Fifth Grade

Fifth Grade Curriculum


Fifth graders at St. John’s are a part of the Upper School and are asked to take on new responsibilities and be more independent. As “Upper Schoolers” they travel to multiple classrooms for their different subjects and are taught by different teachers. This requires fifth grade students to be reasonably self-sufficient. Fifth grade students are well-supported through small advisory groups and a scaffolded educational process that challenges students in meaningful ways and ensures that their hard work results in academic success.


The fifth-grade English class serves as an introduction to the middle school English program and builds upon the skills learned in the fourth grade. The main focus is on reading and comprehending literature, writing, grammar, and vocabulary. 

The students read short stories, novels, and poetry designed to allow the students to see the world through the eyes of different characters and to relate their own lives to the characters. They study the elements of literature represented in each work and learn the techniques that authors use to write creatively. At least one novel a year is integrated with the students’ study of American history in social studies class. Johnny Tremain is an example of one such novel. 

The St. John’s writing program emphasizes the six traits of writing:  ideas, organization, style, word choice, voice, and conventions. Students are guided throughout the writing process as they pre-write, draft, revise, edit, and publish pieces. We place an emphasis on revising and editing their work. Students engage in a wide variety of writing activities. 

Direct grammar instruction takes place throughout the year with an emphasis on the uses of nouns and verbs in a sentence and the other parts of speech.  The students complete Daily Grams to reinforce basic grammar rules, usage, mechanics, and effective sentence-combining techniques. 

The students build their vocabulary by deciphering the meanings of words in the context of the literature they read. Additionally, we use Wordly Wise to enhance vocabulary acquisition.


Through a comprehensive and balanced curriculum, fifth grade students are able to demonstrate depth, flexibility, and application of learning. Students continue to work with basic computational skills with whole numbers, fractions, and decimals, as well as a broad range of mathematical concepts including data, statistics and probability, geometry, measurement, number theory, and algebra. Fifth graders apply these concepts to everyday problem-solving situations. While they are taught prescribed strategies, they are also encouraged to develop their own problem-solving strategies and critical thinking skills. Ongoing assessment and feedback enables teachers and students to pinpoint weaknesses and fill in learning gaps.


In fifth grade science, students start the year learning about and using the scientific method. Throughout the year, students practice observing, predicting, hypothesizing, comparing, collecting, recording, and analyzing data, and drawing conclusions. The units covered center on life science, Earth science, space, and physical science. Fifth grade students learn to identify and control the variables in teacher-prepared as well as student-prepared experiments. 

While studying life science, students learn the cell theory along with the structure and functions of both animal and plant cells. They practice using microscopes to explore living cells (pond water) and prepared slides of various cells. Students then study the organization of an organism, concluding with human respiratory and cardiovascular systems. The final topic on life science, family life education, is done at the end of the school year in single-sex groups.

In the Earth science portion, students are introduced to Earth systems, climates and biomes, and weather. Climate change is introduced as a global issue which leads the class into a look at alternative fuels and how each person is responsible for our Earth. 

The investigation into the Earth leads naturally into the Earth’s moon, solar system, stars, and the universe.

The physical science portion of the course focuses on Chemistry. Through a variety of engaging activities and labs, students learn about atoms, elements, and chemical reactions.

Social Studies – Early U.S. History

Fifth grade social studies covers topics in American history starting with Native American settlement and early European exploration. Subsequent units of study include the colonization of the Americas, the Revolutionary War, the Constitution, American expansion as a young republic, and the Civil War and Reconstruction time periods in U.S. history. Students examine history through the lenses of geography, economics, and civics. Through the integration of cultural studies, students learn how people of the past have shaped the present. Students explore who these people were, their customs and beliefs, and their ways of thinking and expressing ideas. Wherever possible, the curriculum is integrated with related subjects, such as English literature and the visual arts. Emphasis is placed on organization and reading comprehension strategies, in addition to the nurture of a growth mindset. Fifth grade ends the year with a field trip to the Gettysburg battlefield that enriches students’ study of the Civil War.


In fifth grade, students practice simple sentences in the present tense. Students express feelings and preferences, as well as exchange ideas and opinions. They discover new vocabulary relating to professions, clothing, animals, traveling, transportation, household items, health, etc. Fifth grade grammar includes greetings, negation, forming plurals, subject-verb agreement, the present, the command mood, the present progressive tenses, direct objects, prepositions, etc. 


Christian values and ethics are two of the cornerstones of education at St. John’s Episcopal School, which is exemplified in the Religion program. Throughout their academic and spiritual career at St. Johns, students are exposed to all aspects of the Bible. In fifth grade, students learn Biblical notation and examine the Bible basics, both structure, and context. Students study the Pentateuch in-depth and explore the relationships between The Great Commandment and the Ten Commandments, as well as the Passover and the institution of Communion at the Last Supper.

Upper School Performing and Fine Arts

The arts serve a two-fold purpose in education; academic and aesthetic. Students gain a foundational academic understanding of arts through general instruction and, when appropriate, focused on creating and performing opportunities. Students also study the arts to provide an opportunity for social-emotional connections to the general academic subject matter as well as to create an outlet for artistic expression. Intentional arts instruction is fundamental to a well-balanced education.

The students of St. Johns experience and gain an understanding of the role of the arts throughout the world and in their own lives through the acquisition of artistic vocabulary, skills, and the exposure to a diverse range of artistic mediums. Students build character and faith through participation in and appreciation of artistic performances both in the school and the community.

Upper School Performing Arts

All Upper School students sing in Chorus and play an instrument in the Concert Band. Students rehearse as a group and study instruments in sectionals led by an adjunct faculty of professional teacher-artists. All students perform in the Winter Christmas Celebration concert and the Spring Festival of the Arts concert. 

Visual Arts

The fifth grade visual art curriculum provides the opportunity for students to learn and develop more advanced drawing, painting, and sculpting skills. Students engage in and explore various media which can include: graphite and ink drawing, acrylic painting, watercolor painting, ceramics, and more. Students are challenged to design 2-D and 3-D art projects using skills and techniques they have learned throughout the academic year. Fifth grade art delves deeper into observational drawing and perspective drawing, focusing on proportions, balance, and compositional design. Visual art demonstrations and step-by-step verbal explanations are given to students for each art lesson and project to promote comprehension. The Upper School visual arts curriculum includes cross-curricular projects to promote further understanding and connections between subjects, as well as weekly art sketches that focus on creative design and technical drawing. 

Physical Education

The goal of the St. John’s Physical Education program is to facilitate the development of skills to enable students to safely and successfully participate in team, individual, and life sports. Students learn the traits for success while participating in a variety of cross-curriculum-integrated activities. In fifth grade, students are introduced to the basic rules, skills, and tactics of the planned activity.  We start at a beginner’s level and progress depending on the group’s understanding and proficiency. At all levels, physical fitness activities encourage the children to challenge themselves to set individual goals in order to lead a healthy lifestyle. 

As part of the annual International Festival, students are assigned a different country each year; in physical education, they learn a traditional dance from this country which they perform in the festival.    


Every fifth grade student is assigned an advisor with whom they meet in weekly small groups. The advisor is a teacher or administrator who is an advocate for the student and offers academic, social, and emotional support. Advisory reinforces our traits of success, organization, and study skills, and gives students an intimate forum in which to have discussions regarding academics, character, and faith. 

Global Education

Each year, the students participate in the International Festival. One week is devoted to the study of a country. The selection of a country is made on a three-year cycle. During this time, children are immersed in the study of the selected country, with all classroom activities, literature, and projects centering on that country.