Manchester Public Schools
Office of Equity and Partnerships
Grade 5 English Curriculum Information
Here are the things your child will be expected to accomplish during the school year…
  • The fact that students work in clubs within a week or two of the start of fifth grade is emblematic of the way this unit conveys that fifth grade will be a time for an intellectual independence and heady expectations. Meanwhile the strategies the teacher will teach to lift the level of their writing about reading will remind them to draw on a repertoire of ways for reading closely and thoughtfully, alert to the interaction of story elements and aware of details that seem to represent big ideas. They’ll demonstrate this work using a rich read­aloud text then organize the class into clubs, each of which convenes around multiple copies of a shared novel. Fifth graders are at an age when almost everything stands for something else. Sneakers can be a symbol of fitting in or of individuality, an overheard comment can mean (at least for the moment) the ending of a friendship. After the students name the most important thing a text teaches, they’ll be taught to think, “Okay, and what else might this teach?” The expectation that a novel supports more than one theme will nudge them to take up aspects of the text that aren’t accounted for by the theme that springs first to mind. Teachers will lift the level of students’ thinking about texts by helping them notice the ways different authors develop the same theme, and they’ll help them compare and contrast several texts that develop a similar theme. How do these two texts—both of which deal with the issue of loss—develop their theme differently? Think of analytic reading as the sort of intellectual work that a scholar does, pulling back from a text and surveying it with dispassionate objectivity, hoping to understand how the pieces fit together.   
  • With this unit you’ll be re­traveling the now familiar ground of narrative writing with the goal of raising the level of student work to new, highly sophisticated levels. Most of all, teachers will emphasize the importance of meaning, of significance, in writing. In an effort to help students write stories that have significance and that are shaped like true stories, not chronicles, teachers will start this unit by teaching some new strategies for generating a personal narrative, as well as reminding students of strategies they already know. They’ll help students draw on all the narrative crafting techniques they have ever learned, and the emphasis will be on teaching students that craft and revision are always driven by an effort to communicate meaning. Deciding on a good lead, for example, requires  the writer to think, “What is my story really about?” As part of this teaching, teachers will help students learn that the same story can be told differently, depending on the theme the writer wants to bring out. Students will develop their skills at analyzing and annotating mentor texts and emulating the craft moves of a published author.

  • This unit teaches students to embrace complexities in their high­interest nonfiction texts. Reading complex nonfiction requires strong foundational reading skills; emphasizing fluency, orienting to texts, and word solving. A particular spotlight is placed on increasing vocabulary demands, and teachers will teach students to look around words and look inside words to determine the meaning of new words. The fifth graders will pursue independent inquiry projects on the topic they are most interested in, be it infectious diseases, outer space, or their favorite pop star. Teachers will rally students to first learn through primary research, conducting surveys, interviews, and observations, and to use that research to identify main ideas, so they return to texts on their topics with expert eyes. The first unit for fifth grade, Interpretation Book Clubs: Analyzing Themes, placed a special emphasis on writing about reading from fiction texts, and the teaching now will help students write about their nonfiction reading in ways that are similarly engaging and productive. Teachers will support students in analyzing differences in perspective across texts, particularly differences that tie into craft or structure decisions an author makes. They’ll also support skills such as cross­text synthesis. As students read across texts on their inquiry topics, they need to not only form categories that capture their learning as they read deeply within a subtopic, but they also need to notice contradictions within texts and think deeply about what might be causing those contradictions. Then, too, growing ideas matters. Teachers will encourage your fifth graders to move beyond reading a text and taking its ideas at face value, to instead thinking deeply about a text, to make their own connections and spark their own ideas, so they are ready to contribute their own thinking to the grand conversations on their topics. 
  • In the first part of this unit, teachers will ask your students to write a full draft of a research report very quickly, organizing information in subsections and using all they have already learned about informational writing. These are often called “flash drafts” because they are written so quickly. Next, teachers will lead students through a series of lessons on how to revise their flash draft by looking at it through various lenses. Writers might look for patterns, questions, and surprises, or consider the way historians think about geography or timelines, or hypothesize. After several lessons that teach students to reconsider and revise their flash­draft thinking and writing, students write a new and improved draft of their research report. Their aim in this second draft is to use the revision approaches they’ve been taught. It can be quite exciting to see how much students have progressed in a relatively short time. For instance, this second draft is much more elaborated than the first. Next, teachers will teach your students to turn their attention to writing more focused research reports. This means that instead of writing about all of westward expansion as they did in the first bend of the unit, they will write about a more focused topic, such as the Pony Express or the Oregon Trail or the Erie Canal. In addition, they will be taught to focus their attention on writing these reports well. That is, they will be taught to write reports with an attention to the qualities of good information writing, qualities aimed at delivering information and engaging readers. Students will learn to use primary sources in their informational writing.
