It sounds like a medical or pharmacological term, but what is high-dosage tutoring really? Why has it picked up momentum as an intensive intervention in schools? Is it all that it is cracked up to be? Let’s explore the concept of high-dosage tutoring (HDT) and who it benefits the most!

How high-dosage tutoring works

COVID-19 resulted in significant learning loss across the country, and high-dosage tutoring emerged as a response to this phenomenon. Also known as high-impact tutoring, it is generally defined as one-on-one tutoring or very small group tutoring (up to four learners) at least three times a week (or for about 50 hours) over a period of 36 weeks. Sessions range from 30-60 minutes depending on the age and severity of the learner’s profile. It differs from the more common tutoring, which is often provided by less-qualified tutors and focuses on remediation approaches and typically suffers because of a lack of consistency (due to a variety of factors). Although high-dosage tutors are not educational therapists, they are required to receive stringent training and oversight from their organizations to ensure fidelity of their instructional programming. These tutors focus on folding in academic content so learners can achieve new learning opportunities, while simultaneously building up their fundamental knowledge and foundational skills. Research has found that when tutoring is administered in this way, it leads to better learning outcomes for students. A Harvard study found the approach to result in significant learner gains. According to the District of Columbia State Education Department, “High-dosage tutoring is a proven, effective strategy for increasing student outcomes, with a strong research base.” This ranks high-dosage tutoring among the best interventions available in the country. 

How High-Dosage Tutoring Results in More Learning Gains

High-dosage tutoring focuses on repetition and consistency, yielding results similar to research-validated intensive remediation. One of the reasons is the methodology leans on carry-over tasks that are similar to what learners are expected to do in the classroom which tends to heighten learners’ ability to generalize their skills across environments and also builds feelings of confidence and success. This added layer of assertiveness can positively impact a learner’s willingness to participate in class, take academic risks, and embrace a growth mindset. Because the program mainly occurs during the day, learners can balance support with real-life application, decompression, and socialization because they are not required to receive intensive intervention after the school day on top of their homework and extracurricular activities. 

Through its research, Brown University’s Annenberg Institute has identified 10 key factors that make high-dosage tutoring programs successful:

  • Frequency: Tutoring programs are most effective when delivered frequently (at least three times per week) and over consecutive weeks.
  • Personalization: One-on-one sessions with tutors are generally considered the most effective, though high-dosage tutors can make positive impacts with pairs and small groups of up to three or four students.
  • Tutor training: Tutors require adequate evidence-validated training in order to be truly impactful. The good news is, studies show that a wide variety of people can make effective tutors, relieving the burden on classroom teachers and caregivers.
  • Focus: Studies consistently show that tutoring can be effective at all grade levels. For early grades, the impact tends to be highest when tutoring is focused on reading skills. For older students, math-focused tutoring tends to be most impactful.
  • Measurement: High-dosage tutoring programs tend to be more successful when they track data about usage and when they incorporate ongoing informal assessments. This enables tutors to individualize interactions with students to better meet their needs.
  • Consistent relationships: Research indicates that a consistent, strong, established rapport between tutor and student can improve outcomes. Alternatively, a pool of tutors trained to work in consistent ways with their students can deliver similar results.
  • Alignment with classroom curriculum: Tutors get better results when their instruction is informed by and aligned with the learner’s underlying skills and classroom instruction. For example, it helps learners when tutors use similar terminology and methods as their teachers.
  • Scheduling: Tutoring tends to be most effective when it happens during school hours. Interventions that require students to be on school grounds after school hours or during the summer tend to have a lesser impact because of many factors, like fatigue and motivation. If tutoring needs to be delivered after school hours, ensure adequate breaks so that it is most effective
  • Delivery mode: While most research has targeted in-person tutoring, there is also evidence that online tutoring is effective, especially when it includes strategies similar to in-person tutoring.
  • Prioritization: Traditionally, educational interventions have been need based. However, need-based programs risk creating a negative stigma and can even be seen as a form of punishment. Alternatively, tutoring can avoid this problem by making it part of the curriculum, even a required element for all students in the classroom. Finally, tutoring can be universal—available on demand for all students and subjects at a particular grade, school, or district.

Can High-Dosage Tutoring be Given Online?

The personalization component of high-dosage tutoring allows for flexible formatting. Online models allow for less logistical roadblocks. For example, students who cannot stay after school can meet with their tutor from home, or the school can set up computer access at school for learners who need to receive the support onsite. Alternatively, in-person at school can be more effective for young learners, learners who have high energy and low attention span, or learners with more severe diagnoses. 

