In a technology-rich classroom, your fifth-grader uses tools to enhance her understanding of language arts, science, social studies, math, and art. Her use of new tools to answer age-old questions is the first step to technological literacy.

Resources range from computers, software programs, and the Internet to digital cameras, camcorders, and voice recorders. Technology isn’t a substitute for teaching, but a way to bring the world into the classroom. Plus, it’s an essential tool for your child’s future.

The Internet can connect kids to native speakers of a language they are learning or to scientists around the world. Computer-based programs can give teachers real-time feedback on how well students grasp a concept in math. But technology is no substitute for learning mathematical concepts or the basics of writing an essay.It’s simply one way to enhance classroom instruction and help your child practice new skills and master new concepts.

The technology skills she learns will help your child write research papers in history and do multimedia presentations in science. She will develop critical evaluation skills by assessing the credibility of websites and learning about copyright laws and the ethics of using online information or pictures.

“Fifth-graders are very comfortable using a computer to complete learning projects,” explains our teacher consultant Gayle Berthiaume.

Technology use varies from school to school

Many states base their technology standards on the National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS). But because children aren’t tested on their use of technology, teachers aren’t typically held accountable for teaching it. That means computer use varies widely from classroom to classroom. Your fifth-grader may have one or more computer workstations in the classroom, go to a computer lab once a week, or not use technology regularly.

To get the maximum benefit from technology, the best classrooms incorporate technology into regular lessons that develop students’ higher-order thinking skills, promote creativity, and facilitate academic learning. Your child’s teacher may use technology to evaluate students’ progress.

Technology terminology

Fifth-graders build on their vocabulary to communicate about technology. Your child should be able to discuss common uses of technology in daily life and its advantages and disadvantages. He should apply strategies for identifying and solving routine hardware and software problems. Your child should be learning the names of computer parts – monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, and speakers – and software terms – menu, file, folder, application, save, and quit.

Keyboard and mouse

Your fifth-grader continues to improve her skills in typing and using a mouse. She practices typing and increases the rate of words she types per minute. A fifth-grader should type 20 words per minute. To avoid repetitive stress injuries later on, she should learn to use the correct hand, wrist, and body positions and the proper techniques for striking the keys. By the end of the year, she should demonstrate advanced keyboarding skills such as cutting, copying, and pasting to edit her work.

Schools may use a typing program that teaches students how to type.

Word processing and email

Your child can use a word-processing program the same way a professional writer does: to prewrite, draft, revise and publish work. He may type his ideas in the first draft, then proofread and make changes. In the final stages of the writing process, your child may use word-processing software to add clip art; change the font, size, and color of the text; and learn to use spell-check. He may also add bulleted and numbered lists. He may make a class newsletter with pictures and text or write a book review.

He and his classmates are able to cut, copy, and paste text or graphics from one program to another. Students explore some of the advanced features of a word-processing program, such as using borders, shading, and page layout. He may create a book or brochure that includes columns, text boxes, and graphics. He learns how computers make it possible to work remotely.

Berthiaume explains: “Many schools share and save files over a network. Students may access their saved work from any computer in the building.”

Your fifth-grader may use email to contact a peer, another class, or experts worldwide. He may email an author of a book. With programs like ePals, teachers and students can communicate with people around the world.

Draw-and-paint software

Draw-and-paint software programs such as Kid Pix and AppleWorks are common in many fifth-grade classrooms. Students use the programs to type and create pictures. Your fifth-grader may make a drawing of a three-dimensional shape. She may add text to a graphic. She may also use her new computer skills to create a logo for a business and learn about graphic design.

“Students create illustrations for their presentations, brochures, or reports,” Berthiaume says.

Presentation software

Your fifth-grader may use software such as PowerPoint, Keynote, Pages, iPhoto, and AppleWorks to add to a class book or presentation in which she makes a slide with pictures and text. Presentation software combines graphics with text to communicate in a visually exciting way.

Students should be given clear guidelines for making effective presentations, such as the number of words, graphics, and background colors to use on each slide. Your fifth-grader may create a presentation on your state’s history or a book he has read.

Berthiaume explains: “By first planning out or storyboarding their book or presentation, students concentrate on the content of their project.”

Spreadsheets and databases

Your fifth-grader may use spreadsheet programs like Excel and AppleWorks to organize data and make graphs. She may use database software such as FileMaker Pro, Microsoft Access, and AppleWorks to classify information. She may work with templates in which a spreadsheet or database has already been created, enter information, and then sort the data. Your fifth-grader may contribute to a spreadsheet of her class’s favorite sports or a database classifying its library of books.


In fifth grade your child may visit websites the teacher has bookmarked to further explore what is being taught in class. He may also bookmark his own sites. He develops critical evaluation skills by assessing the credibility of websites and learning about copyright laws and the ethics of using online information or pictures. He learns how to use search engines to do research.

The class may go on virtual field trips to regions, environments, and countries far from home. Your child may use the Internet to take part in science investigations with students worldwide through programs like the Jason Project. The class may also view online science lessons such as a simulation of a volcano. Students can ask questions of scientists on the Internet.

In social studies your child may look for primary-source materials, such as historical letters, journal entrie,s and online maps.

What you might see in a well-equipped classroom

  • Multimedia encyclopedias and dictionaries
  • A digital camera and photo editing software — digital photos can be displayed in a slide show or used in books and projects
  • Interactive storybooks on a computer
  • One or more computers with access to the Internet and a printer
  • A large-screen display connected to a computer used by the teacher to demonstrate a technology lesson to the class. If there is not one available, the teacher may have smaller groups gather around the computer to introduce a lesson or technology skill.
  • Use of email with support from the teacher or classroom helper
  • An interactive whiteboard — an electronic writing surface that can capture writing electronically
  • A digital video camera and video editing software