By GreatSchools Staff
Fifth graders work to improve their writing technique. They’ll polish introductions, transitions, and conclusions, while beginning to add subtlety to their writing by establishing mood, using dialogue to advance plot, and incorporating figurative language like similes and metaphors.
In creative writing, lessons focus on plot development and resolution, character development, and effective use of descriptive language and dialogue. In expository writing, students learn how to create succinct summaries and interpretations of what they’re reading. Some teachers also use poetry to illustrate literary devices, asking their students to experiment using the techniques of accomplished poets.
Wendy Miller, a former Teacher of the Year, explains that fifth graders use what they read to reinforce in-class writing lessons. “Since fifth graders expand and deepen the concepts, skills, and strategies learned in earlier grades,” she says, “students must learn to write as readers, asking questions as they write.”
Research projects and reports also require students to improve their writing abilities. Students should start to learn research skills, such as note taking, report writing, library usage, organization of materials, and citation of sources. And since media and technology can play a role in research, as well, students should gain experience using technology to conduct research.
Students in fifth grade put writing to specific uses, learning to persuade, entertain, and inform. Kids should have the chance to write in a handful of styles across many genres — from essays to fiction.
In fifth grade, kids build on lessons from earlier grades about the writing process, which involves prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Students should be developing their proofreading and editing skills.
Students should begin to understand that writing is about more than putting words on paper. Good writing takes time. As Miller explains, “Writing using a process leads to more thoughtful and accomplished work.”
Writers’ workshop is a technique that uses story planning, peer conferencing, revision, and teacher editing to help students become more comfortable with the writing process. Ideally, students learn about the conventions and mechanics of writing, while becoming better writers’ themselves.
The “six-trait writing model” is used to teach writing and is often used in conjunction with workshop. The six-trait model breaks down writing into a manageable group of teachable and measurable skills. It focuses on six traits considered essential to good writing: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and mechanics (grammar, sentence structure, capitalization, punctuation, etc.).
For more on the six-trait model, this website from Minnesota’s Edina Public Schools includes rubrics as well as a description of each trait.
Mechanics — encompassing grammar, sentence structure, capitalization, and punctuation — are taught in the context of student’s own writing and through dedicated lessons. Teachers should encourage their students to write paragraphs with complete sentences. Children should learn how to express their ideas clearly, by using complete sentences and well-constructed paragraphs.
Fifth graders should spell words correctly and often continue to have weekly spelling tests based on lists of words teachers distribute beforehand.
Your fifth grader might take a state writing test. These tests typically include questions about writing mechanics, such as capitalization, punctuation, and grammar, and a timed exercise in which students write an essay responding to a writing prompt. Students may also be asked to write summary statements about passages.
Scroll down to page 22 of the California English-Language Arts Test Questions to view sample test questions. To see if your state releases their test questions, search your state Department of Education online.
Look at fifth-grade writing samples, with teacher commentary that range from high to low, from the Oregon Department of Education.
The National Writing Project compiled helpful information on what to look for in a good writing program in this chart.
Updated May 2010