Fifth Grade


History and Geography

  • Identify different ways of dating historical narratives (17th century, seventeenth century, 1600s, colonial period).
  • Create and interpret timelines of events studied.
  • Observe and identify details of cartoons, photographs, charts, and graphs relating to a historical narrative.
  • Use maps and globes to identify absolute locations (latitude and longitude).
  • Identify the location of the North and South Poles, the Equator, the Prime Meridian, Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western Hemispheres.
  • Interpret a map using information from its title, compass rose, scale, and legend.
  • Distinguish between political and topographical maps and identify specialized maps that show information such as population, income, or climate change.
  • Compare maps of the modern world with historical maps of the world before the Age of Exploration, and describe the changes in 16th and 17th century maps of the world.

Civics and Government

  • Define and use correctly words related to government:  citizen, suffrage, rights, representation, federal, state, county, and municipal.
  • Give examples of the responsibilities and powers associated with major federal and state officials (e.g., the president, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, governor, state senators, and state representatives).
  • Explain the structure of our city government.


  • Give examples of the ways people save their money and explain the advantages and disadvantages of each.
  • Define what an entrepreneur is (a person who has started a business seeking a profit) and give examples from colonial history of an entrepreneur (Peter Faneuil and Benjamin Franklin).
  • Define profit and describe how profit is an incentive for entrepreneurs.
  • Give examples of how changes in supply and demand affected prices in colonial history (e.g., fur, lumber, fish, and meat).

Pre-Columbian Civilizations of the New World and European Exploration, Colonization, and Settlement to 1700

  • Describe the earliest explorations of the New World by the Vikings; identify the period and locations of their explorations; and describe the evidence of those explorations as found by archaeologists and historians.
  • Identify the three major pre-Columbian civilizations that existed in Central and South America (Maya, Aztec, and Inca) and their locations. Describe their political structures, religious practices, and use of slaves.
  • Explain why trade routes to Asia had been closed in the 15th century and trace the voyages of at least four of the explorers listed below. For each explorer, describe what they sought when they began their journeys, what they found, and how their discoveries changed the image of the world, especially the maps used by explorers.
    • the Cabots
    • Balboa
    • Ponce de Leon
    • Christopher Columbus
    • Amerigo Vespucci
    • Champlain
    • Henry Hudson
    • Cartier
    • Ferdinand Magellan
  • Explain why the Aztec and Inca civilizations declined in the 16th century.
    • the encounter between Cortez and Montezuma
    • the encounter between Pizarro and the Incas
    • the goals of the Spanish conquistadors
    • the effects of European diseases, particularly smallpox, throughout the Western Hemisphere
  • Describe the goals and extent of the Dutch settlement in New York, the French settlements in Canada, and the Spanish settlements in Florida, the Southwest, and California.
  • Explain the early relationship of the English settlers to the indigenous peoples, or Indians, in North America.
  • Describe their differing views about ownership and/or use of land and also the conflicts between them, such as the Pequot and King Philip’s Wars in New England.
    Identify some of the major leaders and groups responsible for the founding of the original colonies in North America.
    • John Smith in Virginia
    • William Penn in Pennsylvania
    • Lord Baltimore in Maryland
    • John Winthrop in Massachusetts
    • Roger Williams in Rhode Island
  • Identify the links between the political institutions and practices developed in ancient Greece and the political institutions and practices of the Puritans (e.g., written constitutions, town meetings).
  • Explain the reasons why the language, political institutions, and political principles of what became the United States of America were largely shaped by English colonists even though other major European nations also explored the New World:
    • the relatively small number of colonists who came from other nations besides England
    • long experience with self-government
    • the high rates of literacy and education among the English colonial leaders
    • England’s strong economic, intellectual, and military position.

