Grade 5

In fifth grade, the departmentalized curriculum is taught through the study of integrated themes that provide an engaging arena for skill development and build upon and expand boys’ interests. Boys connect different aspects of experience through these integrated themes, and they explore the richness of a topic through multidisciplinary study. Using these themes as a basis we integrate the language arts skills of oral and written language with the social studies components of geography, history, economics, and sociology. Whenever possible, the work the students are doing in math, science, art, music, language, library and design class are incorporated into our theme studies.

The themes for grade five are Ancient Greece, Mexico: Past and Present and The American Revolution. Fifth graders are still influenced by fantasy. Much of their outside reading deals with heroism, monsters, battles, animals, and survival, and they can easily relate to the study of mythology, war and ancient heroes. They are also able to identify with the daily lives of modern and ancient peoples. Theme related research allows the boys both the freedom to explore their own questions and the responsibility to articulate and to disseminate their feelings. Boys study civilization and concepts such as the basic needs of humanity are unchanging. Although individuals have similar basic needs, they meet them in different ways determined by the geography of the region and the resources available. Present cultures are products of the past; cultures in ancient civilizations included organized economic, social, military and religious systems.

Core Curriculum

Math in fifth grade meets five times per week. Boys use a sixth grade math textbook as the basis of the program in which they estimate and solve equations with a variable for whole numbers, fractions and decimals; describe, extend and make generalizations about numerical and geometric patterns; and represent and analyze patterns and functions using words, graphs and tables. A key focus for all mathematical concepts is a deep understanding of the how and why of doing math. Boys work to discover how numbers and operations work together. Having a strong number sense is an important outcome of the course. Fifth graders express mathematical relationships, solve and graph functions on coordinate planes, apply order of operations, understand exponential notation, and compute fluently with multi-digit whole numbers. They add, subtract, multiply and divide fractions and decimals, convert fractions and decimals, and find least common multiple and greatest common factor using prime factorization. They understand and apply formulas for area and perimeter of rectangles, triangles and parallelograms, classify lines and angles, and measure angles. They also determine complimentary and supplementary angles, and classify triangles. While doing so, they choose appropriate operations to solve problems and validate and explain solutions to problems.

In the departmentalized curriculum of fifth grade, English and social studies continue to be treated as an integrated discipline, and the boys enjoy a theme-based style of learning. Using these themes as a basis we integrate the language arts skills of oral and written language with the social studies components of geography, history, economics, and sociology.  Along with our theme studies we incorporate a few “traditional” approaches toward English, and supplement our studies with a standard English text and comprehensive vocabulary program. The fifth grade English program uses a variety of fiction and non-fiction material, both theme-related and independently chosen. Through classroom discussions, written responses, and formal tests, students refine their comprehension and deepen their understanding of material. Writing is designed to meet a variety of purposes, including responses to questions, journal reflections, creation of stories, and the writing of research reports.

In fifth grade, science meets five times a week. The interdisciplinary experience is enhanced because boys connect science to other themes in English and social studies. Areas of study are space and flight, planet research, weather, light and the eye, robotics, the reproductive system, ecology and biomes. Activities include simulated space shuttle missions, straw rocket engineering project, shuttle glider builder, sheep eye dissection, and the stream study.

In fifth grade, students elect to pursue French, Latin, or Spanish for their middle and upper school studies, embarking on an exciting journey into their chosen language and culture. Taught largely in the target language, the goal of the modern language courses is communication in both oral and written forms; whereas, Latin focuses primarily on fluent translation, though some aspects of spoken Latin are integrated into the courses. Boys complete Level 1 over the course of fifth and sixth grade.

Co-curricular Disciplines

Fifth grade music provides an outlet for boys to explore and create music through instrumental and vocal music classes. All boys in fifth grade participate in both ensembles, allowing for a unique approach so that they can interact with music in new and exciting ways. The fifth grade chorus and instrumental ensemble perform as part of concerts and assemblies throughout the year. Boys choose and learn how to play a woodwind, brass, or string instrument throughout the year. Fundamentals taught in class include instrument setup, posture, performance techniques, and reading music notation. Care and maintenance of instruments as well as practice methods are also emphasized. In chorus, students establish a love for choral singing while developing important musical skills. Immersed in the experience of choral singing, boys learn essential music theory to help them sight-sing, and breath and vocalize properly, and enhance their ability to match pitch with each other and the piano. Boys also have the opportunity to suggest repertoire. In addition to instrumental and chorus classes, fifth grade boys have the opportunity to join the Middle School Orchestra and audition for the Chamber Players, High Tops Choral Ensemble, and Jazz Band.

Fifth graders continue their development in the fundamentals of art. The boys explore their theme-based curriculum and dive a little deeper into cultural art forms. Introductions to artists and traditional cultures play a key role in learning, but it is the student who makes that technique his own. We stretch canvases to paint, throw clay on the wheel, work with mixed mediums, and mold clay using the human figure as a base. Color is a huge element as we explore. We will also explore computer animation and graphic design. The final goal is for each boy to have ownership and confidence in his artwork.

We provide successful physical experiences for all boys through a curriculum designed to foster and develop the knowledge and values, physical skills, and practices necessary for personal physical fitness and lifetime wellness. In fifth grade, physical education focuses on sport-related activities, physical fitness, and recreational and lifetime activities. The boys meet four times a week. Emphasis is placed on refining specialized skills in sport-related activities, team building activities, and simple game strategies. Activities offered in the fall are soccer, golf, floor hockey, juggling, inline skating, and Tchoukball (combination of handball, volleyball, and squash). Winter activities are swimming, gymnastics, volleyball, climbing/tumbling, table tennis, and team building. Spring activities are baseball and tennis.

Fifth grade boys develop a city plan and layout for US's originally created Mobile Maze challenge. Boys are placed in teams to create their own version of a city on a 4'x 4'deck. They compete for accuracy and time. Drawings and plans are required and produced with the help of Mindcraft. Using color pencils, markers and other tools, boys take a printed picture of their proposal and turn it into a 3D hand-drawn depiction. The boys are expected to meet the essential safety standards set while working on the shop floor. Introducing each boy to the machines and tools in The William Osborne Wood Shop enhances classroom discussions, demonstrations, and their hands-on experience.

Empowering our youngest leaders


The Fifth Grade Curriculum at a Glance

Ancient Greece
Mexico Past & Present
The American Revolution


How are present cultures and their systems of economics, social structures, military organizations, religious beliefs products of past civilizations?
How does the geography of a region and the resources available affect the way people meet their changing needs?
When values within a culture differ, what systems are developed to accommodate individual and group needs?


In fifth grade, boys use the library to develop information literacy skills using books, magazines, websites, and databases. They learn how to locate information efficiently and how to use it effectively and responsibly. Boys discuss both fiction and nonfiction books and share recommendations with each other. Fifth graders use Schoology to find all library and research related resources, such as the library catalog, e-books, websites, databases, MLA formatting information, and book suggestions.


Shaker Heights Campus

20701 Brantley Road
Shaker Heights, Ohio 44122
GRADES Junior K-8
Phone: 216-321-8260

Hunting Valley Campus

2785 SOM Center Road
Hunting Valley, Ohio 44022
Phone: 216-831-2200
University School serves 840 boys in Junior Kindergarten to grade 12 on two campuses in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. The School’s mission is to inspire boys of promise to become young men of character who lead and serve. Dedicated faculty, rigorous curriculum, and experiential programs foster intellectual, physical, creative, and moral excellence.