Fifth Grade

כיתה ה



As the final year of the Upper Elementary Division experience, fifth grade marks a transition toward more independent learning. With the help of their teachers, who scaffold the independent learning skills for them, the students are asked to organize their materials, take notes in class, and sustain work on long-term projects. A key milestone of the fifth grade is a major research project and presentation on immigration, which serves as a steppingstone to the exhibition-based assessments students will undertake in the middle school. Further preparation for middle school experience takes the form of a number of test-like experiences during the year, in which students learn how to prepare for and take a formal test. Other major emphases include the development of an interfaith living museum exhibition in cooperation with the Al Ihsan Academy, the Islamic Leadership School, and Kinneret Day School, and a monthly community service project. The students also deepen their understanding of themselves as learners as they continue to participate in portfolio conferences with their teachers and parents and reflect knowledgeably about their academic progress. As well, the fifth grade marks the students’ first formal exposure to Jewish history, health education, and advisory.


Fifth grade art begins, as in each of the other grades, with each student drawing a representation of his/her shoe. This then becomes part of each student’s shoe collection that s/he develops over the years at Schechter Manhattan. In fifth, grade students draw theirs with India ink pens, focusing on the details. Other topics include a self-portrait using colors, shapes, and symbols representing their interests, family, hobbies, and friends; still life, using the still life paintings of Cezanne for reference; quilts, corresponding to the fifth grade study of Colonial America; an artist study of Marc Chagall; creating an animal in a medium of each student’s choice, either drawing, painting, collage or mixed media; and free art.

Hebrew עברית

Fifth grade students are divided into groups according to Hebrew language proficiency. This arrangement makes it possible for students to study at the level best suited to their needs.


The language series on which the program in these grades is based, and which provides the continuity from class to class and year to year, is Aleph-Bet Y’ladim Lomdim Ivrit. A sequential program, Aleph-Bet Y’ladim Lomdim Ivrit follows a structured linguistic progression and integrates the four language skills – listening, speaking, reading, and writing – in each unit. Based on the most current understanding of language acquisition in children, it exposes students to multiple genres, including stories, conversations, telephone conversations, poems, songs, albums, journals, bulletin board notices, and the like. Students are challenged to speak and write, using the language patterns they are learning in both familiar and new contexts. Additional reading materials and language exercises developed by the school complement the published units and ensure that students have ample opportunity to practice their emerging language forms and structures within a naturally occurring, functional context.


In the advanced class, students read short stories, write extensively, and speak in full sentences using verbs in several conjugations, in present and past tenses, and in active and passive voices. In addition, they make oral presentations.


Students review and reinforce their basic reading skills and learn to conjugate verbs in present tense and the infinitive form; in addition, they study agreement among nouns, verbs, and adjectives in gender and number. For all students, Hebrew continues to be spoken throughout the day in class routines and in the Jewish Studies program.

Jewish Studies

A new subject in fifth grade is Jewish history. In a two-week mini-unit, students look at Jewish life in Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, using both history and literature.


The fifth grade Torah curriculum focuses on the exodus from Egypt as related in Sh’mot (Exodus) 1-10. Students work primarily in study pairs (chevruta) and small groups to negotiate the text, comprehend it, answer text-based questions ranging from basic comprehension to close analysis, empathize with the biblical characters, pose interpretive questions, and answer them. In so doing, they create their own commentaries, which they share with other groups of students, invite them to offer their own interpretations, and together read classical and modern commentaries on the same questions that they posed. Students also learn to teach each other passages that they studied in small groups, using group presentations, dramatizations, writing, and artwork.


In Mishnah, the curriculum incorporates a number of mishnayot and related sources from the Talmud on topics relating to interpersonal behavior. In small groups, students negotiate the text with the help of a glossary, think about the situations and concepts that the mishnah presents, ask interpretive, text-based questions, apply the ideas they discover to present-day situations, and argue and debate the questions, much as the rabbis of the mishnah did. Highlights of the year include interviews with parents concerning the mutual responsibilities of children and parents, and, time permitting, a simulated beit din (court of Jewish law) which the students convene to try a case of assault.