The Political, Intellectual, and Economic Growth of the Colonies, 1700-1775

  • On a map of North America, identify the first 13 colonies and describe how regional differences in climate, types of farming, population, and sources of labor shaped their economies and societies through the 18th century.
  • Explain the importance of maritime commerce in the development of the economy of colonial Massachusetts:
    • the fishing and ship building industries
    • trans-Atlantic trade
    • the port cities of New Bedford, Newburyport, Gloucester, Salem, and Boston.
  • Explain the causes of the establishment of slavery in North America. Describe the harsh conditions of the
    Middle Passage and slave life, and the responses of slaves to their condition. Describe the life of free African Americans in the colonies.
  • Identify the founders and the reasons for the establishment of educational institutions in the colonies (e.g.,
    grammar schools and colleges, such as Harvard University and the College of William and Mary).
  • Explain the development of colonial governments and describe how these developments contributed to the Revolution:
    • legislative bodies
    • town meetings
    • charters on individual freedom and rights.
  • Explain the reasons for the French and Indian War, how it led to an overhaul of British imperial policy, and the colonial response to these policies
    • the 1764 Sugar Act
    • the 1765 Stamp Act
    • the 1767 Townsend Duties
    • the 1773 Tea Act and 1774 Intolerable Acts
    • the slogan  “no taxation without representation”
    • the roles of the Stamp Act Congress, the Sons of Liberty, and the 1773 Boston Tea Party.

The Revolution and the Formation of a Federal Government under the Constitution, 1775-1789

  • Explain the meaning of the key ideas on equality, natural rights, the rule of law, and the purpose of government contained in the Declaration of Independence.
  • Describe the major battles of the Revolution and explain the factors leading to American victory and British defeat:
    • the Battles of Lexington and Concord
    • Bunker hill
    • Saratoga
    • Valley Forge
    • Yorktown.
  • Describe the life and achievements of important leaders during the Revolution and the early years of the United States:
    • King George III
    • George Washington
    • Thomas Jefferson
    • John Adams
    • James Madison
    • Alexander Hamilton
    • Benjamin Franklin.
  • Identify the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, its date of ratification, its primary author (John Adams), and the basic rights it gives to citizens of the Commonwealth.
  • Explain the reasons for the adoption of the Articles of Confederation in 1781 and for its later failure.
  • Describe Shay’s Rebellion of 1786-1787 and explain why it was one of the crucial events leading to the Constitutional Convention.
  • Identify the various leaders of the Constitutional Convention and describe the major issues they debated:
    • the distribution of political power
    • the rights of individuals
    • the rights of states
    • the Great Compromise
    • slavery.

The Principles and Institutions of American Constitutional Government

  • Describe the responsibilities of the government at the federal, state, and local levels (e.g., protection of individual rights, the provision of services such as law enforcement, and the building and funding of schools).
  • Describe the basic political principles of American democracy and explain how the Constitution and Bill of Rights reflect and preserve these principles:
    • individual rights and responsibilities
    • equality
    • the rule of law
    • limited government
    • representative democracy.
  • Identify the three branches of the United States government as outlined in the Constitution, describe their functions and relationships, and identify what features of the Constitution were unique at the time (e.g., the presidency and the independent judiciary).
  • Identify the Bill of Rights and explain the reasons for its inclusion in the Constitution of 1791.
  • Explain how American citizens were expected to participate in, monitor, and bring about changes in their government over time, and give examples of how they continue to do so today.

The Growth of the Republic

  • Identify the changes in voting qualifications between 1787 and 1820 (e.g., the abolition of property requirements), and compare who could vote in local, state, and national elections in the U.S. with who could vote in England, France, and Russia.
  • Explain the events leading up to, and the significance of, the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
  • Describe the expedition of Lewis and Clark from 1803 to 1806.
  • Describe the significance and consequences of the abolition of slavery in the northern states after the Revolution and of the 1808 law that banned the importation of slaves into the United States.
  • Describe the causes of the War of 1812 and how events during the war contributed to a sense of American nationalism:
    • British restrictions on trade and impressments
    • Major battles and events of the war, including the role of the USS Constitution, the burning of the Capitol and the White House, and the Battle of New Orleans.
  • Explain the importance of the China trade and the whaling industry to 19th century New England and give examples of imports from China.
  • Explain the reasons why pioneers moved west from the beginning to the middle of the 19th century and describe their lives on the frontier:
    • wagon train journeys on the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails
    • their settlement in the western territories.
  • Identify the key issues that contributed to the onset of the Civil War:
    • the debate over slavery and westward expansion
    • diverging economic interests.