Parents and Guardians

This guide provides an overview of what your child will be learning in fifth grade. It is based on the Common Core Standards, the Massachusetts Frameworks, and the curricular approaches which have been adopted by the Somerville Public Schools. The detailed Massachusetts Frameworks are available at:

Academic standards are important. They ensure that all students, no matter where they start, are prepared for success in the next grade level, college and their careers. By defining standards clearly, we aim to help families and teachers work together to ensure that students succeed. There are some students who will need additional support to meet a standard. Other students will need more complex work to go beyond the standard. Teachers craft their day-to-day classroom instruction based on the standards, individual student needs, and the unique characters of their schools and community.

How can I support my child's learning at home?

  • Talk to your child about what they are learning in school
  • Contact your child's teacher with any questions or concerns and attend Parent Teacher Conferences
  • Check your child's folder and/or agenda book every night
  • Provide a space and a consistent time for your child to complete their homework

English Language Arts

Somerville Public Schools uses the Balanced Literacy Approach to best address the needs of all students. This approach involves mini-lessons about key reading skills, frequent and in-depth discussions, exposure to high-quality literature and non-fiction texts, and the reading of books at each student's own level. 

Reading: During the year, students in the fifth grade will be working on:

  • Understanding characters in-depth (how they respond to challenges, their point of view, their thoughts, feelings, and motivations)
  • Comparing characters in a story by drawing on specific details and quoting accurately from the text
  • Using multiple strategies (specifically visualizing, making connections, predicting, inferring) to carefully read and comprehend a fiction text or poem
  • Identifying town or more main ideas and using evidence to support the main ideas of a non-fiction text
  • Summarizing the text by explaining the relationships between ideas and quoting accurately
  • Using multiple strategies (previewing & predicting, activating prior knowledge, setting a purpose for reading, summarizing, asking questions, and synthesizing information) to read and comprehend a nonfiction text
  • Using elements of poetry (figurative language, imagery, rhythm/meter, alliteration, onomatopoeia, consonance, and assonance) when talking about poems
  • Figuring out the theme/author's message of a poem by drawing on evidence and quotes from the text (tone, language used, imagery)
  • Comparing and analyzing different points of view by reading multiple texts on the same topic
  • Communicating multiple sides of an issue using evidence from research
  • Forming an opinion based on information gathered using multiple sources and points of view
  • Comparing books with similar themes using specific details (setting, characters, lessons, etc.) and quoting accurately from the text
  • Engaging in discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) on topics and texts, building on others' ideas, expressing their own ideas clearly and using evidence to support claims

Writing: Somerville's new writing model introduced in the Fall of 2013 emphasizes giving students many opportunities to write each day across subject areas. As they write during the year, students in fifth grade will be working on:

  • Organizing ideas on a topic into a multi-paragraph piece
  • Linking ideas in my writing (consequently, specifically, in contract, especially, however)
  • Writing a conclusion that goes beyond just repeating the introduction
  • Using Formal, informal, and specialized language that's appropriate for the purpose and audience
  • Using figurative language (metaphors and imagery) to create an effect on the reader
  • Use details and evidence to support an idea
  • Writing sentences of varying lengths and structure to communicate meaning or mood
  • Correctly spelling grade level words using resources if needed
  • Using commas to separate clauses
  • Correctly using multiple tenses in one piece of writing as needed

Over the course f the year, students will complete three types of writing: narrative (story), informative, and opinion. Examples of these in fifth grade could include: writing original poetry, writing an essay about a story's themes, or writing a feature article about a science topic.

How can I support my child's literacy learning at home?

  • Encourage your child to read daily and discuss the texts he/she is reading
  • When your child shares an opinion or thought about a book, ask them why? and have them use evidence from the book
  • Encourage your child to write by keeping a diary, sending a thank you note, or a letter to family or friends


Adapted from PTA Common Core Guide and Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks Critical Areas. Please see the Massachusetts Frameworks for more detailed standards and skills.

During the year, students in the fifth grade will be working on:

  • Fluently multiply and dividing multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm
  • Using parenthesis, brackets, and braces in solving equations - e.g. [3 x (45 + 42) ] =
  • Reading, writing, comparing, and rounding decimals to the thousandths place
  • Adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing decimals to hundredths
  • Adding and subtracting fractions with unlike denominators (including mixed numbers)
  • Solving word problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions
  • Solving word problems involving multiplication and division of whole numbers
  • Solving word problems involving multiplication and division of fractions
  • Using positive and negative numbers to describe quantities such as temperature, credit/debit, and elevation
  • Understanding the concept of volume, and solving word problems that involve volume
  • Graphing points in the coordinate plane (two dimensions) to solve problems
  • Analyzing mathematical patterns and relationships

How can I support my child's math learning at home?

