50+ Tips, Tricks, and Ideas
Let’s be honest. One of the hardest parts of teaching is those two dreaded words: Lesson planning. Sometimes the inspiration just isn’t hitting, and we could use a little help. We scoured our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook and the web to put together a collection of ideas for teaching 5th grade to help you get through “The Sunday Night Blues.” Plus there’s advice from teachers like you on classroom management techniques and best ways to communicate with parents. You’ll see everything organized by topic so you can find what you are looking for easily. New to teaching? Fifth grade veteran? You’re guaranteed to find something here to inspire you!
Getting Your Classroom Ready
1. Create an inviting classroom
Need ideas to take your classroom to the next level? We’ve gathered real-life fifth grade classrooms for you to browse!
2. Gather all the supplies
Not sure what supplies you need for your classroom? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this list of essential fifth grade classroom supplies.
3. Try different classroom layouts
Long gone are the days of straight rows of desks lining the classroom. Throw out your seating chart and try one of these ideas instead.
4. Fill your classroom library with our favorite fifth grade books
Teaching fifth grade involves a lot of reading! Here are 20 of our favorites.
5. Get a jump start on lessons
Teacher planning and prep time are precious! It makes life a lot easier when you can purchase existing lessons, bundles, books, and pages. And why not support other teachers while you do it? Check out our favorite Teacher Pay Teachers sellers for fifth grade.
The First Days of School
6. Introduce yourself creatively
Make day one memorable by introducing yourself in a creative way, such as sending postcards over the summer! Here are 30 creative ideas.
7. Put all hands in
Get to know your fifth grade class and finish decorating during the first week of school with an activity that has students trace their hands and decorate with words and pictures that describe themselves. We love this idea from Teaching in Room 6.
8. Establish a culture of kindness
Print these free, downloadable posters to remind your students that kindness matters most of all.
9. Build your students’ social-emotional skills
Teaching fifth grade means building SEL skills. Use these read-alouds to talk about everything from kindness to courage to trying your best.
10. Create classroom jobs for your students
Here are some creative ideas from our teacher community: tech support, environmental support, organizer, textbook coordinator, sanitation engineer, librarian, substitute, chief in charge, messenger, paper passer, supply clerk, IT technician, human resources officer, administrative assistant, waste management.
11. Make a class time capsule
At the beginning of the year, have students write down their thoughts, expectations, goals, feelings, and predictions. Put them all in a decorated jar, seal it up, and then read them all back to them in the last week of school!
12. Use the walls for anchor charts instead of premade posters
You can check out our top fifth grade anchor charts for inspiration here.
Ideas for Language Arts
13. Incorporate daily writing prompts
We’ve gathered 50 writing prompts that you can download and use to have your fifth graders practice their writing skills.
14. Read aloud
Book series make great read-alouds because you can carry them through the entire year. Here are some of our top picks for fifth grade.
15. Encourage higher-order thinking
Looking for resources to encourage higher-order thinking in your young readers? These fifth grade worksheets from GreatSchools are just the ticket.
16. Grade all assignments for spelling
“I take spelling grades off of any type of assignment: a science response, an essay, anything. You get a better snapshot of their real spelling level, not if they have help at home.” —Jessica R.
17. Use paint chips to inspire sensory poetry
Letting color work its inspiration for your fifth grade poets is a great idea from Fabulous in Fifth. Check out other educational uses for paint chips here!
18. Teach the difference between tone and mood
Practice applying the definitions by reading passages in class and asking students to identify the difference between tone and mood in each passage with this helpful anchor chart.
19. Teach how to use context clues to bridge into larger close-reading skills
We love this anchor chart from Crafting Connections.
20. Teach the difference between literal and figurative meanings through writing and drawing
Take sentences from your class’s current text that use figurative language and have students (literally!) illustrate and explain the difference in the literal and figurative meanings of the expressions.
21. Try a vocabulary activity. Or 15!
Use RAFTs, try Vocabulary Jeopardy, and more with these vocabulary activities.
22. Use scavenger hunts to teach how to cite evidence
Find four of our favorite activities for citing textual evidence—two for fiction and two for nonfiction.
23. Teach theme in language arts
To fully explore theme, students must understand what they read and then extract ideas from the text. Here are 14 ways to get started!
24. Use nonfiction to draw in reluctant readers
Have a student that just won’t read? Use these types of nonfiction to entice them!
Ideas for Math
25. Reinforce prime numbers with a fun card game
Prime numbers become instantly cool when you use them to win this card game from Education.com! Download the activity for free.
26. Learn about area and perimeter with robots
How fun are these ’bots? Students apply their understanding of area and perimeter by creating different robots based on mathematical specifications provided to them.
27. Focus on fractions
If it’s not math fluency, it’s fractions. The better understanding fifth graders have of fractions, the better off they’ll be when the quantities get more complicated or the operations get sophisticated. Check out our favorite fraction activities!
28. Make it easy to reinforce
Reinforce new concepts with games that don’t need a ton of prep and can even be played at home. Check out these easy-to-play games that cover many fifth grade math standards.
29. Watch videos
It’s much more fun to teach multiplication and division when you’re watching a video!
30. Teach the dreaded word problem
Use these word problem activities and strategies.
31. Play fun online games to reinforce math concepts
This giant list of math websites should be bookmarked on your computer! It’s full of free online math games perfect for transitioning between lessons, a reward for good behavior, or a wrap-up activity for a math lesson.
