Your fifth grader and reading

In fifth grade, students learn to identify themes, make inferences, and draw conclusions.

By GreatSchools Staff

Is your child reading at grade level?

Is your child reading at grade level? Are there any gaps in his phonics or comprehension? Since learning to read is a long and complex process, some students hit college only to discover their skills aren't where they should be.

How do you know if your child's on track? Our grade-by-grade guidelines give you all the details you need to assess his aptitude.

Reading fluently

Fifth-graders are expected to read complex text fluently and with strong comprehension. They spend much of their time discussing, reflecting on, and responding to a wide variety of literature and informational texts. By doing critical analyses, they can gain a deeper understanding of what they're reading. They may also read for pleasure, choosing books based on personal interests, genre, or author.

Research through reading

Fifth-graders continue to improve on the research skills they learned the year before. They gather information from a variety of sources, including the Internet, encyclopedias, textbooks, maps, and other resource materials. They should be able to use different features of a book (such as the index, glossary, title page, introduction, preface, and appendix) and take notes, highlighting important sections and making outlines. They also begin to evaluate and cite sources. Fifth-graders are expected to produce research projects on a variety of subjects, such as animals and their habitats or early U.S. explorers.

Reading for meaning

Fifth-graders critique significant works of literature, delving deeper to find the meaning in what they read. They learn about the elements of a plot, including the setup, rising action, climax, and resolution. By engaging in a more critical look at the characters, settings, and themes, students can analyze the author's purpose for writing and understand how that purpose influences the text. They also learn about the use of such literary devices as imagery (the use of vivid language to create a picture in the reader's mind), metaphor (a comparison between two seemingly unrelated subjects), and symbolism (the use of an object to represent something else).

Through discussion groups, keeping journals, and other activities, fifth-graders have many opportunities to respond to what they read. And they demonstrate their understanding through book reports, skits, illustrations, and time lines.

Answering questions

Fifth-graders use different strategies to help them identify main ideas, make inferences, and draw conclusions from the text. A common method is the question-answer relationship, or QAR. Students are asked to tell where they found the answers to questions. They discover there are "right there" questions (answers are found easily in the text), "think and search" questions (answers are found in several places in the text), "author and you" questions (students read the text and call upon prior knowledge to arrive at an answer), and "on my own" questions (answers require using prior knowledge).

To prepare for state tests in reading, students read passages and answer open-ended short-answer questions as well as multiple-choice and true-false questions. To see if your state releases its test questions, search your state Department of Education online.

By the end of fifth grade, you can expect your child to:

  • Decode words using root words such as port (meaning to hold or carry), prefixes such as auto- (meaning self), and suffixes such as -logy (meaning field of study)
  • Self-correct and self-monitor for comprehension when reading
  • Make informed predictions when reading
  • Describe character development
  • Identify the conflict, climax, and resolution in a story
  • Identify themes in literature
  • Use a range of strategies when drawing meaning from the text
  • Read grade-level material with expression and fluency

What to look for when you visit the classroom:

  • A reading center with a class library of books and a place for students to sit comfortably and read
  • Posters or other visual aids that relate to the reading process, reading strategies, parts of speech, similes/metaphors, and proofreading symbols
  • Evidence (such as charts and graphs) that reading and writing are integrated into content areas
  • Displays of student book projects
  • Reference materials, such as a dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedia