By the time students have finished fifth grade they have accumulated most of the reading skills they need to do well in school and beyond. They have learned how to write for academic, social and business purposes, they can speak confidently in public and in every day discourse and they access to learning tools such as libraries, periodicals, dictionaries and the internet. They have developed vocabularies and read grade-level-appropriate materials with an eventual goal of reading one million words per year.
Fifth grade reading lists are a great combination of fantasy, historical fiction, animal stories and humor. Children can read to themselves silently or read aloud, using intonation and other techniques to make the story flow. These students make reading choices that include poetry, drama and non-fiction and have learned to read for understanding and re-read as necessary for deeper meaning or more detail. They differentiate in their reading between opinion and fact. Fifth graders recognize main ideas that are both stated and implied, sequences of events and cause and effect relationships. They understand the meaning of semantics and syntax and can describe and demonstrate each. They use phonetic strategies to decode words by sounding them out either aloud or silently in their heads while they are reading.
Students can write responses to materials they have read which show understanding of content and style. They use facts, examples from literature and cite sources to support their responses. They can identify main and secondary characters, point of view, setting and author intent. Students in fifth grade recognize character motivation and emotion. They are able to draw conclusions and make predictions based on previous knowledge.
Fifth graders have developed writing strategies that result in essays of more than one paragraph. They write to an intended audience with a specific goal, whether it is entertainment, education or persuasive argument. Their papers are written with an introductory paragraph containing a thesis sentence, evidence to support and a satisfying conclusion. The student follows a process that includes generating ideas, writing a first draft, rewriting and revising and then editing for final copy. The students use a variety of sentence structures and use a thesaurus to find alternative word choices. When research is called for, students are familiar with using the internet for up-to-date information. Students know how to cite and credit their sources.
Written projects follow the standard rules of American grammar and punctuation. The students can identify and use properly prepositional phrases, independent and dependent clauses and transitions and conjunctions to connect phrases and thoughts. They know when and where to use commas versus semicolons, semicolons versus colons. They know the proper use of punctuation within quotation marks and the rules of capitalization. They have accumulated rules of spelling that allow them to accurately make constructions of words that may be unfamiliar to them. They know to check spelling with dictionaries and more modern technologies if they have any doubts.
Students can apply traditional rhetorical strategies when delivering formal presentations. They are able to paint a picture in the minds of their audience to illustrate the narrative they are presenting. When making a presentation with the intent to inform, the fifth grader uses plenty of relevant examples and current facts and statistics. The students are aware of their audience and engage them using dramatic touches such are facial expressions and hand gestures.
By the time these students leave fifth grade they are able to adapt their speech patterns to suit the situation by following conventions for conversations involving peers or adults. These children are able to communicate effectively using descriptive language and can retell stories they have heard, read or witnessed.