Fifth Grade

Ancient Greece: What Is Voice?

Core Curriculum

In Fifth Grade the students explore Ancient Greece and the birth of democracy through the essential question, “what is voice?” The study of Ancient Greece focuses on the rich history and culture of Greece with specific studies in geography; art and architecture; mythology and religion; government and overall history; and the Olympics, both ancient and modern. Throughout the year, the class concentrates on answering the questions of why Ancient Greece still seems to surround us and what is the legacy of Ancient Greece. The notion of voice is central to this study.  Students engage in inquiries about who has a voice in a democracy and how and why that has changed over time.

The class engages in lively discussions and learns to read for details and generate main ideas to support their conversations. They continue to develop the research skills learned in earlier years and use these to further their understanding of the culture of Greece. Many projects and a favorite trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art help them experience the art and architecture of the period. The science curriculum is tied to the class with a study of the human body to recognize the Greek reverence for the human form. The stories of mythology become a study of the constellations in December as the children paint the classroom windows with many patterns of the stars the Greeks named.

At the end of the year, the Fifth Grade experiences the Olympics. This culminating event brings all they have learned about culture and history together and allows them to try their prowess in some of the actual events, such as discus throwing, the javelin, and the long jump. They design and help make their own chitons; research and then put together a “museum” of the Olympic events for other classes to tour; practice and then compete on the actual day; and finally feast on Greek food, followed by authentic dancing.


Reading: The essential question, “what is voice?” also informs the reading and writing curriculum as students consider voice in both the texts they read and those they write. Fifth Graders build upon the reading strategies they learned in previous years. Now more comfortable with drawing inferences and writing in more detail about their thinking, students learn how to think more deeply about the characters, and to understand how paying close attention to the desires and motivation of these characters can deepen their understanding of a text. Students also focus on reading and analyzing nonfiction texts both to extract information and to better understand an author’s point of view. In Fifth Grade, students read independent books as well as books with a group of classmates.

Writing: In Fifth Grade, students continue to focus on narrative, information, and opinion writing, and poetry, using more sophisticated techniques and creating more detailed and fully developed pieces. Students learn strategies to improve the effectiveness of their writing during whole class instruction and then receive individual coaching to give immediate feedback as they learn to improve their skills. Students study how to create rising tension in a story, how to structure an essay with supporting details, how to revise their work, and how to organize an argument through effective use of paragraph structure. Spelling, vocabulary, and grammar skills are reinforced through Word Study lessons. Cursive handwriting and keyboarding skills continue to be refined and utilized. Drafting and editing of written work is done through word processing.


The skills of problem solving, communication, critical thinking, and analysis continue to evolve in math in the Fifth Grade. Emphasis is placed on problem-solving processes and sound computation skills as students master the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division as applied to whole numbers, fractions, and decimals. Hands-on activities and math games deepen and enrich student understanding and application.

The Fifth Grade math curriculum includes factors, prime/composite numbers, prime factorization, and square numbers; all decimal operations and estimation; angle geometry with vertical/opposite angles, triangles, quadrilaterals, regular polygons, and tessellations; fraction comparison and fraction operations; conversion of fractions to decimals to percents; data analysis graphs and landmarks; signed number addition/subtraction; exponents, scientific notation, number-word notation, expanded notation and order of operations; coordinate geometry; and perimeter, area, and volume of 2-D and 3-D geometric shapes.

Text: Everyday Math 5.


The Fifth Grade science curriculum, “How Our Bodies Work: From Atoms to Systems,” is directly connected to the core curriculum study of Ancient Greece. Not only were the Ancient Greeks the first people to think about the idea of the atom, but they were also intrigued by the human figure. Students explore the human body, starting from the most basic level of the atoms that make up the body and progressing through how those atoms connect together to make more complex structures. The year begins with the foundations of chemistry, including an introduction to matter, the atom, and the Periodic Table of Elements. Students then build upon their knowledge of atoms and elements to better understand molecules, cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems. Specifically, students examine the following organ systems: sensory, nervous (including the brain), skeletal, muscular, circulatory, digestive, and reproductive. The Fifth Grade science course includes a unit on puberty, health, and the male and female reproductive systems.

Throughout the year, the students learn the fundamentals of scientific exploration by conducting lab experiments and completing hands on projects. Students continue to build on their science practices by making predictions and hypotheses, recording data, analyzing and drawing conclusions from their data, and applying these conclusions to real world situations.