Learnfully uses the high-dosage tutoring model, and we provide both online and in-person educational support, allowing us to fit a broad spectrum of scheduling needs and learning formats. Online tutoring is often the preferred option for parents and learners, for a variety of reasons: 

  • Scheduling: With tutors available online and at any time, the online model significantly reduces scheduling challenges.
  • Staffing: The online model enables access to a much larger pool of tutors, including both experts in a broader range of subjects and tutors fluent in multiple languages.
  • Costs: Online delivery models reduce many of the costs associated with traditional onsite tutoring.
  • Equity: Because online tutoring is available anywhere at any time, disadvantaged students with limitations (like having adult responsibilities at home, or transportation constraints) are more likely to benefit.
  • Oversight: In addition to alignment with classroom content, the online model gives teachers and administrators direct insight into student-teacher interactions through virtual learning management systems and tech-enabled tools.
  • Measurability: Online models make it easier to track student progress and engagement, and allows adjustments to be made quickly and precisely.

If you have questions about how high-dosage tutoring can be given effectively for your learner, please reach out to us at contact@learnfully.com.

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University defines executive function and self-regulation skills as the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses. 

These higher order thinking skills can be broken down into the following eight executive function areas:

  • Working Memory
  • Self Regulation
  • Time Management and Planning 
  • Organization
  • Self-monitoring
  • Attention
  • Impulse Control
  • Cognitive Flexibility

We understand that it can be very overwhelming to learn that you or your student is struggling in one or more of these areas, so we have compiled a list of our top resources to help you navigate these new waters. Each of the 8 executive functions has a general information header which includes links that will teach you about that particular EF skill, and a Strategies and Support header which offers tools for students, caregivers, and educators.

  1. Executive Function Overview
  2. Executive Function Strategies
  3. Working Memory
  4. Self-Regulation
  5. Time Management and Planning
  6. Organization
  7. Self-Monitoring
  8. Attention
  9. Impulse Control
  10. Cognitive Flexibility

Executive Function Overview

Executive Function Strategies

Working Memory

General Information

Strategies and Supports

Reading

Math

Self-Regulation

General Information

Strategies and Supports  

Time Management and Planning

General Information

Strategies and Supports

Organization

General Information

Strategies and Supports

Self-Monitoring

General Information

Strategies and Supports

Attention

General Information

Strategies and Supports

Impulse Control

General Information

Strategies and Supports

Cognitive Flexibility

General Information

Strategies and Supports

It is that time of year again—back to school season is upon us! Whether starting Kindergarten, advancing to a new grade, or changing schools, transitioning from summer to school can be difficult for children, parents, and other caregivers. Social-emotional health skills become vitally important for many learners, especially for those with previous symptoms of anxiety. As the start of school approaches, anxiety builds in many learners, often resulting in difficulty completing normal daily tasks like sleeping, eating, and exercising. This makes accomplishing the tasks expected in their educational environments out of reach for these kids. Research shows that students with untreated anxiety are at higher risk of poor academic performance— not to mention they often lose out on important social experiences. Proper planning, along with prioritizing coping strategies, is essential to successfully easing the transition back to school. 

Here are our top tips to alleviate some of the back-to-school tensions and make the start of the year go as smoothly as possible. If your learner needs additional support  to find success this year, schedule a SPARK Learning Assessment with us to uncover their strengths and challenges. Reach out to us to learn more about our offerings

Create visual schedules. Rehearse daily routines to reacclimate your children (body and mind) to the structure school requires. Use visual charts (like our Morning & Evening Checklists) whenever possible to alleviate the burden of having to remember what needs to happen and when. 

Reestablish healthy habits. We all have been there: eating whenever we are hungry, going to bed late, playing video games way too many hours a day. To reduce obstacles in the first weeks of school, set healthy and clear expectations for sleeping, nutrition, and screen-time habits at least a week before school starts. 

Facilitate discussion. Ask open-ended questions and validate any feelings that may arise without trying to solve their worries right away. Active listening can strengthen your child’s willingness to share in the future, so practice open ears whenever possible. 

Mindfulness matters. As often as feels right, build in self-regulatory coping mechanisms like meditation, breathing exercises, creative outlets like art, physical activities, and spending alone time in cozy spaces. 

Reorganize & re-systematize.  We are creatures of habit and like to maintain systems (even when they are no longer serving us). Model reflection and evaluation of past systems (like using hooks to keep track of kids’ backpacks ) and have fun shopping for supplies, snacks, and clothes!

Connect with the teacher beforehand. Reach out to the teacher to introduce yourself as your child’s caregiver champion, and try to schedule a time for your child to see the classroom before school starts to help ease their anxiety. Do a practice run or two so they know exactly what to expect on the first day of school. 

Stay positive. Our children feed off of our energy, so providing positive reinforcement and an optimistic view on the year ahead can be just what a learner needs to clear their minds and approach the new year with a pep in their step. 

Celebrate.  The new school year can be celebrated just like you would for the end of a school year! Plan some fun activities the day or two before school starts to kick off the new year and show it the love and appreciation it deserves. 

Read stories and books. As a teacher mom, I have acquired quite the collection of back-to-school books to help my littles process all of the variables that come with returning back to the classroom. Among some of my favorites are The School Book by Todd Parr and just about any Pete the Cat book! Audiobooks at night while they rest before bed can also work wonders.  

