Your child and technology: what your fifth grader needs to know

Technology isn't a substitute for teaching; it’s a way to bring the world into the fifth grade classroom.

By GreatSchools Staff

A modern tool to answer age-old questions

Technology in the fifth grade classroom can introduce a rich, entertaining range of learning opportunities that engage young minds and get them excited about all aspects of the curriculum. Your child will use technology tools to enhance her understanding of language arts, science, social studies, math, and art. According to the Common Core Standards Initiative that the majority of states adopted in 2010-2011, fifth graders should master basic tech skills that are needed to succeed in core subjects like reading, writing, science, and math. Although teachers aren't required to follow them, many states base their technology standards on the National Educational Technology Standards for Students, too.

In fifth grade, your child should learn and refine essential skills that will prepare her for the more rigorous demands of middle school and high school – from the mechanics of researching and writing an essay to conducting and presenting a complex science experiment. While using technology is no substitute for mastering mathematical concepts or learning to craft a persuasive thesis statement for a literary report, it's an important tool to supplement classroom instruction. Even more important, technological literacy is essential for your child's future.

Language arts gets a tech boost

Language arts — once exclusively the realm of paper and ink — get an enormous boost from technology. Children in the fifth grade are expected to research and write opinion essays, information essays, and reports, so learning to do research on the Internet, understanding how to evaluate sources, and learning about plagiarism are essential skills.

Audio books and audio-enhanced text books allow fifth graders to immerse themselves in a culture of storytelling, fit more books into their busy lives, allow books to compete with other media for entertainment value, and get hooked on reading as a lifelong pleasure. Using a tablet or computer, students can easily look up unfamiliar words to master new vocabulary and practice pronunciation. And digital book creation, video editing, and animation tools enable students to become authors of their own stories. A word processor — with grammar correction — can improve students' grammar and spelling as they write, by noting mistakes as they happen and offering corrections.

Technology as a math aid

Technology helps kids master math concepts with games and apps that illustrate more complex division and decimals, as well as fractions and geometric concepts. A host of educational apps ask children to touch and manipulate math concepts on the screen. Math-based computer games transform rote drills into games that take advantage of gaming fever to drill facts into memory, which is a big part of fifth grade math. Online animations and multimedia lessons can turn a math lesson into entertainment that teaches as it enthralls; they also allow students to review a lesson whenever they wish. And the Internet brings concepts and teachers — fantastic teachers like Salman Khan of Khan Academy (which offers hundreds of video classes on math, science, and other subjects) — into the classroom to inspire young minds.


Science with a tech twist

In an Internet-connected classroom, science is as close as the whiteboard, monitor, tablet, or computer screen. At the fifth grade level, children can watch close-up footage or animation of the human body, dinosaurs, space, or cells. They can play with animated versions of the elements in the periodic table or simulations of tornados or the night sky. Websites like Khan Academy, Brainpop, Discovery Education, and The Jason Project allow kids to access multimedia lessons and animations that transform science instruction into entertainment. And to help students imagine themselves as scientists, the teacher can invite working scientists — virtually — into the classroom and let students ask them questions. Students can even get an online lesson in computer science at Codecademy, where they'll learn the basics of computer coding. (Check out this story about why this is a good idea for your fifth grader’s future.)