Fifth Grade

Grade five marks the culminating year of the Lower School. The girls assume an important leadership role in the division by modeling ethical behavior, mentoring younger students, and taking on new responsibilities. 

During the fifth grade year, girls focus on building good habits of mind that prepare them for the demands of Middle School. They are taught good study habits, given more responsibility to decide what learning strategies work best for them, and encouraged to ask clarifying questions about project assignments and assessments. The idea of “taking ownership of their learning” is a key focus of this final year of Lower School. Leadership and citizenship are explored through the curriculum with units that focus on government and social issues dear to each student. It is an empowering year! Closing exercises allow each girl the opportunity to express themselves through personal poetry as they cross the bridge into the next phase of their school journey. 


The goal of our literacy program is to develop confident and self-motivated readers and writers. Individual needs are met as skills are introduced and developed. In grade five, the focus is on building fluency, comprehension skills, and learning to read across disciplines. Our novel-based approach to instruction offers young readers daily opportunities to make connections, predict, infer and derive meaning. We expose children to a wide variety of genres and give them the tools to achieve a deep understanding of text, so ultimately, they attain a more perfect appreciation of literature as well as a hearty spirit of inquiry.

Lower School students grow into effective creative and analytical writers. We deliver classroom instruction along with personalized attention that builds each writer’s unique skill set. In fifth grade, students continue to learn about sentence structure, mechanics, and presentation. These basic elements of written language lay critical foundation for more complex endeavors down the road. All grades consider formal projects that cross various genres while inspiring heart in the writing process.

Fifth grade girls will focus on: 
●    Effective communication through written and oral presentation
●    Novel study to learn literary elements, plot, and character analysis, use of Notice and Note’s 6 Signposts
●    Individualized spelling
●    Novels may include: Tuck Everlasting, Maniac Magee, Moon Over Manifest
●    Writing includes: persuasive letter writing, responsive writing to reading passages and poetry
●    Introduction to more complex grammar elements to support writing


The Lower School math program is founded on best practices and research-based mathematics education. The goal of the program is to help our girls construct deep conceptual understanding, build strong problem-solving skills, and develop computational fluency. From the earliest age, students are driven to develop a clear number sense that gives them confidence and power over numbers and computation. They analyze mathematical relationships, build their geometric and numeric reasoning, and draw conclusions from this deeper thinking. An emphasis on understanding allows students to construct meaning and think flexibly about procedures that are efficient and effective. It is our hope that our approach to math instruction will empower our girls to feel increasingly confident about their mathematical ability and understanding. This confidence and depth of understanding will expand their future possibilities in all STEM fields.

During the fifth grade year, the emphasis is on developing strong number sense, understanding patterns and relationships, and practicing flexible thinking when solving problems. Lessons include: 
●    Continuing to build number sense and increase confidence with operations                                  
●    More advanced geometry, fractions and graphs
●    Work with decimals and integers

Social Studies

The purpose of the Lower School social studies curriculum is for students to understand their place in the global community and in historical time. Starting with understanding self and family, students progress to understanding local community, city and state, country and global. Geography and research are integrated throughout the curriculum. An emphasis is placed on the power of the individual to impact the world in which we live. 

The goal of our fifth grade social studies curriculum is to look at these enduring understandings:
•    Individuals exist within, are impacted by, and in turn affect collective groups.
•    One individual has significant power and obligation as a citizen.

Topics explored include: local, state and national government, world geography, women’s rights- suffrage, vote, impactful women, and civil rights.  


All science units in grades K-5 derive from the Next Generation Science Standards and engage girls in the areas of life science, earth and space science, physical science, and engineering design. Units are hands-on and performance-based and strive to enhance our girls’ natural curiosity. As girls explore the science content and how it connects to the natural world, they develop key learning skills – communication, collaboration, inquiry, problem-solving, resilience and flexibility.

