Upper School (Fifth–Eighth Grade)

Fifth Grade (10/11s)

At Bank Street, our teachers rely on their deep knowledge of child development to facilitate dynamic learning opportunities that build on the academic skills, interests, and learning styles of students ages 10 and 11 to support their transition from childhood to adolescence.

Where are 10- and 11-year-olds developmentally?

Below are a few examples of documented behaviors and capacities of 10- and 11-year-olds that inspire the foundation for our fifth grade program, in which children explore big ideas, hone their skills as investigators, and reflect on their learning. Our teachers recognize that each child develops in their own way and at their own pace, and understand how to individualize learning to leverage the strengths and experiences of each student.

  • Behaviors and Capacities of 10- and 11-Year-Olds


    10- and 11-year-olds often…

    • Imagine themselves in adult roles and show new curiosities about history, biographies, and current events
    • Learn well in groups, where peers share and discuss their experiences and perspectives
    • Enjoy the challenge of reasonably hard work and developing new skills
    • Show interest in debating and questioning


    10- and 11-year-olds often…

    • Have bursts of energy and need time for both physical activity and rest
    • Experience rapid growth spurts


    10- and 11-year-olds often…

    • Benefit from adult sensitivity, empathy, and humor to help them cope with growing minds and bodies, and the growing sense of self
    • Share their thoughts before considering all of the options
    • Explore testing limits and parameters as a means of stretching themselves

    Note: The patterns above are research-based and draw on the experience of Bank Street teachers and those that were documented for each age by Chip Wood in Yardsticks (Wood, Chip. Yardsticks: Child and Adolescent Development Ages 4 – 14. Center for Responsive Schools, Inc.; 4th edition, January 2, 2018)

How does our fifth grade (10/11s) program support your child’s development?

  • Program Overview

    10/11s student writingProgram Overview:

    The Upper School’s humanities-based curriculum continues to have social studies at its core. For the entire 10/11s year, students focus on China’s geography, culture, and history. The curriculum mirrors students’ development from concrete to more abstract thinkers. We begin with a focus on geography and move progressively towards more abstract ideas of culture and history. The study of China allows 10/11 students to consider a place from multiple angles, exploring how cultures change and remain the same over time.

    To prepare for our deep dive into a single country, we begin with a review of the earth’s geography. Students hone their ability to read, analyze, and interpret maps. They learn about landforms and their characteristics by studying the geography of China, and they represent what they have learned by creating a large-scale, three-dimensional topographic map. Students work collaboratively to research, write, and publish online travel guides. They explore the question: How does where you live impact how you live?

    This exploration of the connection between people and the land where they live allows the class to transition to studying Chinese culture. The class works together to develop our own definition of culture. Field trips to Chinese communities and museums in New York City expose students to Chinese culture today. We focus our study of ancient China around the Han Dynasty. An in-depth study of Chinese culture over time leads to an exploration of the concepts of power and change in the political life of a country, culminating in a debate around Mao Zedong’s leadership and impact on Chinese society.

    Helping children develop their sense of identity as individuals and in community is woven throughout the School for Children curriculum. In lessons and discussions tailored to the needs of students, teachers guide students to explore areas critical to this moment of development, including friendships and other relationships, sex and sexuality education, racial identity development, social justice and advocacy, self-awareness, decision making, and issues related to media and technological literacy.

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  • Language Arts and World Languages

    Language Arts:

    Two 10/11s students look at a paperOur language arts curriculum is built on the idea that strong readers engage deeply with writing, and strong writers engage deeply with reading.
    In reading, we begin the year asking children to reflect on who they are as readers—what kinds of books do I like, what constitutes a “just right book” for me? We begin by reviewing reading strategies such as connecting, questioning, predicting, visualizing, and inferring. As the year continues, students enhance their understanding of the actions and motives of characters.

    They also examine the structural elements of stories. They learn close reading of nonfiction texts using such skills as highlighting, annotating, and summarizing. They practice these skills on increasingly complex texts related to our China curriculum. By the end of the year, we read a whole-class novel, Red Scarf Girl. Reading for Current Events allows students to build their skills as critical readers, identifying fact versus opinion and supporting a point of view with evidence.