Find beauty in boredom. Let kids decompress and enjoy the last several days of summer before school starts. By lounging around the backyard and swimming in the pool, kids may find beauty in boredom and get even more excited to see their friends again!

Historically, third grade is a transition year for many learners and that has not changed these past few years. Reading passages become increasingly more challenging. Sentences are longer. Vocabulary words are tougher. Math concepts—such as those ubiquitous multiplication tables or lengthy, confusing word problems—require memorization as well as complex thought. By the third grade, children have spent two years mastering reading and doing basic math computations. In third grade, they are able to branch out in their cognitive studies, social interactions and more complex, academic material. 

Teachers expect third grade students to take more responsibility for their education, asking for support when they don’t understand something and devising strategies for learning that work best for them. And in some states, promotion from 3rd grade to 4th grade even depends on students passing a standardized test.

It’s enough to make some caregivers sweat a little, especially when their children are neurodivergent or slower to shine. Educators have learned over the years that, on average, children at this age can handle higher academic expectations. Learners who have a solid foundation from the earlier grades will do well with support, encouragement, and clearly stated expectations.

We understand how overwhelming preparing a child for a new grade can be. To reduce some new-school-year anxiety, take a few moments to look over the skills that your third grader will need this year to help them with hands-on science experiments, more challenging math problems, and higher-level reading and writing assignments. If you are still unsure or feel worried about your child’s ability to find success in third grade, we strongly encourage you to schedule a SPARK Learning Assessment or reach out to one of our educational specialists to learn more about our offerings

3rd Grade Social-Emotional Skills

Third grade will expand your child’s horizons and give them more of a “big picture” perspective, along with the requisite social skills. These skills relate not only to friendships and interactions in school, but to more in-depth learning experiences. Your third-grader will develop these social and emotional skills:

  • Friendships start to become more important, and many third-graders look forward to socializing and seeing their friends at school.
  • Your child will become more adept at understanding and share jokes and riddles with friends.
  • Your child will take on more responsibility himself, such as making sure he writes down homework assignments, packing up his own belongings for dismissal, etc.
  • Third-graders work cooperatively on group projects, such as science experiments.

3rd Grade Reading

Third grade reading builds upon your child’s educational foundation. They may find certain aspects of reading more interesting than others, and, thus, may also look forward to sharing the information they learn in school with you. Your third-grader will:

  • Continue to expand vocabulary
  • Use reference books such as online dictionaries and thesauruses to get information and to check the accuracy of spelling/definitions
  • Look up information in a book by using a table of contents, glossary, or index
  • Read longer chapter books and be able to articulate the main points of the stories. Popular third-grade titles include “A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket and “A to Z Mysteries” by Ron Roy. 
  • Explore fables, legends, myths, poems, and plays as supplements to fiction and nonfiction reading
  • Progress as an independent reader and work up to an appropriate comprehension level
  • Read in groups, alternating paragraphs out loud, to build fluency and vocabulary

3rd Grade Expressive Language (Writing and Verbal Communication)

Oral and written expression really ramps up in third grade as learners are required to start producing structured paragraphs and longer narratives with independence. This tends to be the year that learners start complaining about physical limitations such as sore hands while writing ,or avoid the act of writing altogether because of the challenges it may present. In third grade, your child will be expected to: 

  • Write detailed stories and essays with a logical sequence of events and discernible plot points and endings
  • Write in paragraphs and learn how to use transitions
  • Learn and practice cursive writing
  • Use correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar (e.g., verb tenses must agree in sentences)
  • Use reference books, such as the thesaurus, to make more interesting word choices
  • Master the writing process: pre-write, outline, draft, revise, edit, and polish
  • Use outlines to write a story or book report that has a beginning, middle, and end
  • Write in a variety of styles, including informative, creative, and persuasive writing
  • Keep a journal to practice personal writing and handwriting skills
  • Understand written instructions and follow them independently
  • Listen actively to a speaker in the classroom, whether that is the teacher or a fellow student
  • Answer questions in complete sentences (for example, “I like to play on the monkey bars more than playing kickball because I like to climb,” as opposed to “Because I like to climb,” or simply “Because.”)

3rd Grade Math

Although much of what your child learns in third grade helps to expand their worldview, some of the new information they acquire has practical applications in real life. Math is true to this point. Your third grader will:

  • Add and subtract numbers to 10,000
  • Memorize the multiplication table
  • Multiply multi-digit numbers by a single-digit number
  • Divide multi-digit numbers by a single-digit number
  • Identify written and spoken numbers up to 100,000
  • Explain in words how a math problem was solved
  • Use measuring tools to calculate volume, area, length, and height
  • Analyze and graph data (e.g., collecting and charting the birthdays of all the boys and girls in class to determine how many boys were born in April)
  • Work with simple fractions and decimals
  • Round to the nearest whole number
  • Predict patterns in shapes and numbers
  • Tell time to the nearest minute
  • Relate number problems to everyday situations (e.g., using a budget to plan a party)

3rd Grade EF

At this age (8-9 years old), children are quickly developing executive functions that relate to academic work. As they are exposed to literature and school-based concepts, they use working memory to recall and integrate information into their current knowledge. They use planning and organization to keep track of their own things and manage their own time with school-based assignments. For long-term projects or group work, they develop initiation to begin a task and chunking it into manageable parts, even if it isn’t motivating.

