Fifth Grade

akiva_2013-5thgradeWelcome to the 5th grade!  Children in the 5th grade begin their journey as blossoming leaders of the middle school.  We begin the year with a trip to a low ropes course at Adventure Works where we begin to discover and ponder the workings of a team.   Students think about their positions in the community and about the responsibilities they will soon take on as leaders in the school. The fifth grade brings many opportunities for positions of leadership.  Students are offered the opportunity to run for the Knesset, our student government, and take on leadership roles in their presentations of the Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut ceremonies.  They are provided greater choices in their learning with classes in both math and Hebrew that are tailored fit to their levels as well as electives that have included various forms of music, dance, art, creative text study, bee-keeping and history.

The 5th grade is a place where learning comes alive and students take responsibility for their actions and have great pride in their learning.   It is a place where students learn in chevruta and challenge each other to delve into our history’s most treasured commentaries to find how these texts of old relate to their lives today.   It is a magical time where they begin thinking about themselves and how their identities both as Jews and Americans impact their decisions and the decisions of those around them.   It is a time of reflection, excitement and meaningful learning with the community that surrounds them.


The art program at Akiva is presented to students using the Discipline-Based Arts Education approach. DBAE includes four disciplines: arts production, arts history and culture, criticism, and aesthetics. An introduction to the use of various materials concerning both two and three dimensional art will be implemented as well as an appreciation and understanding for various historic and contemporary artists. Students will be exposed to a broad scale of exciting projects appropriate for each grade level.

Humanities – History

Students will begin the year with a review of the Geography of the United States. Basic geographical terms and ideas will be reviewed at the beginning of the year. As these terms are used in subsequent units, they will be reinforced. Students will be required to correctly place major U.S. geographical features (Grand Canyon, Mississippi River, Rocky Mountains, etc.) on a blank map. Students will also be memorizing the fifty states and capitols.

As we begin our travels through history, students will begin a unit on Native Americans and Their Land and Native Americans and Their Cultural Regions. Students will study Native Americans, their lands, their adaptations, and their migrations. Students will also explore Native American myths. Students will also be participating in a novel study of Sing Down the Moon by Scott O’Dell in conjunction with this unit.

The next unit will be Explorers: Why Europeans Left for the New World and Routes of Exploration to the New World. Students excavate and examine artifacts from a sunken ship and discuss what they reveal about exploration. Students read about eight European explorers and then illustrate facts about the explorers’ expeditions. Students will give an oral presentation with a visual aid on an assigned explorer. Students will also be reading in groups stories from Explorers Who Got Lost. Each student will be responsible for becoming an expert on one explorer and will create a project around their assigned explorer.

Following a study of explorers, students will learn about Settlements and Colonies: Early English Settlements; Comparing the Colonies; Life in Colonial Williamsburg. Students analyze images of early English settlements in North America and create act-it-outs. Students create a billboard about one of six American colonies and then give a presentation to convince other students to settle in their colony. Students take a walking tour of Williamsburg and examine written and visual information, record notes, and complete tasks. Students will also create a 3-D model of Colonial Williamsburg.

From the colonies, we will move into a unit entitled Pre-Revolutionary War: Growing Tensions Between the Colonies and Britain; To Declare Independence or Not; The Declaration of Independence. Students feel frustrated and powerless as they plan a class party under restrictions of the teacher as a metaphor for the British control over the colonies. Students bring to life one of six historical figures and then hold a debate over whether or not to declare independence. Students examine key artifacts on Thomas Jefferson’s desk to learn about the Declaration of Independence and the events that led to it, and then paraphrase key excerpts in their own words.

Following the pre-Revolutionary War era will be a unit on the Revolutionary War. During which, students struggle in a game of tug-of-war in which the teacher changes the rules to favor a seemingly weaker team, and then compare their experience to that of the American and British forces in the Revolutionary War. Students will also memorize and recite paragraph one (When in the course of human events…) of the Declaration of Independence. We will examine Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and look at primary sources from Valley Forge. The students will also explore other primary sources from the time of the Revolutionary War in close reading discussion groups during language arts block.

