5th grade English Language Arts tips: Here's how to help your student

Here's how you can help your fifth-grader master reading and writing outside of the classroom.

Hoping to help your fifth-grader with reading and writing skills? Here are some basic tips that experts suggest for your fifth-grader.

Save favorite books

Don’t be too quick to store away or discard books that your child enjoyed when they were younger. Plenty of older kids love to revisit their early favorites.

Visit the library

Visit the library often with your child. Help their sign up for a library card and encourage them to borrow books regularly. Set a target for the number of books your fifth-grader will read in a year and reward them with a special treat if they reach their goal.

Encourage reading a range of materials

Provide books that match your child’s interests and encourage them to read in a variety of formats, including comics and magazines, and online books. Ask your child’s teacher about their reading level and seek out corresponding material. Reading level is often indicated on the back of paperback books, although several formats are used. RL5 means reading level 5, while 5.2 is a bit more specific, meaning a level equivalent to fifth grade, second month. Some publishers also use age guidelines, with 009-0011 meaning a book is appropriate for ages 9 to 11. You can always ask your librarian for guidance.

Read aloud

You should continue reading aloud to your child as long as you both still enjoy the experience and you have the time. By this point, reading aloud should be a much more collaborative experience than it was when they were younger. You could take turns reading pages or have their do most of the reading. Reading aloud has been shown to build reading comprehension and a strong vocabulary, so try to continue providing this experience for your child, even if it’s through audiobooks that you listen to together in the car.

Discuss reading

Talk to your child about what they are reading. Ask them to tell you what a book is about and who the main characters are. Ask them what they're enjoying about the book. Having your fifth-grader talk about what she’s reading prompts her to analyze the text as she’s learning to do in school and to ask the kinds of questions that are being discussed in class.

Discuss different points of view

Your child’s classroom discussion of reading is starting to focus on how different points of view can influence and shape perceptions. You can help develop their understanding of this concept with your conversations at home, whether you’re talking about what happened that day at school or about stories that are on the news. Ask them to tell you not just what happened, but why your child thinks someone acted in the way they did.

Discuss familiar stories through different points of view

Make a game out of exploring different points of view in familiar stories. Follow the example of "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs" by John Scieszka, a popular book that tells the well-known tale of the destruction of the pigs’ houses from the viewpoint of the wolf. According to this book, it turns out the wolf just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up being blamed for poorly timed sneezes. See how inventive your child can be at coming up with alternate versions of other children’s favorites. This is a fun way to pass time in the car.

Look up answers

When family conversation leads to questions that require looking up an answer, challenge each person to use a different print or digital resource to quickly find an answer to the question.

Spot metaphors and similes

As your child learns about new concepts like metaphors (He has a heart of gold) and similes (She’s busy as a bee) make a game out of identifying examples in everyday conversation, on television or in print.

Find writing projects

Keep an eye out for fun projects that involve writing. If your child put together a family tree when they were younger, your child can update it with a companion piece of writing in which your child provides short biographical entries about each person. your fifth-grader can make these as simple or as lengthy and involved as your child likes.

Use social media to practice writing

If your family uses social networking sites, such as Facebook, ask your child to become a regular contributor to status updates. Writing short summaries of important family events or weekly activities will help them practice their writing skills and develop good social networking skills. Make sure to check your child's posts and to discuss concerns about content or language that you have with them.

To find out what your fifth-grader will be learning in English Language Arts class, check out our fifth grade English Language Arts skills page.

TODAY's Parenting Guides resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Joyce Epstein, Director, Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships, Johns Hopkins University; Pamela Mason, Program Director/Lecturer on Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Barbara Stripling, Senior Associate Dean, Syracuse University; Elfrieda "Freddy" Hiebert, President and CEO, TextProject; Linda Gambrell, Professor, Clemson University; and Cathy Fleischer, Professor, Eastern Michigan University, and align with the Common Core State Standards.