Fifth grade instructional programs in Palo Alto schools are committed to helping each child meet the academic and intellectual competencies expected at this grade level and become an active, engaged learner in a classroom setting. The following summary of the instructional program provides an overview of the fifth grade year. The fifth grade program builds on the skills and knowledge children have learned in preceding years. It encourages critical thinking, creativity, and respect for self and others. The manner of instruction – motivation, grouping, pacing, reinforcing, and reteaching – is determined by each teacher as he or she works to meet individual student needs. Expectations are, of course, modified or expanded to meet a child’s needs and abilities.

Curriculum standards are what all grade-level students are expected to know and be able to do by the end of a school year. Key standards of fifth grade education are highlighted below. All K-5 teachers will continue efforts to fully implement the California Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by making strategic instructional shifts in both English Language Arts and Mathematics. Instruction will be adjusted to best meet the needs of all students. To read the California Common Core Standards.

In fifth grade, each student will . . .

Language Arts

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language Arts

As part of the shift to the Common Core State Standards, students will be working toward College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards (CCR) in language arts. These anchor standards describe the skills of graduating twelfth grade students, and are all included in the specific kindergarten through fifth grade standards at the appropriate developmental level for each grade. There are ten standards for reading, ten for writing, six in the area of listening and speaking, and six in language. These standards include reading closely for deeper meaning, analyzing details, interpreting and using evidence, integrating and evaluating content from various multimedia sources, writing routinely over extended time frames for different purposes using different forms of technology (including the internet), and more.  For a list of the specific 32 kindergarten through 12th grade language arts College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards.


  • reads and comprehends narrative and expository texts independently and proficiently
  • reads narrative and expository text aloud fluently and with expression
  • uses context to predict the meaning of unknown words
  • quotes accurately from a text when drawing conclusions and making inferences
  • compares and contrasts stories in the same genre on their approaches to similar themes and topics
  • integrates information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably

Writing/Word Work

  • applies spelling knowledge to written work
  • applies grammar rules to written work
  • edits conventions: uses correct punctuation and capitalization
  • writes independently with fluency (original ideas, thoughtful word choice, leads, and conclusions)
  • writes narrative pieces based on real or imagined events
  • writes informative/explanatory pieces to examine a topic
  • writes opinion pieces on topics or texts
  • revises content


  • actively listens to speaker
  • follows complex directions and instructions
  • makes relevant comments and questions during discussions
  • supports spoken ideas with evidence and examples in classroom discussions, oral presentations

The major shifts in mathematics education for all grade levels are the Standards for Mathematical Practice.  These standards are the same for kindergarten through 12th grade students.  The Standards for Mathematical Practice describe varieties of expertise that mathematics educators at all levels should focus on in developing their students. These practices rest on important “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education.  The 8 Math Practice Standards emphasize the importance of students’ ability to explain and apply mathematical concepts to solve a range of complex problems. The 8 Math Practice Standards also emphasize how to precisely construct viable arguments to support their own reasoning, and critique the reasoning of others.

Math Practice Standards

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  4. Model with mathematics.
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
  6. Attend to precision.
  7. Look for and make use of structure.
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

For more information about the Common Core Math Practice standards visit

Operations and Algebraic Thinking

  • determines prime factors of numbers to 50
  • identifies and graphs ordered pairs on a coordinate plane
  • knows and uses the distributive property
  • solves problems involving linear functions; writes and graphs equations on the coordinate plane
  • uses a letter to represent an unknown number; writes and evaluates simple algebraic expressions with one variable

Number and Operations in Base Ten

  • memorizes to automaticity basic (x, ÷) facts to 12; ( +, -) to 20
  • adds and subtracts with whole and decimal numbers
  • demonstrates proficiency and understanding of US standard algorithm for multiplying whole and decimal numbers
  • demonstrates proficiency with division, including division with decimals and long division with multi-digit divisors
  • estimates, rounds and manipulates very large and very small numbers
  • understands and computes exponents of whole numbers to denote powers of 10

Number and Operations–Fractions

  • computes and solves problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions and mixed numbers (like and unlike denominators of 20 or less)
  • computes and solves problems with simple multiplication and division of fractions
  • understands and uses decimal and fraction equivalents
  • understands the concept of multiplication and division of fractions

Measurement and Data

  • converts like measurement units within a given measurement system
  • makes a line plot to display a data set of measurements in fractions of a unit
  • understands the concept of volume; computes volume of rectangular solids and labels with correct units


  • classifies 2-D figures into categories based on their properties
  • derives and uses the formula for the area of a triangle and a parallelogram

