Grade Five

Grade five prepares boys to transition from Lower to Middle School. Homeroom classes reflect the diverse learners and interest of the boys. Boys earn more responsibility, assume leadership roles within the school, and hone study and organizational skills, all in preparation for the move to Middle School.

In Grade Five, your son will study:

Language Arts

Fifth Grade builds on the reading and writing skills taught and practiced in Grade Four. Spelling, writing, and grammar are taught in homerooms while reading comprehension skills, constructed written responses, and vocabulary are explored in four smaller, heterogeneous reading groups. Novels are selected based on genre, links to interdisciplinary units, and complexity of ideas. Examples of genres include: fantasy, historical fiction, graphic novels, and realistic fiction. During this last year of Lower School, the boys are challenged to think critically and express their ideas both orally and in written form. Through the writer’s workshop model, the boys learn to brainstorm, draft, revise, and confer about their writing.


Boys build a sound conceptual understanding of mathematical concepts introduced in third and fourth grades. They master whole number and decimal operations as well as gain a broad understanding of number theory as applied to work with fractions. Problem solving skills are practiced routinely and group work is employed to tackle complex, multi-step challenges. Classes are homogeneously grouped in order to allow boys to move at a pace that works best for their learning styles and comfort level. Math units include: place value (including decimals), number theory, operations with whole numbers and decimals, fraction basics, all operations with fractions, percents, the relationship between percent/decimal/fraction, ratio and proportions, estimation, patterns, measurement, basic geometry, and area/perimeter of geometric shapes.

Social Studies

Boys study the Colonial Period up to and including the Revolutionary War. Joy Hakim’s text, Making Thirteen Colonies, is used as a framework for study. Emphasis is on using primary source documents to understand the early formation of our country. Big ideas include: basic human rights, the function of government, how trade and economics impact society, and the meaning of dissension. Research projects, written essay responses, debates, and discussion form the basis of assessment. Every year in May the boys present their knowledge of the Colonial period by hosting a “Colonial Day.” There are musical performances, re-enactments, and a debate between colonists and loyalists.



Boys in grade five will complete the following units of study: chemistry, bridges, water, respiration and circulation systems, and garden. Students begin by identifying and defining matter and its properties, learn to read the periodic table, and examine the atom, subatomic particles, atomic structure, molecules, compounds, mixtures, phases of matter, and chemical and physical changes.

In the bridges unit, students explore the physics of bridge building, studying the design and history of three bridge types: beam, arch, and suspension. The boys are introduced to the forces that affect all bridges: compression and tension.

The water unit is cross-curricular. In science, we look at the freshwater crisis on our planet. The boys learn that 0.007% of the planet’s water is available to feed and fuel 6.8 billion people that live here. Boys examine the water cycle and how humans impact it. The boys look at freshwater usages and how this affects water quality and supply. They examine freshwater privatization and water as a catalyst for wealth, power, and war.

Students explore the anatomy, physiology, and functions of the lungs, heart, blood vessels and blood.

Fifth graders contribute to the Lower School garden, with particular attention paid to the colonial herb garden they will use in their study of Colonial American.



The philosophy and work of Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967), Hungarian composer and music educator, provide the foundation for the lower school vocal program. The boys develop musical skill in pitch, rhythm, form, and harmony and learn a large repertoire of songs with an emphasis on American folk songs. They grow in competency as choral music performers and music readers, and they listen to classical and folk music from around the world. Folk dancing and children’s musical games are an important component of the lower school program.  Twice a year, all students highlight their performance skills in concerts that include singing, dancing, and instrumental playing.  In addition to their own personal skills and performance, all students are exposed yearly to a concert with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

In fifth grade, the program changes from general music to a two-fold Choral and Instrumental program. All boys study a woodwind or brass family band instrument, which culminates in a Fifth Grade Band performance in the spring. The students also sing in the Fifth Grade Chorus, a performance-based ensemble which is asked to perform at various school-wide events throughout the year. The boys learn more complicated repertoire, from unison singing to three part harmony. They refine their skills through extensive warm-ups and tone development meant to prepare their voices for a lifetime of singing.


The art program encourages the student to express himself creatively and explore the world from an artist’s vantage point. The lower school art program aims to foster the creative growth of each individual student while exposing him to a wide range of art styles and forms. Through engaging and fun instruction our students are exposed to many aspects of art.  Students learn to use art vocabulary, as well as respond to and  appreciate art. The art program Includes drawing, painting, collage, constructing, printmaking, and ceramics.