Learning is extended to the outdoors while working in the Lower School garden or visiting the Backwoods. Our garden program teaches basic skills in growing and harvesting plants, caring for the environment, and encouraging individual wellness. During science class fifth grade girls study:
•    Chesapeake Bay unit
•    Basic needs of plants, photosynthesis, food, oxygen                                                
•    Matter, atoms                                      
•    Puberty                                                   
•    Water cycle


The music program uses a combination of Orff and Kodaly teaching methodologies. The Kodaly method is based primarily on singing and follows a child-developmental approach to learning basic rhythms and intervals. For example, children learn quarter notes and eighth notes first since these rhythms can be related to their walking and running paces. These rhythms are also the building blocks of most of the folk songs and games we play in class. The Orff method utilizes singing, moving, speaking and various instruments (both pitched and unpitched). The Orff instruments provide an ideal medium for texture and color exploration and provide a visual representation of pitch relationships that becomes especially useful when learning to read music. Playing in an instrumental ensemble requires focus, cooperation and an ability to hear one’s part within the whole. As children progress through the program, they begin to improvise and compose their own music and accompaniments to poems, rhymes and simple folk songs.

During the fifth grade year girls:
•    Learn choral work, including posture, breathing, diction and expression          
•    Work on pitch matching, aural cognition, beat and rhythm                                                               
•    Participate in two concert performances a year


The Lower School Art curriculum covers many of the skills necessary for meaningful self-expression. These skills include: use of shapes, both geometric and free form, understanding the color wheel, and qualities of 2D and 3D design, as well as composition, using balance and spatial relationships. The Lower School curriculum also takes on an historical perspective that includes art units inspired by famous artists and varied cultures. Some examples of these artistic influences include Warhol, Chagall, Kahlo, Matisse, and Monet, as well as cultural inspirations from the Ancient Egyptians, Greco-Roman Bas Reliefs and mosaics, Native American artifacts, Peruvian weavings, and African tribal masks. Art movements are also incorporated into the curriculum units, such as: Pop Art self-portraits, Surrealist paintings, Impressionist landscapes, and Cubist compositions. Students in Lower School are encouraged to utilize artistic expression within a variety of media and techniques to extend their learning inside and outside the classroom. Media that are explored include everything from painting, drawing, and collage to beading, building, and sculpture. Students at RPCS can stretch their imaginations and intellects thanks to their involvement in the Visual Arts.

During the fifth grade year, girls are introduced to a variety of artists’ mediums and forms of expression, and explore visual texture in art. During this year, the girls study mixed media, ceramics and linoleum printing. They create hats based on an historic RPCS figure. Artist studies include Klimpt/Madden and Cubist art.


The Lower School dance program introduces emerging to developing techniques, and students evolve throughout the various levels of instruction. Using a variety of dance styles such as pre-ballet, ballet, modern, jazz, hip-hop, partner work, and choreography, the dancers mature in their overall knowledge of many styles and forms. Emphasis is placed on motor control skills, spatial and motor awareness, muscular development, core conditioning, stretching, yoga, and posture. Dance classes are specifically designed to support multiple learning styles. Dancers work together in ensembles, to engage in and connect with problem solving activities, teamwork and leadership skills. 

Fifth grade girls experience dance three days out of the 10 day cycle. They receive practice with ballet and modern dance. Composing and improvisation is introduced at this level. Girls practice performing as an ensemble for the winter and spring recitals. 

Physical Education

Fifth grade classes meet five days out of 10 for 50 minutes. The main emphasis of the physical education (PE) program is individual skill development and cooperative interaction. PE in the Lower School strives to provide the best opportunity for physical activity for students. The goal is to develop healthy, responsible students who have the knowledge, skills, and mindset to work together in groups, think critically, and participate in a variety of activities that lead to a sustainable healthy lifestyle. The students explore and refine basic movement patterns and are exposed to exploratory and discovery experiences involving body awareness, spatial orientation, basic body actions, eye-hand and eye-foot coordination, rhythmic movement, and an introduction to team sports such as badminton, soccer, tennis, and basketball. During the fourth and fifth grade years, girls may sign up for after school intramurals.  

