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Fifth Grade

"Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each." – Plato

We welcome fifth graders into our Middle School where they encounter responsibilities and chances to display their continual growth and independence. Students have the opportunity to join clubs, participate in the Middle School socials, become involved in student government, and go on their first overnight field trip. By doing so, our fifth graders have a voice and the chance to shape their middle school community. The classroom buzzes with excitement while the students expand their minds and grow socially. Classroom activities center on providing a safe environment where students are challenged and develop self-esteem. Students continue to learn, appreciate the value of hard work, and enjoy the numerous opportunities to display their talents to the entire Barnesville community.


Language Arts

In fifth grade, students continue to advance in reading and writing, as well as grammar, spelling, and vocabulary.

Throughout the year, students analyze various novels and other types of literature in the classroom. Our in-class study of literature is divided into five major units:

  • Short stories—emphasis on basic literary terms such as conflict, theme, and character
  • Tuck Everlasting (Natalie Babbitt)
  • Poetry—emphasis on poetic elements such as simile, metaphor, imagery
  • Woods Runner (Gary Paulsen)
  • Counting on Grace (Elizabeth Winthrop)
  • Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry (Mildred Taylor)

Our study of vocabulary is ongoing. We also supplement with a study of roots, suffixes, and prefixes, so that students can learn patterns of vocabulary rather than simply memorizing words.

Spelling work is likewise ongoing. Words are culled from daily writing and weekly vocabulary.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, fifth graders write a great deal throughout the year. Our goal in writing is to make students comfortable with multi-paragraph, multi-page essays and research papers. Students’ journal on a regular basis to encourage comfort with the writing process. On formal writing assignments, the emphasis is on the writing process: pre-writing/organizing, rough draft, revision, editing, and final draft. Over the course of the year, students write comparison and contrast papers, persuasive essays, personal narratives, creative writing stories, and formal research papers (with Works Cited lists).


In fifth grade, students make the transition from the study of arithmetic to the study of mathematics. Arithmetic deals largely with the acquisition of number facts and basic skills in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. While these topics are continued in fifth grade, more emphasis is placed upon number theory, the nature of mathematics, and problem solving. A goal of fifth grade math is to make students more aware of math around them.

Fifth grade math is presented in two sections, based upon the individual student’s ability level. Both groups use the Prentice Hall Mathematics series of textbooks. The basic text for fifth grade math is Prentice Hall Course 1, and the advanced math section will use Prentice Hall Course 2.

Social Studies

In fifth grade, students continue to study United States history as they did in fourth grade. The curriculum is ordered chronologically; we begin with the development of our government following the Revolutionary War and continue through to Civil War Reconstruction. Because students will study these topics and this era in much more detail in later grades, we use fifth grade as a time to motivate students and hopefully to instill an ongoing interest in history and politics. The approach to teaching history is simple: we present history as a “story”—his, hers, theirs, and ultimately, ours.

The year is divided into roughly three general units of study that correspond with the trimesters. In the first trimester, we focus on the development of the United States government, with particular attention devoted to the Constitutional Congress, the Bill of Rights, and the rise of patriotism. We also visit key government buildings in Washington, D.C. (The National Archives and U.S. Capitol) as we learn about the three branches of government.

In the second trimester, we study the expansion of our country between 1800 and the Civil War. Students research key figures in the Industrial Revolution, abolitionism, the women’s rights movement, and the decline of Native American power. Westward expansion, the travels of Lewis and Clark, the concept of Manifest Destiny, the Mexican War, and the gold rush are all introduced and discussed. During this trimester, students examine the impact of geography, the economy, and politics on the developing country. We study in depth the institution of slavery and the development of the Underground Railroad.

In the third trimester, we learn about the most destructive war in our history: the United States Civil War. Students find this time fascinating as we avail ourselves of the rich history in our local area. We travel to Antietam, Gettysburg, Harpers Ferry, and the National Civil War Medical Museum in order to bring history alive. We invite a Civil War re-enactor to the classroom so that students can see the trappings of 1860’s military life in person, and we make hardtack and “mush” in the classroom. Students end the year by coming full-circle and once again examining a country destroyed by war and badly in need of healing.

