The Guide to 5th Grade: Reading and Writing

Review reading and writing curricula for 5th grade, including what to expect and the books and activities you can use to support learning.

By Scholastic Parents Staff
Aug 13, 2020



The Guide to 5th Grade: Reading and Writing

Aug 13, 2020

Your child is about to enter what’s often considered the last year of elementary school — and will soon be exploring middle school curriculum! That’s why 5th grade is an extremely important time for students to cement the skills they have gained throughout the upper grades and lay a solid foundation for the years ahead.

In short, this year is all about helping students practice, refine, and grow their skills. Students build on what they learned in 4th grade by analyzing material in deeper ways, and write structured, clear, and detailed pieces about a variety of subjects. They are encouraged and expected to be more independent in their learning, and to require less guidance and support from teachers and other adults. For instance, when a student is asked to research a topic, they should know what to do to accomplish that (even if they need a little help from a teacher along the way).

Read on for what to expect this year, and shop all fifth grade resources at The Scholastic Store

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Fifth Grade Reading

Most of the 5th grade reading curriculum focuses on teaching students to understand and develop ideas about the texts they read. Fifth graders learn to support their ideas using specific details from books, and are expected to think carefully about (and ultimately use) quotes, facts, and events to develop opinions about a text and explain it. Students practice this as they read texts together as a class and independently, and their teachers often show them specific strategies they can use to do this. Fifth graders also expand these skills as they write extensively about what they read in every subject.

To build reading skills, your fifth grader:

  • Begins to use direct quotes from texts to explain and prove ideas about the reading.
  • Reads a variety of genres including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama.
  • Uses details from the text to summarize it, identity the main idea or theme, compare characters or events, or compare different texts of the same genre.
  • Interprets and understands metaphors and comparisons made in a text.
  • Identifies an author or narrator’s point of view and explains how this affects the content of a text.
  • Compares multiple perspectives on the same event, idea, or theme.
  • Uses the context of a text to determine the meaning of unknown words.
  • Uses technology and digital media to further their understanding of a topic and to find answers to their questions.
  • Gathers information about a topic from multiple sources.

Fifth Grade Reading Activities

Start a Book Club: It can include family members, your child’s friends and their parents, or just the two of you. Select a book together and establish small reading assignments (perhaps one or two chapters per week). Talk about the book's themes, using concrete examples you find in the text. After you finish one book, pick another by the same author about a similar topic (or in the same genre) and compare the two.

Gain Perspective: Read two different texts about an event you and your child attended (or you can each write your own personal account of it). Ask your child to compare the differences in the perspectives they are written from.

Read and Research: Help your child come up with a question about a topic of interest, and work together to explore a variety of sources for the answer. Use technology, books (such as the Scholastic Children’s Dictionary!), magazines, newspapers, and, if relevant, poetry and fiction.

Fifth Grade Writing

Fifth graders build on the skills they learned in 4th grade to become clearer and more developed writers. They pursue many different kinds of pieces covering a variety of topics, and use details and organization to strengthen their writing. As they work on pieces in class, students are taught to use writing to share their own unique ideas and perspectives — not just those of others.   

To build writing skills, your fifth grader:

  • Writes opinion pieces, which include:
    •  an introduction and conclusion
    • a logical and clear structure
    • evidence that supports the author’s opinion
  • Writes informational pieces that:
    • explain a topic using details such as definitions, quotations, and facts
    • include an introduction and conclusion
  • Writes narrative pieces that:
    • introduce and describe an event in a logical way
    • use details such as dialogue, thoughts, and emotions
    • provide a conclusion
  • Plans, revises, and edits their writing.
  • Thinks about the best way to approach their writing and tries different ways to do so — such as writing in a different tense, or from a different perspective.
  • Uses technology (under adult supervision) to publish writing, research, and communicate with others.
  • Types at least two pages of text in one sitting.
  • Uses multiple sources to write and create a research project.
  • Takes notes on information and cites the sources used.
  • Writes pieces that take long periods of time (a few weeks) and short periods of time (one sitting or a couple of days).

Fifth Grade Writing Activities

Practice Typing: Experiment with the many different ways your child might do this — for instance, they can play typing games, type something they have written, or transcribe a conversation you have together.

Edit, Edit, Edit: You and your child can both write your own pieces, or your child can choose a short piece of writing from another source. Whatever they choose, ask your child to “revise” or “edit” the text, aiming to improve it by adding more detail and descriptions.

Pick a New Perspective: Use a piece you or your child wrote or pick a text written by someone else, like a short story or article. Ask your child to rewrite the piece from a different perspective, like that of another character in the story or a person who witnessed the event. Talk to your child about the differences in those perspectives.

Shop the best resources for fourth grade below! You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store

Explore other grade guides: 

Your 5th Grade Book Checklist

Language Arts
Age 10
Age 11
Elementary School