Fifth Grade Writing Standards
Writing standards for fifth grade define the knowledge and skills needed for writing proficiency at this grade level. By understanding 5th grade writing standards, parents can be more effective in helping their children meet grade level expectations.
What is 5th Grade Writing?
Fifth grade students refine and build upon previously learned knowledge and skills in increasingly complex, multiple-paragraph essays. Essays by fifth-graders contain formal introductions, ample supporting evidence, and conclusions. Students learn writing techniques and experiment with various types of essay leads (e.g., an astonishing fact, a dramatic scene). As they learn different techniques and write for different purposes, their writing takes on style and voice. Fifth grade students use every phase of the writing process and continue to build their knowledge of writing conventions. They discover how to evaluate writing and conduct research.
Browse Standards-Based Elementary Writing Courses
The following writing standards represent what states* typically specify as fifth grade benchmarks in writing proficiency:
Grade 5: Writing Strategies
Fifth grade writing standards focus on the writing process as the primary tool to help children become independent writers. In Grade 5, students are taught to use each phase of the process as follows:
- Prewriting: In fifth grade, students generate ideas and organize information for writing by using such prewriting strategies as brainstorming, graphic organizers, notes, and logs. Students select a focus, an organizational structure, and a point of view. Students base these on the purpose of the composition, as well as on genre expectations, audience, length, and format requirements.
- Drafting: Students develop drafts by categorizing ideas, organizing them into paragraphs, and blending paragraphs within larger units of text. The writing exhibits the students’ awareness of the audience and purpose.
- Revising: Students revise selected drafts by adding, elaborating, deleting, combining, and rearranging text. Goals for revision include improving the meaning, focus, coherence, progression, and logical support of ideas. Students also evaluate drafts for development of voice and point of view, and the vivid expression of ideas through language techniques (e.g., foreshadowing, imagery, simile, metaphor, sensory language, connotation, denotation).
- Editing: Students edit their writing based on their knowledge of grammar and usage, spelling, punctuation, and other features of polished writing, such as varied sentence structure and word choices appropriate to the selected tone and mood. Students also proofread using reference materials and other resources.
- Publishing: Students refine selected pieces frequently to “publish” for intended audiences. Fifth graders use correct document formatting and incorporate photos, illustrations, charts, and graphs.
Use of technology: 5th grade writing activities require students to use available technology to support aspects of creating, revising, editing, and publishing texts. Students create simple documents by using electronic media and employing organizational features (e.g., passwords, entry and pull-down menus, word searches, a thesaurus, spell checks).
Grade 5: Writing Purposes
In Grade 5, students write to express, discover, record, develop, reflect on ideas, and problem solve. 5th grade writing lessons teach the selection and use of different forms of writing for specific purposes such as to inform, persuade, or entertain. Fifth grade writing standards stipulate that students write in the following forms:
- Narrative: Students establish a plot, point of view, setting, and conflict. A key goal is to show, rather than tell, the events of the story.
- Informational/Expository: Students write to inform, such as to explain, describe, and report. Writing tasks include research reports about important ideas, issues, or events, as well as summaries, instructions, how-to manuals, observations, notes, lists, charts, and directions. Students develop a controlling idea, supported by simple facts, details, examples, and explanations.
- Persuasive: Students write to influence, such as to persuade, argue, and request. In grade 5, persuasive letters and compositions should state a clear position, support the position with relevant evidence, address reader concerns, and include persuasive techniques (e.g., word choice, repetition, emotional appeal, hyperbole).
- Creative: Students write to entertain, using a variety of expressive forms (e.g., fiction, autobiography, science fiction, haiku, and short stories for 5th graders) that employ figurative language (e.g., simile, metaphor, onomatopoeia, personification, hyperbole), rhythm, dialogue, characterization, plot, and/or appropriate format.
- Responses to Literature: Fifth grade students demonstrate an understanding of the literary work and support judgments by citing text references and their prior knowledge. Students develop interpretations that exhibit careful reading and understanding.
In addition, fifth graders work to exhibit an identifiable voice in personal narratives and in stories. They choose the appropriate form for their own purpose when writing – including journals, letters, reviews, poems, and narratives.
Grade 5: Writing Evaluation
Fifth grade students learn to respond constructively to others’ writing and determine if their own writing achieves its purposes. In Grade 5, students also apply criteria to evaluate writing and analyze published examples as models for writing. Writing standards recommend that each student keep and review a collection of his/her own written work to determine its strengths and weaknesses and to set goals as a writer.
