Preparing Boys for Life

Fifth Grade

5th graders act as role models and leaders in the Lower School. Here, a fifth grade reads out loud to his pre-k buddy. 

The fifth grade year is a major step in The Haverford School learning process. Our goal is to guide the students in their last year of Lower School so that they become more independent, self-directed learners while gaining the personal organizational skills necessary for success in their Middle School years. Another critical aspect of the fifth grade year is demonstrating responsibilities as leaders of the Lower School. Each boy participates in a study of himself and of those around him to understand the benefits of combining talents to serve the Lower School.

The safety committee, comprised of students in grades 3-5, worked with Dean of Students Mr. Brown and Head of Lower School Dr. Greenblatt to present the Lower School safety plan to their peers.

Program Spotlight: Decision Education & Leadership

The Decision Education and Leadership course is unique to fifth grade and incorporates concepts of good decision making and leadership styles. Using the Gallup Strength Explorer survey, students learn about how they are wired and how their talents can result in good quality decisions with good outcomes. Each unit includes basic decision-making vocabulary, with opportunities for boys to explore their own leadership skills. Boys use class time to reflect and write about past experiences, explore short stories, and participate in school-wide service learning projects. Boys also study historical leaders to identify difficult choices they faced, and the talents they used to achieve good outcomes. During the second half of the school year, every fifth grade boy is given an opportunity to apply what he has learned by identifying a need in the Lower School and designing a way to serve that need. The Decision Education and Leadership course give boys a framework for making good quality decisions and an understanding that each boy can use his unique talents to contribute as part of a team to serve and improve the world around him.

Learn more about Decision Education >

The annual fishing trip inspires social growth and bonding between the boys in their advisory groups. 


Fifth grade English is like learning to dance; individual skills are taught and learned before finally putting them all together in one seamless performance. Everything the boys are taught, including grammar, mechanics, punctuation, sentence structure, paragraph structure, and editing, are funneled into writing. Boys work with manipulatives that guide them through the entire writing process, whether it be a simple paragraph or an entire essay.

In reading, boys are asked to look at passages, chapters, and novels through the eyes of a reader and author. They identify and discuss reading skills, including story predicting, author’s purpose, characterization, vocabulary meaning, and context clues. The learning of the Notice and Note reading strategy scaffolds for the boys a way to write and communicate about what they are reading.

Finally, boys work on their public speaking ability. Through practice and performance they learn the importance of volume, eye contact, pronunciation, preparedness, and body control.


Throughout their years in Lower School, boys have learned many different algorithms, helping to strengthen their conceptual framework in mathematics. In fifth grade boys complete their mathematical foundation through employing traditional algorithm methods. Following the Everyday Math program, fifth grade boys are adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing whole numbers, fractions, and decimals; learning area, volume, geometry, percentages, and ratios; solving equations and algebraic expressions; and collecting and analyzing data.

Haverford's math curriculum balances teacher-directed activities, small and large group work, and independent study. Differentiated learning ensures every child has the opportunity to achieve. We encourage creative thinking, give every boy the opportunity to succeed, and to connect math to everyday situations.

Social Studies

Fifth grade Social Studies is the boys’ first formal approach to the study of history. The units of study include:

  • The Stone Age
  • Mesopotamia
  • Present-Day Middle East
  • Ancient Rome
  • African-American Culture
  • U.S. Constitution

Topics of study fascinate and energize the minds of boys and include:

  • life as a caveman
  • working as an archeologist
  • writing in cuneiform
  • speaking in Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian
  • life as a gladiator
  • Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation

Additionally, boys are introduced to study methods and organizational strategies, including how to read and write with purpose and how to compare and contrast viewpoints.


Science offers active, experiential, and collaborative learning engagement. Whether it’s bird watching at Haverford College, popsicle stick tower construction to learn weight capacity, or building and racing CO2 cars, Boys employ a hands-on, minds-on approach to learning the scientific method. Areas of study include:

  • Technology and Design: Robotics and Engineering
  • Life Science: Microworlds and Small Wonders
  • Earth Science: Earth’s Surface, Earth and Space
  • Physical Science: Chemistry That Applies, Forces in Motion


This more advanced capability to manipulate materials and analyze data enables fifth grade boys to create a variety of inspiring work in graphite, paint, pastel, ink, and ceramic media. Their artistic endeavors throughout the year incorporate both three-dimensional and two-dimensional creations that are inspired by legendary artists such as Picasso, Matisse, and Escher as well as cultural creations like Olmec heads and Roman ruins. Fifth grade students are challenged to cultivate their verbal skills and artistic awareness as they speak about their own work and discuss the work of others. They are exposed to various historical movements in art in the form of visuals, discussions, and activities that help them to experience styles like Impressionism, Fauvism and Pop Art.


Haverford uses the Kódaly approach to teach boys to read increasingly more intricate melodic and rhythmic notation through a rich variety of authentic folk music from America and around the world. Ear training and theory are emphasized utilizing technology. Ensemble opportunities include Centennial Singers, Celebrantes, Fantastic Fords Band, String Ensemble, and Chime Choir.

Learn more about our music programs >

Physical Education

Our Athletic Department and sports programs not only promote athleticism, but also camaraderie, sportsmanship, fair play, and good competition. Areas of focus include:

  • cardiovascular endurance
  • muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility
  • foot-eye and hand-eye coordination
  • swimming and pool safety
  • cooperative games implementing physical skills

All activities in our curriculum are designed to foster the skills necessary for our boys to be successful in their athletic interests, develop character through sportsmanship and cooperation, and promote participation and enthusiasm.


Favorite characters come to life in the Lower School library, where our boys develop a love of reading. While reading and responding to stories, the boys practice a number of important skills, including how to:

  • Locate and select a variety of materials for reading pleasure
  • Use the library’s resources to satisfy classroom assignments and personal inquiries
  • Research topics with understanding of strong sources
  • Use information technology responsibly

Character & Citizenship

As the student leaders of our Lower School, fifth graders leverage lessons from their leadership and decision education classes to enhance the experience of their fellow students. They identify and complete specific “Needs Projects” focused on social, academic, and community interests. Past projects include Men of Math (helping second graders with complex concepts), Fifth Grade Handbook (helping fourth graders transition), and Art Caretakers (care and upkeep of art displays).

Fifth graders enjoy a number of field trips throughout the year, including to the Wayne Arts Center (pictured) and the African-American Museum in Philadelphia. 

Haverford’s thoughtfully constructed fifth grade program really prepared our sons for Middle School - academically and otherwise. By providing an academically challenging yet supportive environment where the boys learn to navigate between classrooms, interact with multiple teachers across subjects, and work collaboratively on a leadership project, graduating fifth graders leave the Lower School with all of the requisite study, organizational, and leadership skills necessary to successfully transition to the Middle School. These skills, and the confidence that comes from mastering them, prepares boys for the step up to Middle School and beyond. We couldn’t be happier with the Lower School experience.Carolyn, parent