English Language Arts

5th Grade

Course Summary

Our complete 5th grade English Language Arts curriculum is made up of three main components: Literature units, Science and Social Studies units, and independent reading. Together, these three components build students' knowledge and understanding of the world, and support student mastery of all literature, informational, writing, speaking and listening, language, and foundational skills standards. To learn more, see the Pacing Guide for this course.


In 5th grade Literature, students explore the different factors that can positively and negatively influence a community. Over the course of the year, students see how war, immigration, civil rights, and poverty both shape and inspire individuals and the communities in which they live.

Science and Social Studies

In 5th grade Social Studies, students consider how groups of people have fought for their rights, particularly immigration and civil rights. It is our hope that these units will inspire and motivate students to see that groups of ordinary people can fight to change the world, no matter what obstacles they face. In 5th grade Science, students think about the way things around them (both natural and man-made) work and interact, starting with a study of plastic and its impact on the environment and ending with a unit on Mars exploration.

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Literature Units

Unit 1

16 Lessons

Building Community: Seedfolks

Students explore the theme of community through the book Seedfolks, wrestling with how prejudice and racism impact the way people treat each other and the ways in which that can influence a community.

Unit 2

30 Lessons

Exploring Human Rights: The Breadwinner

Students explore the Taliban's influence on the Middle East through the lens of human rights in the book The Breadwinner, and practice narrative writing by rewriting scenes from other point of views.

Unit 3

29 Lessons

Friendship Across Boundaries: Return to Sender

In the novel Return to Sender, students explore the complexity of immigration and stereotypes, and interpret how authors highlight different characters' perspectives.

Unit 4

18 Lessons

Adapting to Survive: Short Stories and Poems

Students explore the attributes necessary for survival and the importance of physical and mental strength by reading excerpts from Julie of the Wolves, Endangered, Hatchet, and a variety of poems.

Unit 5

31 Lessons

Belonging to a Movement: One Crazy Summer

Reading the novel One Crazy Summer, set in 1968 Oakland, CA at the height of the Black Panther movement, students explore the meaning of community, identity, and what it means to be part of a revolution.

Unit 6

26 Lessons

Seeking Truth: A Wrinkle in Time

In this final 5th grade unit, students read about the nuances of good versus evil and how unconditional love can overpower darkness in A Wrinkle in Time, the first science fiction novel in our curriculum.

Science and Social Studies Units

Unit 1

16 Lessons

Protecting the Earth: Plastic Pollution

Students explore how plastic pollution is choking the world’s oceans, and explore a variety of solutions for reducing plastic waste and reducing the amount of plastic that ends up in the ocean.

Unit 2

25 Lessons

Sí Se Puede: The Migrant Workers' Movement

While learning about the California migrant farm workers' fight for justice led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, students learn to make connections and think about cause and effect.

Unit 3

35 Lessons

Young Heroes: Children of the Civil Rights Movement

Students study the Civil Rights Movement through the eyes of the children who experienced its hardships, victories and defeats firsthand by reading and analyzing multiple accounts of the same event.

Unit 4

33 Lessons

Exploring Mars: Spirit and Opportunity

Students explore the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, grappling with the complexity involved in space missions through reading, analyzing photographs, and participating in engineering and design labs.

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