The grade five program explores a variety of world art including the art of Ancient Egypt and mask-making from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The boys study architecture as an art form and artistic expression. Their task is to create a work inspired by the architectural masterpiece, St. Basil’s Cathedral of Moscow. Using watercolor, pencil, and metallic paints, the boys design their own masterpieces. The boys are challenged to create a mask design using a simple embossing technique. They look at masks from the Democratic Republic of Congo for inspiration. Our fifth grade art program culminates with an autobiographical figurative sculpture made from wire and plaster. These “self-portraits” reflect the diversity of interests held by our fifth grade boys.

French or Spanish

The Modern Language program includes French and Spanish. All boys in a grade study the same language. After Kindergarten, they study that assigned language for the rest of their lower school years.  Classes meet six times during a ten day cycle.

Boys continue their study of their assigned language. The Lower School’s foreign language courses are taught using activities that will develop listening comprehension and conversational skills. Culture is used to deliver the content of different curricular units, and exposure to a variety of cultures that speak Spanish or French is an integral part of the program. The goals of the program are to expose the students to the language, to help them develop basic conversational skills, and to introduce them to the language used in its cultural context.The environment of the class is of one of neutrality and at no moment is there a preference for one culture or another.

Physical Education

The lower school physical education curriculum includes physical education, aquatics, and athletics. Aquatics instruction starts in the Prep-One year and continues through Fifth Grade. Kindergarten through Fifth Grade receive a spiraling program of individual and group experiences. Sportsmanship, cooperation, and skill development are given high priority in all elementary grades. Specific traits of the Gilman Five are reinforced such as humility, respect, and excellence.

Fifth grade boys receive 45 minutes of instruction eight days out of the ten day cycle. Homerooms rotate through swimming every four days. The aquatic component stresses water safety, coordination, and skill development. In grades four and five the boys are introduced to water polo and compete in an intramural tournament each spring.


Design and Woodworking

The Design and Woodworking program is designed to include hands-on instruction and learning. The objective of the program is to expose the students to the art of craftsmanship, teaching them how to use basic tools and follow a specific set of instructions to produce objects that are both useful and beautiful. Projects build sequentially based on students’ age and skill. As the ability to manipulate tools gets better, the projects increase in degree of difficulty. This program further builds skills such as perseverance and patience. Safety is a top priority and emphasized in every class.

Fifth grade boys build on the skills of previous grades and take on greater challenges. They work with measurement, finding centers and points of reference, and enlarging a drawing to scale. They use a bench plane, scroll saw, and a stationary drill press for construction of a lamp, which they then learn to wire using a simple circuit. Examples of projects include: a tool box, working lamp, and school house clock.


With over 18,000 books, and access to multiple databases and digital content the lower school library, also known as the William Passano Library, offers the boys a rich, global collection of contemporary materials to explore. Students enjoy the library daily, as a space to research and for reading. Weekly classes with the librarian allows the boys to delve into research, explore what makes an award winning story or illustration, and learn about genres that may expand their reading experiences. Additionally, the librarian collaborates with the classroom teachers to support and enrich studies covered throughout the academic year. Building curious, confident, and avid readers who love reading is the goal of the library program.

Grade five boys will refine and develop their research skills through historical research projects. Students also work on identifying age-appropriate authors and building their knowledge of a wide variety of literary genres.

Special Events

The grade five experience is highlighted by a number of special events including:

  • Four day/three night trip to Echo Hill Outdoor School
  • Class Plays
  • Little Buddies to First Grade
  • Faculty-Fifth Grade Basketball Game
  • Overnight trip to Yorktown, Jamestown and Williamsburg
  • International 4th/5th Soccer Tournament
  • Colonial Day
Colonial Day
Colonial Day
Colonial Day
Colonial Day
Colonial Day
Colonial Day
Colonial Day
Colonial Day
Echo Hill
Echo Hill
Faculty-Fifth Grade Basketball Game
Faculty-Fifth Grade Basketball Game
Faculty-Fifth Grade Basketball Game
Faculty-Fifth Grade Basketball Game
Faculty-Fifth Grade Basketball Game
Faculty-Fifth Grade Basketball Game
International 4th/5th Soccer Tournament
International 4th/5th Soccer Tournament
Student-Teacher Ratio  
Kindergarten 7-9:1
Prep-One 7-9:1
First 15-17:1
Second 15-17:1
Third 15-17:1
Fourth 15-17:1
Fifth 15-17:1