5th Grade Curriculum
Fifth grade is a year of growing independence. Students begin to enter the age where non-concrete thinking develops, and they begin to see a “whole new world” in their ability to conceptualize and process through complex thoughts and stories. This is the backdrop for students to study American history; the country moves from dependence on a king to independence with a new government.
This is also the year when students begin building new friendships and practicing self-governance with their studies, their relationships, and their spirituality. Teachers continue to direct students to pursue a deep love of learning and solidify their scriptural foundations. Journeying through fifth grade is an exciting adventure.
Fifth grade history covers the time period from Prince Henry (1415) to The Missouri Compromise of 1820. Students are taken from the tumultuous times of Medieval Europe with its barbaric Vikings, chivalrous knights, and bold reformers into the Age of Exploration. Students learn about Prince Henry and his school of navigation as well as the exciting adventures of Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the New World. The students quickly find that despite the growth in the past, men wanted more—more power, more land, more gold, and ultimately more liberty. From the shores of the Old World, they begin to look to the new. Students are captivated by the stories of the early explorers like Columbus, the Spanish explorations, and the permanent European settlements and colonization. They move through these into the American Revolution and finally into the building of a new nation. Through the stories of great men and women, the students come to appreciate the sacrifices and dedication of those who built our great nation.
Spelling, Grammar, and Penmanship
Fifth grade students are immersed in a multimodal approach using the curriculum Spell to Write and Read. It teaches them the phonograms that are foundational in our language as well as rules for proper spelling. In addition, Spell to Write and Read teaches pronunciation and how to encode and decode words. All these skills aid the students in their growth as fluent readers. Further, the students both memorize and apply rules of grammar using the Shurley Grammar curriculum. They then apply what they have learned, delighting in the cleverly crafted writing of our literature selections. Fifth grade students begin the year by proudly displaying their cursive penmanship on all written assignments, and they are encouraged to fine tune their letter formation throughout the year, adding excellence to their written assignments.
Literature and Composition
Using classic literature as a model for good writing, the Writing and Rhetoric curriculum leads the students through a classical method of writing known as progymnasmata. This employs the study of excellent men and women throughout history and what they wrote. While incorporating concepts they are learning in their grammar and spelling studies, the students write essays using a six-paragraph structure called a chreia. To create excitement and to nurture a love of learning through books, teachers and students dive into such books as Dangerous Journey, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, Johnny Tremain, and The Bronze Bow. These classic stories integrate what the students are learning in their history and Bible studies. The classical practice of oral narration is utilized daily as the main method of assimilating text that is read. Students also transfer their oral narrations to written narrations on a regular basis. This practice is foundational in strengthening the students’ abilities in reading comprehension, writing, and rhetoric. The students gather on the carpet for a special read-aloud time at the end of each day. Teachers delight in building wonder and enlarging the moral imaginations of their students through the expressive reading of Sign of the Beaver and The Horse and His Boy.
Students in fifth grade learn how to set up their own library accounts and how to independently use the automated catalog. They use the library to find resources for classroom research projects. They are exposed to the different genres of literature and hear reviews of specific titles from each genre. They learn to share their opinions about books read by writing reviews and doing class projects for their Reader’s Response choices. Library skills are reviewed and reinforced.
In fifth grade, students strive toward mastery of foundational math topics for real-world application in preparation for algebra in the dialectic years. The curriculum builds on an early understanding of composition and decomposition of numbers along with mastery of basic facts and computation algorithms. Emphasis is placed on problem-solving, skill consolidation, and a deep understanding of fractions, decimals, ratios, model drawing, expressions, equations, and inequalities. Challenging problem solving is integrated into each chapter to reinforce the application of concepts and skills learned. Mathematics is taught as a language with an emphasis on vocabulary and regular math journaling. Hands-on learning activities are integrated throughout the lessons so that students may practice important concepts and vocabulary. The ultimate goals of the mathematics curriculum are for students to experience success and develop a lifelong love of math.
Within the Bible curriculum, fifth grade students walk through the life of Christ in the four gospels. The Apostle John’s words “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1) set the stage for students to understand the precept of studying God’s word. Students eagerly memorize several Scripture passages, and dramatic reenactment is also used for students to more deeply experience Scripture. In fifth grade, students explore the themes of conflict and liberation and walk through multiple conflicts of Christ’s ministry including the rejection of the Jewish leaders, the ideals of what kind of messiah was expected, and even death itself. Students come to see that Christ liberates his people by his death and resurrection. Teachers desire that students know that true liberty is found in Christ alone, and students explore the spiritual concepts of Christ freeing them from the bondage of sin and death, the good news of Christ’s salvation, and living in obedience to Christ and his Word. The ultimate goal of fifth grade biblical teaching is for students to develop a love for the Savior and the Bible.