At this age, learners are really starting to internalize time, so they are learning to estimate how long things should take. For help with this concept, check out one of our favorite tools: The Time Timer. Socially, school-age children continue to develop emotional control and inhibition which are much needed for successful social interaction. 

Your third grader will learn how to: 

  • Follow multi-step tasks such as cleaning their room, helping with yard work, or sorting toys/laundry into piles
  • Manage homework and projects with support from caregivers and can use a calendar or planner to break tasks down
  • Increase independence in self-care routines such as showering, bathing, and dressing
  • Gather materials for an event or project (e.g., sports game, poster board presentation) and make sure they have everything they will need
  • Inhibit inappropriate behaviors at school; learning to raise their hand, use the restroom during breaks, not talk during class
  • Be a bit more flexible and change plans as needed (within reason)’

3rd Grade Science, Social Studies, and Technology

Third grade will introduce your child to a whole new world of fascinating subjects like science, social studies, and technology that may help him develop new interests and hobbies. Your third-grader will:

  • Know how to read world maps and be able to find locations on the globe
  • Compare different parts of the United States (e.g., contrasting year-round climate of the various regions)
  • Learn the 50 states and their capitals
  • Learn how to analyze and create graphs and charts
  • Study topics relating to American history, such as Native Americans, the journey of the Mayflower, pilgrims, and the first settlers
  • Learn with hands-on projects that illustrate the subject matter, such as maintaining a class greenhouse to show the development of plants and flowers
  • Identify rocks and minerals
  • Name the planets in the solar system and explore the galaxies, moons, stars, and meteors of outer space
  • Compare the human skeleton to animal skeletal systems
  • Track water cycles and study how they relate to the formation of clouds
  • Conduct experiments that test a hypothesis
  • Become more skilled at using the computer to do research with supervision.
  • Learn keyboarding to type on the computer more efficiently

Additional Resources

General Third Grade Resources 

Social-Emotional Learning

Reading

Math

Compared with third grade, the cognitive, social-emotional, and academic expectations of your fourth grader increases substantially. The fourth grade is another transition year—when children are no longer learning to read, but rather reading to learn. Reading passages are more complex and require layers of higher order thinking skills. Vocabulary, sentence structure, and grammar also ramp up in depth and complexity—along with math concepts like long division and percentages. By the fourth grade, children have spent three years mastering reading and starting to automatize math computations.

 In fourth grade, kids are expected to function more executively and exhibit a higher level of independence. Teachers expect fourth grade students to self-advocate and take full responsibility for their education. This includes asking for support when they need support and utilizing strategies for learning that work best for them.

While exciting, fourth grade can be a very challenging year for learners and their caregivers. Learners who have a solid sensory-cognitive foundation from the earlier grades will do well with guidance, encouragement, and clearly-stated expectations.

We understand how overwhelming preparing a child for a new grade can be. To reduce some new-school-year anxiety, take a few moments to look over the skills that your fourth grader will need this year. If you are still unsure or feel worried about your child’s ability to find success in third grade, we strongly encourage you to schedule a SPARK Learning Assessment or reach out to one of our educational specialists to learn more about our offerings

4th Grade Social-Emotional Skills

Typically, fourth grade social-emotional skills are a continuation of third grade’s milestones with an additional emphasis placed on self-advocacy and independence. 

Fourth-graders can: 

  • Show uncertainty about puberty and changes to their bodies
  • Be insecure or have mood swings and struggle with self-esteem 
  • Start to recognize that friendship has different levels and that at this age these levels are frequently in flux and start to form stronger and more complex friendships
  • Test limits and push boundaries and become increasingly independent from family, withdraw more from family activities, and need privacy
  • Face strong peer pressure and find it hard to resist 
  • Start to have a deeper understanding of how relationships with others can include more than just common interests
  • Have a first crush or pretend to have crushes to fit in with peers
  • Value friends’ opinions; share secrets and inside jokes 
  • Behave in kind, silly, and curious manners, but also can be self-involved, moody, and disrespectful
  • May experiment with new attitudes, clothing styles, and mannerisms while figuring out where/how to fit in

4th Grade Reading

At the beginning of the year, your fourth grader should be reading longer chapter books and more nonfiction books and texts. As digital natives, your child will feel accustomed to accessing online materials and research information at this stage.

