5th Grade FSA ELA for Parents

by | Apr 26, 2019 | Teaching Strategies | 0 comments

In fifth grade, Florida students take NGSSS science test in addition to the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) tests. Although students have taken the ELA and writing tests in previous grades, the skill expectations for each increase in fifth grade.

The sheer number of tests in fifth grade can overwhelm students. Their anxiety can be decreased just by knowing what the test will be like and feeling ready to do their best.

By the end of this post, parents will have a good understanding of what the FSA ELA test is like and how they can help their student prepare for the test.

5th Grade FSA ELA

The FSA ELA test covers both reading and language (spelling, mechanics, and grammar) skills. Students will be given multiple reading passages of both fiction and nonfiction, plus they may have an infographic or table. The reading passages have a total word count between 200 – 1000 words, and the Lexile levels are between 830L – 1010L. (This post has just under 1000 words from the title to the end of the “Read Together Often” section.)

The exam is a paper and pencil test – the state legislature stopped computer-based testing in the elementary grades.

In fifth grade, students usually see two fiction and two nonfiction passages, but it could be 1 – 4 texts. The passages are often paired, so they have something in common. For example, the nonfiction passages might be themed on inventions or animal habitats. The reading passages usually have a comparable trait, such as theme or plot.

Students will be asked multiple-choice questions about the passages. These questions vary in difficulty. Some of the questions have one answer, while others have multiple correct answers. Other questions have two parts. For example, the first part might be to select the theme of the story, and the second part might ask which piece of evidence from the story supports their choice in part one. Still, others might ask students to make selections on a table.

There are no written responses in the reading test. These were also removed, and now all answers are “bubbled.”

In addition, students will have a short passage to read that has grammatical errors. The sentences that are used as test questions are underlined. The multiple-choice questions are found after the reading passage. These questions have four answer choices, with the last one always stating “correct as is.” These questions focus on grade-level Language standards, which will be discussed later in this post.


5th Grade Standards


The big focus in fifth grade is science, but reading standards also increase in complexity from fourth grade. The standards still include basic skills, including identifying the main idea and details, point of view, and text features. However, fifth grade standards focus more heavily on comparing two texts. For example, students need to analyze multiple accounts of the same event, such as two different accounts of a historic events. They also need to compare and contrast stories within the same genre and how they approach themes and topics.

Fifth graders are also expected to be able to explain how an author supports different points with reasons and evidence.


Students continue to be expected to use context clues in the reading to figure out the meaning of words. They should be familiar with idioms, figurative language, proverbs, and adages. Students should also begin to understand common affixes (prefixes, suffixes, and root words.)



Fifth-grade grammar focuses on just a few topics:

  • Conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections
  • Perfect verb tense (I had walked, I have walked, I will have walked)
  • Inappropriate shifts in verb tense (Ex. changing from the past to the present tense)
  • Correlative conjunctions (either/or, neither/nor, both/and, etc.)

Mechanics & Conventions

The fifth-grade standards focus hard on commas.

  • Punctuation to separate items in a series
  • Commas to separate introductory elements from the rest of the sentence
  • Commas to set off yes/no and tag questions, and to indicate direct address
  • Using underlining, quotation marks, and italics to indicate titles of works

How Parents Can Help Their Students

Read Together Often

The best way to support your student is to read together. The more a student reads, the better he or she will comprehend texts and will increase his or her vocabulary.

It is important to hook reluctant readers with something they enjoy. Once they find something they want to read, it is much easier to get them to read!

Parents should ask questions about the reading to check their student’s comprehension. A few examples are:

  • What was the order of the events in the story?
  • How did the character feel when __________?
  • What is the meaning of the word _______________ in this sentence?
  • How do you know __________________? What sentence in the story made you think that?
  • How does this paragraph help the reader understand the story? (It explains the setting, character, etc.)
  • What does the author believe about _________? (nonfiction text)
  • What is the main idea?
  • How do the text features help you understand the information? (nonfiction – titles, photographs, tables, etc.)
  • How did the author support the point ________________?
  • How were the two descriptions of _____________ the same or different?

Vocabulary is an area of weakness for many students. Again, students who read frequently have the largest vocabularies. Skill-and-drill is not nearly as helpful as just reading frequently.

I also recommend reading books like Amelia Bedelia and books with idioms, metaphors, similes, and figurative language.

Parents should also read nonfiction selections with students. Students should select books that discuss the same event and compare them. For example, two books about the 1976 Olympics – one from an athlete’s point of view and one from a third-person narrator’s point of view.

Play Games

For reading, vocabulary, and other skills, I also recommend playing games. I recently saw a social media post by the Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children. It stated that scientists have determined that it takes about 900 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain – unless it is done with play, in which case it only takes 10-20 times.

In my own experience, gameplay had a huge role in my ability to read and do math. My mom kept many games at the house, and we played Uncle Wiggly, Scrabble Jr., and Yahtzee. Games made learning seem like fun! However, it can be difficult to find games that focus on higher-level skills.

Looking for Teaching Resources?

To help students, I created card games and skill practice that coordinates with common games. Students are much more willing to play games than to complete worksheets – and it helps them remember the information faster. These games are great for parents who want to support their students’ learning in a family-friendly way!

If parents would like more information about the FSA Ela test, the FSA portal is an excellent resource. It also includes a sample test, which helps parents to understand the design of the reading passages and test questions. (Teachers often use the sample tests in class. Please do not give your students the test without checking with his or her teacher.)


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5th Grade FSA ELA for Parents