Grade 5: Written English Language Conventions
Students in fifth grade are expected to write with more complex sentences, capitalization, and punctuation. In particular, fifth grade writing standards specify these key markers of proficiency:
—Writes in complete sentences, varying the types, such as compound and complex to match meanings and purposes.
—Identifies and correctly use prepositional phrases, appositives, and independent and dependent clauses; uses transitions and conjunctions to connect ideas.
—Uses negatives in written compositions (e.g., avoids double negatives).
—Correctly employs Standard English usage, including subject/verb and noun/pronoun agreement and the four basic parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs).
—Identifies and correctly uses modifiers, pronouns, and verbs that are often misused (e.g., lie/lay, sit/set, rise/raise).
—Uses regular and irregular plurals correctly.
—Uses adjectives (comparative and superlative forms) and adverbs appropriately to make writing vivid or precise.
—Uses prepositional phrases to elaborate written ideas.
—Uses conjunctions to connect ideas meaningfully.
—Writes with accuracy when using objective case pronouns such as “Can you ride with my mom and me?”
—Punctuates ends of sentences correctly. Uses punctuation to clarify and enhance meaning, including using commas in a series, in direct address, and in clauses. Correctly uses hyphens.
—Writes with accuracy when using apostrophes in contractions such as it’s and possessives such as Jan’s.
—Uses a colon to separate hours and minutes and to introduce a list.
—Uses quotation marks around the exact words of a speaker and titles of poems, songs, short stories, etc.
—Capitalizes correctly to clarify and enhance meaning.
—Pays particular attention to capitalization of literary titles, nationalities, ethnicities, languages, religions, geographic names and places.
—Uses spelling rules, orthographic patterns and generalizations correctly.
—Writes with accurate spelling of root words such as drink, speak, read, or happy, inflections such as those that change tense or number, suffixes such as -able or -less, and prefixes such as re- or un.
—Writes with accurate spelling of contractions and syllable constructions, including closed, open, consonant before -le, and syllable boundary patterns.
—Uses knowledge of Greek and Latin root words, prefixes, suffixes, and uses a dictionary, thesaurus, or other resources as necessary.
—Writes fluidly and legibly in cursive or manuscript as appropriate.
Grade 5: Research and Inquiry
Fifth-graders select and use reference materials and resources as needed for writing, revising, and editing final drafts. Also in 5th grade, students do research projects on a variety of topics. Students learn how to gather information systematically and use writing as a tool for research and inquiry in the following ways.
- Frames questions for research. Evaluates own research and raise new questions for further investigation.
- Organizes prior knowledge about a topic in a variety of ways such as by utilizing a graphic organizer.
- Selects and uses a variety of relevant and authoritative sources and reference materials (e.g., guest speakers, periodicals, online information, dictionary, encyclopedia, online information) to aid in writing.
- Takes notes and evaluates the validity and reliability of information in text by examining several sources of information.
- Summarizes and organizes ideas gained from multiple sources in useful ways such as outlines, conceptual maps, learning logs, and timelines.
- Uses organizational features of printed text (e.g., citations, end notes, bibliographic references) to locate relevant information.
- Records basic bibliographic data and presents quotes using ethical practices (e.g., avoids plagiarism).
- Uses a thesaurus to identify alternative word choices and meanings.
Fifth Grade Writing Tests
In some states, fifth graders take standardized writing assessments, either with pencil and paper or, increasingly, on a computer. Students will be given questions about grammar and mechanics. Often, there is also a timed writing exercise in which they must write an essay in response to a specific prompt. Another type of question asks students to write a summary statement in response to a reading passage. Classroom students are also often given classroom-based fifth grade writing tests and writing portfolio evaluations.
State writing assessments are correlated to state writing standards. These standards-based tests measure what students know in relation to what they’ve been taught. If students do well on school writing assignments, they should do well on such a test. Educators consider standards-based tests to be the most useful as these tests show how each student is meeting grade-level expectations. These assessments are designed to pinpoint where each student needs improvement and help teachers tailor instruction to fit individual needs. State departments of education often include information on writing standards and writing assessments on their websites, including sample questions.
