Fifth Grade

Fifth grade at Norwood School is a time of transition and transformation, as students make their way across the threshold into the Middle School. There they find new classrooms, art studios, and science labs; lockers; and state-of-the-art tablet computers they can call their own for the whole school year. They enjoy a delicious and nutritious hot lunch program, and have the option to begin playing interscholastic sports for the first time, in addition to their regular P.E. classes. Most importantly, fifth graders find their advisors. Like homeroom teachers in the Lower School, advisors serve as a home base for middle school students, providing guidance and support. In fifth grade, students’ advisors are their social studies teachers, and together they journey around the globe, immersing themselves in ancient Greece, Rome, and Baghdad as hubs of learning and commerce before ending the year with a study of medieval Europe. Along the way, they learn to take notes on their reading, to cite sources, and complete their first comprehensive research project. In all their classes, fifth graders learn to plan for and execute long term projects, and they start to employ higher-order thinking skills, making connections from one class to the next and from their own lives to the work before them. They also hone their collaboration and problem-solving skills, such as during the “Contraption Challenge,” a Super Science Week project in the simple machines unit in their science class. Fifth graders take on increasingly complex problems in math while integrating their understanding of fractions and decimals, geometry, volume, and graphing. In world languages, they choose from Spanish or French, and they begin to add a formal study of grammar to regular oral and auditory practice. They also choose choir, string orchestra, or concert band and perform in a series of beautiful seasonal concerts, as well as the annual fifth grade show. In the spring, as their first year in middle school draws to a close, fifth graders have the opportunity to challenge themselves and support one another in a number of outdoor adventure activities during the fifth grade overnight camping trip.

List of 10 items.

  • Reading/Language Arts

    Transitioning to Middle School, fifth graders build on the skills they have developed from the Lower School. Students continue to develop their close reading of texts, annotation skills, and participation in group discussions. Additionally, they focus on building their stamina as readers. The study of literature focuses around particular thematic issues including prejudice, perseverance, and justice. Students engage in group discussions using the School’s online learning management system, HawksNest, and continue to develop their writing skills through peer editing, one-on-one teacher conferences, and refining their own editing process. Students also continue to explore new genres of writing, and build on skills and content developed in the lower school program.
  • Math

    In fifth grade, students focus intensively on several critical areas: developing fluency with addition and subtraction of fractions, developing understanding of multiplication and division of fractions, extending division to 2-digit divisors, developing understanding of operations with decimals to the hundredths place, developing fluency with whole number and decimal operations, and developing understanding of volume. As in prior grades, students apply their skills and fluency in math to solve open-ended problems as well as real world applications of math.
  • Social Studies

    In Middle School, the curriculum begins to challenge students to reflect on the study of history, asking questions like, “How does a student conduct research to develop a deeper understanding about a subject?” Continuing the study of the ancient Mediterranean, fifth graders begin the year with the study of ancient Greece and Rome. Immersing themselves in mythology, government, geography, culture, trade, and politics, students’ work culminates in their creation of a virtual Roman city. Additionally, students study the five major world religions in an historical context. Next, the curriculum shifts to the Middle Ages in Europe and Africa, focusing both on the Golden Age of Islam and the Dark Ages of Europe. Building on the interactive, experiential projects in the Lower School, students create and host a medieval banquet, reflecting the domestic and courtly culture of the era.
  • Science

    Fifth graders work with greater independence as they explore the topics of the year. In the microbiology unit, lab partners work to research specific bacteria that cause food borne illnesses and then present those findings to the class. For the weather unit, students, after studying weather systems and measurements, create their own weather device. After collecting the data, they compare it to Norwood’s Weatherbug station to assess the accuracy of their device. A major element of the fifth grade science curriculum is the Contraption Challenge, where students work in teams to design, build, and test a Rube Goldberg-style device while solving problems. They hold an open house for parents during Super Science Week to demonstrate their contraptions.
  • World Languages

    Fifth graders have the option to continue their study of Spanish or switch to French. Mandarin is an option beginning in sixth grade, and Latin is available in seventh and eighth grades.

    In fifth grade, Spanish students delve deeper into the topics presented in Lower School. Maintaining the emphasis on communicative activities, students expand vocabulary and mastery of grammar structures allowing them to communicate at a more sophisticated level. Students talk and write about family units, housing, schools, telling time, meals, and restaurants. Students relate their own customs to those of Spanish-speaking countries throughout the world.

    The French program introduces students to practical vocabulary and grammatical structures that enable students to communicate in French. They learn the basic vocabulary of everyday life situations, how to greet people, colors, numbers, family, body parts, animals, house, city, sports and food. New vocabulary is introduced through different kinds of activities; games, role play, interactive PowerPoints, contests, technological and hands on activities. The course focuses on speaking, listening, reading, and writing. 
  • Art

    Addressing questions like, “How does art help us experience and see the world more clearly?” fifth and sixth grade art builds on the foundations set in Lower School. Students delve deeper into many media and styles, including drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, computer graphics and ceramics. Exploring space, line, shape, color, texture, movement, and perspective, the classes emphasize discovery and expression as articulations of the world around us. We strive to educate an artistically competent, adventuresome and confident student, who is generally comfortable thinking outside the box in all areas of study.
  • Music