By the end of the year, your fourth grader will be able to:

  • Use more advanced reading comprehension strategies to understand text, including making inferences, determining the main idea and identifying key details.
  • Synthesize information from two texts.
  • Support analytical thinking with specific examples from the text.
  • Summarize information.
  • Interpret information from charts, images, videos, timelines and diagrams.
  • Compare and contrast information read.
  • Proficiently read at grade level four in both fiction and nonfiction texts.
  • Learn new vocabulary words using context clues.
  • Develop reasoning and abstract thinking skills throughout this year. 

4th Grade Expressive Language (Writing and Verbal Communication)

Fourth-grade writing should tie in with fourth-grade reading. Now that your fourth grader is reading more nonfiction, he or she will also be writing informational reports in complete paragraphs.

By the end of the year, your fourth grader will be able to:

  • Know the basic parts of speech
  • Write a structured paragraph with a topic sentence, supporting details and a closing sentence
  • Use punctuation such as commas, apostrophes and quotation marks appropriately
  • Understand synonyms, antonyms and homophones
  • Identify prefixes and suffixes
  • Use research to write an informational report
  • Write description and persuasive texts

4th Grade Math

Fourth-grade math builds on the information learned in previous grades and adds more complexity, especially with regard to the concept of parts to whole (fractions, decimals, percents). Your fourth grader is learning to:

  • Interpret information in and use data to make a graph
  • Compare large numbers 
  • Understand negative numbers
  • Multiply three- and four-digit numbers including numbers with zero 
  • Find common multiples 
  • Understand prime and composite numbers 
  • Divide larger numbers and when there is zero as the quotient
  • Estimate quotients and mentally divide 
  • Understand improper fractions and mixed numbers 
  • Reduce, add and subtract fractions fractions
  • Read and write decimals 
  • Convert decimals to fractions and fractions to decimals 
  • Round decimals 
  • Be able to place decimals on a number line 
  • Accurately measure length, weight, capacity and temperature in both customary and metric units
  • Add and subtract time and money 
  • Understand lines and rays, angles, lines, polygons and the area of a rectangle 
  • Solve multi-step word problems

4th Grade Executive Functioning 

At this age (9-10 years old), children are quickly developing executive functions that relate to academic work. As they are exposed to literature and school-based concepts, they use working memory to recall and integrate information into their current knowledge. They use planning and organization to keep track of their own things and manage their own time with school-based assignments. For long-term projects or group work, they develop initiation to begin a task and chunking it into manageable parts, even if it isn’t motivating.

At this age, learners are really starting to internalize time, so they are learning to estimate how long things should take. For help with this concept, check out one of our favorite tools: The Time Timer. Socially, school-age children continue to develop emotional control and inhibition which are much needed for successful social interaction. 

Your fourth grader will start to independently: 

  • Follow multi-step tasks such as cleaning their room, helping with yard work, or sorting toys/laundry into piles
  • Manage homework and projects with support from caregivers and can use a calendar or planner to break tasks down
  • Increase independence in self-care routines such as showering, bathing, and dressing
  • Gather materials for an event or project (e.g., sports game, poster board presentation) and make sure they have everything they will need
  • Inhibit inappropriate behaviors at school; learning to raise their hand, use the restroom during breaks, not talk during class
  • Be a bit more flexible and change plans as needed (within reason)

4th Grade Science, Social Studies, and Technology

Fourth grade will continue to build on the intriguing world of science, social studies, and technology, requiring more autonomy throughout longer-term projects. Fourth-grade science curriculum depends on your school district but generally, 4th graders study:

  • Electricity
  • Geology, such as earthquakes and erosion, identify rocks and minerals
  • Systems of the human body, compare the human skeleton to animal skeletal systems
  • Name the planets in the solar system and explore the galaxies, moons, stars, and meteors of outer space
  • Track water cycles and study how they relate to the formation of clouds
  • Conduct experiments that test a hypothesis
  • Learn with hands-on projects that illustrate the subject matter, such as maintaining a class greenhouse to show the development of plants and flowers

Social studies curriculum in 4th grade includes history and geography. Fourth graders will usually learn about:

  • World geography including maps, hemispheres, coordinates, mountains and scale.
  • History, including your home state, the American Revolution, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the early presidents.
  • Know how to read world maps; be able to find locations on the globe
  • Compare different parts of the United States (e.g., contrasting year-round climate of the various regions)
  • Learn the 50 states and their capitals
  • Learn how to analyze and create graphs and charts
  • Study topics relating to American history, such as Native Americans, the journey of the Mayflower, pilgrims, and the first settlers
  • Become more skilled at using the computer to do research with supervision
  • Strengthen efficiency of keyboarding skills

Additional Resources: 

General Fourth Grade Resources

Social-Emotional Learning

Reading

Math

By the fifth grade, learners feel experienced and powerful; but however confident your learner may seem, it’s important to take a good look at academic foundations. Fundamental skills will be fully applied in fifth grade, so any lacking building blocks in literacy, math, social-emotional skills, or executive functioning will only worsen their struggles. So what can you expect your child to learn in fifth grade? For exact answers, look for academic standards on the website for your state’s department of education, and also inquire with your school. All public schools should comply with state standards; private schools often do as well, but have more variation in specific topics. That said, these sites can be overwhelming and hard to process, so we have delineated the overarching expectations for fifth graders to lighten your load and help set the stage for what is to come this school year! 