Finally, we analyze current events daily, and discuss how they relate to historical events from the past. Students will see that history is cyclical. By first developing awareness, we will try to instill in our children a desire to better our country and ultimately, our world.


The fifth grade science year is designed to provide the students with an introduction to Physical Science through a yearlong study in ecosystems. Major topics include: chemical and physical changes in matter, properties of matter, gravity and it’s effects of natural systems, and energy flow in an ecosystem. The students participate in hands-on activities, interactive class discussions, and class labs. Students are given several opportunities throughout the year to apply their knowledge to creative projects and presentations that they get to pick.

Science incorporates all subjects from language arts to music. The students work on technical reading comprehension skills, note taking, and test taking strategies as well as critical thinking skills. By the end of the year, the students become comfortable reading and using science-based texts, and have begun to use the scientific thought process when analyzing concepts and data. The students complete both technical and creative writing pieces and projects to go along with traditional lab exercises.


Students in fifth through eighth grade learn Spanish through immersion experiences to strengthen speaking proficiency and cultural appreciation. Middle School Spanish students focus on the four key areas of foreign language study: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Each unit consists of a new vocabulary theme and grammar concept, reading and listening comprehension activities, speaking and writing activities, multimedia cultural presentations, and interactive activities and practices that reinforce vocabulary and grammar.

By the time students depart eighth grade, they are proficient in Spanish in the areas of communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities.

In 5th and 6th grades, Spanish meets three times a week for 45 minutes. Students are exposed to the language in a variety of ways that trigger linguistic growth and maximize language skills. They read and write in Spanish and practice speaking through oral presentations, story writing, dynamic performances, and dynamic collaborations with the School´s art program.

Physical Education

Fifth grade students begin experiencing a combination of mental and physical challenges in groups to help build their leadership qualities. Team building is emphasized, and effective communication and problem solving techniques come into play to successfully accomplish goals. Students also have opportunities to experience life-long recreational activities.

Understanding and applying interrelated concepts (e.g. math, science, social studies, reading/language arts, music and art) connect to the learning of movement skills. Most importantly, physical education helps the learner to utilize optimal effort on all tasks for personal best.


Fifth grade art deals with aspects of American Art as they relate to the fifth grade social studies curriculum. It focuses on diversity in American Art, highlighting African American artists, women artists, and Latino artists. Students learn how to research artists and to talk/write about works of art. A wide variety of art media are explored including drawing, painting, ceramics, mixed-media sculpture, and collage. This is also the grade in which students are first introduced to the digital art software, Photoshop. The class meets three times a week for 45 minutes.


This is the first year for Middle School students to experience the study of different musical instruments at a more in-depth level. Students enjoy the opportunity to play guitar, piano, and percussion instruments. Students sing and dance to more contemporary and cultural song selections. Self-selection of a band or composer leads to a student created PowerPoint that is shared with classmates.


Fifth grade students have a weekly Information Literacy class and book exchange with discussion.

With a focus on digital literacy and digital citizenship, students are taught skills for finding, verifying, and ethically using information from both print and electronic sources.

These goals are demonstrated through the following topics of instruction: students investigate different genres of literature via readers advisory presented by the classmates and the librarian, and identify the history of the picture book and the styles of illustration and analyze theme through fables. This emphasis on children’s literature and book awards is in preparation for spring art/language arts project of writing and illustrating a picture book.

The students distinguish different ways to access and use information from the library collection, subscription databases, Internet sites, and local library collections and databases to meet research needs. In preparation for social studies projects and presentations. Students formulate note cards on paper and on the EasyBib web page. The students review MLA 7 citation style and the use of a citation generator, EasyBib.

An independent private school in
Montgomery County, Maryland
offering innovative preschool
through 8th grade programs.

Barnesville School

21830 Peach Tree Road
PO Box 404
Barnesville, MD 20838

p: 301.972.0341
f: 301.972.4076


We offer a vigorous academic program for students as well as engaging, hands-on learning experiences.


Our positive, supportive learning environment promotes imagination, exploration, personal growth, and achievement.

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