Writing Test Preparation
The best writing test preparation in fifth grade is simply encouraging your child to write, raising awareness of the written word, and offering guidance on writing homework. For example, you can talk about the different purposes of writing as you encounter them, such as those of letters, recipes, grocery lists, instructions, and menus. By becoming familiar with fifth grade writing standards, parents can offer more constructive homework support. Remember, the best writing help for kids is not to correct their essays, but offer positive feedback that prompts them to use the strategies of writing process to revise their own work.
Time4Writing Online Writing Courses Support 5th Grade Writing Standards
Time4Writing is an excellent complement to fifth grade writing curriculum. Developed by classroom teachers, Time4Writing targets the fundamentals of writing. Students build writing skills and deepen their understanding of the writing process by working on standard-based, grade-appropriate writing tasks under the individual guidance of a certified teacher.
Writing on a computer inspires many students, even reluctant writers. Learn more about Time4Writing online courses for fifth grade.
For more information about general learning objectives for fifth grade students including math and language arts, please visit Time4Learning.com.
*K-12 writing standards are defined by each state. Time4Writing relies on a representative sampling of state writing standards, notably from Florida, Texas, and California, as well as on the standards published by nationally recognized education organizations, such as the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.
You’ve been exploring the writing standards for fifth grade. To view the writing standards for other grade levels, use one of the following links:
By now, your child knows the drill: writing is a process that requires research, input, and revision. Under the Common Core Standards, fifth graders are expected not only to respond to others’ prompts for improvement — they’ll evaluate their own work, too.
Super study skills
In fifth grade, note taking becomes an essential academic skill. Under the Common Core Standards, fifth graders are expected to use books, periodicals, websites, and other digital sources (like a library database) to do short research projects using several sources to investigate a topic from different angles — both on their own and as part of group work with peers. Your child should keep track of all the sources she uses — noting what she learned, the name of the source, and the page number or url so she can find it again and create a source list or bibliography later. A big step in your child’s research process this year: taking the time to review, categorize, and summarize or paraphrase the information she’s learned. What did she find out about the animal’s habitat from each source? What themes were present in the author’s novels? (Yes, these research and summary skills apply when the source materials are fiction, too.) These practices of considering and sorting evidence into categories and summarizing the information will help your fifth grader with the planning, writing, and revising stages of her writing project.
Can your fifth grader get organized to write an essay?
By now, your child should understand that writing is a process requiring several steps: planning, first draft, revisions, editing, and publishing or sharing work. Your child’s planning work should include reading and rereading, taking notes, finding additional sources, discussing how new knowledge fits into what your child knew before, visually organizing the information she plans to include, and determining the best way to clearly present her evidence as a cohesive set of points. After the first draft is written, the teacher and other students will offer feedback: asking questions to elicit new details, suggesting ways to clarify an argument, or pressing for new sources of information. Don’t be surprised if there are a few rounds of revisions this year: it’s how your child’s written communication gets stronger. If revisions aren’t enough to improve your child’s writing, then this year your child may be required to rewrite the piece or try a new approach. Once the structure and contents are set, final edits are the time to perfect spelling and grammar. All this work on one writing assignment is meant to help your child think of writing as a multistep process so she can evaluate her work and see that — if it’s not up to snuff — she should keep trying until it is.
5th grade opinion pieces
Since kindergarten, the Common Core Standards have been stressing the mechanics of writing strong opinion pieces. This year, there’s an added emphasis on logically organizing written work. Your child’s opinion pieces should start by clearly introducing and stating her opinion about a topic. Then, she should set up and follow a logically ordered structure to introduce each reason she’ll offer in support of her opinion. Her reasons should be supported by facts and details (a.k.a. evidence), and your child should use linking words, such as additionally, consequently, and specifically to connect her evidence-backed reasons to her opinion. Finally, she should close her argument with a well-articulated conclusion that supports her original opinion.
5th grade informative writing
Logic reigns when evaluating your fifth grader’s informative writing. The purpose of this type of writing: to convey facts and ideas clearly. So a logically ordered presentation of supporting points is, well… quite logical. Your child should clearly introduce his topic and present related information in the form of a few clear, well thought-out paragraphs. He should draw on facts, definitions, concrete details, quotes, and examples from his research to thoroughly develop his topic. To clearly connect his research, your fifth grader should use advanced linking words (e.g. in contrast, especially) to form compound and complex sentences that convey his points. Remember that your child’s presentation matters: making use of subject headings, illustrations, and even multimedia to illustrate points is encouraged whenever they make your child’s work more logical and clear. Then, to wrap it up, your child should have a well-reasoned conclusion.
