5th Grade ELA BEST Standards

by | May 28, 2021 | Reading, Teaching Strategies, Uncategorized, Writing | 2 comments

What can fifth grade teachers expect from the new Florida BEST Standards for language arts? How do they compare to the LAFS standards? What are fifth grade students now expected to learn?

In this post, I will quickly analyze the changes and how they will affect your classroom. By the end of this post, you will have a clear understanding of how the standards will change with the adoption of the new fifth grade ELA BEST standards.

How are the BEST Standards organized?

BEST standards are divided into 11 subcategories, while the LAFS had 7:

  • Reading Prose & Poetry – Previously Reading: Literature
  • Reading Informational Text
  • Reading Genres – I really don’t understand this category. It includes standards that were previously included with either Literature or Informational Text.
  • Vocabulary – These standards were in Reading and Language subcategories in LAFS.
  • Foundational Skills
  • Oral Communication – Previously Speaking & Listening
  • Writing
  • Researching – These were in LAFS Writing.
  • Technology – These were in Writing and Speaking and Listening.
  • Conventions – Language
  • ELA Expectations – I believe these are meant to be similar to the LAFS Reading standards, which were overarching from K!2. However, they don’t work the same way. More on this later.

The BEST standards also include suggested books for each grade level. I will discuss these book lists in detail later in this post.

The Changes

Some of the changes made to the standards should be an improvement, while others make it more difficult for teachers to easily find what they are to teach. In this post, I will explain most of the changes, and point out some potential issues.


Up until fifth, the reading standards are largely similar to what was in LAFS, except for the standards that were omitted completely. In fifth, there is very little carryover from the 5thgrade LAFS. However, many of the new ELA BEST standards for fifth seem similar to LAFS standards from third or fourth grades.

Prose & Poetry

For literature, the BEST standards do not connect to the fifth grade LAFS except for:

LAFS.5.RL.1.2 – “Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic. Summarize the text” has changed to ELA.5.R.1.2 – “Explain the development of stated or implied theme(s) throughout a literary text” and ELA.5.R.3.2 – “Summarize a text to enhance comprehension, including the plot and theme for a literary text.” I realize these are not exactly the same, but they are close enough that last year’s lessons could be used or tweaked to fit the new standard. These BEST standards are nearly identical to the corresponding fourth and sixth grade standards. Hopefully, the Department of Education will provide more in-depth examples of how it expects students to develop these skills at each grade level.

Students continue to be expected to determine the meaning of words in a text using various strategies.

The rest of the standards for Prose and Poetry were not in LAFS for fifth grade, and, again, many standards seem almost identical to the ELA BEST fourth grade standards.

LAFS.5.RL.2.6 – “Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described” has changed to ELA.5.R.1.3 – “Describe how an author develops a character’s perspective in a literary text.”

Figurative language is the focus of the fifth grade BEST poetry standard, ELA.5.R.1.4 – “Explain how figurative language and other poetic elements work together in a poem.” The standard ELA.5.R.3.1 also deals with figurative language, “Analyze how figurative language contributes to meaning in texts.” In LAFS, the standard under Language just had students understanding figurative language.

Another standard is ELA.5.R.1.1 – “Analyze how setting, events, conflict, and characterization contribute to the plot in a literary text.” Again, nearly identical to the fourth-grade standard.

Many Literature skills were removed from LAFS to BEST. The omitted skills slowly increased students’ reading skills, so leaving them out may cause problems when students need to read, understand, and analyze texts in higher grades. Teachers may want to continue instruction of some of the former standards as well as covering what is in BEST.

Informational Text

Unlike the earlier grades, few of the LAFS informational text standards have remained in BEST.

LAFS.5.RI.3.8 – “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text, identifying which reasons and evidence support which points” has not changed a lot. The new correlating standard is ELA.5.R.2.4 – “Track the development of an argument, identifying the specific claims, evidence, and reasoning.”

LAFS.5.RI.1.2 – “Determine two or main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details. Summarize the text” changes to ELA.5.R.2.42 – “Explain how relevant details support the central idea(s), implied or explicit” and ELA.5.R.3.2 “Summarize a text to enhance comprehension, including the central ideas and relevant details for an informational text.”

Again, the vocabulary expectations have largely remained the same in informational texts.

There are a number of standards that are nearly identical to those in fourth grade ELA BEST:

ELA.5.R.2.1 – “Explain how text structure and/or features contribute to the overall meaning of the texts.” Students now learn the structures over third and fourth grade, which is an improvement over learning them all in one year (in my opinion.) Fifth grade continues using text structures to analyze the meaning of texts, but doesn’t introduce anything new.

ELA.5.R.2.3 – “Analyze an author’s purpose and/or perspective in an informational text.” and ELA.5.R.3.3 – “Compare and contrast primary and secondary sources related to the same topic.” are also very similar to the fourth grade counterparts. (Sam Houston State Universityhas a good, concise article on primary vs secondary sources if you need a refresher.)


The other good news is that the Writing standards are largely the same. (Research has been separated into its own category – see below.)

I have seen a lot of buzz about cursive being added to the new Florida Standards, but it was in the LAFS Language standards and continues to be in BEST under writing. No change.


