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Fifth Grade

The fifth grader’s horizon has widened considerably. She has become steadier and more self-confident; she has an enhanced consciousness; she is more accustomed to being alone and to seeing the world in a new perspective. By the fifth grade, students are developmentally ready for more sophisticated work and greater academic rigor. The curriculum broadens to include the study of the ancient civilizations from India to Greece. Class teachers bring this work to life with story and details that deepen students’ understanding while honing their research skills. Students also are given a truly unique opportunity to experience the culture of Ancient Greece by training for and participating in a pentathlon, an Olympic competition.

In math, the fifth graders practice long division and work with fractions. They work with decimals and the relationship between decimals and fractions. All four operations with decimals are introduced as well as percentages.  Free hand geometry evolves out of form drawing. The students experience the forms of nature as they draw geometric shapes and patterns. The relationships between expansion and contraction within points, lines, and shapes are examined. The circle is divided into its 360 degrees, and students draw and examine triangles, hexagons and circles. Tools such as compasses may be introduced. Concepts such as area are also studied. Throughout the year there are regular practice lessons and assignments to continue to strengthen mathematical lessons from earlier years—including metric measurement, averages, means, ranges and estimation skills.

History is taught in a way that engages the students’ feelings. It requires inner mobility to enter sympathetically into the ancient civilizations that are so different from our own. Students study the progression of human consciousness through five ancient cultures. Areas of study include Ancient India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece. During the year the story curriculum moves from content based on the mythic heritage of each of these great cultures to the historical stories of Greece.  Every means is used to give the children a vivid impression of these four ancient cultures. They read translations of poetry, study hieroglyphic symbols of the Egyptians, and sample arts and crafts of the various ancient peoples trying their hands at similar creations. In the spring, the students participate in the Greek Pentathlon. The ideals of truth and beauty permeate the games. History and Geography also extend to cover all of North America. The study of North America is a continuation of the local geography and history completed in fourth grade when the children geographically studied Pennsylvania. Native American cultures can be used as a way to organize the study of the geographic world of North America. The study continues the gradual reaching out away from home and familiar ground. Although the focus of the block is on geographical features of the continent, some cultural geography is usually included. Regional music, literature, history and art are brought into the classroom to give the children a specific sense of the individual place. Every consideration of the Earth's physical features is linked with a study of the way human life has been lived in the region, the human uses made of natural resources, the industry, and produce.

The fifth-grade reading curriculum is really a process of deepening and developing their already existing reading skills. Throughout the year the children are slowly called on to use their reading skills to support their learning in other areas such as ancient cultures or science. The way that each teacher works with the reading curriculum is an individual decision based on his or her knowledge of the class but may include oral reading, group reading, reading quizzes, and book reports. Writing continues to develop during fifth grade with more focus on formal writing such as report writing. Teachers work individually to develop more knowledge of, and attention to, grammatical standards, spelling, writing flow and imaginative depiction.

The fifth grader studies botany in depth. Students study the major plant types as an integral part of their natural surroundings, noting climate and geographical influences. The unfolding process of plant life is also examined. After discovering some of the secrets of the plant life found in her own environment, the child's attention is drawn to vegetation in other parts of the world.

Regular choral singing is practiced fifth grade along with the C-recorder flute as part of the Main Lesson. The difficulty of the singing pieces also increases with a focus on harmony and part-singing. Speech work continues to develop as does the complexity and challenge of the morning movement work. String lessons continue and some children begin participating in string ensembles within the school day. Knitting continues and Manual Arts class is begun with carving. Foreign languages and Games and Movement also continue. Painting supports the various academic areas taken up throughout the year. Drawing includes new and more challenging techniques. Clay work also becomes more in depth during the fifth-grade year. The fifth-grade play is often a play in which children take on truly independent parts for the first time, being independently responsible for their lines and role. The topic of the play is usually centered on the story curriculum for the year.

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