We understand how overwhelming preparing a child for a new grade can be. To reduce some new-school-year anxiety, take a few moments to look over the skills that your fifth grader will need this year. If you are still unsure or feel worried about your child’s ability to find success in fifth grade, we strongly encourage you to schedule a SPARK Learning Assessment or reach out to one of our educational specialists to learn more about our offerings

5th Grade Social-Emotional Skills

Traditionally, fifth grade is when learners inch towards biological changes (buckle up, buttercup!) which inevitably

impact their social-emotional control and awareness. Both academic expectations and social-emotional development are tilting more and more toward independence. 

Fifth-graders can: 

  • Show uncertainty about puberty and changes to their bodies
  • Be insecure or have mood swings and struggle with self-esteem 
  • Start to recognize that friendship has different levels and that at this age these levels are frequently in flux and start to form stronger and more complex friendships
  • Test limits and push boundaries and become increasingly independent from family, withdraw more from family activities, and need privacy
  • Face strong peer pressure and find it hard to resist 
  • Start to have a deeper understanding of how relationships with others can include more than just common interests
  • Have a first crush or pretend to have crushes to fit in with peers
  • Value friends’ opinions; share secrets and inside jokes 
  • Behave in kind, silly, and curious manners, but also can be self-involved, moody, and disrespectful
  • May experiment with new attitudes, clothing styles, and mannerisms while figuring out where/how to fit in

5th Grade Reading

After the big third and fourth grade frontier of reading to learn overlearning to read, fifth graders will read more complex text in every area. In literature, expect full-length chapter books; but also expect new and challenging reading from social studies and science textbooks. These are important foundations for middle school: learners need to be able to consume information from texts that are not necessarily fun or engaging to read. Make sure to tell your teacher if your child seems to struggle, as this can indicate problems with reading comprehension which will only get worse if ignored. This is also a good time to enrich good reading habits by subscribing to a good newspaper and news magazine. Invite your child to join you in reading and in discussing the news. This helps them secure an understanding of different world-views and abstract concepts. 

By the end of the year, your fifth grader will be able to:

  • Begin to use direct quotes from texts to explain and prove ideas about the reading
  • Read a variety of genres including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama
  • Use details from the text to summarize it, identify the main idea or theme, compare characters or events, or compare different texts of the same genre
  • Interpret and understand metaphors and comparisons made in a text
  • Identify an author or narrator’s point of view and explains how this affects the content of a text
  • Compare multiple perspectives on the same event, idea, or theme
  • Use the context of a text to determine the meaning of unknown words
  • Use technology and digital media to further their understanding of a topic and to find answers to their questions
  • Gather information about a topic from multiple sources

5th Grade Expressive Language (Writing and Verbal Communication)

As in the previous grades, writing parallels reading. Expect book reports and story writing. More focus will be given to writing full paragraphs and short essays that use evidence to make a point, providing detailed compare-and-contrast analysis, or explaining research (in science and social studies). Teachers will put heavy emphasis on the writing process: outlines, rough drafts, editing checklists, and final versions. While you can help guide them at each stage, limit your input to observations and suggestions—any actual corrections should be made by your child only.

By the end of the year, your 5th grader will be able to:

  • Write opinion pieces, including an introduction and conclusion, a logical and clear structure, and evidence that supports the author’s opinion
  • Write informational pieces that include an introduction and conclusion, and explain a topic using details such as definitions, quotations, and facts
  • Write narrative pieces that

 introduce and describe an event in a logical way, use details such as dialogue, thoughts, and emotions, and provide a conclusion

  • Plan, revise, and edit their writing
  • Think about the best way to approach their writing and try different ways to do so — such as writing in a different tense, or from a different perspective
  • Use technology (under adult supervision) to publish writing, research, and communicate with others
  • Type at least two pages of text in one sitting
  • Use multiple sources to write and create a research project
  • Take notes on information and cites the sources used
  • Write pieces that take long periods of time (a few weeks) and short periods of time (a single class sitting or a couple of days)

5th Grade Math

By the end of fifth grade, your child should reach automaticity (mastery) of all math facts—addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division—for numbers from 1-12. Equally important, your child should understand how those mathematical operations work, along with the role of place value, fractions, decimals, and beginning geometry. Make sure you check with your teacher if you notice gaps in your child’s understanding. Middle school teachers will expect that these foundations are securely in place, and your child may struggle to feel successful if they aren’t . 