Check out these three real examples of good fifth grade informational writing:
•”How to save water”
•”Saving a Resource”
Can your fifth grader write an informational essay?
5th grade narrative writing
A narrative is a story, plain and simple. But this year, your child’s stories will be far from simple. Whether inspired by a book, real events, or your child’s imagination, your child’s story should start by introducing a narrator, characters, or a situational conflict. A fifth grade story writer will be asked to use classic narrative devices like dialogue, descriptive words, and character development. Your child should be able to show how characters feel and react to what’s happening. Finally, keeping the pacing and sequence of events in mind, the events should unfold naturally, bringing the story to a close. Does that mean your fifth grader’s ending needs to be boring or predictable? Not at all — but the story’s details and events should plausibly lead wherever the story ends.
Making connections: reading and writing
Under the Common Cores Standards, a writing standard called a “range of writing” calls for more writing, more often — both in short spurts and through more ambitious projects that may take weeks or months. When helping your child with these various writing assignments, the same questions you ask to boost her reading comprehension will come in handy. Questions about fiction like Can you offer specific details from the story to show us how characters reacted? and questions about nonfiction like Can you point to specific evidence that supports a certain point? will help your child connect how she thinks about reading to how she should be writing.
Now that your fifth grader has a firm grasp of the parts of speech, she should be prepared to perfect grammar skills. Your child should learn to use and explain the function of conjunctions (e.g. because, yet), prepositions (e.g. above, without), and interjections (e.g. Hi, well, dear). They’ll also start using correlative conjunctions (e.g. either/or, neither/nor). What’s more, students learn to form and use the past, present, and future perfect tenses (I had walked; I have walked; I will have walked.) — and with this tense mastered, fifth graders will now be expected to use various verb tenses to convey a sequence of events and to recognize and correct any inappropriate shifts in tense.
Check out this related worksheet:
• Active and passive sentences
Perfecting punctuation, spelling, and vocabulary
This year, the quest to spell ever-harder words — and to further understand nuances in word meanings and the English language — continues.
This means your child will:
• Regularly refer to print and online dictionaries, thesauruses, and glossaries to spell challenging words correctly
• Use academic terms in writing
• Find ever-more nuanced descriptors (think advanced synonyms and antonyms)
• Master homographs (e.g. understand that bear means the animal and to support or carry).
• Employ common idioms, adages, and proverbs (e.g. “born yesterday”; “the early bird gets the worm”; “failure teaches success”)
• Interpret figurative language like similes (e.g. “light as a feather”) and metaphors (“it’s a dream come true”).
Now that your child understands how to correctly use most punctuation, this year’s punctuation star is the common but commonly confusing comma. To start, your child will learn to use commas after a sentence’s introductory segment (e.g. Earlier this morning, we ate breakfast.), to set off the words yes and no in writing (e.g. Yes, we will; and no, thank you), to set off a question from the rest of a sentence (e.g. It’s true, isn’t it?), and to show direct address. (e.g. Is that you, Mike?) Your child will also use commas to separate items in a series. (e.g. I want eggs, pancakes, and juice.)
Commas aside, your child will be taught how to consistently use quotation marks, italics, or underlining to indicate titles when citing sources in reports and papers.
Check out these related worksheets:
• Punctuating a paragraph
• Simile or cliche?
• Homophones and homographs
And it’s live!
The final step? Publishing! Once all the hard work (the research, planning, writing, revisions, edits, and rewrites) are finished, your fifth grader’s ready to publish. The Common Core Standards specify using “technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others.” The format is open — printing or electronic publishing on a blog, website, or even an app. While teachers should be there to support your child, he should be doing the work. So what does interacting and collaborating with others look like? It could mean, for example, that your child reads his classmates’ published work online and either comments on it or references it when answering a question in class.
What about the big H?
Traditionally, fifth graders have been expected to master cursive and print handwriting. For decades, typing skills have also been required. The Common Core Standards clearly state that fifth graders should be able to type two full pages in one sitting. However, even with the emphasis on using technology and publishing writing, not all of your child’s writing is expected to be typed. It’s logical to conclude that your fifth grader’s penmanship matters. However, there’s no mention of cursive in the standards. So learning cursive is essentially up to your child’s teacher. If cursive isn’t part of the teacher’s curriculum, you may want to work on this craft with your child at home.
Updated November 2013 to align with the Common Core Standards
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