The room is dark. The teacher, dressed as a sailor of the 1700s, invites students into the classroom with a blow of her ship’s brass whistle. Once inside, a true tale is told of the HMS Association naval disaster and the greatest technological problem of the sixteenth century—how to accurately find one’s longitude. In this manner, fifth grade students launch into a study of navigation, learning about latitude, longitude, compasses, sextants, and triangulation. Fifth grade students learn about the European explorers’ travels to the new world. Thus, history becomes a springboard for the fifth grade science “exploration” of the ocean currents, seafloor features, and physical life zones of the earth’s giant oceans. Using demonstrations, experimentation, and other engaging activities, fifth grade science students investigate the earth’s atmosphere and weather, microscopes and microscopic organisms, and electricity. In late fall, students take a field trip to Tarpon Springs, Florida, and see the sponge docks, largely operated by the sizable Greek community in that area. They take a boat eco tour to Anclote Key where they have a beach scavenger hunt. Lunch, a sampling of traditional Greek foods, is followed by a late afternoon visit to the Tarpon Springs aquarium where they see a dive show.
The school’s goal for every fifth grade student is a love of Latin. By learning the language in a fun and low-pressure way, the students’ appreciation for the language grows, resulting in a desire for more serious study in the upper school. To that end, students read and translate stories, and learn the basics of verb conjugation and the declination of nouns. They also speak and write Latin and even memorize verses of Scripture in Latin. By laying the groundwork for a lifelong love of language, the students are equipped to reach their goals in the future.
In every grade at The Geneva School, music study and performance are vital to developing an aesthetically rich liberal arts education. Fifth grade students build upon the musical foundation of previous years, further deepening their understanding of all the Elements of Music. Through voice and recorder instruction, students continue to review the notes on the treble staff, and learn to identify and follow the notation and symbols of a musical score. They also develop further vocal independence by learning part-songs and descants. Students continue to learn about the orchestra and begin to identify individual instruments from each family. As they study the Protestant Reformation in Europe and Colonial Period in America, they are exposed to the famous composers, works, and stylistic elements of the Baroque era in music. They also learn to sing and perform American folk songs and dances, which are featured at Colonial Day in December and George Washington’s Birthday Ball in the spring.
In the fifth grade, students develop their drawing skills by working on projects such as still-life arrangements and portraits that were prominent during the Age of Exploration and the Enlightenment (e.g., baroque, neoclassical, romantic). Students explore the art and lives of well-known artists during these periods as a way of developing their drawing skills. They study asymmetry and various ways of creatively composing an art piece. Students are encouraged to use a variety of media (watercolors, colored pencils, and printmaking) as they explore their own strengths and weaknesses while continuing to grow in their understanding of how to successfully use the elements of design.
The drama program not only seeks to enrich each student’s study of history and literature through experience but also seeks to build character through the rehearsal and production process. Students are given responsibilities appropriate to their developmental level and are encouraged to problem solve and work together as a group to tell their story.
In fifth grade, the students perform Brave and Free, a play encapsulating everything they have learned in their history studies throughout the year. The students are given full responsibility in the running of the performance. Teachers are not available for prompting. Students are encouraged to work together to cover any mistakes that might be made. They are responsible for many props and costume pieces as well as making many entrances and exits without adult assistance.
In fifth grade, students and teachers embrace the importance of a sound mind in a sound body. The Geneva School is committed to providing a curriculum in physical education that allows frequent and diverse opportunities to engage in physical activities necessary to support a healthy mind and body. Fifth grade students develop specific sports skills through practice drills and modified game play. Throughout the year, students learn the basic rules of a variety of sports and games, both individual sports and team sports. Students also build health and fitness through strength and flexibility conditioning with an emphasis on cardiovascular endurance. Fifth graders continue to develop motor proficiency through expressive play and creative movements such as rhythm activities. Prior to their trip to Williamsburg, students learn traditional colonial dances in PE.
Field Trips and Culminating Events
Lewis & Clark (Harry P. Leu Gardens)
Colonial Day: After studying the early life of colonists and the hardships endured as they came to the New World, students research a colony and give an informative speech about one of the original thirteen colonies, dress in colonial attire, and spend the afternoon eating a meal of thanksgiving for a safe arrival, reliving the chores of a colonist, and playing the games of colonial children.
Revolutionary War Reenactment: After being drafted into the British Army, French Army, or Colonial Army, the students spend the afternoon learning to drill under the instruction of Major Baron von Steuben. They then march to camp and load their (water) guns and reenact the major battles of the Revolutionary War. Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill, the Crossing of the Delaware, and many more battles are indelibly stamped in their memories.
George Washington’s Birthday Ball: After receiving an invitation from Martha Washington, students research a Founding Father, deliver a speech as one of his relatives, dress in gentry colonial attire, attend a concert, eat a feast with George Washington in attendance, and learn how to dance the Virginia Reel.
Williamsburg: Every April, the fifth grade heads to Virginia for a week of hands-on learning. Students tour Jamestown to see where it all started. In Williamsburg, students dress in traditional colonial clothing and blend into the culture and history. A day is spent in Charlottesville touring Monticello, the awe-inspiring and informative home of Thomas Jefferson. Yorktown is the final stop on this week-long trip along the exciting American timeline. The stories of the final battles of the Revolutionary War are expertly told, and students learn as they walk in the footsteps of the soldiers they have studied.
Brave and Free: The end-of-the-year play is a grand adventure that reenacts all the history the students have learned during the year. In a fun and “independent” way, the students lead the audience through the time of the explorers, the colonies, the Revolutionary War, and the making of our government. There are moments of laughter as the students try to figure out how to run a show without any teachers or any fireworks, and there are moments of awe as they step onto the stage and recite the Declaration of Independence. It is truly a marvelous ending to a year steeped in American history.