STEAM Immersion Week

For one full week, students in Grades 4-6 exchange their regular schedules for five days of project-based, interdisciplinary STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) activities. Working in small, mixed-grade groups, Middle School students have an opportunity to engage their STEAM skills in solving real-world problems, as well as develop a first-hand awareness of some of the world- and life- changing innovations that are possible in STEAM professions. Students use iPads and Chromebooks to record their findings and progress throughout the week.

  • Winter 2016: Prosthetic Devices for Humans and Animals
  • Winter 2017: Sustainable Farming Practices
  • Winter 2018: The Problem with Plastics

In Fifth Grade French, teachers continue to use storytelling techniques, guided reading, personalized conversation, songs, and communicative games to develop the four major skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. The class acquires new phrases related to the classroom, parts of the body, and the family. Vocabulary, such as the calendar, numbers 0-50, greetings, classroom objects, and classroom commands are addressed on an ongoing basis as students learn to function in the classroom. Students create mini skits, and participate in interactive games and activities to deepen their understanding. Students practice their writing skills by communicating with their pen pals in our partner school in Beaugency, France. Grammar concepts include differentiating between talking to one person compared to a group of people and recognizing plural and gender markers. They are introduced to cultural aspects such as the conventions of politeness and respect to adults. Students start reading longer passages, and begin writing their own short stories, “free writes,” as they become more familiar with the French written language.

Performing Arts

Dance Choreography: The Fifth Grade Dance workshop series continues to build upon the dance experiences from previous years. The students continue to work collaboratively to build original dances that continue to explore the fundamental elements of movement such as time, space, and energy and connect to the classroom curriculum topics surrounding Ancient Greece. The building of great civilizations and the power of communities coming together are explored in small and large group settings to develop dance material. The Fifth Grade students perform original dance work created by themselves with direction from the dance teaching artists and reflect on the journey they will have undertaken to develop performance work.

Music Theory: In Fifth Grade, students engage in a discovery of the evolution of musical expression. Once the fundamentals of notation have been mastered, students spend a significant amount of class time becoming familiar with the use of the staff, through melodic and rhythmic dictation, and analyzing the extensive repertoire of Far Brook songs.

Choir: All students in Fourth and Fifth Grades meet weekly as part of the Far Brook Choir to study sight-singing, theory, vocal tone development, and to begin choral part-singing. For students in the Fifth Grade, Choir continues to provide an opportunity to merge note-reading skills with the voice, independent of a student mentor/partner. While tracking words and notes on the musical score is becoming easier, continuing to learn to produce and support a beautiful singing tone and following a conductor remain a continued goal.

Orchestra: Students join the Far Brook Orchestra once they reach a certain level of proficiency in their musical skills. The Orchestra plays in Morning Meeting and at Instrumental Music Night. Many students who participate in Orchestra also perform in the annual Recital Night in the spring.

Drama: Integrating the Fifth Grade study of Ancient Greece, students in Drama engage with, and perform, classic tales of ancient legends told by a Chorus-based ensemble, including plays by Euripides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and others. Here, individuals begin to step out of the Chorus to draw out conflicts, and the students delve into more complex language and situations. The Fifth Grade play facilitates the students’ transition to the investigation, rehearsal, and presentation of a classic Greek tragedy or comedy, in conjunction with their curricular study of Ancient Greece. The production is somewhat more elaborately staged, reflecting the students’ growing proficiency in ensemble performance. This is facilitated by the choral-based structure of Greek drama, in which the interactions between individual solo characters and the chorus create the dramatic center of the play.

Fine Arts

Art: While in Art, Fifth Graders create their own original mosaic designs utilizing glass tiles. The images incorporate themes from Greek mythology which supports their study of Ancient Greek culture. Students transpose their ideas first created on paper to the glass format. Due to the different mediums, this process typically involves some modification in the use of color and shape. Technical and conceptual skill is required in assessing the proper sizes of paper and glass pieces that will best convey a cohesive visual impact and a dynamic design. In this context, the use of color is not only descriptive, but it also creates depth. Students learn the basic and historical approaches to tile arrangement and they can incorporate any of these modes which best support their ideas.