There are now separate Technology standards. In fifth grade, there are only two BEST standards in this category. One is basically the same (although more specific) as LAFS.5.W.2.6 – “Use digital writing tools individually or collaboratively to plan, draft, and revise writing.” The other is “arrange multimedia element(s) to create emphasis in oral or written tasks.” Both of these standards are exactly the same as the fourth grade Technology standards.


The Researching standard in BEST is a little more specific. In LAFS Writing, it was a pretty general standard: “Conduct short research projects using multiple sources, summarizing information in notes and published works.”  That standard now says, “Conduct research to answer a question, organizing information about the topic, using multiple reliable and valid sources.” This standard remains the same from third through fifth, outside of adding valid in fourth and reliable in fifth.

Oral Communications

Speaking and Listening skills have been nearly eliminated in grades 2 – 6. Oral Communications focuses on presenting information. However, teachers can easily continue to work on other speaking and listening skills by integrating them into lessons.

Foundational Skills

In fifth grade, this subsection has pretty much stayed the same as the LAFS standards for fifth. In general, fifth graders are supposed to have mastered the ability to sound out and decode words, as well as read fluently.

ELA Expectations

Let me begin with saying I don’t think the expectations themselves are a problem. My concern is the lack of connection between the ELA Expectations and the rest of the standards.

In CCSS and LAFS Reading, the overarching reading standards are the foundations for the rest of the reading standards. For example, Standard 1 deals with making inferences. In every grade level, reading standard 1 deals with inferences – the expectations increase a step in difficulty as the student moves through school.

In ELA BEST, there is no connection that I can find. In fact, there seems to be a disconnect between the two. In the ELA Expectations, it asks students to make inferences. I did not see inference mentioned in any other standards – it is just randomly in this general section without having specific inference goals at each grade level.

Teachers need to be aware of this change, as before the general reading standards really weren’t new skills, rather the overarching skills. The specific subskill was explained in Literature and Informational Text. Teachers need to make sure they are covering the standards in this subsection.


Let me begin with this: I don’t think I can name one language arts teacher that believes students are learning grammar effectively. My brother teaches high school, and he told me they just expect students to not know any grammar or write well. Now, I know I taught grammar in elementary, and so did my teammates. The reality is that kids aren’t learning it. So, this is one area that could be improved.

Unfortunately, I cannot figure out the reasoning behind Conventions in the BEST standards at all. There is no obvious progression as to what is taught in each grade. In fact, the new standards in fourth grade were formerly standards in grades 3 – 8. There is very little carryover from LAFS to BEST. (For this reason, I am not detailing all the changes here.)

Conventions standards are all over in every elementary grade. Unfortunately, I think teachers are going to have to use standards in this subsection loosely and instead base instruction on students’ skills and needs (which is what should be happening anyway.)

Book Lists

The state had the idea of including book lists at each grade level for fiction and nonfiction, as well as poems and civics books. Although this idea had potential, the execution has some problems. On a positive note, the fifth-grade book list is more well-rounded and on grade level than some of the other grades.

I spoke with my teacher friends, and it seems like the lists are suggested and not mandatory. That’s a good thing, because many of the suggested books are out of print.

In fifth grade, about one-third of the non-fiction books are above grade level. One fiction book, Call Me Maria by Judith Ortiz Cofer, is far above grade level. (Disclosure: I have not read that book myself, so I am basing that on multiple online sources for the book.) Also, there are no below grade level books.

I do think the fifth-grade reading list contains a lot of fantastic books, and they include diverse characters and come from many genres. If you need ideas, I think the fiction list is a great place to start. However, some of the novels are ones I used in sixth grade (Island of the Blue Dolphins, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Chasing Vermeer, and Call It Courage.) Teachers really should work out with other grades which books are used in which grades to prevent one teacher reading aloud a book another uses as a novel unit in the next grade.

Every grade level also has a list of civics trade books. I find them most helpful in fifth grade, as the social studies standards are US history and the books are focused on subjects taught in the social studies standards.


Fifth grade BEST standards for reading seem to echo fourth grade very closely. It would be good for the state to provide more context on how the standards are expected to be applied in upper elementary, so teachers know exactly how students are expected to scaffold the skills as they move up.

Teachers may want to continue covering reading skills that have been omitted in BEST, as many were removed completely.

Teachers need to be sure to cover the ELA Expectations standards, as they are not repeated in other sections.

Teachers should easily be able to include the Oral Communication, Technology, and Research standards in lessons. Again, the majority of these standards are very similar to those in fourth grade.

Teachers will have to focus on their students’ ability levels to teach Conventions, as the grade level standards may or may not match their skills. Teachers should assess individual needs and pulling students for small group instruction.

The book lists may give you some ideas, but you may have a hard time finding books because many are out-of-print. The fiction book list is pretty good, but some books may be used in sixth grade, so check with those teachers to avoid duplication. Many of the nonfiction books are above grade level.

Standards Resources

My standards posters and checklists are being updated (and improved!) If you previously purchased my Florida Standards resources, you get the updates for free – just check your My Purchases area in TPT.


Over twenty plus years, my educational career has spanned four continents and two states, as well as eight grade levels!

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