In t’filah, the fifth graders add new prayers to their daily liturgy, including birchot hashachar (the first morning blessings) and several chapters of psalms from p’sukei d’zimra. As in previous years, each new text is not only recited with correct intonation and melody; it is also mined for meaning, interpreted, personalized, and placed in the context of the overall structure of the prayer service. The highlight of the year is the siddur ceremony in which the students celebrate their completion of the matbe’a shel t’filah (the main prayers of the liturgy) and demonstrate their readiness to join the middle school minyan by reviewing all the prayers that have learned over the years and reminiscing about the impressions that these early prayer experiences made on them. They also receive their first published siddur at this ceremony. Fifth grade students also extend their knowledge of birkat hamazon (grace after meals) to include the full text of the first b’rachah, in addition to the excerpts of the remaining b’rachot that they continue to recite, and they learn a new b’rachah to be recited after eating snacks.


The fifth grade chagim (Jewish holidays) curriculum incorporates most of the experiential elements that students encountered in their earlier years, thereby reinforcing an emotional attachment to each calendar event. At the same time, new concepts and texts are introduced to deepen students’ knowledge and enrich their experience: prior to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Chanukah, Purim, and Pesach, they complete their study of the laws of these holidays by reading portions of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch – M’kor Chaim (code of Jewish law) not studied the previous year; in addition, they learn the structure of the musaf prayer on Rosh Hashanah; they learn about challenges to Jewish unity during the Hellenistic period by simulating the responses of different sects to the events of the time; and they learn the mishnah which presents the agricultural basis for the Tu Bish’vat holiday.


In Israel studies, the students deepen their understanding of the varieties of in Israel by looking at early immigrants and settlers to Israel as well as documents connected to establishing the State of Israel.

Language Arts

Reading and writing in fifth grade are fully integrated ways of learning and communication. In their writing and reading workshops, the units of study are coordinated so that the same, or complementary, genres and topics are the focus of both reading and writing simultaneously.


Writing workshop begins, as in previous years, from a writer’s notebook containing personal experiences, thoughts, and ideas that are the seeds for essay writing in various forms such as persuasive pieces, 5-paragraph essays, literary analysis, memoir writing, short fiction stories, and editorials. The workshop culminates in a full-length independent research project. Throughout the writing units the students develop skills in using sophisticated language and syntax, revising, and editing.


Students learn to expand their writing from several paragraphs to several pages and make effective use of craft moves, such as strong beginnings, beautiful language, transitions, details and description, and figurative language, such as similes and metaphors. They continue to use the writing process effectively to plan for narrative and expository writing, edit for conventional spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammatical usage, and word choice, and revise both independently and in peer conferences.


In reading workshop, paralleling the experiences in writing workshop are internet research; themes in picture books; memoir; non-fiction; short stories; and historical fiction. Student initiative and active learning are encouraged through book clubs relating to their genre study. Key goals for the year include achieving high levels of literal and inferential comprehension and an appreciation of literature. Students learn to be actively aware of narrative sequence, character motivation, the author’s message, theme, big idea of a story, and literary techniques; to read with a writer’s eye; and to read between the lines. During read-aloud sessions, teachers model for students the thinking, language, behaviors, and strategies of successful readers. In the spring, students run their own book clubs, where groups read an historical fiction book and discuss it. Students improve their active listening and discussion skills, including how to disagree constructively, build on ideas, and extend conversation.


In a unit on internet literacy, students look at the role and function of the internet, safe communication, acceptable use, and good decision making.


Students also study a unit in both reading and writing memoir, in which students read memoirs to study styles and voice and use these skills to craft their own.


Fifth grade students perform mathematical operations and understand mathematical concepts at a high level. Contributing to this balance of thinking and doing are two extended real-world applications and numerous briefer real-life problems; regular work in pairs and small groups as a complement to independent work; and a continuing emphasis on communicating mathematical ideas verbally.


Key goals for the year include mastery of all four operations in multiple digits, fluency in all basic operations, an integrated understanding of fractions, decimals, and percents, and increased independence in problem solving.


The following topics are studied in fifth grade:

  • A review of multiplication and division
  • Computation and estimation strategies in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
  • Solving word problems
  • Fractions, decimals, and percents, and equivalencies among them
  • Adding and subtracting fractions
  • Pre-algebra, including growth patterns, equations, and graphs
  • Geometry, including triangles, quadrilaterals, and the perimeter and area of polygons
  • Data analysis and probability
  • Real-world applications (e.g., playground plan, distribution of M&M’s in individual bags)
  • Communication of mathematical ideas orally and in writing


In fifth grade, following two years of studying the recorder, students advance to the study of keyboard. Fifth graders begin by learning the names and locations of notes, how to read lines and spaces, and simple keyboard pieces. Each child works on pieces suited to his or her own level. These range from simple versions of Yankee Doodle and the Alphabet Song all the way up to the Bach Minuet in G. The goal is for each student to become a better player and reader than when the year began.