32. Have a snack while you’re learning
Students will love combining cooking and chemistry with this engaging Compound Cookie activity where students follow a recipe to make a yummy snack! A fun (and delicious) way to go about teaching fifth grade science.
33. Graph paper isn’t just for graphing
Tired of messy math work? Try this hack to transform the way students show their math work!
Ideas for Science
34. Get hands-on with science
Science is the perfect subject for kids to get down and dirty. Try these 45 fifth grade science projects for inspiration.
35. Try daily STEM challenges
These STEM challenges are designed with your fifth graders in mind. Try one each day or each week to get their minds thinking outside the box.
36. Teach the plant life cycle
The plant life cycle is always a fun science unit. You get to talk about growing, planting, and nature. Plus, students love digging in and getting their hands dirty when they plant a seed themselves.
37. Teach electricity
It’s electrifyingly good fun! Shock them with these science experiments.
38. Explore animal habitats
Ready to explore animal habitats around the world, from rain forests to deserts and everything in between? These fun activities are just what you’re looking for. Take a walk on the wild side!
Ideas for Social Studies
39. Try social studies inquiry circles
Address the required standards through inquiry-based learning! Here’s a how-to guide from the One Stop Teacher Shop. Watch your kids sink their teeth into the “thick versus thin” concept, and the Work Plan Form will help students take control of their own learning.
40. Let your students be TV producers
Fifth grade teacher Brittany R. had her class work “in small groups toward the end of the year and make commercials to try and get ‘tourists’ to visit their location (ancient civilizations).” —Brittany R.
41. Learn about heroes
Read biographies about famous people in history. Match books to holidays or other commemorations, like Presidents’ Day or Black History Month.
42. Use online learning
There are some amazing websites out there for teaching social studies lessons. Check out our 50+ favorites.
43. Take a field trip
Being the oldest student on campus affords some privileges, not the least of which is at least one awesome field trip. No baby field trips here. Take advantage of having more mature learners, and try one of these engaging field trips that you can only really do in fifth grade.
Ideas for Classroom Management
44. Be consistent when teaching fifth grade
Consistency is key. “I’ve been teaching 5th grade for 15 years, and I can honestly say that for me it comes down to one word: consistency. If you are not consistent and do not plan to follow through (rules, routines), then you will have a great big mess on your hands academically, socially, and behaviorally. You need be consistent and keep to your schedule, routine, and rules. Fifth graders learn quickly that if you don’t mean what you say, they do not have to do their best.” —Maria S.
Fifth graders may think they are big kids, but they’re still motivated by rewards. “I give tickets to my students (bought from a party-supply store). They can redeem them every other Friday. A certain number of points can be cashed in for prizes, like a piece of candy or extra computer time. Sometimes I give one or two tickets and other times I pull off a long string of 10 to 15, especially if I want to change the behavior of other students! Tickets can be earned for good behavior, turning in work, showing respect, appropriate class participation, and so on.” —Becky S.
46. Think soft, not loud
“If students are being loud, my instinct used to be to raise my voice to try to be louder than them. Now, I’ve started doing the opposite: I’ll speak more quietly. This tends to intrigue them, and they’ll start hushing each other so they can hear what I have to say. Try it!” —Erin F.
47. If you assign it, grade it
Make sure kids know that all their work is valuable and deserves their best effort. “If you assign it (project, test, homework), then you need to check or grade it!” —Maria S.
48. Encourage kids to develop their passions
Give your fifth grade kids a Genius Hour where they can explore a topic of their choice. Students spend a set amount of time each day researching the topic before creating a project they will eventually present to the class.
49. Let your students be the teachers
“I let my students work in groups to read part of a chapter and then teach it to the class. They did various things such as present graphic organizers, skits, raps, and acrostics. They took questions from the students and they also gave out questions as mini-quizzes!” —Brittany R.
50. Incorporate arts and crafts into lessons
“I’ve done Egyptian units where kids create their own sarcophaguses. It has to have representations of things that are important to them.” —Laura N.
“We created cubes (made of poster board and cut and glued with hot glue) to create an informational cube about Egyptians. They did their own research for the topics covered.” —Brittany R.
51. Have a classroom debate—in costume
“We do a debate between the Patriots and the Loyalists, complete with costumes. The kids LOVED this activity.” —Sherrie R.
52. Get the wiggles out
Even grown-ups can’t sit still and listen all day! Get your kids up and moving with awesome fifth grade brain breaks.
53. Prizes don’t have to be the way to go
Looking to explore other ways of classroom management? Check out what this teacher has to say about rewards.
54. Scratch the “I don’t know …”
Teach students these eight alternatives to “I don’t know” to help promote perseverance in your classroom!
55. Respond in ways that promote thinking
It can be so frustrating when our students look at us and blurt out “I don’t get it” after an in-depth lesson. Here are five practical ways you can respond to get those brains thinking!
56. Teach kids perseverance
Create a classroom community of students who don’t give up when challenges present themselves. Learn ways to build perseverance in your classroom when you’re teaching fifth grade!
57. Have a sense of humor
Teaching fifth grade requires a sense of humor, for both yourself and your students. Try one of our fifth grade jokes to start the day.
58. Build positive relationships with parents
Here are ten tips for making working with parents the easiest part of your job.
59. Tweak your lingo
Sometimes a mere tweak in your language can make a big change in classroom participation!
60. Know the goals
New to fifth grade? Not sure of the skills your students need when they leave to head off to middle school? Here are the skills one teacher says every fifth grader MUST have by the end of the school year.