5th Grade


From a parent: “As a parent you always question whether you are doing the right thing for your kids, especially when it comes to their education.  We began searching for alternatives to public school when the budget crunch hit and middle school was looming.  We knew Summit was the right school for us when we took the tour during the summer (with no students) and our daughter whispered in my ear, “Mom, can I take the assessment today; I really want to go here!?”  After her first few weeks in the fall she came home and said, “Mom, I love this school. It feels like I came home!”   Our daughter is learning far more than she did in public school and her class size is smaller. Yes, she has more homework and is challenged but her grades have even improved!  We wish we would have made the switch sooner.”

~Parent of a 5th grade student

Language Arts

Fifth grade students are exposed to grammar and vocabulary as well as focusing on meeting the 5th Grade Summit Core Writing Standards (Elaboration, Craft, Lead, Transitions, Ending, Organization, Grammar).

Vocabulary is taught in connection with spelling. Students are introduce to Latin roots and Greek combining forms.  The Vocabulary Surge Program helps students understand the meaning of word parts which in turns helps create better readers, writers and spellers.  Students write in several different modes including, but not limited to: poetry, narrative, literary response, persuasive, functional, descriptive, and research writing. Writer’s Workshop includes the steps in the writing process (Prewrite, Draft, Edit/Revise, Share). With the use of a Daybook Journal in Language Arts, students also gather and build a bank of ideas and thoughts.


The Summit School of Ahwatukee elementary math program is based on Math Expressions by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

This program offers students a broad background in math concepts, reinforced through a significant amount of dynamic, hands-on, interactive activities.

Children in first through sixth grades are pre-assessed before each new unit of study and are placed, for that unit, in either the grade-level or accelerated paced group. With ability grouping, hands-on learning, and small class sizes, our students successfully learn and retain math concepts at advanced levels.

Math Expressions is distinguished by a number of features which include:

Real-life Applications Throughout each unit, real-world situations are incorporated. Numbers, skills, and mathematical concepts are not presented in isolation, but are linked to contexts that are relevant to everyday lives. The curriculum also provides numerous suggestions for incorporating math into daily classroom routines and other subject areas.

Problem Solving A variety of problem-solving approaches are emphasized to allow students to investigate and understand mathematical concepts. Problems are formulated through everyday situations and are solved by interpreting results and applying learned strategies. As a result, confidence is acquired in using mathematics meaningfully.

Balanced Instruction Each lesson includes time for whole-group instruction as well as small group, partner, or individual activities. These activities balance teacher-directed instruction with more opportunities for open-ended, hands-on explorations, long-term projects, and ongoing practice.

Multiple Methods for Basic Skills Practice Numerous methods for basic skills practice and review are provided. Summit emphasizes learning through a wide variety of math games, written and choral fact drills, mental math, math boxes (daily sets of review problems), homework, and timed tests.

Emphasis on Communication Throughout the curriculum, students are encouraged to explain and discuss their mathematical thinking in their own words. Opportunities to verbalize their thoughts and strategies give children the chance to clarify their reasoning and gain insights from others.

Home / School Partnerships For grades first to third, daily home learning provides opportunities for family members to participate in students’ mathematical learning. Take-home packets are provided for most lessons in grades four to six.


The goal of the Summit School of Ahwatukee literature program is to develop lifelong readers who read for a variety of purposes, and to develop strategic readers who are able to employ a variety of techniques to understand what they are reading.

To achieve this, we use a combination of daily mini-lessons in reading with time for individual reading, conferencing and small group skill work. This involves a balance of individual novel choices with several whole-class literature studies.

Books read include:  No, Talking! By Andrew Clements, Titanic! Unsinkable by Gordon Korman, Bud Not Buddy by Curtis and Freak the Mighty by Philbrick. Additionally, students read non-fiction articles on a weekly basis to connect and enrich the novel studies.

Students self-select one historical novel from several choices (Chains, The Fighting Ground, George Washington’s Socks), and work together to discuss/study elements of literature within the framework of that novel. Typically, one novel study is completed each quarter with attention also paid to study skills such as Cornell-method note taking and close reading strategies.