In singing and music appreciation, students continue their study of solfege and sing English and Hebrew songs. A major emphasis during the year is on composing songs; the goal is to create effective lyrics and melodies to match. All students participate in a sort of musical “town meeting” format, during which different melodic and lyrical ideas are suggested by the students and tried out. Performance opportunities during the year include the Zimriyah at Chanukah time and the school concert.

Physical Education

Following an introductory unit reviewing basic skills in kicking, throwing, and catching, the students move on to soccer. Following skills practice at different stations, each class finishes up with a game that utilizes their newly honed skills. In fifth grade, we stress communication, teamwork, and sportsmanship in all the things that we do.


The winter term begins with a continuation of practice in kicking skills through two different types of indoor kickball games, dome-ball and end-line kickball. The students relate to the next unit, basketball, even more seriously than in previous years because fifth grade is the first year in which they are eligible to join the school team. Skills practice reinforces lessons learned in third and fourth grade, and these become integrated into mini-games.


The outdoor spring season in Central Park focuses on softball. The students continue to work on proper throwing, catching, and batting techniques, as well as on both rules and strategies.

Thematic Studies, Science & Social Science

In fifth grade, the theme is New Beginnings, which parallels the students’ own growing need for independence and self-sufficiency. The students begin by studying Colonial America. Students explore world geography as it relates to the routes traveled by the explorers of the New World and the backgrounds of different groups of people before they set sail for the New World; they consider both the conditions they were seeking to escape, as well as the freedoms they were intent on finding. In small groups, they look more closely at the challenges the new settlers faced in each of three regions of the colonies – New England, the Middle Atlantic, and the South – and the ways in which they adapted and found solutions. Special attention is given to the progressive deterioration of relations between the colonies and England as they moved toward independence. In this study, the students’ first formal introduction to the study of history in which they focus on the skills and tools of the historian, they consult non-fiction texts and conclude the unit with a test and by conducting a simulation of Colonial life.


Later in the year, they begin a more extended study of immigration. The students read non-fiction accounts and answer complex comprehension questions. Additionally, museum visits, field trips, historical simulations, and guest speakers increase their knowledge of the Jewish culture in turn-of-the-century America, and of the Lower East Side in particular. Moreover, interdisciplinary connections to math and art enrich their understanding. The main focus of the unit is independent research. Each student chooses a topic of his or her own interest related to the wider theme of immigration. Some topics come out of personal or family experience, while others are based on prior reading, discussion, or acquaintance; for example, in the past, topics have included the emigration of Syrian Jewry; processing at Ellis Island; Irish immigration to New York City; Chinese immigration to California; and the immigration of Holocaust survivors to America.


The research project extends over four months and is divided into stages with interim deadlines to help students plan, manage their time, and keep organized. They learn new research strategies, including highlighting keywords and important information; recording them on note cards; organizing the note cards into an outline before beginning to write; writing, submitting, and receiving feedback on multiple drafts; and preparing a bibliography. Upon completion, they submit their finished paper, as well as a visual aid; they present their project to classmates, teachers, and parents; and they field questions from the audience at the conclusion of their presentation.


The fifth grade science curriculum is designed to deepen students’ experience with scientific inquiry and train them to think and act like real scientists. Early in the year, the connection with their study of Colonial America, the students study the science of food preservation. Following the study of the American colonies, students study electricity and electric circuits. The students investigate an array of clever electrical devices, first exploring their functions, and then learning how their circuits work. The contributions of famous inventors, as well as child inventors, are highlighted. Students keep an “Inventor’s Journal,” recording the development of their electrical knowledge, schematic diagrams, and design ideas; explore simple and series circuits, learn about short circuits, and investigate the role of batteries, resistance, conductors and insulators; invent their own switch design and learn how to draw schematic diagrams; and build and compare series and parallel circuits, and pair up to create their own electrical inventions. Finally, in the spring, the students study the human body though the health curriculum.