World Languages

Three languages are offered in the Lower School: Chinese, French and Spanish. In K–2, students practice each language with an emphasis on oral communication reinforced through songs, games, role playing, language-based websites and a broad survey of the representative culture. In grades 3-5, students focus on one language, utilizing a variety of learning tools such as total physical response, Symtalk, poems and plays. Writing and reading skills are developed with the support of books, audio and interactive technology. Girls choose their focus language as they enter third grade. Chinese and one Romance language are offered each year. The Romance language could be Spanish or French depending on the student’s year of entry. Classes are taught five days out of the 10 day cycle for 50 minutes. Projects, games and performances at our Lower School Morning Meetings showcase their learning. During the fifth grade year, there is emphasis on coordination with Middle School language programs.  

Informational Literacy/Technology

With over 11,000 books in the Lower School library and an iPad for every student, girls are given endless access to thoughts, ideas, stories, and research that are both current and timeless. Girls in grades K-5 receive weekly instruction in using the library for research and literature appreciation. Library classes provide exposure to many kinds of literature genres and monthly book clubs provide enrichment opportunities for young readers.

RPCS believes that technology can foster and ignite some of the most creative ideas. With our 1:1 iPad program and a dedicated Innovation Lab, we provide students with endless ways to be curious and creative. Our technology program provides tools that are completely integrated into our classrooms and supports learning across all content areas. This integration provides students with purposeful access to research tools, digital libraries, content specific apps, and creative tools. Our Innovation Lab provides a dedicated makerspace filled with state of the art 3D printers, building tools, green screens, and materials for students to design and develop their ideas. The Lower School has a dedicated technology integrationist to help provide instruction and support for students, as well as, learning opportunities and technology integration planning for our faculty. Girls in this grade have an opportunity to participate in Lego League Robotics competitions. 

Values, Character Education and Social Emotional Learning

At each grade level of the Lower School, girls’ social and emotional intelligence is intentionally developed. This attention to the whole child is woven into every activity, not just a once-a-week course. Through the use of Responsive Classroom and The Toolbox Project curricula, girls in grades K-5 learn how to recognize the traits in themselves and others that lead to healthy relationships and a sense of personal well-being. Toolbox lessons are taught by the Lower School counselor to give the girls access to the 12 tools within themselves that build self-regulation skills. The Responsive Classroom approach fosters respect and empathy. In addition, daily morning meeting time is used to build an understanding of unique qualities of culture, race, and circumstance that enriches our community. Our girls leave Lower School with a moral compass, prepared to see the good in others and appreciate the good within themselves.

•    Grade five girls are introduced to the 12 Toolbox tools: breathing, quiet/safe place, listening, empathy, personal space, using our words, garbage can, taking time, please and thank you, apology and forgiveness, patience, and courage. 
•    Through Responsive Classroom, the girls develop classroom expectations and practice being a good citizen. They learn to express themselves and solve conflict through listening and conversation. Morning meeting time builds community and empathy for each other. Each day the girls come together to begin and end the school day. They celebrate each other’s accomplishments or listen to the discussion of the inevitable hurdles that come with new responsibilities and changes. These rich conversations and activities are carefully designed to build confidence for middle school. 
•    Lunch as a classroom is a time for the girls to explore the ideas of healthy eating, make colorful choices on their plate, hold respectful conversations, and use quiet time to listen to stories of individuals that made a difference in the world. 

Special Events

The grade five experience is highlighted by a number of special events including:
•    Outdoor education experience at Genesee Valley
•    Delegate letter trip to the Annapolis legislature and meeting with the governor
•    Washington, D.C. trip to see government in action
•    Optional Quebec cultural trip 
•    Living Classrooms environmental trip on the Chesapeake Bay