The Summit School of Ahwatukee science program supports learning at multiple levels. The Summit science courses are taught in a state-of-the-art science laboratory facility with science stations, microscopes and all of the tools necessary to make science engaging and fun. The fifth-grade science curriculum is based on the following themes: variables (scientific process), chemistry introduction, human body, simple machines, environments and science fair projects.

Summit School of Ahwatukee’s scores on Arizona’s AIMS testing, “Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards” are consistently among the top in the state.

In Science, 99% of Summit students meet or exceed the state standards on AIMS, with 84% of students exceeding the standard! See why.


Fifth graders take Spanish three times each week in a classroom where they develop listening and speaking skills within the context of different real-life scenarios. Students are encouraged to ask and answer real-life questions individually, in pairs, and through whole-class discussions. They act out situations and stories using TPR (Total Physical Response) and TPRS (Total Physical Response Storytelling).

The following is a list of student objectives:

-Discuss similarities and differences between cultures

-Work with others to practice new words, sounds, and sentence structures

-Play educational games on the curriculum website

-Complete written and oral activities using audio files

-Listen to and discuss videos (DVDs) using Realidades DVD program and En Español DVD program

-Use technology and internet resources to take virtual tours, connect with other Spanish speaking students in the world, practice vocabulary, listen to audio, and take online tests in the computer lab

-Take a placement test in preparation for High School Spanish II or honors classes (4 out of 5 students were placed in High School Spanish II this year)

-Attend field trips to use Spanish beyond the school setting and practice the language

Social Studies

Social studies will be taught based on developmentally-appropriate themes for Grade Five. The themes studied in Grade Five social studies include geography of the United States, exploration, Revolutionary War, the Constitution and the Civil War. The fifth grade eagerly looks forward to performing an American Revolution musical (February 12th, 2008 at 6:00pm) to culminate its study of that time period. The Summit social studies program utilizes the History Alive program, which is experiential in nature. It is designed to connect with students on many levels and to teach to their multiple intelligences, while also teaching children the necessary skills for cooperative group work.

Art - Named Best in the United States

The Summit School of Ahwatukee art curriculum is based on the Vitruvius Program. This art, architecture and design program enables students to use their creative intelligence to express ideas and concepts in tangible forms. As students engage in work based on real and imagined projects, they deepen critical thinking, narrative problem solving, spatial reasoning, and visual perception.

Design and architecture projects bring an important dimension of thinking to the program. The students learn to find reasons for their work outside of artistic self-expression, becoming divergent thinkers, and gaining a foundation for understanding a changing world.

By studying works from history and the present, students understand how art and design have made significant contributions in the shaping of culture. Students see that their creative work is part of a continuum with other artists, architects, and designers. Critiques develop the ability to observe, discriminate, compare, and contrast creative works. Students learn how to use critical language to interpret work and explain their understanding of its purposes.

The Vitruvius Program curriculum was developed with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

In 2011, this exceptional program was named the best art and architecture school curriculum in the United States, by the Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO) and winner of the National School award. Summit represented the United States in the UIA Golden Cubes International Competition in Tokyo.

In 2009 Phoenix Magazine recognized the Vitruvius Program as one of the top five education programs in Metro-Phoenix.

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art invited the Vitruvius Program at Summit School to create two different exhibitions for their young@art Gallery.

The first exhibit, Bridges: Connecting Earth to Sky, displayed from October 2010 to January 2011, and included architecture and design work from each Summit student in kindergarten through sixth grade. The second exhibit, Cycles From Fields to Cities, displayed from February through April 2013, also includes student works from Finland, France, Russia and Sweden, features designs from third and fifth grade Summit students. The architectural project was co-created by Summit art instructor Kathleen Kupper. This project asks children from many countries to think reflectively about the current state of their city’s design, and challenges them to share how they would reconstruct and reconfigure old and new elements. Artworks range from architectural models and drawings to animations.


Music is an important cornerstone of the liberal arts program at Summit School of Ahwatukee. Students have the opportunity to play instruments, sing, and compose. The music department also orchestrates the Winter concert for the school.

