The second difficult class I had came in the same school year and school as Difficult Class #1 (third grade).
While Difficult Class #1 was difficult partly because it was huge, difficult Class #2 was actually quite small. I doubt any one class was more than 18 students. You’d think that would make them really easy for me. Nope.
These were three fifth grade classes, which really should have been easy for me because I consider grades 5-8 to be my “sweet spot” group to teach. If I were to go back into the classroom, I would probably look for a sixth or seventh grade position first. Fifth grade isn’t too far off that, so I should have had an easier time with them.
There were two main problems with fifth grade that year:
- Their library time was first thing in the morning. They were tired.
- Apathy. So much apathy. Behavior wasn’t an issue at all, but so many of the fifth graders that year just did not care one lick about anything I might have to teach them.
Teaching these classes felt more like talking to myself. They looked infinitely bored with me, with the library, and with life in general. I’m sure they weren’t like this all the time, but at 8:00 in the morning, it sure did seem like it.
This is another group that forced me to improve the way I taught. I mentioned above that I started weekly themes in second semester, something that stretched across all grade levels including fifth grade. Some themes worked better with fifth grade than others, but one theme–Greek mythology–stood out so much that I ended up extending this theme for several weeks.
My success with a 5th grade Greek mythology unit is why I’m releasing a Greek mythology unit in my store this month. The first part of the unit is free for the entire month of January. If you are struggling with middle grade student apathy, I encourage you to give Greek mythology a try!
Other units and weekly themes that worked well or somewhat well with fifth grade that year included baseball, growing butterflies, Pompeii, The Titanic, and fractured fairy tales. But none of these units came close to the engagement I got from Greek mythology.
My best advice for working with fifth grade is to bring in a lot of interesting nonfiction and current events. I didn’t use this at that time, but I think FirstNews videos would have been great for my fifth graders that year. I’ve got a whole post on how I’ve used current events and news video during library lessons. It’s definitely worth a look if you are dealing with students who seem to be bored by just about everything.