Fifth Grade


In the fifth grade, flexible ability groupings in reading and math continue to foster optimal learning.

Students also draw more detailed and comprehensive connections between their learning experiences and the world around them and develop advanced skills in research, note taking, time management, report writing, and test taking.


The reading program focuses on enhancing both literal and inferential reading comprehension skills. Exploring a variety of literature from across the curriculum and from a wide range of genres, students gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of characters, stories, and events. As tools to strengthen their comprehension, they separate fact from opinion, apply prior knowledge, and make real-life connections. Using a variety of resources, including the WordMasters Competition, a national analogy competition, entered by approximately 220,000 students annually, the children expand their vocabularies and deepen their understanding of analogies and verbal reasoning. In this challenge, our fifth graders frequently and impressively place among the nation’s top competitors within their age cohort.

As their reading skills advance, students are expected to complete increasingly challenging tasks, such as book reports, which they write on a variety of subjects and from a host of categories, including biography, historical fiction, and Newbery Award-winners. They then present their findings to their classmates and learn, through practice and continued exposure, how to orate in a poised fashion while maintaining eye-contact with audience members.

Students are lucky enough to participate in a series of workshops with our drama specialist, where they not only read and act out one of Shakespeare’s plays in concert with a professional actor, but also learn about the Bard of Avon himself. Throughout this unit of study, they engage in storytelling, reenactments, interactive games, and writing assignments. Each and every fifth grader has the chance to study Shakespeare’s characters, plots, and underlying themes in a hands-on, memorable way. This is a thrilling opportunity for our students, as they continue to refine their interest in and knowledge of theater.


In fifth grade mathematics, our leveled classes accommodate students’ varied learning rates through flexible ability learning groups. The curriculum concentrates on enhancing conceptualization and real-world problem solving, as well as on mastery of whole number operations, fractions, decimals, geometry, percentages, probability, measurement, ratios, and early pre-algebra; it prepares students for the higher-level thinking that is the foundation not only of our sixth grade program here, but also of any middle school pre-algebra or algebra class that they will take post-Laurence.


In our writing program, students gain continued exposure to the five paragraph essay, using the program, Step Up to Writing, as their aid for producing clear, structured work. One special project they complete is a biographical report on a person of interest, accompanied by an artistic rendering that brings the biography to life for their peers—their audience for the oral component of this project.

Additionally, the fifth graders focus on the writing process and specifically on revision. They then create their very own bound narratives, which they share with younger students in the school in order to get them excited about story writing. Finally, the students gain greater comfort in using rubrics and graphic organizers to help them arrange their thoughts before they sit down to write. They work on expository, narrative, and persuasive writing and on poetry, creating their own hardcover books filled with personalized poems.

Social Studies

In social studies, students study American history from the Age of Exploration up to the Civil War. Topics include Native Americans, European exploration and settlements, colonization, the Revolutionary War, the birth of an independent nation, our Founding Fathers, the Constitution, immigration, and westward expansion. A simultaneous focus on current events encourages students to be aware of contemporary issues as well, and a mastery of our 50 states and capitals gives them a better understanding of United States geography and its relationship to the larger world. The children refine their understanding of the interdependence of people and nations through Global Education studies. They not only learn about the culture, history, and geography of Kenya and Liberia, their sister countries, but also exchange mail and engage in interactive, collaborative projects with students from their African-based sister schools, thereby gaining a greater understanding of the economic, cultural, and political differences and similarities between Kenya/Liberia and the United States.

Students learn to appreciate their own self-identities as well as the identities of others as they engage in a deep exploration of their families' heritage and immigration stories. They then celebrate this notion of brotherhood before friends and family through song, dance, poetry, and music-making.

Additionally, we also take a field trip to the Ronald Reagan Library, where the students get to experience a role playing activity that simulates the 1980 invasion of Grenada. This experience gives the students a better understanding of the roles and relationships between the government, military and the press.


In fifth grade science, the children benefit from applying the scientific method to their studies in multiple settings—in our fully equipped science lab, in beautiful outdoor gardens, and in our surrounding ecosystems. The fifth grade curriculum includes units on life, earth, and physical science. As such, students study the ocean, including its flora and fauna, and many different habitats. Working in small, cooperative groups and independently, they also explore units on the body (human development/puberty), the solar system and astronomy, and even robotics.

Using Lego NXT robotics kits, students work in groups to solve challenges such as programming a robot to follow a line through an obstacle course or to dance to music. Furthermore, they collaborate on projects with children in other independent schools, communicating with these partner classes via blogging, Skype conferencing, and even a combined field trip, where they demonstrate a joint robotics showcase. What’s more, through the use of an interactive online curriculum, students and their families can conveniently access the science program from home.

A true high point of the fifth grade is a three day, two night excursion to Astrocamp, where the children participate in science enrichment programming, as well as in outdoor educational experiences. Another stand out aspect of the fifth grade’s program is the spring Inquiry-based Science Share, where students, working in small, cooperative groups, take on the role of scientists in formulating questions and testing hypotheses on any given topic applicable to the curriculum. They plan and conduct investigations, emphasizing skills such as predicting, drawing inferences, measuring, identifying cause and effect relationships, and supporting conclusions with evidence. Finally, they showcase their findings before parents, friends, and other members of the school community.

Our upper-elementary school children have many opportunities to be leaders through science. On Planting Day, a wonderful opportunity for demonstrating environmental stewardship, fifth graders nurture our own Edible Garden and spearhead the composting program by presenting skits about its benefits to their younger peers.

Character Education/Service Learning

At Thanksgiving time, the fifth graders demonstrate their commitment to Character Education/Service Learning by donating various canned and dried Thanksgiving goods to families in need at the LA Transition House. In addition to preparing these ready-made dinners, which the students package in personally-decorated grocery bags, they include hand-written cards that are sure to lift spirits.

To their first grade peers, the fifth grade students act as big buddies, mentoring their younger counterparts through meaningful social interactions that show how much they care, such as regular “play dates” and the occasional buddy snack or dessert.

Just prior to Winter Break, the children and their buddies also assemble craft bags, complete with books, cards, and stickers, which they donate to the UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital. Then, come Chinese New Year time, the fifth graders celebrate the tradition and history of the holiday that is studied in depth by their first grade buddies, whose sister country is China. They learn bits of the language, hear stories of the zodiac, taste various foods, and practice how to use chopsticks.

Our Farmers’ Market program teaches fifth graders about sustainability and economics. Students see what it is like to be local farmers and entrepreneurs: growing and tending the produce in our Edible Garden, designing and packaging the products, determining the cost of the items, and selling the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor at our Open House/Global Faire. Laurence families also pitch in, donating fresh items from their own gardens to be sold. Finally, students man booths at the event and help with the set-up and clean-up of our Performing Arts Center (PAC), where the market is staged.
Powered by Finalsite