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Fifth Grade

Curriculum Overview


Students do a great deal of reading in fifth grade!  They choose their own outside reading selections from a wide variety of children’s literature.  Their in-class (literature workshop) novels include:  The Islander (Rylant); Sees Behind Trees (Dorris); Baby (MacLachlan); Seedfolks (Fleischman); Smart About the Presidents (Buller and Schade, Cocca-Leffler, Regan, and Weber); The Devil's Arithmetic (Yolen) and Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes (Coerr). They identify and discuss literary elements, such as theme, conflict, and conflict resolution, and they learn to summarize succinctly.  Students also participate in reader's theater periodically throughout the year.  Here, they work in cooperative learning groups to read and perform scripts, ultimately helping to build their fluency. Children hone their dictionary skills and identify new words as they read, as well as learn new vocabulary. They sharpen their literal, evaluative, and inferential reading skills through the written exploration of questions. Discussion of literature is also a vital component of our curriculum and experience for our students here at Shady Side Academy. 

Language Arts

Students receive instruction in the mechanics of writing and receive many writing assignments throughout the year, including poetry, descriptive paragraphs, personal narratives, research reports, expository paragraphs, and persuasive writing.  Choice is an important part of the curriculum, and students may select the wild animal they will research, which persuasive arguments they wish to support, and many of the topics for which they will write descriptive poetry and paragraphs. They review, practice, and learn grammar usage and mechanics by experiencing many multi-sensory activities that enable students to learn grammar in authentic ways. Students review, practice, and learn phonetic code and spelling rules using the Zaner-Bloser Spelling Connections workbooks. Ultimately, their growing spelling and grammatical skills will be evidenced in their developing writing.


Students receive mathematics instruction using the TERC series (Dale Seymour Publications) and Addison Wesley Math (Scott Foresman) as primary resources for instruction. The following are more specific components of the mathematics curriculum:

  • Mathematical Thinking
  • Place Value, Addition and Subtraction with Whole Numbers
  • Place Value, Addition and Subtraction with Decimals
  • Multiplying Whole Numbers and Decimals
  • Dividing Whole Numbers
  • Dividing With Decimals
  • Number Theory, Fractions
  • Multiplying and Dividing Fractions
  • Measurement, Ratio, Proportion, Percent
  • Geometry

It is my belief that students’ best learn mathematics with a variety of experiences that enable them to discover, interact, and take risks through individual and group activities. By way of these experiences, we give students a conceptual understanding of mathematics rather than simply memorizing a set of rules. The ultimate goal is to prepare our students with the necessary tools for a successful transition to their next level of learning.

Social Studies

Students receive social studies instruction using The Early United States (Harcourt Brace) as the primary resource for instruction. Students will discover early American history through the following units:

  • The Native Americans
  • Exploration and Discovery
  • Colonization of the New World
  • The American Revolution
  • The Constitution
  • The Civil War

It is my belief that we are a nation steeped in the history of many different cultures and beliefs. As a result, we need to develop an understanding and appreciation of the world around us. This will enable students to make connections between the past and present, realize the importance of democracy, and have an open-mindedness and flexibility about one another. We can accomplish these goals by stimulating an interest in learning, integrating social studies with the whole curriculum, encouraging students to become good listeners, risk takers, critical thinkers, and communicators.


My name is Jennifer Asmonga and I teach 5th grade reading, language arts, math and social studies here at Shady Side Academy. Let me take this opportunity to tell you a little about myself. In 2005, I graduated from Clarion University with a degree in Elementary and Special Education. My teaching career began that same year with a position teaching k-3 special education at the Urban League of Pittsburgh Charter School. It was during my second year at the school that I transferred into a 5th grade teaching position. In my third year of teaching, I was given the opportunity to work at Propel Montour as a 5th- 7th grade Special Education teacher. It was after my second year of working at Propel that I decided to return to graduate school to receive a Masters Degree in Social and Comparative Analysis in Education from the University of Pittsburgh. While in graduate school, I was hired at Shady Side Academy as the Director of Camp Ren and as an After School Discovery Director. Also, during this time I acquired a long term substitute position in Kindergarten. My journey as an educator has led me to teaching 5thgrade at Shady Side and for that I am very grateful!

Contact Information

Name: Jennifer Asmonga

SSA voicemail: (412) 473-4431
e-mail: jasmonga@shadysideacademy.org (preferred method of contact)


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