Next, students will learn about our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Students play a game in which they determine which branch of government will resolve a series of situations. Students work in small groups to create a living scene that represent key amendments in the Bill of Rights. We will compare and contrast the Articles of the Confederation and the U.S. Constitution. Students will create a diagram that illustrates the system of checks-and-balances in the federal government. Students will create an Akiva Students’ Bill of Rights. Students will also memorize and recite the Preamble of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The next key part of American History that will be explored is Westward Expansion. It will be studied through a unit called Westward Expansion: Manifest Destiny and the Settling of the West; The Diverse Peoples of the West. Students act as 19th-century settlers and migrate into the western territories of the U.S. Students create interactive dramatizations about one group of westerners, such as the Forty-Niners. Students will locate and identify territorial acquisitions on a blank U.S. map. Students will identify major land purchases and the person (or people) responsible for the purchase. Students will also explain and give an opinion of Manifest Destiny.

The next two units will complete our study of American History. The first of the two units is Slavery: Facing Slavery. Students learn about slavery from the perspective of West Africans and gain appreciation for the dilemmas faced by the West Africans. Students will also locate and identify ports-of-call along the middle passage.

The final unit of study will be about the Civil War and is called Civil War: The Causes of the Civil War; The Civil War. Students read about events that led to the Civil War and then complete an illustrated storybook. Students travel to the battlefield at Gettysburg to discover important aspects of the Civil War, such as combat conditions. Students will define and discuss the S’s: Slavery, Sectionalism, Style, Structure, Solvency, and Secession. Students will visit Civil War battle fields. Students will learn about Sherman’s March to the Sea, Civil War naval battles, POW camps, life at home, and the Western Theatre. Students will also discover the fate of the Confederate leaders.

In addition to exploring the past, students will also be exploring the present through a weekly current events assignment. Students will participate in Currents Events BINGO each week. Students will select a current events article and write a brief summary of the article. Current Events BINGO boards will go home each Monday and are due each Friday. Current Events BINGO will begin the fourth week of school.

Humanities – Writing, Language Arts & Literature

Writing –  Writing will be taught through the Lucy Calkin’s Writing Workshop series. The students will write a variety of genres including: personal narrative, realistic fiction, literary essays, poetry, argument essays, and historical fiction. The students will learn how to gather ideas, draft, revise, and publish. They will explore other writer’s texts as a mentor for their own. During the course of the year, the students will learn many different revising strategies including: adding dialogue, using paragraphs to enhance their writing, using past or present tense verbs, and using descriptive words. The students will use the skills they have learned throughout the year and apply them to each piece of writing they create.

Grammar –  We will be using the Shurley English Level 5 program for grammar. Students will be reviewing, learning about, and practicing parts-of-speech. Students will also be working on writing sentences with advanced sentence structure. Students will be given practice opportunities through classroom assignments, homework, and editing as a part of the writing process.

Vocabulary –  Students will be working to develop their vocabulary using a new program called Vocabulary through Classical Roots Level 5. We use this program to teach predominantly multi-syllabic Greek and Latin-based words. They learn skills to discover the meaning of thousands words through exploring the meanings of roots. They will also learn word strategies as well as word etymologies.

Word Study  –  Words Their Way  will be used for spelling instructions. Based off of a spelling inventory that was administered at the beginning of the year, students will work in group at the developmental spelling level. The students will examine, manipulate, compare and categorizes words in order to make discoveries about how words are spelled. Each week students will learn a new group of words. The students will do multiple sorts with those words throughout the week to reinforce the spelling patterns they are learning.