    In fifth and sixth grade, students select among three music tracks: orchestra, choir, and band. Building on the general skills students learned in lower school classes, these tracks apply students’ musical understanding to specific musical areas. While some students have prior experience with instruments, no experience is required and students are encouraged to stretch their musical abilities. Each group participates in seasonal concerts throughout the year, including a winter and spring concert.
    Orchestra members begin their study with proper techniques particular to their instruments, note and sight reading, learning to play as an ensemble, as well as basic music theory. Throughout their time in the orchestra, students’ build their skills year-to-year as they play musical selections from a diverse set of musical styles, from a range of cultures and religions. Importantly, as an ensemble, students learn to work collaboratively as a musical unit.
    Curriculum for the course extends the skills and concepts introduced in general music classes in the lower school. Playing a diverse range of music, students begin with fundamental lessons in particular instruments; as they develop competency with those, they are encouraged to branch out to work with other band instruments. As with the orchestra, skills build year-to-year and students participate in seasonal concert opportunities.
    Middle school choir builds habits that lead to successful performance. Students continue to develop a healthy vocal range and an aural image of good singing, while working on musicianship skills by solidifying their understanding of basic musical notation. Students continue to actively perform diverse musical selections that push them to develop a broad range repertoire of abilities. The selection of those pieces comes in part through student input. As the class learns about and discusses music from different cultures, eras, religions, and composers, they, in collaboration with the instructor, select performance pieces.
  • Physical Education & Athletics

    The P.E. curriculum in fifth grade includes using increasingly complex motor skills with an emphasis on the core sports, physical fitness, teamwork, and team challenges. Students continue to broaden their understanding of the value of sportsmanship, teamwork, and respect for others. Importantly, lessons are differentiated to allow students of different abilities to engage the activity at an appropriately challenging level. Additionally, a consistent emphasis is placed on healthy eating habits, daily exercise, and the importance of a balanced lifestyle. Fifth and sixth graders have the option to participate in after-school interscholastic athletics during the fall, winter, and spring sports seasons.
  • Library & Technology

    Fifth grade students attend regular library media classes, which cover content in digital and textual literacy. Students familiarize themselves with their "new" library through activities such as book scavenger hunts that offer hands-on experience in finding materials. They apply these skills to projects in other classes. Students also learn how to use more complicated databases for online research and continue to learn about the ethical synthesis and production of information. Fifth graders take ownership of their laptops, and lessons build upon earlier work in the Lower School: for example, structuring file management, finding best resources for a project, and utilizing software applications to complete assignments. Additionally, students continue to learn about the fundamentals of computer science, including lessons on hardware functions and the basics of coding. 
  • Life Skills

    As part of our commitment to the whole child, Norwood School’s Life Skills Program introduces students to age-appropriate information about personal and community health and well-being that will help them lead happy, healthy lives and make positive contributions to their community from early childhood through adolescence and beyond. Topics include:

    • Personal and Interpersonal Skills
    • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
    • Human Growth and Development
    • Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention
    • Safety
    • Media and Technology
    • Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Social Justice
    Specific topics for middle school students include nutrition and fitness, personal safety, hygiene, puberty, the reproductive system and reproduction, decision-making, stress management, interpersonal skills, social media, peer pressure, peer relationships, substance abuse prevention, identity, stereotypes, bias, discrimination, and positive action. Depending on the grade and topic, coordinated instruction occurs in homeroom, advisory, science, physical education, and/or dedicated life skills classes. At all ages, the program establishes skills and strategies for lifelong well-being and promotes caring for the well-being of others. Throughout the program, teachers emphasize the important role students’ own family members play in guiding goal-setting, problem-solving, and decision-making.
A Week in the Life of a Norwood Fifth Grader

Each morning starts with a community gathering to focus on the value of the month and to prepare for the day ahead. Fifth graders then enjoy a balanced schedule combining science, math, world languages (Spanish, Chinese, French), Life Skills, reading and language arts, math, recess, social studies, PE, art, and music (strings, band, chorus).


List of 4 members.

  • Photo of Kirby Mahoney

    Kirby Mahoney 

    Fifth Grade Homeroom Advisor
    Southern Connecticut State University - B.A.
    Southern Connecticut State University - B.S.
    Bank Street College of Education - M.S. Ed.
  • Photo of Sally Morsy

    Sally Morsy 

    Fifth Grade Homeroom Advisor
    University of Oklahoma - B.A.
  • Photo of Tara Reilly

    Tara Reilly 

    Fifth Grade Homeroom Advisor
    University of Pennsylvania - B.A.
    Bridgewater State College - M.Ed.
  • Photo of Imalka Senadhira

    Imalka Senadhira 

    Fifth Grade Homeroom Advisor
    University of Sri Lanka (Kelaniya Campus) - B.A.
    Johns Hopkins University - M.S.


  • Lockers, laptops, and lunch!
  • Advisories instead of homerooms
  • New choices in music and art
  • New choice in world languages; French
  • Muslim Contribution Museum
  • Agora Project
  • Medieval Day
  • Contraption Challenge
  • Spring Theatre Performance
  • Winter and Spring Concerts
  • Interscholastic Athletics
Located in Bethesda, MD, Norwood School develops students in grades PK-8 into confident lifelong learners who have the academic, character, and leadership skills to succeed in high school and beyond. Recognizing that children are multi-faceted, Norwood provides many opportunities for safe risk-taking, exploration, discovery, and growth in a nurturing, supportive, and inclusive school community.