    In writing, students use the writer’s notebook to experiment with and develop a variety of ideas. Once students commit to an idea, they begin the process of drafting, revising, and editing. Students work independently, with writing partners, and with teachers as they develop their writing technique and voice with our first project, a memoir. Students learn to write persuasively about an issue that they feel passionately about as well as to create informational texts, many of which are integrated with the social studies curriculum. They learn to write engaging introductions, paragraphs with clear topic sentences and supporting evidence, and strong conclusions. Students become more critical readers of their own work, improve their proofreading skills, and focus on the standard grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

    World Languages:

    World languages in the Upper School continue to build on the language-learning established in the Lower and Middle Schools: to provide children with positive, enriching experiences that will help them become lifelong learners and appreciators of other languages and cultures. Students in the 10/11s are given a choice of continuing their study of Spanish or beginning a new study of French. Classes meet four times a week and children continue with their language selection for three years, developing skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing, as well as an understanding of history and culture.

  • Math, Science, and Technology & Coding


    Three Upper School students look at a computerIn mathematics, students continue to be actively involved in hands-on learning. We meet every student where they are, and every student is challenged to grow. Our goal is to build positive attitudes and a sense of competence while achieving academic goals. The curriculum helps students understand how mathematics is both a tool and language that can be applied to the real world. The math curriculum units in 10/11s are:

    • Number Theory: students analyze number patterns, become aware of the special characteristics of numbers, and strengthen their number sense.
    • Data and Statistics:  students gather, organize, represent and analyze data through relevant and meaningful explorations that are reinforced and extended in the science curriculum.
    • Geometry: students explore the properties of and relationships between polygons; they learn to use a protractor; they study angle sums of polygons; and investigate area and perimeter of quadrilaterals and triangles.
    • Rational Numbers: students make sense of fractions, decimals and percentages. They learn how to convert between these three ways of representing rational numbers, using a range of strategies for problem solving. The understanding of all three representations leads to a richer grasp of each and better enable students to choose which is appropriate for computing and communicating their thinking.


    In 10/11s science, students design and carry out experiments to answer class questions. They complete each investigation by analyzing the data from experiments and making meaningful connections. 10/11s science units include:

    • Force and Motion: we investigate force, motion, and simple machines. Students hone scientific skills: observing and inferring, recording data, and making comparisons and generalizations based on observations. Projects explore moving objects, friction, ramps, levers, and pulleys. Students come to understand Newton’s three laws of motion.
    • Variables and Designing Experiments: students take a closer look at variables within experiments through a variety of mini physical experiments with pendulums, boats, catapults, and planes. They learn how variables affect outcomes by defining problems and posing questions, identifying variables, conducting controlled experiments, analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and using their conclusions and data to predict future outcomes.
    • Science Expo: students design and implement an original scientific experiment over 5–6 weeks. They work in groups to choose a topic, design an experiment, analyze results using statistics and graphing, and draw conclusions based on their analysis. Students present their findings to peers, families, and visitors at the Upper School Science Expo.
    • Geology: students continue to develop their observation and inference skills by studying the Earth and the forces that have shaped it. They learn about how the Earth has changed over time: land formations such as continents, mountains, volcanoes, canyons, and islands; weathering and erosion; and the rock cycle

    Technology and Coding:

    Technology and coding are two of the many focuses in the STEAM lab that are grounded in computational thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving. The curriculum takes a broad view of technology as a set of tools and processes that allow a society to solve more complex problems. Students build skills in using different tools and processes while also being asked to examine the role that technology takes in communities. Working with a variety of block-based programming languages, 10/11s students develop competencies in four inter-linked areas of computational thinking, including:

    • Decomposition: Students learn the components of basic robotics (servos, sensors, LEDs, displays, buttons, etc.) and develop proficiency with translating and rotating shapes using code to create 3-dimensional shapes
    • Pattern Recognition: Students create complex 3-dimensional models by composing simple shapes, such as cylinders, cuboids, spheres, etc.
    • Abstraction: Students create modules that complete a task efficiently while hiding the underlying complexity
    • Algorithms: Students incorporate loops, variables, and comparisons in a variety of block-based coding languages
  • Art and Shop


    Two 10/11s students cut colored paperThe 10/11s art curriculum supports students’ growing interest in representing the human figure. We begin the year by considering how the parts of the body work together to show movement. Students sketch models in a variety of actions and poses. They apply what they have learned to a painting based on their experience of being part of a team. They sculpt a relief in clay showing an active figure in an environment. And they create a collage of a figure wearing special clothing. With each new material, students both strengthen their understanding of how to represent a human figure within an environment and gain confidence in visually representing their personal experiences.

