Whether you’re switching to grade five after years of teaching littles, are a brand-new teacher (“Pssst, it’s going to be OK!”), or have been teaching the 10-year-olds for years, we’ve got you covered. Check out our 50 tips for teaching fifth grade from the teachers on our Facebook Helpline and around the web.
1. Create a classroom constitution or bill of rights.
Work as a class to create a classroom constitution or bill of rights. Have students work together to brainstorm their most important guidelines for a successful fifth grade learning community. Once students have decided on the five or six most important points, write them in a pledge form on posterboard. Have all students sign the pledge and hang it on the wall where the students can see it. Get more tips for teaching fifth grade here.
2. Be consistent when teaching 5th grade.
Consistency is key. “I’ve been teaching 5th grade for 15 years, and I can honestly say that for me it comes down to one word: consistency. If you are not consistent and do not plan to follow through (rules, routines), then you will have a great big mess on your hands academically, socially and behaviorally. You need be consistent and keep to your schedule, routine and rules. Fifth graders learn quickly that if you don’t mean what you say, they do not have to do their best.” —Maria S.
3. Put all hands in.
Get to know your fifth grade class and finish decorating during the first week of school with an activity that has students trace their hands and decorate with words and pictures that describe themselves. More ideas for teaching 5th grade here.
Fifth graders may think they are big kids, but they’re still motivated by rewards. “I give tickets to my students (bought from a party-supply store). They can redeem them every other Friday. A certain number of points can be cashed in for prizes, like a piece of candy or extra computer time. Sometimes I give one or two tickets and other times I pull off a long string of 10 to 15, especially if I want to change the behavior of other students! Tickets can be earned for good behavior, turning in work, showing respect, appropriate class participation and so on.” —Becky S.
5. Try Class Dojo for big results with little effort.
“I teach fifth grade and use Class Dojo. I keep a total of their points for the month. Then they get a copy of the “menu” to fill out, choosing how they will spend their points for the month. Only 14 points can be carried over for the next month. The choices range from 15 points to 80. It works well with little effort on my part.” —Kate F.
6. Think soft, not loud.
“If students are being loud, my instinct used to be to raise my voice to try to be louder than them. Now, I’ve started doing the opposite: I’ll speak more quietly. This tends to intrigue them, and they’ll start hushing each other so they can hear what I have to say. Try it!” —Erin F.
7. If you assign it, grade it.
Make sure kids know that all their work is valuable and deserves their best effort. “If you assign it (project, test, homework), then you need to check or grade it!” —Maria S.
8. Encourage kids to develop their passions.
Give your fifth grade kids a Genius Hour where they can explore a topic of their choice. Students spend a set amount of time each day researching the topic before creating a project they will eventually present to the class.
9. Have “brain breaks.”
Use GoNoodle for brain breaks while teaching 5th grade. “There are rainy-day recess videos, exercise videos, using-your-brain videos, sports videos, dancing videos &hellip” —Tiffany M.
10. Ditch your desk.
What? No teacher desk? Where on earth will you keep all your “stuff”? All your desk supplies can be organized in plastic drawers, bins and letter trays. Instead of calling kids up to your desk, you can work with them at a clutter-free table. Try it out! It will free up space in your classroom and encourage you to work more closely with students. Image from this teaching blog and more ideas on switching to a teacher apron versus a desk, here.
11. Let your students be the teachers.
“I let my students work in groups to read part of a chapter and then teach it to the class. They did various things such as present graphic organizers, skits, raps, and acrostics. They took questions from the students and they also gave out questions as mini-quizzes!” —Brittany R.
12. Incorporate arts and crafts into lessons.
“I’ve done Egyptian units where kids create their own sarcophaguses. It has to have representations of things that are important to them.” —Laura N.
“We created cubes (made of poster boards and cut and glued with hot glue) to create an informational cube about Egyptians. They did their own research for the topics covered.” —Brittany R.
13. Have a classroom debate—in costume!
“We do a debate between the Patriots and the Loyalists, complete with costumes. The kids LOVED this activity.” —Sherrie R.
14. Use CultureGrams.
Teacher Matt S. recommends checking out CultureGrams when teaching 5th grade students about countries around the world. There is a special Kids Edition with country reports that include images, a historical timeline, fun facts, history, population and info on what it’s like to be a kid in that country.
15. Create a larger-than-life syllabus.
Even younger students like to know what exciting topics are in store for them throughout the year. You can make a special bulletin board that creates excitement and anticipation for upcoming units. “When I student-taught, the teacher I was with had huge bulletin boards with red, white and blue backgrounds, all trimmed out in patriotic borders and dates on each panel for what we would be covering through the year. She used a social studies text book, literature, and other mediums to teach with, and it was awesome!” —Linda W.
16. Use video clips to teach inferencing.
“If you want to swing your [inferencing] lesson in a science direction, you can show a short clip of an animal (maybe a baby elephant playing around), and discuss the differences between what you observe, and what you infer about its behavior.” —Joy L.
17. Or … use artwork to teach inferencing.
You can also “use Norman Rockwell paintings to teach inferencing.”—Melissa K. To do this, display an image and ask students to draw conclusions about the context. Start with this classic image from BestNormanRockwellArt.com.
18. Read aloud.
Book series make great read alouds because you can carry them through the entire year. Here are some of our top picks for fifth grade.
19. Make Story Wheels.
After you read aloud to students, have them create Story Wheels to respond to the text by writing and drawing about character traits, setting, problem, solution, purpose, etc.
