In 5th grade, your child will continue to hone his writing skills and add new ones as well. He will be expected to research and write longer reports and essays to prepare for the more difficult work ahead, including standardized tests (the SAT now includes a writing section) and the long-term writing assignments that await him in middle school. In some schools, up to two hours a day are devoted to reading and writing, and it’s all geared to keeping the 5th grade writing muscle strong.
You’re apt to find that this year’s writing curriculum is more interesting simply because your child is able to delve into more complicated subject matter. Your budding adolescent is also busy forming views and opinions of the world around her. Writing takes on personal meaning, engaging students more deeply than in years past.
Many 5th graders will take standardized language arts exams in the spring. Like tests given in the 3rd and 4th grades, they typically include reading comprehension, writing, and editing components (emphasizing capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and usage) with a combination of multiple choice and short answer questions.
The federal No Child Left Behind legislation signed into law in 2002 mandates that all states administer annual language arts/reading (but not necessarily writing) exams, and while many already have them in place, some are still working on it.
Similarly, Race to the Top, which took effect in 2009, uses testing to award grant funding to states and schools. Part of the award process is based on standardized testing. And the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by states across the US, are learning goals that use standardized tests to assess how students are faring.
Emphasis on Essays
Using modeling as a teaching technique, teachers often have students study essays written by published authors. Selecting topics from the newspaper that children are familiar with and can relate to — a sports strike, for example — keeps interest high.
Focus on Revision
Because 5th graders have critical thinking ability, revising is emphasized. In the first few years of elementary school, children have a difficult time stepping outside their work to read it objectively. By age 10, however, students have the intellectual capacity to do so. They can see how to extend a character with dialogue, how a beginning paragraph can be made more interesting, how to sort out nonessential details, and how transition words can improve flow. Some teachers model strategies for revision on the board, while others mark up students’ writing to show areas for improvement.
All in all, writing in 5th grade is exciting, because students begin to develop insight into themselves and their world, which is reflected in their work.