  • Point out examples of using math in everyday life such as using fractions while measuring ingredients for a recipe, estimating the cost of items at a store, figuring out a top at a restaurant
  • Practice newly acquired skills with your child at home to help build confidence (ex. math facts, addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division)

Science, Technology, and Engineering

During the year, students in the fifth grade will be learning to:

  • To use a model to communicate Earth’s relationship to the Sun, Moon, and other stars that explain (a) why people on Earth experience day and night, (b) patterns in daily changes in length and direction of shadows over a day, and (c) changes in the apparent position of the Sun, Moon, and stars at different times during a day, over a month, and over a year.
  • To describe the cycling of water through a watershed through evaporation, precipitation, absorption, surface runoff, and condensation.
  • How relative amounts of salt water in the ocean; fresh water in lakes, rivers, and groundwater; and fresh water frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps relate to the availability of fresh water in Earth’s biosphere.
  • How communities can reduce human impact on the Earth’s resources and environment by changing an agricultural, industrial, or community practice or process.
  • The process by which plants use air, water, and energy from sunlight to produce sugars and plant materials needed for growth and reproduction.
  • How matter moves among producers, consumers, decomposers, and the air, water, and soil in the environment
  • How different designs for a composter can effectively encourage decomposition of materials.
  • Use a particle model of matter to explain common phenomena involving gases, and phase changes between gas and liquid and between liquid and solid.
  • How the total mass of matter is conserved even after a reaction or phase change
  • How to determine whether the mixing of two or more substances results in new substances with new properties (a chemical reaction) or not (a mixture).
  • How the gravitational force exerted by Earth on objects is directed toward Earth’s cente
  • That the food animals digest (a) contains energy that was once energy from the Sun, and (b) provides energy and nutrients for life processes, including body repair, growth, motion, body warmth, and reproduction.
  • To provide examples of improvements to existing technologies (innovations) and the development of new technologies (inventions).

Social Studies

During the year, students in the fifth grade will be learning:

  • South and Central American history: Mayan, Inca, Aztec to Spanish conquest
  • Early America and Americans to 1650
  • Settlements, colonies, and the emerging American identity - 1600-1763
  • The American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence
  • The Constitution and the Bill of Rights
  • The early government - 1781-1820
  • The geography related to the content listed above


The elementary years are an important time to nurture social-emotional competence and develop foundational learning skills. The Somerville Public Schools uses the Second Step curriculum, an evidence-based program that includes everything schools need to integrate social-emotional learning into their classrooms and schoolwide. The curriculum is designed to promote school success, self-regulation, and a sense of safety and support.

Classroom teachers are responsible for implementing Second Step. Schools guidance counselors and other support personnel assist teachers and students to work towards attaining curriculum goals. Staff at your child's school can give you more detailed information about the sequence of skills taught and how social/emotional skills are taught.

Grade 5 Lessons


Skill for Learning

1. Learning to listen
2. Focusing attention
3. Following directions
4. Self-talk for staying on task
5. Being assertive


Emotion Management

6. Introducing Emotion Management
7. Calming Down
8. Managing Anxiety
9. Managing Frustration
10. Resisting Revenge
11. Handling Put-Downs
12. Avoiding Assumptions


Problem Solving

13. Solving Problems, Part 1
14. Solving Problems, Part 2
15. Making a Plan
16. Seeking Help
17. Dealing with Gossip
18. Dealing with Peer Pressure
19. Reviewing Second Step Skills

Specialists: The Somerville Public Schools provides each student with 40 minutes per week of instruction in General, Music, Library/media, Art, and Physical Education. The specialists at each school are available to give you more detailed information about specific skills addressed.

Assessment: We believe that there is more than one way to accurately assess student learning. These include not only standardized measures such as DIBELS (Grades K-3), MCAS ( Grades 3-10), and MAP (Gr. 2-8), but also more informal assessments including common end of unit assessments, reading/writing conferences, classroom participation, classroom projects, and writing assignments.

Math and ELA Year At A Glance for 5 th Grade:

Please note that this calendar is only an approximate guide. Some units might take more or less time depending on the needs of the students and other initiatives happening at individual schools.

Approximate Time Frame ELA Units of Study (Based on Balanced Literacy Curriculum) Math Units of Study (Based on the Investigations Curriculum)
Early September Launching Readers Workshop
Place Value
Properties of Numbers
Multiplication & Division
Late September Narrative Place Value
Properties of Numbers
Multiplication & Division
October Narrative Place Value
Properties of Numbers
Multiplication & Division



Comparing Fractions
Addition/Subtraction of Fractions



Multiplication/Division of Fractions
Late February Poetry
(Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division)
March On-Demand Reading Decimals
(Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division)
April Non-fiction #2
Measurement (Decimals/Conversions)
Growth/Patterns Statistics
Positive/Negative Numbers
Early May Non-fiction #2 Measurement (Decimals/Conversions)
Growth/Patterns Statistics
Positive/Negative Numbers
Late May / June Narrative - Theme Measurement (Decimals/Conversions)
Growth/Patterns Statistics
Positive/Negative Numbers



























updated 07/2018