20. Encourage higher order thinking.
Looking for resources to encourage higher order thinking in your young readers? These fifth grade worksheets from GreatSchools are just the ticket.
21. Use thinking stems.
Encourage students to delve more deeply in their analysis by providing this handy list of thinking stems! These are great both as a resource in their notebooks or even as an inspirational poster in the classroom. Find more teaching 5th grade tips and info on thinking stems here.
22. Hold a book challenge.
Sudents can read widely and diversely with a 40 Book Challenge, inspired by Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer.
23. Recommend the best books…
Find ideas for the books they’ll love, as suggested by Great Schools.
24. … And while they’re reading, you can read too!
Our community is experienced in teaching 5th grade! They weighed in on the books that inspire them:
- What Makes a Great Teacher Great?
- The First Days of School
- Notice and Note
- When Kids Can’t Read
- The Book Whisperer
- The Best Interest of the Students
- Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire
- The Dreamkeepers
- Teach Like a Champion
- Anything by Todd Whitaker
- Anything by Rick Morris
25. Encourage chapter books.
Fifth grade is the perfect year to move away from anthologies and into in-depth novel studies. The Giver is a classic and we love this list of book that will change the way students see the world.
26. Teach Greek and Latin roots.
Basic vocabulary lists, begone! Teach students the Greek and Latin roots of words and watch them start deciphering the meaning of unfamiliar words on their own. We love the above anchor chart from this blog.
27. Get a handle on Common Core.
Desperate for common core mentor texts? Performing in Education has you covered (with both literary AND informational text suggestions).
28. Differentiate between comparing and contrasting.
It’s easy for fifth graders to mix up comparing and contrasting, but your students will have no problem with this anchor chart in your classroom. Anchor chart and other tips for teaching 5th grade here.
29. Try blackout poetry.
Poetry is everywhere! Inspire your kids with blackout poetry from LoveTeachBlog.com.
30. Be a dictator—in a constructive way!
“Words Their Way is fabulous and very hands-on. To assess, we use dictation assessments. My team created dictation sentences that include some of the spelling words and the spelling pattern words. We dictate the sentence to the kids and they write it. They are graded on: spelling, handwriting, capitalization, punctuation.” —Lisa B.
31. Grade all assignments for spelling.
“I take spelling grades off of any type of assignment: a science response, an essay, anything. You get a better snapshot of their real spelling level, not if they have help at home.” —Jessica R.
32. Use apps!
On the topic of apps and websites for teaching fifth grade, our community of teachers suggested:
- National Geographic for Kids
- Popplet (for creating graphic organizers)
- SAS Data Notebook
- Front Row
- Show Me
- Story Creator
- Evernote (for interactive journaling)
- Virtual Field Trips
- Power My Learning
- Google Drive (tips for using it here)
- Wonderopolis.org (for science)
- MakeBeliefsComix.com (for comic strips)
- DOGONews.com (for current events)
- FreeRice.com (for building vocabulary)
33. Spice up your graphing assignments.
Instead of having students graph boring shapes, use fun images for graphing assignments.
34. Create math stations.
Create fifth grade math stations around your room for exciting learning opportunities for your little mathematicians. You can get some ideas here.
35. Use visuals to teach multiplication.
Visualize multiplication products with this hands-on activity. Get more tips for teaching fifth grade math here.
36. Do a math project.
Property foldables are a fun project for helping students review the associative, commutative, and identity properties.
37. Play math games!
Check out these awesome free math games for teaching 5th grade. We love #9!
38. Make a dividing decimals anchor chart.
An anchor chart will help reinforce steps for dividing decimals. Find it here.
39. Have a snack—and learn too!
Students will love combining cooking and chemistry with this engaging Compound Cookie activity where students follow a recipe to make a yummy snack! A fun (and delicious) way to go about teaching 5th grade science.
40. Do science experiments.
Kickstart your students’ creativity for science fair projects with these seven 24-hour fifth grade experiments. We love the inquiry-based topics, with questions such as, “Does the shape of ice affect melting time” and “Which toilet tissue is most biodegradable?”
41. Bring botany to life.
Check out this free gardening unit from Living Montesorri Now.
42. Warm-up with science.
Incorporate weekly science warm-ups into your class’s repertoire from STAAR.
43. Have an electrifying experience!
Make your own electricity. ‘Nuff said.
44. Have a to do list.
Keep this to do list handy to make sure your fifth graders master everything they should learn this year!
45. Let your students be TV producers.
Fifth grade teacher Brittany R. had her class work “in small groups toward the end of the year and made commercials to try and get ‘tourists’ to visit their location (ancient civilizations).” —Brittany R.
46. Play Pickup States!
A fun twist on pickup sticks! Students pick up a stick with a state name on one side and name the capital. The answer is on the back of the stick. More fabulous ideas for teaching fifth grade here.
47. Use interactive notebooks.
Fifth grade is a perfect time to use interactive notebooks. They can be used for any subject from math to social studies, and they make great study guides! Find more here.
48. Use visuals to explain nonfiction text structures.
Need the perfect anchor chart for teaching fifth grade students about nonfiction text structure? Look no further!
49. Have your students take a number.
Avoid being inundated with questions while you’re working with another student. Have students take a numbered clothespin, and encourage them to keep working while they’re waiting. This and more for teaching 5th grade here.
50. Do quick checks.
Check students’ understanding of math concepts daily with a quick check board. Have students use Post-its to write their answers to a math problem and then group them accordingly to work on skills that haven’t yet been mastered.