Learning Guide: Fifth Grade

Their schoolwork becomes more challenging, but these developing preteens spend less time worrying.
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Portrait of a Fifth Grader

Look at your fifth-grade "baby" and you may no longer see a child. For many girls, fifth grade previews the onset of puberty. Boys are not there yet, however, and girls may be a lot taller than the boys. For boys and girls alike, fifth grade often heralds the first flicker of interest in the opposite sex, although they both still want one close same-sex friend. Fifth graders are very much like six- and seven-year-olds in wanting to please. They constantly ask the teacher, "Is this what you want? Is this what you said?" They are willing to help others and not as critical as they will become. Happily, they also seem to spend less time worrying than they did last year. Change is in the air, however: for many children, this is the last year in elementary school.

What your child will learn

Despite a demanding academic calendar that includes detailed work with fractions and serious novels, social issues will dominate the year for most students. Teachers spend a lot of time developing self-worth, with a great deal of emphasis on the subject of friends -- especially on how to pick good ones. Formal drug-awareness programs start this year, with role-playing of situations in which peer pressure is most intense. Many schools also teach children about puberty, sometimes by bringing in a medical expert; some separate the sexes for these classes, while others do not. Teachers report that some fifth graders act silly and giggle through the talks. Other students store the brochures and can't wait to look at them when they're alone at home. Kids this age love to perform on stage and get especially involved in extracurricular team sports. Many teachers focus on building independence to get students ready for the middle school or junior-high years. Reading skills taught in fifth grade are an extension of those learned in previous years, but are applied to more complex works.

Continued on page 2:  In the Classroom


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