needs of their members.  At the start of the year, students will first learn about the principles of geography. This is meant to help students gain an understanding of how civilizations exist and are shaped through elements of the natural world. Students will then deepen their knowledge through analysis of the ancient civilizations: The Stone Ages/Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, and Ancient China. Some features that students will use to support their inquiries into ancient civilizations are: how they met the needs and concerns of their members, geography, government structures, job specialization, complex religions, social classes, writing, art, architecture, and public works.

Throughout the year, students will participate in both guided and independent inquiry projects to learn how to ask questions and research to reach understandings. During inquiries, students will be challenged to be flexible in their thinking, use systematic writing skills to support their ideas, and carry out self-directed research into topics of interest. To do this, students will construct inquiry proposals, align research tasks to standards, develop artifacts, and create informational presentations. Community and the ability to work together will be a large part of our learning process throughout the year. At the end of the year, students will use the knowledge they have learned to create civilizations of their own.


The main focus of this year is on developing confidence in communicative skills for students, while helping them to advance their reading and writing. Students should feel more comfortable speaking in the target language. As a class, we work on reading and constructing dialogues; interactions and conversations between classmates are encouraged and are part of the classroom experience. Students in 5th Grade think critically, comparing customs and mannerisms between the United States and Mandarin-speaking places, as more cultural mannerisms are presented.


Students begin the semester reviewing previous themes and basic verbs and begin to conjugate regular and irregular verbs more accurately and continue to developing confidence in communication skills. As students become more familiar with interpreting high frequency structures and vocabulary in various familiar contexts, they develop the skills to consistently write and speak in complete simple sentences. Students continue to regularly practice proficiency-based performance tasks in order to enhance their proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Through language study, also students learn about the products, practices, and perspectives of Hispanic countries. In this course students begin to learn how to use and maintain reference resources and technology tools that help them to be successful in their Spanish studies.


In this course, students review and build on previously learned material. Students begin to conjugate regular and irregular verbs more accurately and continue to develop confidence in communication skills. Students are encouraged to take creative risks in the language so that they may begin to express themselves freely and easily. As students become more familiar with the particular structures, expressions, and vocabulary in various types of conversation, they develop more complex writing and verbal skills to reinforce their communication abilities. Interacting with a partner and participating in a variety of activities in French is the basis for each class meeting.  Students also learn about the culture, food, and traditions of people in Francophone-speaking countries using the Internet and by watching interactive learning series.

Visual Arts

Students in 5th Grade Art are encouraged to develop their ability to create and respond to meaning in visual imagery, to experiment and problem solve, to express their own ideas, and to reflect on their finished work and works in progress.

Our focus in 5th Grade is Public Art. This unit begins with contemplating the definition of public art. The students explore public art throughout civilization, ancient labyrinths, medieval gargoyles, and 20th century artists Louise Nevelson and Alexander Calder. An example of a project for this unit involves creating artwork for our school elevators. This project was inspired by the MTA’s Poetry in Motion. Students create an artwork and a poem for the riders of the elevators.

Each year,  5th Graders are inspired in different ways and students work out methods to spread art throughout the public spaces of Léman Manhattan. Past projects have included a Matisse-inspired paper cut out mural and hidden sculptures throughout the building.


Our 5th Grade musicians continue to progress in either Band or Chorus class. Within these ensembles, the students work to refine their musical literacy, musicianship skills, and collaborative skills in preparation for their continued studies in Upper School Music.  


While most students in the 5th Grade Band will be second year players, new students with no experience are also welcome. With differentiated instruction and a commitment to practicing, beginners can be very successful in the 5th Grade Band. Instruments offered for instruction are: flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, french horn, trombone, euphonium and percussion. This course encompasses ensemble rehearsals as well as weekly group (no charge) or private (for a fee) lessons. 

In this class, students review and reinforce prior musical knowledge and technique through familiar tunes and basic sight-reading. They learn new rhythmic ideas and notes through new scales including Eb Major, F Major, and C Major in different patterns. Band members also learn basic conducting patterns in 4/4 time, the terms “up-beat” and “down-beat” in relation to conducting and the ensemble skill of following the conductor. The students in this class are able to distinguish between melody, harmony, and bass line, and define the role each part plays in music. Fifth Grade Band students also begin to identify tuning problems and their solutions, and discuss how tuning is related to harmony in music. They learn and define different musical styles in preparation for challenging new repertoire. The 5th Grade Band studies and performs grade 1–1.5 concert band literature and performs at least twice per year.


Students continue to develop their vocal range utilizing healthy vocal techniques from their previous year of training. However, new students are welcome in this class regardless of prior choral music experience. With differentiated instruction, beginners can be very successful. In 5th Grade Chorus, students learn new physical warmups and more complex vocal warmup exercises. They strengthen their aural skills by critically assessing their vocal performance as a group and identifying areas for improvement. Students demonstrate the ability to maintain their own independent part while singing in 2-part harmony. Fifth Grade Chorus members also complete a song-writing unit creating original lyrics and melodies. They continue to read, write, and dictate tonal patterns, identify notes on the staff, read melodies, and describe different types of advanced intervals.

Physical Education

Fifth Grade students participate in both competitive and cooperative activities. Our curriculum offers a balance that allows each student to be successful throughout the school year.

Warmup games and activities allow students to work on basic fitness concepts both individually or in a small-group setting. Students participate in a variety of team sport units, which include soccer, basketball, floor hockey, diamond games, and pickle ball. During these units, students review the rules of the game and discuss offensive and defensive strategies. Students are reintroduced to positions for each team sport and how to play those positions. Small-sided games are played so that students can discuss and apply those strategies with their teammates. Fifth Graders also participate in an extensive fitness unit that promotes strength and endurance. Basic fitness concepts are introduced throughout the unit, including taking and monitoring your heart rate through and after an activity. Our cooperative units include Tinikling, scooter, and adventure/strategy games. The highlight of our year is the circus arts unit, which incorporates eye-hand coordination, balance and manipulation. Students practice juggling balls, manipulating devil sticks and yoyos, walking and balancing on a slackline and stilt walking. The culmination of the school year is our Lower School Field Day. On this day, students compete in relay races and activities, displaying good sportsmanship and respect for classmates.


The year begins with a quick review of pool safety rules and routines. Once in the pool, students review skills learned previously and build upon those skills to enhance their stroke development, endurance, and strength needed for lap swimming. Each lesson allows for practice of these skills and the time to develop the endurance needed to be a capable swimmer.

Each class lesson includes elements of distance and drill work that helps improve coordination and strength. Students participate in drill sets to help develop technique. Lessons include pull buoys and kickboards to help strengthen both the pulling and kicking phases of each stroke. Students learn all four competitive swim strokes in the same manner. We emphasize the value of long, relaxed strokes as well as patterns and rhythms. Swimming is promoted as a competitive sport and a lifetime activity.

Fifth Graders love our junior lifeguarding unit. Students learn the basics of being a junior lifeguard which includes treading water, surface diving, stride and compact jumping, assessing a scene, performing a reaching assist, and most importantly, learning how to keep themselves safe while helping others. Our last unit of the year is games and activities, which includes relay racing and water polo.

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