    In the spring, 10/11s students work in three main media: printmaking, functional pottery, and three-dimensional construction. Students use these materials to work on three projects involving human and animal faces. Content from the social studies curriculum is integrated with these projects. For example, students may explore Chinese brush painting in conjunction with their study of China.


    The shop curriculum continues to develop skills and understandings of materials while engaging students’ imaginations, experiences, and feelings. Students begin the year by creating a morphed creature with movable parts—combining forms from at least two different creatures. They draw up plans, create individual shapes, and join them in a variety of ways to reflect reflects the character of the movement. They personalize their sculptures using a variety fabric, paint, or metal.

    In the winter, students create drums as both musical instruments and sculptures. They explore design and learn how proportions of the sound box, the material of the membrane, and the type of mallets all affect the sound.

    The year concludes with an open choice project that allows students to choose a project and follow through follow through. This gives each child more opportunity for self-expression and self-motivation.

  • Music


    Fingers on a pianoThe Upper School music curriculum has three main parts: music history, music theory, and making music through singing and playing instruments.

    Music in the 10/11s, focuses on non-Western music. Students are exposed to music from around the world. We begin with a unit on African music. We also study Latin, Asian, European, Middle Eastern, and Indian music. Students listen to examples of traditional folk music from these cultures as well as their more contemporary popular music. They also learn about instruments of non-Western cultures and many other ways that music is created differently around the world. Weekly keyboard classes emphasize training children to play melodies with their right hand while playing an accompaniment with their left hand.

    Extracurricular Musical Groups:

    There are two choruses in the Upper School—one for 10/11s and 11/12s and one for 12/13s and 13/14s. Both groups learn a diverse array of music, including classical, spiritual/gospel, folk, and contemporary pieces. Students in chorus work on vocal concepts such as proper breathing, vowel placement, diction, posture, and harmonizing. The choruses perform at the Upper School Winter and Spring Concerts.

    In addition, Upper School students can participate in a variety of instrumental music opportunities, including eight rock bands, a string ensemble, and a wind ensemble.

  • Physical Education

    Physical Education:

    10/11s student shoots basketballStudents have gym three times per week, for 45 minutes, meeting twice per week in the gym and once on the rooftop play area. The gym program focuses on meeting the interests and capacities of all students. We strive to engage all students in every class and to make this an enjoyable, dynamic, exciting and safe place for all children. We provide broad exposure to a wide range of physical activities to help students develop an enjoyment for movement and games that will evolve into physical activity throughout their lives.

    Some of the sports and activities offered include team handball, football, soccer, basketball, badminton, hockey, volleyball, softball, Frisbee, and group games. Stretching, aerobic exercises, and upper body strength activities increase fitness levels. Optional after-school interscholastic sports include soccer, softball, basketball, and track-and-field.

    To serve the needs of students with varying degrees of assertiveness and skills development, we focus on making activities accessible to all students. Students have instruction in skills and time during class to practice skills individually or in groups. During competitive games, we take care to match beginners with beginners so students have a chance to succeed and can develop confidence and assertiveness in a non-threatening environment.

    Students are given many opportunities to take on responsibilities for their own play. There are team captains, who are responsible for lineups and strategy as well as set-up and clean-up. They learn how to settle differences quickly, fairly, and peacefully. They occasionally officiate the games.

Middle School boy in math class

Social Justice and Advocacy

In the 10/11s, we study culture and current events and address issues of equality, human rights, and stereotypes. We use Community time as a platform to discuss social justice while taking into account the developmental needs of our students. Topics can include gender normativity, immigration, racism, and more.
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