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5th Grade Teaching Strategies: What They Should Know

Janelle Cox

How well would your 5th graders do on the game show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” Could they name the world’s major oceans, rivers, and lakes? What about the Native Americans? Can they name all of the major tribes? Fifth grade is a huge year. This transition year is where you use teaching strategies to delve deeper into their studies, and help them grasp concepts in a bigger way. They are also expected to not only know more, but to produce better results. Teachers will no longer accept misspelled words or lack of punctuation. Students need to step up their game if they want to graduate elementary school and go on to middle school. Compare this list of what your students should know, with your teaching strategies, to see if your students would be the next big winners of the hit game show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader.”

Reading and Writing

  1. Essays – Fifth graders should be able to write in many different forms, as well as understand the basic structures of an essay (introduction, body, and conclusion). They should also know how to construct basic paragraphs within their essay. Give students opportunities to write daily, and to choose topics other than research so they can really hone in on their writing skills.
  2. Research – Fifth graders should be able to gather information from at least three different resources while conducting a research project. It is essential that they know the difference between copying sources and putting it into their own words or how to site where they got their information from.
  3. Reading Novels – By 5th grade, your students should be able to independently read full-length novels, like “Tom Sawyer” and “Anne of Green Gables.” Instead of book reports, try having students create a comic strip about their favorite part of the book, or create a book trailer to entice other students to want to read the book.


  1. Factors, Multiples, and Fractions – Fifth graders should be able to identify the greatest and least common factor, as well as continue to solve problems with fractions, decimals, percentages, and ratios. Playing games is a fun way to teach and reinforce these concepts.
  2. Mean, Median, Mode, and Probability – In 5th grade, students will learn about mean, median, and mode. An effective and fun way to teach this concept is with Uno cards. They will also need to understand probability. Dice games are another fun way to understand this concept.
  3. Geometry and Pre-Algebra – Students should know the fundamentals of geometry as well as be able to find the value of an expression when it is X (example, what does X equal?). They will only touch upon pre-algebra this grade.

Geography and History

  1. Oceans, Rivers, and Lakes – While most of your students will know the names of the oceans and rivers by 5th grade, they must also know great lakes by now as well. There are many fun apps that can teach and show students about these three concepts.
  2. Native Americans, Early Explorers, and the Colonies – Fifth graders should learn about the Native Americans and understand the geography of the regions. They also learn about the country’s earliest explorers, as well as learn about the 13 colonies and how they settled. Try having students put on a play or create a song about an early explorer or a Native American.
  3. The American Revolution and the Civil War – Fifth graders should study about the American Civil War and learn about its causes and conflicts. Compare and contrast economies and learn about slavery. They should also explore how the American Revolution played a role in their education, and look at past events. Try showing students old political cartoons and challenge them to create their own cartoon about a current event.


Photosynthesis and the Structure of Cells – Students will learn (in more depth) about this life process and how it produces oxygen for us to breathe. They will also understand that all living things are made up of cells. Get your document camera and microscopes ready, because students will get to see firsthand how organisms look and work.

The Periodic Table – Fifth graders will be introduced to the concept of the elements on the periodic table. Challenge students to a fun game of who can remember them all!

Life, Earth, and Physical Science – Fifth graders continue to learn about the Earth and the solar system. They also study the behavior of living organisms, as well as study energy and matter.

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This is just an outline of the many things 5th grade students will be learning in the classroom. When it comes to learning these common concepts, do your students match up? If not, then then it’s time to step up your game.

Do you have any activities or lessons that correlate with these core concepts for fifth grade students? Please share your ides in the comment section below, we would love to hear them.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.

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