Problem Solving and Mathematical Reasoning

  • evaluates the reasonableness of a solution in the context of the original situation
  • makes decisions about how to approach and solve problems
  • uses a variety of methods to explain and justify solutions using correct mathematical vocabulary
  • uses estimation to verify the reasonableness of results

In Science, PAUSD uses the Full Option Science System (FOSS) program K-5. The program features a life, earth, and physical science hands-on unit at each grade level.  Teachers strive to integrate reading, writing, and math within Science. By focusing on informational writing and non-fiction text Science aligns more closely with reading and writing.  California has adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and PAUSD is currently exploring these new standards and how they will influence teaching and learning.



Life Science

Earth Science

Physical Science


Animals 2 x 2


Wood and Paper


Plants and Animals

Air and Weather

Solids and Liquids


Insects and Plants

Pebbles, Sand and Silt

Balance and Motion


Structures of Life/Baylands

Sun, Moon and Stars

Matter and Energy



Solid Earth

Magnetism and Electricity


Living Systems

Water Planets

Mixtures and Solutions


Scientific Process Skills

  • Develop a testable question
  • Plan and conduct a simple investigation based on a student-developed question and write instructions others can follow to carry out the procedure
  • Select appropriate tools (e.g., thermometers, metersticks, balances, and graduated cylinders) and make quantitative observations
  • Record data by using appropriate graphic representations (including charts, graphs, and labeled diagrams) and make inferences based on those data
  • Draw conclusions from scientific evidence and indicate whether further information is needed to support a specific conclusion

Physical, Life, and Earth, Science standards encountered through participation in units of study: Mixtures and Solutions, Living Systems, and Water Planet

  • Understand that differences in chemical and physical properties of substances are used to separate mixtures
  • Know that during chemical reactions the atoms in the reactants rearrange to form products with different properties
  • Understand that plants and humans have structures for respiration, digestion, waste disposal, and transport of materials
  • Know how blood circulates through the heart chambers, lungs, and body and how carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen (O2) are exchanged in the lungs and tissues
  • Understand that energy from the Sun heats Earth unevenly, causing air movements that result in changing weather patterns
  • Know that the Earth’s atmosphere exerts a pressure that decreases with distance above the Earth’s surface and that at any point it exerts this pressure equally in all directions
  • Understand that water on Earth moves between the oceans and land through the processes of evaporation and condensation
  • Know that the amount of fresh water located in rivers, lakes, underground sources, and glaciers is limited and that its availability can be extended by recycling and decreasing the use of water
  • Understands that the solar system consists of planets and other bodies that orbit the Sun in predictable paths
Social Studies

Palo Alto Unified School District adopted Social Studies Alive! by Teachers Curriculum Institute. This program is aligned with the California History Social Science Frameworks and the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

This program truly engages students in learning. Student will be an active participant instead of a passive observer by experiencing history through imaginative teaching practices that include dramatic role playing, creative simulations, dynamic group projects, and writing from a historical perspective. Student’s program contains exciting lesson games, audio tools, and drawing activities, as well as an Interactive Student Notebook.

Social Studies Alive! America’s Past covers American history from the first migrations into the Americas through the 20th century. Intense interaction with the personalities, places, and events that structured our nation leads students to be both keen observers of and informed participants in U.S. history.

Visual and Performing Arts

Visual Arts

  • Use their knowledge of all the art elements to describe various works of art
  • Create an expressive abstract composition based on real objects
  • Use perspective in an original art work to create a real or imaginary scene
  • Identify and compare works of art from various regions of the United States
  • Develop and use specific criteria as individuals and in groups to assess works of art
  • Identify and design icons, logos, and other graphic symbols for ideas and information

Music and the Performing Arts

  • Read, notate, listen to and describe music
  • Sing songs with accuracy and use instruments to play rhythmic and melodic ostinatos
  • Make judgments about the quality of a musical performance
  • Describe how music communicates ideas and moods
  • Identify the elements of form, pattern and rhythm in other art forms
Physical Education
  • Participate in major team games, group games, and relays
  • Participate in rhythm activities:  folk dances, jump rope
  • Participate in physical fitness testing
  • Demonstrate good health practices (e.g., nutrition, exercise, rest, health care)
Library Media Program
  • Information Literacy: Students learn to find, evaluate and use information in meaningful and responsible ways
  • Library and Information Usage: Students learn to practice ethical and responsible behavior
  • Literature Appreciation: Students learn to choose, enjoy and respond to a wide variety of literature