Reading and writing in fifth grade are fully integrated ways of learning and communication. In their writing and reading workshops, the units of study are coordinated so that the same, or complementary, genres and topics are the focus of both reading and writing simultaneously.
Writing workshop begins, as in previous years, from a writer’s notebook containing personal experiences, thoughts, and ideas that are the seeds for essay writing in various forms such as flash fiction, persuasive pieces, essays, literary analysis, memoir writing, and short fiction stories. The workshop culminates in a full-length independent research project. Throughout the writing units the students develop skills in using sophisticated language and syntax, revising, and editing.
Students learn to expand their writing from several paragraphs to several pages and make effective use of craft moves, such as strong beginnings, beautiful language, transitions, details and description, and figurative language, including similes and metaphors. They continue to use the writing process effectively to plan for narrative and expository writing, edit for conventional spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammatical usage, and word choice, and revise both independently and in peer conferences.
In reading workshop, paralleling the experiences in writing workshop are internet research; themes in picture books; memoir; non-fiction; short stories; and historical fiction. Student initiative and active learning are encouraged through book clubs relating to their genre study. Key goals for the year include achieving high levels of literal and inferential comprehension and an appreciation of literature. Students learn to be actively aware of narrative sequence, character motivation, the author’s message, theme, big idea of a story, and literary techniques; to read with a writer’s eye; and to read between the lines. During read-aloud sessions, teachers model for students the thinking, language, behaviors, and strategies of successful readers. In the spring, students run their own book clubs, where groups read an historical fiction book and discuss it. Students improve their active listening and discussion skills, including how to disagree constructively, build on ideas, and extend conversation.
In a unit on internet literacy, students look at the role and function of the internet, safe communication, acceptable use, and good decision making.
Students also study a unit in both reading and writing memoir, in which students read memoirs to study styles and voice, using these skills to craft their own memoirs.