Literature –  In Literature, students will be exploring various genres of literature including, but not limited to, historical fiction, poetry, informational, and realistic fiction. Students will participate in literature circle discussions, book clubs, whole class novel discussions, and independent reading units. Students will take on different roles in discussion groups as a way for students to be interact with the novel in various ways. Each unit, we will focus on reading comprehension strategies and critical thinking skills in relation to the text of the unit. Most novels will be read in class, either as a whole group, with a small group, or with a partner. Some novels and texts that the students will engage in are: Maniac Magee, The Watson’s Go to Birmingham, informative texts about the Revolutionary War, and Explorers Who Got Lost. Throughout the year, students will engage in the Junior Great Books program. Students will listen to a short story, and will engage in in-depth class discussion following the readings using the Shared Inquiry discussion format. Using interpretive questions where each student arrives at his or her own answer, the program encourages meaningful participation, and places an emphasis on the fact that there is no right or wrong answer to questions. Students are encouraged to use evidence from the text to support their answers.

Ivrit (Hebrew)

One of the main goals of our Hebrew program at Akiva is to provide our students with class experiences to learn Ivrit B’Ivrit (Hebrew immersion) that both challenges and supports them. Students are divided into sections based on teacher recommendations, class performance, assessments, and team discussions to help fulfill this goal Our classes reflect a commitment to Ivrit B’Ivrit, student centered classrooms, transparency (parents and students are aware of the struggles, goals, expectations, and accomplishments for each student) and a focus on developing units that always reflect the end goal for our students in all areas of their development. We developed our curriculum based on the extensive research that supports both the success of a co-proficiency approach and the value of thematic learning across grade levels. This program allows us to ensure that students leave Akiva both able to analyze grammatical forms and well-suited to engage in every-day conversation. Our standards and benchmarks are based on this approach and reflected in our comprehensive curriculum focusing on reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

The goal of thematic based learning is to create common learning experiences, commitment to shared vision and values, collective creativity, and common benchmarks for individual levels that are explored differently based on section. Themes for the two-year cycle include: Friendship, Me, Israel through the Arts, Animals, Family, Courage, Feelings, Let’s Travel through Israel, and Hobbies. The students are engaged, comfortable, and excited to learn about themes that matter to them and read collections of poems, short stories, essays, books and newspaper articles that lend themselves to discussions in which each student is able to express his/her thoughts, ideas, and responses to key questions around each theme. Students are aware of their strengths and areas of growth and often move change levels in their last two years of study at Akiva.

Judaic Studies

In the fifth grade in Judaic Studies, students focus on two main books: Exodus and Joshua. In addition to this, students study Mitzvot and Minhagim (customs) and continue to learn about and prepare for upcoming holidays. In their study of Exodus, students learn about the plagues in Egypt, compare Passover in Egypt to Passover today, and analyze the Exodus from Egypt, our relationship with God in the desert, and the giving of the Ten-Commandments. In Joshua, students learn about the transition of leadership, the Battle of Jericho, and the Conquest and Division of the Land. In Mitzvot and Minhagim, the students talk about the differences between commandments and customs and the holidays and learn about kavod and how we form communities.

In all aspects of the class curriculum, students work on honing their skills related to parsing and translating the text, reading Rashi (an 11th-12th century commentator) and analyzing his process of questioning, and engage in a critical analysis of texts. By the end of their fifth grade year, students have developed the skills to learn more independently and consider how to ask questions which help them better understand not only the text at hand but their relation to it.

Library And Technology

The Library program at Akiva is based on the  Standards for the 21st Century Learner  created by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). The four main standards are that learners use skills, resources, and tools to: (1) Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge; (2) Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge; (3) Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society; and (4) Pursue personal and aesthetic growth. Additionally, in the Technology classes, students will learn computer basics (hardware, software, typing) as well as databases, the Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL), Web 2.0 tools, and Internet safety.


The goal of the Akiva School mathematics program is to educate students who are competent and confident young mathematicians. At the core, we seek to help students build meaningful understandings of what they do and how they use math. Akiva School honors the learner as an individual with varied strengths and weaknesses. Taking learners at their own level, we help them along the path of learning and success.

In fifth grade, our students are divided into two groups for math instruction, an on-level group and an accelerated group. The on-level math group studies a challenging fifth grade math curriculum with a balanced approach that focuses on building competencies in mathematical skill and problem solving ability. Using Everyday Mathematics as the text for the course, students learn a variety of skills and concepts in class. These include: number theory, estimation and computation, geometry, division, fraction, decimals and percents, using data, exponents and negative numbers, area, volume and capacity, algebra concepts and skills, volume, and probability, ratios and rates.