The music curriculum involves participation in hands-on musical explorations that incorporate thinking musically, creatively, and critically. Students develop a comprehensive, basic foundation of musical understandings, skills, and experiences that will enable them to choose and pursue enriching musical experiences beyond elementary school.

Musical experiences, as recommended by state (AZ) and national (MENC) standards will include:

Performing: Singing, Playing Instruments, Improvising

Creating: Composing, Arranging, Improvising

Listening: Listening, Analyzing, Describing music, Evaluating music and music performances, Responding to music through Movement

Musical Context: Understanding music in relation to history and culture, Understanding relationships between music and other arts and disciplines outside the arts

Experiences will be structured as whole-class, small group, and individualized activities. Concepts explored will include: • Tone Color (timbre) • Duration (rhythm) • Musical Controls (volume, tempo, articulation) • Pitch (melody, harmony)


Fifth graders continue advancing their skills with Web 2.0 tools, multimedia projects, and research skills. Computer literacy is strengthened with the resource “Intel the Journey Inside.” The world of game programming is explored as well as simple computer programming. Various software programs and problem solving skills are used in a unit of study called “TechnoEntrepreneur .”

Physical Education

Elementary Physical Education and Wellness at Summit follows closely with the Dynamic Physical Education Curriculum, created By Dr. Robert Pangrazi of Arizona State University, which is widely recognized throughout the world. The program has four distinct sections to each class: an instant/introductory activity followed by a fitness component and a sport and/or motor lesson that is then followed by a game. Other nationally-recognized components include AAHPERD’s Physical Best curriculum, the Cooper Institute’s Fitnessgram / Activitygram, and Project Adventure.

Get to Know - 5th Grade Faculty

Kelly Makay

Fifth Grade Teacher
Language Arts and Literature

Kelly Makay earned her teaching degree from Northern Illinois, and holds a Master’s Degree in Education.  Her teaching career began in 1994 at a private school in Evanston, Illinois, where she taught fifth and sixth grade and coached girls’ softball.

Upon returning to Arizona, Mrs. Makay taught in the Kyrene School District. During this time her expertise was called up to lead staff trainings on differentiation, and assisted in developing the district-wide report card. She has also presented to colleagues at the Arizona Association of Independent Schools, on the topic of Project Based Learning.

Mrs. Makay joined Summit School of Ahwatukee in 2007, and has taught in grades 4-7. However, she is most passionate about her current role teaching 5th and 6th grade language arts and literature, saying, “Summit is the best place to teach and learn!”

Thomas Pray

Fifth Grade Teacher
Language Arts, Mathematics and Social Studies

Thomas Pray, a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, earned a Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education from Eastern Michigan University. His seven years of teaching experience including fifth grade, and math for sixth grade. Mr. Pray has earned a full SEI endorsement, and has expanded his knowledge through numerous Kagan cooperative learning trainings, and Arizona Association of mathematics conferences. He also earned a sixth through eighth grade math endorsement in Michigan.

 Mr. Pray’s ability to connect with his students has been greatly enhanced through the eleven years he has devoted to coaching, including high school basketball and golf teams, and middle school basketball teams. Additionally, Mr. Pray helped run a Kindergarten through fifth grade instructional basketball program in Michigan.  He joined Summit in 2012

Molly Danforth

Math Specialist, Kindergarten through Fifth Grade

Molly Danforth has over twenty years of teaching first through third grades. She has also earned the prestigious National Board Certification. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education from Gonzaga University, and a Masters in Education in 1997 from Northern Arizona University.  To expand her teaching skills Ms. Danforth has taken additional training in Cognitively Guided Instruction, Intel Math, as well as several other math courses, and has earned a Reading Endorsement in 2002 from Arizona State University. Ms. Danforth joined Summit in 2007 as a 2nd grade teacher and now serves as Summit’s Kindergarten – 2nd grade math coordinator, using her expertise to enhance classroom math instruction and assessments, and further Summit’s teachers’ professional development in mathematics.