Ah, fifth grade! It may feel tempting to sit back and enjoy the calmer pace of this last year of elementary school. But remember, you’ve got middle school on the horizon and big changes ahead. It’s time to be proactive.
In this article, you’re going to find out:
- What your fifth grader should know in terms of habits, behaviors and academic skills
- How you can proactively help your child prepare for the big transition to come
The habits and behaviors your fifth grader should know
When it comes to language arts and math, the biggest thing your fifth grader should be doing is getting ready for the jump to middle school.
Middle school is such a big change.
Some school districts do a really nice job of helping kids take baby steps towards middle school, so it doesn’t seem as overwhelming and stressful. For example, your fifth grader may be changing classes already and learning from multiple teachers.
And other school districts?
Well, let’s just say you may need to be more proactive in preparing your fifth grader and building new habits and expectations.
Here are some of the best ways you can help your fifth grader prepare
1) Point things out to your fifth grader that may seem really obvious to you.
For example, point out that some teachers have completely different rules than others — down to small things like where kids write their name and the date on an assignment.
Now is the time to help your fifth grader understand that expectations can be different.
Your child is going to need to be adaptable.
2) Help your fifth grader build more serious habits around homework.
Homework is going to count in middle school. Those grades will matter.
If you haven’t pushed your child to do his or her homework in the past, fifth grade is the time to start expecting homework completion, so your child is prepared for middle school.
For some parents, the nightly argument at the dinner table over homework is the worst.
Parents often tell us, “I help my child with homework, so I have peace at home.”
Just keep in mind, if you’re getting a lot of pushback over schoolwork, there may be a deeper reason for it. If your fifth grader is struggling, he or she is going to be even more resistant to doing homework in the future when it gets harder.
Now is the time to address the skills that are creating friction.
If you could use some help …
3) Build up your fifth grader’s “academic stamina.”
Emily Levitt, Vice President of Education at Sylvan, suggests looking at your fifth grader’s daily reading and writing habits for clues about stamina.
- Can your fifth grader sit down and write for a while with a pen and paper or by typing?
- Can your fifth grader sit down and read for 30 minutes at a time?
If not, you can change that. Academic stamina comes through practice.
Emily shares, “If you have a student who maxes out at 10 minutes, set a goal for your family that you’re going to shoot for 12 minutes this week and then, 13 minutes next week.
“Small increases create a lot less fuss. It’s no fun for anyone to jump from 10 minutes to 30 minutes!”
4) Start working on organizational skills and planning ahead.
As parents of elementary school kids, many of us are used to following up on everything. It’s in our DNA as parents to ask:
“Do you need your lunch money?”
“Is your homework in your backpack?”
“What do you need for school tomorrow?”
But in middle school, it’s time to start taking the training wheels off.
Better yet, start that transition in fifth grade.
At the beginning of the week, sit down with your fifth grader and discuss all the things that are on his or her plate for the week.
Ask: “”What do you think is the best way to get this all done without saving it all to the end?”
If your fifth grader has good ideas, incorporate them into your weekly planning.
If your fifth grader is stumped, model good behavior. You could say: “Okay, let’s look at this list. This particular assignment is pretty involved. You need to break this into smaller chunks and start on Monday …”
As months go by, start giving your child more independence. Stop checking up as much.
If your fifth grader needs to suffer a few consequences from time to time, that’s okay. Fifth grade is a great time to learn consequences because the stakes are much lower.
Your child needs to learn and develop personal ownership.
If you wait until middle school to teach these skills, the stakes and consequences are much higher. Your child’s grades can affect which path your child will be on heading into high school.
Not to mention, middle school is a stressful transition.
Anything you can do to remove some of the shock of the change will help.
5) Proactively think through smartphone boundaries.
Middle school is often the time that many families start giving their kids smartphones.
As your fifth grader approaches middle school, give yourself a chance to think through this, so you can set boundaries for the future:
- Get clear on why you’re giving your son or daughter a phone. Is it for pick-up and drop-off arrangements? Is it to facilitate communication between parents in different houses? Is it because your child is nagging you to death?
- Talk to other parents who have gone through it already. Learn from the trial and error of those who’ve come before you! What worked for their family? What would they do differently?
- Involve your child in the discussion. Find out why your son or daughter wants a phone. What does he or she plan to do with it?
- Set clear expectations with your child upfront. What rules do you want to have when you hand a phone over to your child? For example, “You will always give me the password. If I can’t log in, you lose the phone.” Share how you’re going to monitor your child’s phone use. It’s important to stay aware of what’s happening.
This is the next step in your child’s technology independence and social activities.
But as the saying goes, it’s hard to put the toothpaste back into the tube after it’s squeezed out!
Come up with a game plan for your family in advance. A little planning in fifth grade can go a looooong way.
The academic skills your fifth grader should know
Language arts skills tend to be similar from year to year. So, what’s the biggest difference between fourth grade, fifth grade and sixth grade in terms of reading and writing?
Each year, your child will make a jump in the complexity and sophistication of the reading and writing expected.
Math, in contrast, is more sequential in its skill progression. Each skill builds on each other. Your fifth grader will need a strong grasp of fourth grade skills to master fifth grade skills and ultimately progress to sixth grade skills.