The accelerated program extends the fundamental mathematic concepts learned in the early grades to include more sophisticated mathematics. While the students will practice and improve their number sense, measure sense, and estimation skills, they will work with fractions, decimals, percent, and integers (positive and negative numbers). Other topics studied will include geometry, with a focus on compass and straightedge constructions, transformation of figures, volume, as well as evaluating algebraic expressions and solving linear equations with one and two unknowns. Finally, they will begin to explore probability and statistics. Throughout the year, an emphasis will be placed on realistic problem solving, frequent and distributed practice, and activities that explore a wide variety of mathematical content and offer students opportunities to apply their skills.

Classes are aligned with NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) Standards as well as Common Core State Standards.


Science in the fifth grade will engage students in the scientific processes as they explore the natural world. They will begin to understand the fluid nature of scientific thought by studying the history of science, learning our current understanding of the world, and finally designing their own experiments. This will be the students’ first excursion into experimentation including writing in scientific notebooks and designing experiments. This is the right time. Fifth/Sixth graders have the cognitive ability to identify and manage the many factors that define a good experiment and they will be guided through this process. While the scientific process is taught throughout the curriculum, we will start the year with the Variables Module, which will help the students learn about controlled experimentation. In addition, it will help students see the relationships between actions and reactions, between cause and effect.

Once the students have begun to use the scientific process, we will apply these skills as we study physical, earth and life science. In the fifth grade the physical science module is the chemistry unit, Mixtures and Solutions. Chemistry is the study of the structure of matter and the changes or transformations that take place in it. Learning about the makeup of substances gives us knowledge about how things go together and how they can be taken apart. This module will develop students’ understanding of properties of matter and changes in properties of matter.

The Earth Science unit is Water Planet,  which consists of five sequential investigations, each designed to introduce or reinforce concepts in earth science. The investigations start with Earth in the solar system, and then focus on the dynamics of weather and water cycling in Earth’s atmosphere. The investigations in this module develop students’ understanding of the structure of the earth system by guiding students through the following concepts of the evaporation and condensation, the water cycle, and heat sinks.

Finally, in the Life Sciences will focus on environments environmental stewardship. The Environments Unit teaches that all living things depend on the conditions in their environment and that changes in an environment can be hard on organisms. Such knowledge is important because humans can change environments. To do so without awareness of possible consequences can lead to disasters. In addition, the foundations taught in this module are exemplified and extended through the class trip to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, where students will learn more about the forces, both natural and man-made, that affect the environment in the park.

Special Topics In Jewish Studies

Special Topics classes are unique to our 5th and 6th grades. They meet twice a week for half of the school year. For 5th grade, 2nd quarter will be History of Modern Israel, in which we look at early Zionism and how Israel came into existence. In the 4th quarter, we will learn Edot: One People Many Faces. Edot looks at the diversity within the Jewish community both in and outside of Israel and explores 4 different communities in depth.

Signature Projects And Field Trips

  • Cultural Fair For the cultural fair, the students will be comparing and contrasting Colonial America with the lifestyle and culture of today’s regions.
  • Rachav’s House Students build a replica of a house described in the text in Joshua. It is accompanied by a short essay in which the students justify why they built the house the way they did.
  • Four Sons project Students create pages from the Haggadah about the 4 sons with their own commentaries
  • Amalek Essay Students write a persuasive essay about the battle with Amalek
  • Model Seder Students prepare presentations in different artistic modes for the model Seder
  • 5th/6th Grade class Trip

Fifth Grade Daily Schedule

  • Tefillah
  • Ivrit
  • Humanities
  • Lunch
  • Judaic Studies
  • Math
  • Science
  • Specials (P.E./Dance, Art, Music, Special Topics in Judaic Studies, Study Skills)

Contact Information


David Williams
Rena Malkofsky-Berger
Aaron Finkelstein
Michal Zidkyahu