Woodshop: In the Fifth Grade Woodshop mini, students design a light source for their home. They are presented with a small cordless light and explore the direction and diffusion of the light in their final projects. The students independently examine challenges as they arise and work collaboratively as they explore the trial and error process that is a natural part of original design. Woodshop projects at this level make use of all the tools that have been mastered over the span of the student’s time at Far Brook.


In the Fifth Grade Technology mini, students explore a variety of topics, from online safety to web design. At the beginning of the course, Fifth Graders engage in thoughtful discussions about what it means to be a responsible digital citizen and how their digital footprint can impact their daily lives. The class concludes with a filmmaking unit that aligns with their study of Ancient Greece. Students learn how to edit and use a green screen to create special effects. Fifth Grade is also the first year that students have access to a Far Brook email account. Students learn about proper email etiquette and the ways to manage an inbox. Throughout the year, students are expected to practice their typing skills using the program, Keyboarding Without Tears.

Social and Emotional

The Middle School years are exciting times as students move into the early stages of adolescence and take on increasing levels of responsibility for their learning and for their roles in Far Brook life.  As the ability of the students to think abstractly and analytically, and with more critical discernment increases, teachers work to utilize and stretch these developing skills by challenging students to work in greater depth and scope.

Study Skills: In Middle School, the Learning Specialist and Literacy Specialist work with students individually and in small groups within various classroom settings. They consult regularly with the classroom teachers to coordinate strategies that take into account students’ specific learning styles.

Students in the Middle School begin to take on more responsibility for their learning. Through support from their academic teachers and the Learning Specialist, students learn organization and time management skills that are reinforced daily, resulting in students who are more independent with homework. Students also learn various study strategies as they prepare for quizzes and tests and memorize lines for their class plays. In addition, students learn test-taking techniques for classroom quizzes and tests, and are also afforded opportunities to experience standardized testing. The ERB CTP-5 is administered to the Fifth through Eighth Grades in the winter each year.

Community Groups: In the Fifth and Sixth Grades, Community groups form to provide an opportunity for weekly small group conversations across the grade levels. Students explore how community connects us to one another through a variety of relationships. Both as an individual and a collective group students have influence as helpers and leaders in their class, the Middle School, the Far Brook community, and beyond. Lesson topics include establishing and respecting community expectations, cooperating and compromising, recognizing and accepting differences among people, and building confidence in one’s own contributions as part of a larger community.

Sports and Wellness

The Fifth Grade Sports program includes a combination of cooperative team building activities, fitness and strength development, and all students participate in a fall and spring interscholastic sport. Boys participate in soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring while the girls participate in field hockey in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. A co-ed track and field team has been added to the spring program. Students learn the rules and regulations of these games and practice the basic skills and strategies of these sports. Peer leadership and learning to be a supportive teammate is reinforced during every practice and game. The cornerstone of the sports curriculum is character development through demonstrating good sportsmanship. During the sports seasons, students share a Sports Report each Friday in Morning Meeting reporting the team’s accomplishments and goals for the next game to the entire School community. When not in season, the students participate in activities such as pickleball, ultimate frisbee, team handball, basketball, and various fitness activities.

Health & Wellness: During the winter session, students participate in sports games, fitness training, and health classes. At the Fifth Grade level students complete the first half of the American Red Cross First Aid Babysitting Curriculum. Topics covered include leadership, child safety, and emergency care. This class continues into the Sixth Grade year and includes an American Red Cross certification at the end of the course.

After School Programs
  • Odyssey of the Mind meets weekly during the school year and is open to students in grades Five and Six. It is an international creative problem-solving program that engages students in their learning by inspiring them to bring their knowledge and ideas to life. Team members apply their ingenuity and creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary works. Participants build self-confidence, develop life skills, create new friendships, and are able to recognize and explore their problem solving potential.
  • Spectrum: A Social Justice Discussion Group
    As expressed in our Diversity Statement, we believe that being intentional about diversity provides a platform for students to understand, to thrive in, and to impact our multi-cultural society. Students in grades Six, Seven, and Eight who are interested in discussing or learning more about race, equity, and social justice are invited and encouraged to attend.
  • STEAM Camp (December and June)

During the second trimester, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Grade families may enroll their students in winter After School Programs.

  • The Interscholastic Basketball program offers games against other local independent schools.
  • On Friday evenings in January and February, Ski Club offers all levels of skiers an opportunity to ski and snowboard on Shawnee Mountain.