Grade 5
Concepts & Skills | Common Core | State Standards | Assessment | Web Resources

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The purpose of the Grade 5 curriculum is to give students their first concentrated study of the formative years of U.S. history.

I. Early Americans (SEPTEMBER – NOVEMBER)

Students study the major pre-Columbian civilizations in the New World; the 15th and 16th century European explorations around the world, in the western hemisphere, and in North America in particular; and the earliest settlements in North America.

Specific Objectives:

  • Explain and discuss where Early Americans came from and show how they lived in various areas of North and South America.
  • Examine how geography and climate influenced the way various nations lived and adjusted to the natural environment, including locations of villages, the distinct structures that were built and how food, clothing, tools and utensils were obtained.
  • Compare and contrast the pre-Columbian civilizations of the New World (i.e., Maya, Aztec and Inca). [5.2, 5.4]
  • Explain why Europeans began to explore during the 15th century and how science and technology made exploration more distant regions possible. [5.1, 5.3]
  • Discuss the causes and consequences of European exploration and colonization of North and South America. [5.6]
  • Describe the early relationships of European settlers to the indigenous groups in North America. [5.6]
  • Identify major leaders and groups responsible for the founding of the original colonies, including John Smith, William Penn, Lord Baltimore, John Winthrop, and Roger Williams. [5.7]
  • Explain how England succeeded in establishing colonial settlements in North America that would eventually become the United States. [5.9]





  • Early inhabitants of North and South America
  • North American Native American culture regions
  • Pre-Columbian civilizations (i.e., Maya, Aztec and Inca)
  • Earliest explorations to New World—Vikings, Columbus, Magellan
  • Opening of trade to Asia
  • European nations race to find paths to the East


  • Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, and English Explorations of the New World—explorers, purposes
  • Spanish conquests and settlements in the New World
  • Decline of Aztec and Inca civilizations—encounters with Spain, Columbian Exchange
  • Dutch and French settlements in North America


  • English settlements in North America—Roanoke, Jamestown, Plymouth
  • Reasons for emigration; struggles of settlers


II. Making Thirteen Colonies (NOVEMBER – FEBRUARY)

Students study the political, economic, and social development of the English colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Specific Objectives:

  • Describe the regional differences of the colonies (i.e., New England, Middle, and Southern) in location, physical characteristics, climate, resources; sources of labor and impact on their economies. [5.10, 5.11]
  • Discuss the role of colonial governments (legislative bodies, town meetings, etc.) in Virginia and in Massachusetts as well as the reasons for the establishment of educational institutions. [5.8, 5.13, 5.14]
  • Compare and contrast indentured servants and slaves, and understand the response of indentured servants and slaves to living conditions; describe the diversity of life in Africa for Africans before the slave trade, and explain the impact of the continued slave trade in America as well as in Africa. [5.12]
  • Explain the reasons for and impact of the French and Indian War; the Sugar Act, Stamp Act, Townsend Acts, Tea Act and Intolerable Acts and the response of North American colonies to these policies. [5.15]
  • Explain the significance of the slogan, “no taxation without representation,” and the importance of the Stamp Act Congress, Sons of Liberty, and the Boston Tea Party. [5.15]
  • Describe the key ideas on equality, natural rights, the rule of law, and the purpose of government contained within the Declaration of Independence. [5.16]
  • Identify major key battles and turning points of the Revolution, and explain the factors leading to an American or a British victory or defeat. [5.17]





  • British colonial settlements in Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Maryland
  • Relationship and conflicts with Native Americans—King Philip’s War
  • Economic and political characteristics of the thirteen colonies
  • Middle passage, establishment of the slave trade and slavery
  • Self government in the colonies


  • French and Indian War
  • Results and effects on the relationship between England and the colonies
  • British taxes imposed—effect on American trade and commerce
  • Reaction to colonists to British taxes and policies—Boston Tea Party, Boston Massacre, Sons of Liberty


  • Declaration of Independence
  • The American Revolution— Battle at Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill, British evacuation of Boston; Rival national and military leadership


  • Advantages and disadvantages of colonists and British
  • Final military battles—Saratoga, Valley Forge, and Yorktown
  • Treaty of Paris

III. From Colonies to Country (MARCH – JUNE)

Students study the early development of democratic institutions and ideas, including the ideas and events that led to the independence of the original thirteen colonies and the formation of a national government under the U.S. Constitution.

Specific Objectives:

  • Realize that the United States was first formed under the Articles of Confederation and list reasons why the Articles failed. [5.20, 5.21]
  • Explain the concept of a constitution; the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; the basic rights given to citizens of the Commonwealth; how the Massachusetts Constitution is the model for the U.S. Constitution. [5.8, 5.19]
  • Trace the development of the Constitution of the United States; discuss the issues debated in the convention and how the Bill of Rights was established. [5.22, 5.23, 5.24, 5.25, 5.26]
  • Make connections between the U.S. Constitution and our lives today as responsible citizens. [5.26, 5.27]
  • Describe how the United States grew physically and economically. [5.29, 5.30, 5.33, 5.34]
  • Explain the causes and results of another war with Great Britain in 1812. [5.32]
  • Compare and discuss the different characteristics between North and South in terms of its economies, attitudes toward westward expansion, toward states’ rights versus a stronger central government, and toward the issue of slavery. [5.10, 5.28, 5.31, 5.35]





  • Articles of Confederation—Shay’s Rebellion
  • Reasons and consequences of the Constitutional Convention
  • Debates/arguments and compromises—Federalists and Anti-Federalists
  • The ratification of the U.S. Constitution—structure of Federal, state, and local government


  • Creation of the Bill of Rights—freedoms and responsibilities of citizens
  • Washington and Adams presidencies—cabinet, precedents
  • Jefferson—Louisiana Purchase, status of and attitude towards slavery
  • Lewis & Clark—exploration to the west


  • Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny
  • War of 1812—Freedom of the Seas, British impressments and trade policies, burning of Washington, invasion of Canada, Battle of New Orleans


  • Antebellum America
  • Industrial expansion in the northeast
  • Debate on the extension of slavery into the Territories
  • Causes leading up to the U.S. Civil War



compiled by Catherine Avellino, Georgina Rutherford, Joanna Newton, and Lindsay Linnane