What to Do When Children Show Signs of Trouble in Fifth Grade

Setting goals and peer relationships may be difficult in this grade

A girl struggles with schoolwork.

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Your child may have successfully completed the grades that preceded fifth grade, only to now be showing signs of trouble as they prepare for middle school. Difficulties in fifth grade often revolve around goal-setting and peer relationships. If your child is showing some of the following signs of trouble, it's time to speak with their teacher, guidance counselor, or pediatrician about some extra support in the academic or social arena.

Potential Signs of Trouble in Fifth Grade

By fifth grade, children should have accumulated a variety of skills. Specifically, they should be able to work with other students to complete projects or in-class assignments and write coherent, logical sentences and paragraphs. They should also be able to remember and make sense of factual information, give oral reports or informally speak about what they have learned. Moreover, they should be able to read non-fiction.

Signs of Learning Disabilities in Fifth Grade

Some fifth graders not only have academic struggles but may need evaluation for developmental delays or learning disabilities. Students who exhibit a number of signs may need special education screening. Parents and teachers should take note if fifth graders cannot identify their academic or social strengths and weaknesses.

Adults should also be concerned if students do not attribute academic successes or failures to their own efforts but to outside influences. For example, the student might say, "The teacher is out to get me." The student might also remark, "I got lucky, that's why I did well on the test."

Parents and teachers should also be alert if a student makes careless mistakes because they aren't paying attention to their assignment or is rushing through their work. They should be just as concerned if a child proves easily distracted during class and forgetful about completing everyday tasks. A student may complete their homework but repeatedly fail to bring it to class, for example.

Additional Causes for Concern

A number of other signs are cause for concern as well. Speak to a teacher, counselor or pediatrician if a student displays any of the following behaviors:

  • Has trouble learning their way around or gets lost easily in new places (Has a poor sense of direction)
  • Has difficulty completing tasks or playing games that require them to judge speed or distance
  • Cannot interpret charts, graphs or maps
  • Is unable to listen to the teacher and make notes at the same time
  • Does not fully develop their ideas when writing. Their writing may lack details, be very short or seem unfinished
  • Struggles to recall basic multiplication facts and have difficulty learning multi-number multiplication
  • Is unable to master long division
  • Continues to have messy writing, with cross-outs, uneven spacing, misspellings, letter reversals or trouble staying on the line
  • Doesn't organize their time well or doesn't seem to have a good sense of time
  • Has trouble maintaining (but not necessarily making) friendships
  • Cannot set realistic social or academic goals
  • Struggles to deal with peer pressure, to the point of avoiding other students
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2 Sources
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  1. Smart J. Disability across the Developmental Life Span: for the Rehabilitation Counselor. New York: Springer; 2012.

  2. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. What are some signs of learning disabilities?