In fifth grade, your learner will need to: 

  • Understand complex computation & deductive reasoning, including multi-digit multiplication and division problems, and solving multi-layered word (story) problems 
  • Recognize part-whole: understanding place value, comparing decimals, understanding exponents, finding the common denominator, and multiplying and dividing unit fractions 
  • Be comfortable with measurement and data, including converting units and fractions of units within the same system of measurement, solving multi-step word problems using conversions of different-sized standard measurement units, and solving problems using information (given as fraction units) presented in a line plot
  • Develop their knowledge of geometry by learning volume as the measurement of the space inside a three-dimensional or solid figure, using the formulas (like length x width x height or base x height) to measure the volume of a three-dimensional or solid object with rectangular sides (like a cube), and measuring volume to solve real-world problems

5th Grade Executive Functioning 

At 10-11 years old, children are quickly developing executive functions that relate to academic work. As they are

exposed to literature and school-based concepts, they use working memory to recall and integrate information into their current knowledge. They use planning and organization to keep track of their own things and manage their own time with school-based assignments. For long-term projects or group work, they develop initiation to begin a task and chunking it into manageable parts (even when the task isn’t intrinsically motivating).

Because this is such an impressionable time in their lives, healthy life habits are particularly important. Healthy eating and sleep habits must start to internalize at this age in order for their brains to fully digest and optimize the learning opportunities at hand. 

Your fifth grader will learn how to: 

  • Follow multi-step tasks such as cleaning their room, helping with yard work, or sorting toys/laundry into piles
  • Manage homework and projects with support from caregivers and can use a calendar or planner to break tasks down
  • Increase independence in self-care routines such as showering, bathing, and dressing
  • Gather materials for an event or project (e.g., sports game, poster board presentation) and make sure they have everything they will need
  • Inhibit inappropriate behaviors at school; learning to raise their hand, use the restroom during breaks, not talk during class
  • Be a bit more flexible and change plans as needed (within reason)

5th Grade Science, Social Studies, and Technology

In keeping with kids’ expanding minds, fifth grade science and social studies will go into greater depth. Although states vary somewhat, many of them will begin teaching American colonial history in the fifth grade, exploring complex documents like the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. In both science and social studies, they will continue learning independent research skills which they started in third and fourth grades. Do not be surprised, however, if you must provide a supportive role on bigger projects. Science instruction will likely focus on the Life, Earth, and Physical Sciences, teaching learners how to:

  • Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations
  • Design and conduct a scientific investigation
  • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data
  • Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models by using evidence
  • Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations

Social studies curriculum in 5th grade includes history and geography. Fifth graders will usually concentrate most of the year on United States History:

  • Analyze the reasons behind events, make connections, and compare different parts of the United States (e.g., contrasting year-round climate of the various regions)
  • Learn the 50 states and their capitals
  • Learn how to analyze and create graphs and charts
  • Study topics relating to American history
  • Learn about historical events through the context of geography and how it affected different events
  • Research, organize, and present research on various topics, events, and figures
  • Discuss topics, focusing on using specific details, facts, and reasons to support their opinion
  • Deepen understanding of government and civic responsibility
  • Increase fluidity towards independent keyboarding 
  • Learn the ins and outs of internet safety 
  • Use technology to research both past and current events and topics 

Additional Resources: 

General Fifth Grade Resources: 

Social-Emotional Learning

Reading

Math

Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory (1977; which evolved into social cognitive theory in 1986) revolutionized how educators and professionals leverage the social environment of a classroom to bolster learning. Instead of solely using rote memory tasks and independent, solitary work, this approach puts more emphasis on learning socially in groups and through observation and social interaction. The theory suggests that learners move through a continuum of observation, information processing, and decision-making to develop their social-emotional abilities and optimize learning opportunities. Let’s explore the ins and outs of the theory and how it is leveraged to positively impact learners in all aspects of their young lives. 

Stages of the Social Learning Theory

Social Learning Theory relies heavily on a learning process called observational learning. Observational learning is a sequential process. Learners observe their peers and adults, then utilize their biological and cognitive states (taken together, these largely influence a learner’s mental state—see below ) to process whether or not a behavior or an action was reinforced (either positively or negatively) to determine whether or not it should be repeated. The learner’s brain (which part?) then makes a decision whether or not to imitate the action itself. Most of this observational learning flow is innate; when the learner is practicing this method in another environment (like at school), they don’t necessarily realize that they are doing it. This means we have a great opportunity to shape a learner’s social, emotional, and cognitive development by conditioning them in their native environments. 

The following factors can influence a learner’s environment to encourage their social learning: 

  • Find peers who they can relate to. 
  • Give information to them in a way that is aligned to their interests and strengths.
  • A strong biological and cognitive foundation 
  • Surround them with mentors and professionals who model the desired behaviors and validate them.
  • Reinforce behaviors that will lead the learner to their own level of success in and out of the classroom. 

The Four Steps in the Social Learning Ladder

We learn by doing as well as by surrounding ourselves with others that really reinforce or bolster those desired patterns, whether it be how to strike mindfulness practice, how to be able to then you know, even just simple things within executive functioning – how to organize your materials in a way that works best for you personally, how to make sure that your workspace is clear of visual and an auditory distractions, and so forth. We are constantly modeling for learners and learners are also modeling for one another when they’re in a group setting – both can influence a learner’s actions and decisions. Bandura broke the observational learning process down into four steps: 

Observe: In order to learn, you need to be engaged and able to sustain attention. Anything that distracts your attention is going to have a negative impact on observational learning. If the model is interesting or there is a novel aspect of the situation, you are far more likely to dedicate your full attention to learning and, then, thus observe the desired, modeled behaviors.

