Officially pre-teens, fifth graders are usually the oldest primary school students. While 10- and 11-year-olds often know the lay of the land and what to expect from their daily schedules, this year may also come with some uncertainty.
Here’s what to know when your kid is starting fifth grade.
What your child will learn in fifth grade
Fifth graders build on what they learned the year before. They explore many of the same subjects as fourth graders, just at a higher level. This includes reading chapter books, summarizing what they’ve read, writing stories, spelling, and expanding their vocabularies.
In math, students learn to add, subtract, multiply, and divide four- and sometimes five-digit numbers. They also work on word problems, negative numbers, fractions, and decimals. Some kids will be introduced to algebra and geometry this year.
Other fifth-grade subjects include biology, geography, history, current events, technology, research, and typing.
Developmental milestones for 10- and 11-year-olds
Fifth-grade lessons align with the developmental milestones for 10– and 11-year-olds. This includes:
- Better reading comprehension
- Increased attention span and ability to work independently
- Improved listening and verbal communication
- Improved problem-solving and critical thinking skills
- Interest in organizing objects and ideas
- Becoming more independent from parents
As some fifth graders enter puberty, they may experience various physical changes, like breakouts, a first period, or needing more sleep.
Schedules, challenges, and changes
Here’s what to expect from your child’s fifth-grade experience and how to prepare.
Entering the pre-teen years
Entering the double-digit age group, fifth graders are officially pre-teens. While many children don’t begin puberty until middle school, some will start going through physical and emotional changes.
This is often an exciting time, though it can also be isolating for kids who mature earlier than their peers — and potentially startling for parents. Pre-teens may become self-conscious about their bodies, start caring more about material things, develop crushes, or even form romantic relationships.
Check in with your fifth grader regularly to see if they want to talk, are dealing with friendship conflicts, or need access to personal hygiene or menstrual products.
Homework and at-home learning for fifth graders
Fifth graders may have anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes of nightly homework, such as assigned reading, a book report, a creative project, or math worksheets.
You can help your child succeed by encouraging them to read other books that interest them in their free time. Parents can also incorporate fractions into home life. For instance, ask your fifth grader to divide a cake, pie, or piece of fruit into equal parts.
Independent play and personal interests
Fifth grade is when kids start honing in on their personal interests. This could include physical activities like riding a bike, skateboarding, or practicing trampoline tricks. Or it could be more creative, such as drawing or decorating.
Many 10- and 11-year-olds also start exploring different forms of entertainment and media, like having a favorite TV show, following celebrities, or watching professional sports. This is all perfectly normal, but parents can help their kids find a healthy balance of independent play, physical activity, and screen time.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
Past articles from this series
- Misirliyan SS, Huynh AP. “Development Milestones.” StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. April 30, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557518/.
- “The Growing Child: School-Age (6 to 12 Years).” Stanford Children’s Health. Stanford Medicine. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=the-growing-child-school-age-6-to-12-years-90-P02278.
- “Middle Childhood (9-11 years of age).” National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). September 23, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/middle2.html.
- “Puberty.” Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic. December 5, 2023 .https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22192-puberty.