  • The standards call for students to read across multiple points of view on topics or issues, comparing ideas, information, and perspectives. This is also work that is at the heart of being an informed citizen—understanding different positions on issues and the reasons behind these positions, analyzing the strengths and merits of each of these positions and ultimately, forming one’s own thoughtful viewpoint on an issue. The unit begins by calling students into work that is foundational to the unit—the work of analyzing arguments—with a one­day argument intensive in which students read and analyze a variety of arguments. With this experience in mind, students will then work in research clubs, each club studying a debatable, current issue. To study the issue, students will read text sets included in the unit which are designed to offer different perspectives on each issue. Students will read a variety of informational and argumentative texts, and then debate the issue, work which will push their cross­texts synthesis skills to new heights, as well as support their abilities to make their own arguments. Students must listen closely to others, summarizing them in a recognizable way, and making their own relevant arguments. They will be taught to read and re­read more difficult texts with a critical eye, showing students that they can consider and compare perspective, craft, and strength of argument, in addition to the information and ideas of the author as they read across texts on a topic. The debates should be deeply informed and nuanced, showing students’ firm grasp of the complexity of the issues they have been studying. Students will continue to apply critical and analytical lenses to the texts they read as they work to understand their new issue, debate these issues and formulate thoughtful, ethical, evidence­based, logical positions. By the end of the unit, teachers will show them the relationship between argument and advocacy and students will apply their argument writing practices to raise the awareness of others on the issue.
  • At the start of the unit students investigate and write an argument essay about whether or not chocolate milk should be served in schools. As students explore this issue, they read texts, both digital and print (included on the CD­ROM). Once students have studied texts that advance different perspectives on the issue, they will be taught to consider the warrant behind the arguments in those texts, reading critically. Students then begin to plan and write their own arguments and draft a letter to the principal on this topic. The second bend begins with a response from the principal in which he/she invites students to craft a position paper, or argument essay, to be presented to panels of administrators, parents, and cafeteria workers. Their charge set, students return to research, thinking about possible note­taking systems they might employ and selecting the one that works best for them. As students move toward drafting, they will evaluate the data they have gathered, deciding which evidence they will use to bolster their claims. Students will also entertain counterclaims, stating and debunking the other side’s arguments, and will attend carefully to the perspectives of their audience. For the final bend of the unit writers draw on all they know about writing to take a stand in the world. They write another argument essay, this time about a topic of their choosing, in order to contribute to a public conversation. Students think about what they want to change in the world or what they want people to think differently about and embark on their research, uncovering new texts and perhaps conducting interviews or surveys of their own. With their deadline in mind, students outline the work they need to do and how they intend to get it done. They apply all they have learned about writing an argument essay. They also carry their knowledge of narrative writing into argument, using anecdotes to make their points where necessary. They learn to portray the data accurately to make an effective case.
  • The unit reflects an acute awareness that students will be going on in middle school and the rest of their lives as truly independent readers. The unit is structured so children work in small book clubs, reading fantasy series. Indeed, whether students are reading Dragon Slayers’ Academy or The Harry Potter Series, they’ll synthesize details and make connections across hundreds of pages in this unit of study. There is a tremendous emphasis on transfer in this unit. The teacher introduces new work through a read aloud of a riveting fantasy novel for children (we suggest The Thief of Always), as well as a few short texts. Meanwhile, students will practice this work across the several fantasy novels, each time exploring how the work differs slightly in different texts. At the start of the unit, students will find that they need to read analytically right away, as they consider the work authors do at the very beginning of a novel to develop the setting as a physical place and a psychological one. Comprehension work really matters in more complex narratives. Teachers will lead students to think metaphorically and analytically, teaching them to explore the quests and themes within and across their novels. They’ll also lead students to engage ever more deeply by considering the implications of the conflicts, themes, and lessons in the stories they read for the lives students lead and want to lead. As they move into Bend III, students will focus on dealing with the challenges that harder novels pose.
  • In the beginning of this unit, teachers will teach children to use their notebook to collect both focused entries and idea­based writing. That is, they will learn that writers write both “big” and “small,” writing about broad ideas or theories and then zooming in to write about one time when that idea was true. After a bit of collecting, children will be ready to select one of these entries as a seed idea to be cultivated into a fully grown memoir. After a day of rehearsal and flash­drafting, students will spend time revising their first drafts. This revision will focus on ways to strengthen both the expository and the narrative portions of their writing. Opportunities to reflect, assess, and set goals using writing checklists will help students write in more interpretive and purposeful ways. Children will briefly return to their notebook to collect ideas, then quickly choose a new seed idea for a second memoir. Some children will choose an entirely different topic, while others will try the same topic (a brother leaving for middle school, say), this time using a different structure. The important thing is that students transfer all they have learned from working on their first piece of writing to this second piece.   
  • In this interdisciplinary unit of study, students will discover why independence was important to the American colonies by generating questions and creating an interactive timeline. Students will select a topic/event of interest and choose from a menu of ideas how they will display their new learning and will present their learning to an audience.
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