Mediate: The ability to store information and process information (mediate) is also an important part of the learning process. Retention can be affected by a number of factors, but the ability to pull up information later and act on it is vital to observational learning.

Reinforce: In order for observational learning to be successful, you have to be driven and motivated to imitate the behavior that has been modeled. Both positive and negative reinforcement play an important role in motivation. 

Imitate: Once you have paid attention to the model, processed and retained the information, it is time to actually perform the behavior you observed (imitate). Further practice of the learned behavior leads to improvement and skill advancement.

Let’s take a simple example that we adults may experience as well. Let’s pretend you are like me, and recently fell in love with salsa dancing. You have no idea how to get started, but decide to check out a local tapas restaurant that offers free weekly salsa lessons. You sit close by the dance floor and watch the experienced salsa dancers work their magic (observe). Their feet may move quickly, but in what seems like a manageable, repetitive pattern (mediate). Then, salsa novices enter the dance floor and stumble here and there, smiling and high-fiving throughout. You notice how joyful they appear—which reinforces your willingness to dive in and give the lessons a try yourself (reinforce). You decide to give it a go and have an amazing time trying to replicate the dance moves while reminding yourself that learning takes time and practice (imitate). We experience observational learning in all stages of our lives and can validate our learners’ feelings of angst when faced with new opportunities to exercise the Social Learning Theory steps! 

Impacting Factors

Other variables, like a learner’s biological state and cognitive abilities, can impact their ability to learn in a social environment. Biological state refers to how well a learner can self-regulate, maintain healthy sleep and nutritional habits, strike a level of self-control when faced with adversity, etc. Cognitive abilities also play a vital role in social success. We want to equip learners with a strong sensory-cognitive foundation so they can rely on it when they need to process their surrounding social environment (whether socializing with their peers or working in a group in school). Learners need room to explore and discover how they learn best (also referred to as metacognition or learning how one learns best) so they can find what drives them. That passion further reinforces and motivates them, causing them to repeat behaviors in positive and productive ways. 

Key Results of the Social Learning Theory

Bandura clearly states that socialization develops positive relationships due to the way our brains react, driving us to repeat actions that are associated with positive rewards. So this can encourage discussion which further enhances learning all together. These repeated actions can include taking social initiative, interacting with their peers, taking steps towards reducing anxiety. They can also encourage a learner to be more socially adept, aware of their surroundings, and motivated to lean into their discomfort in certain social moments (and here again, reinforcing their ability to continue to do that in the future). 

Social Learning Theory also has implications on desired and undesired behaviors. If negative reinforcement is used and something is taken away from a learner’s peer (and note here that I’m not specifically referring to a parental or other authoritative individual acting as the enforcer; the negative reinforcement comes through a peer member of the group) , then they learn from that event as well and will seek to avoid that consequence. The same goes for positive reinforcement: if they see one of their peers get a high five or fist bump in a group format, along with positive praise, affirmations, etc.,, they will likely be motivated to reproduce this behavior in a way that the positive reinforcement is directed at themself.. 

Finally, Social Learning Theory outcomes suggest that learners are more engaged when they learn socially. When they’re around like-spirited, like minded peers, learners can feel more energized and in tune with their learning experiences. Feeling welcome, seen, and heard by our peers can help relax and relieve the “stress fog” that inhibits executive functions, thereby allowing us to more fully reap the benefits of a given learning environment. 


Putting it into Practice

Bandura’s theory is especially relative now as we overcome the COVID hump and find our way back into a fully social world. Observational learning is imperative to all learners’ success academically, emotionally, and psychologically. Caregivers and educators must supply their children with access to social opportunities (like play dates or social skills groups), facilitate these interactions, and encourage learners to utilize their observations positively so that learners can achieve more in life’s many social settings.

If you’re uncertain of what skills your child may need to thrive as a productive socially-equipped individual, we’re here for you. Reach out to one of our educational specialists, subscribe to our newsletter, watch one of our many panelist discussions, or follow us on social media. We believe in the power of community and are on a mission to empower neurodiversity in any way possible. 

Conclusion

People learn by observing others around them—whether they’re other learners, adults, mentors, etc. Our biology and cognition affect our ability to interact within this environment. Modeling deserved behavior to a learner in these settings is important, but it doesn’t guarantee the learner will respond by adopting the modeled behaviors. If the learner feels secure in their environment and is properly motivated, it’s much more likely that they adopt the desired behavior. Set them up for success by surrounding them with social peers and adults who exhibit the right behavior, but keep in mind the biological, cognitive, and motivational factors that are also necessary for proper social habits to form.