Let’s be honest. One of the hardest parts of teaching is those two dreaded words: lesson planning. Sometimes the inspiration just isn’t hitting, and we could use a little help. We scoured our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook and the web to put together a collection of ideas for teaching 5th grade to help you get through “The Sunday Night Blues.” Plus there’s advice from teachers like you on classroom management techniques and the best ways to communicate with parents. You’ll see everything organized by topic so you can find what you’re looking for easily. New to teaching? Fifth grade veteran? You’re guaranteed to find something here to inspire you!
Getting Your Classroom Ready
1. Create an inviting classroom
Need ideas to take your classroom to the next level? We’ve gathered real-life 5th grade classrooms for you to browse!
2. Gather all the supplies
Not sure what supplies you need for your classroom? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this list of essential 5th grade classroom supplies.
3. Try different classroom layouts
Long gone are the days of straight rows of desks lining the classroom. Throw out your seating chart and try one of these ideas instead.
4. Fill your classroom library with our favorite 5th grade books
Teaching 5th grade involves a lot of reading! Here are our favorite 5th grade books.
5. Get a jump start on lessons
Teacher planning and prep time are precious! It makes life a lot easier when you can purchase existing lessons, bundles, books, and pages when you’re teaching 5th grade. And why not support other teachers while you do it? Check out our favorite Teacher Pay Teachers sellers for 5th grade.
The First Days of School
6. Introduce yourself creatively
Make day one memorable by introducing yourself in a creative way, such as sending postcards over the summer! Here are creative teacher introduction ideas.
7. Put all hands in
Get to know your 5th 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. We love this idea from Teaching in Room 6.
8. Establish a culture of kindness
Print these free, downloadable posters to remind your students that kindness matters most of all.
9. Build your students’ social-emotional skills
Teaching 5th grade means building SEL skills. Use these SEL read-alouds to talk about everything from kindness to courage to trying your best.
10. Create classroom jobs for your students
Here are some creative ideas for classroom jobs from our teacher community: tech support, environmental support, organizer, textbook coordinator, sanitation engineer, librarian, substitute, chief in charge, messenger, paper passer, supply clerk, IT technician, human resources officer, administrative assistant, waste management. Plus check out this big list of unique classroom jobs.
11. Make a class time capsule
At the beginning of the year, have students write down their thoughts, expectations, goals, feelings, and predictions. Put them all in a decorated jar, seal it up, and then read them all back to them in the last week of school!
12. Use the walls for anchor charts instead of premade posters
You can check out our top 5th grade anchor charts for inspiration here.
Ideas for Language Arts
13. Incorporate daily writing prompts
We’ve gathered these 5th grade writing prompts that you can download and use to have your 5th graders practice their writing skills.
14. Read aloud
Book series make great read-alouds because you can carry them through the entire year. Here are some of our top read-aloud picks for 5th grade.
15. Encourage higher-order thinking
16. 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.
17. Use paint chips to inspire sensory poetry
18. Teach the difference between tone and mood
Practice applying the definitions by reading passages in class and asking students to identify the difference between tone and mood in each passage with this helpful anchor chart.
19. Teach how to use context clues to bridge into larger close-reading skills
We love this context clues anchor chart from Crafting Connections.
20. Teach the difference between literal and figurative meanings through writing and drawing
Take sentences from your class’s current text that use figurative language and have students (literally!) illustrate and explain the difference in the literal and figurative meanings of the expressions. Check out these figurative language anchor charts to get started.
21. Try a vocabulary activity. Or 15!
Use RAFTs, try Vocabulary Jeopardy, and more with these vocabulary activities.
22. Use scavenger hunts to teach how to cite evidence
Find four of our favorite activities for citing textual evidence—two for fiction and two for nonfiction.
23. Teach theme in language arts
To fully explore theme, students must understand what they read and then extract ideas from the text. Here are 14 ways to get started teaching theme.
24. Have fun with poetry
Help your class learn to read, appreciate, and write poetry with these poetry lessons, templates, and worksheets.
25. Use nonfiction to draw in reluctant readers
Have a student that just won’t read? Use these types of nonfiction to entice them!
26. Offer life-changing books
Fifth grade is a big year for many students. They are beginning to gain more maturity and life experience. Give your students access to texts that will expand their minds and hearts. Share these 5th grade chapter books with your students.
Ideas for Math
27. Reinforce prime numbers with a fun card game
Prime numbers become instantly cool when you use them to win this card game from Education.com. Download the activity for free.
28. Use bulletin boards as a math resource
Make your bulletin boards interactive and useful to aid kids in learning new mathematical concepts and to bolster independent learners. Check out these math bulletin boards that are creative and different to add to your room this year.
29. Focus on fractions
If it’s not math fluency, it’s fractions. The better understanding 5th graders have of fractions, the better off they’ll be when the quantities get more complicated or the operations get sophisticated. Check out our favorite fraction activities.