Here’s a closer look at what your fifth grader should know for academic skills.
Your fifth grader should be spending more time reading longer chapter books, as well as nonfiction books and texts. Teachers will be increasing the length and the complexity of the passages and textbooks they give your fifth grader to read.
So again, be sure you’re working with your fifth grader on reading stamina.
Your fifth grader should be able to:
- Find main ideas and supporting details using more advanced reading comprehension strategies (like inference)
- Summarize what’s been read through writing or speaking
- Synthesize information from two texts
- Think analytically and give specific examples from the text
- Interpret information from charts, images, videos, timelines and diagrams
- Compare and contrast the information that’s being read
- Proficiently read at grade level five in both fiction and nonfiction texts
- Learn new vocabulary words using context clues
- Use the Internet to access and research information
Your fifth grader will be writing informational reports in complete paragraphs, and teachers will be looking for a higher level of vocabulary and specific detail.
Writing is a “higher cognitive load activity,” meaning it takes more of your fifth grader’s energy and brainpower to complete it.
With that in mind, it’s important to continue building up your child’s writing stamina.
Your fifth grader should be able to:
- Write in a variety of formats for a variety of subjects
- Understand that writing a book report is different than writing an email or writing a PowerPoint presentation
- Understand the nuance of who’s the audience (Why are you writing this and what does the audience need to know?)
- Know the basic parts of speech
- Write a structured paragraph with a topic sentence, supporting details and a closing sentence
- Use punctuation such as commas, apostrophes and quotation marks appropriately
- Understand synonyms, antonyms and homophones
- Identify prefixes and suffixes
- Use research to write an informational report
- Write description and persuasive texts
Writing is one of those skills that will be important no matter what your child does after high school.
Your child needs to be able to write and send messages whether he or she is a scientist, works in retail, is a mechanic or teaches English class.
Fifth grade is the time to take stock of your child’s writing abilities and make sure your child has the skills needed to excel.
When you can come up with creative ways to get kids to write, it takes the sting out of it. (If you need help with this, reach out and ask us about our Sylvan writing camps and programs.)
In fifth grade, your child will be expected to have a higher level of “operational fluency” with fractions and decimals. For example, write the decimal equivalent of a fraction with a denominator of 1,000.
This means your child automatically knows the answers. He or she doesn’t need to use scratch paper or fingers to figure problems out.
In fifth grade, your child also will be building a deeper understanding of volume.
Your fifth grader should be able to:
- Write and evaluate numerical expressions with parentheses
- Subtract 8 from 9, then add 10 to the result: (9 – 8) + 10 = 11
- Identify mistakes involving the order of operations
- Identify and correct any mistakes: ( 3 + 5 ) x 4 = 3 + 20 = 23.
- Complete a table for a two-variable relationship and graph it
- Understand place value
- What is value of the 5 in 27,548.09?
- Multiply and divide by a power of ten with decimals
- 6 x 10
- Read, write, and compare decimals to thousandths
- What sign (<, >, =) makes the statement true? 38.098 ___ 38.189
- Use place value understanding to round decimals to any place
- What is 7.586 rounded to the nearest tenth?
- Fluently multiply multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm
- 7 x 9 x 11
- Divide 4-digit numbers by 2-digit numbers
- What is 7854 divided by 22?
- Add, subtract, multiply, and divide decimals to hundredths
- 2 x 10.11
- Add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators (including mixed numbers)
- ½ + 1 ¼
- Apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication and division to multiply and divide fractions
- ½ x ¾
- Solve word problems involving addition, subtraction, multiplication or division of whole numbers leading to answers in the form of fractions or mixed numbers
- Philip and Craig each made a bowl of punch. Craig used 6 times as much lemonade as Philip did. If Philip used 5/6 of a cup of lemonade, how many cups of lemonade did Craig use?
- Interpret multiplication as scaling (resizing)
- Which symbol (<, >, =) makes the statement true? 5 x ½ ____ 5
- Convert like measurement units within a given measurement system
- Which is more, 6 inches or 1 foot?
- Make a line plot to display a data set of measurements in fractions of a unit (1/2, 1/4, 1/8)
- Understand concepts of volume and relate volume to multiplication and to addition
- Measure volumes by counting unit cubes, using cubic centimeters, cubic inches, cubic feet and improvised units
- Relate volume to the operations of multiplication and addition and solve real-world and mathematical problems involving volume
- Brandon wants to grow tomatoes and herbs, so he can make his own fresh pizza sauce. Brandon’s planter box is seven feet long and four feet wide on the inside. Brandon fills the planter box with soil to a height of two feet. What is the volume of soil in Brandon’s planter box?
- Graph points on the coordinate plane to solve real-world and mathematical problems
- Classify two-dimensional figures into categories based on their properties
- Example: Parallelogram, Rectangle, Rhombus, Square, etc.
Fifth grade is such an exciting time
It’s the end of one era and the start of another!
Now’s the time to take action if:
- You’ve noticed any academic issues that have been simmering for a while
- Your child is just getting by (but isn’t really excelling), or …
- You want to give you child an edge for middle school
Sylvan offers a variety of services — from personalized tutoring, to homework coaching and skill building, to advancement programs — to help your family achieve your goals.