30. Make it easy to reinforce
Reinforce new concepts with games that don’t need a ton of prep and can even be played at home. Check out these easy-to-play 5th grade math games that cover many math standards.
31. Watch videos
It’s much more fun to teach multiplication and division when you’re watching a video!
32. Teach the dreaded word problem
Use these math word problem activities and strategies.
33. Whip out the songs
Yes, by 5th grade, students should all know their multiplication facts. But let’s be real, sometimes it’s still a bit shaky. Try these catchy multiplication songs to finally have them solidify those facts!
34. Have a snack while you’re learning
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 math and science.
35. Graph paper isn’t just for graphing
Tired of messy math work? Try this hack to transform the way students show their math work.
Ideas for Financial Literacy
36. Spend, Save, Give
Teach your students to be more thoughtful and responsible about how they use money to help them be successful adults.
37. Making money
Kids love learning how to earn some extra cash. Use this making-money lesson to give them the vocabulary they need to dig deeper into topics like allowances, job, wages, and salaries.
38. Saving money
Saving money can be tricky for kids (and adults!). Use this lesson on saving money to help students learn how to save money in an age-appropriate way. It also covers other topics like investing and credit.
Yes! Kids can learn how to be financial planners. Set them up for future financial success by teaching them how to make financial plans to reach financial goals with this budgeting lesson.
40. Charitable giving
There is a strong push for educators to teach social-emotional skills. It’s important for our students to understand why and how to give back. Check out this charitable-giving lesson to add to your financial literacy lessons.
41. Hands on Banking
Our Hands on Banking resource has a whole host of resources to help teach students money skills. Online games, app recommendations, worksheets, lessons—it’s definitely worth a look!
Ideas for Science
42. Get hands-on with science
Science is the perfect subject for kids to get down and dirty. Try these 5th grade science projects for inspiration.
43. Try daily STEM challenges
These STEM challenges are designed with your 5th graders in mind. Try one each day or each week to get their minds thinking outside the box.
44. Teach the plant life cycle
The plant life cycle is always a fun science unit. You get to talk about growing, planting, and nature. Plus, students love digging in and getting their hands dirty when they plant seeds themselves.
45. Teach electricity
It’s electrifyingly good fun! Shock them with these science experiments.
46. Explore animal habitats
Ready to explore animal habitats around the world, from rain forests to deserts and everything in between? These fun habitat activities are just what you’re looking for. Take a walk on the wild side!
47. Host a science fair
These science fair project ideas give students a chance to develop all sorts of skills like critical thinking, research, and writing.
Ideas for Social Studies
48. Try social studies inquiry circles
Address the required standards through inquiry-based learning. Here’s a how-to guide from the One Stop Teacher Shop. Watch your kids sink their teeth into the “thick versus thin” concept, and the Work Plan Form will help students take control of their own learning.
49. 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 make commercials to try and get ‘tourists’ to visit their location (ancient civilizations).” —Brittany R.
50. Learn about heroes
51. Use online learning
There are some amazing websites out there for teaching social studies lessons. Check out our 50+ favorites.
52. Take a field trip
Being the oldest student on campus affords some privileges, not the least of which is awesome field trips. No baby field trips here. Take advantage of having more mature learners, and try one of these engaging field trips that you can only really do in 5th grade.
Ideas for Classroom Management
53. 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.
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.
55. 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.
56. 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.
57. Encourage kids to develop their passions
Give your 5th 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.
58. 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.
59. 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 board 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.
60. 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.
61. Get the wiggles out
Even grown-ups can’t sit still and listen all day! Get your kids up and moving with awesome 5th grade brain breaks.
62. Prizes don’t have to be the way to go
Looking to explore other ways of classroom management? Check out what this teacher has to say about rewards.
63. Scratch the “I don’t know …”
Teach students these eight alternatives to “I don’t know” to help promote perseverance in your classroom!
64. Respond in ways that promote thinking
It can be so frustrating when our students look at us and blurt out “I don’t get it” after an in-depth lesson. Here are five practical ways you can respond to get those brains thinking!
65. Teach kids perseverance
Create a classroom community of students who don’t give up when challenges present themselves. Learn ways to build perseverance in your classroom when you’re teaching 5th grade!
66. Encourage a growth mindset
A growth mindset helps students embrace challenges, learn how to fail and try again, and gain more skills to becoming independent. Learn ways to incorporate growth mindset into your daily lessons and routines.
67. Have a sense of humor
Teaching 5th grade requires a sense of humor, for both yourself and your students. Try one of our 5th grade jokes to start the day.
68. Build positive relationships with parents
Here are tips for working with parents that make it the easiest part of your job.
69. Tweak your lingo
Sometimes a mere tweak in your language can make a big change in classroom participation!
70. Know the goals
New to 5th grade? Not sure of the skills your students need when they head off to middle school? Here are the skills one teacher says every 5th grader must have by the end of the school year.
What are your top tips for teaching 5th grade? Come share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, check out our guide to the 5th grade classroom.