Lower School Curriculum Guide
In fourth grade, learning comes to life through hands-on application of skills, collaborative exploration, and independent research. As students mature academically and socially, the fourth grade program allows them to practice and apply skills that will enable them to embrace the increasing responsibilities of future academic years. Children develop and solidify strategies to further develop their critical thinking skills and enable them to become increasingly independent learners. The program is designed to help students become capable, creative thinkers, while fostering concern and commitment to the group as a whole.
Addressing the social and emotional needs of each student is an important component of the fourth grade program. The use of the Responsive Classroom approach helps to create a supportive environment where students can succeed socially and academically. The program’s key social skills, CARES: cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control are part of the fabric of the fourth grade curriculum. Being the “seniors” of the Lower School, the fourth graders assume the special responsibility of being positive role models for the younger students in our community as they assume leadership roles in Lower School Meetings and serve as buddies to the younger students.
As children at this developmental stage are more curious and aware of the larger world, the curriculum seeks to build a greater understanding of social issues and diversity and how they impact our perceptions of others, the world, and ourselves. Through small group discussions, social studies curriculum content, public purpose initiatives, and developmentally appropriate literature, students uncover issues of diversity, learn to respect individual cultures, and develop skills for handling issues related to peers, families, their communities, and the world.
- Language Arts
- Classroom Economy
- Social Studies
- Visual Arts
- Modern Language
- Physical Education
The Fourth Grade Language Arts program promotes the development of students’ reading skills, comprehension, and critical thinking skills using a Readers Workshop model. Students engage in reading and analyzing text across several genres including: realistic fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction, biographies, and poetry. Whole group mini- lessons focus on helping students to further develop their comprehension strategies.
Readers learn to monitor their comprehension of fiction by: analyzing characters, questioning, visualizing, inferring, and pausing to reflect on developing ideas. Students also participate in smaller literature discussion groups in which they learn to interpret content, explore thematic ideas, and form opinions about meaning leading to a deeper understanding of the text. Fluency is monitored through oral reading. Students are asked to convey their understanding of a text through a variety of writing activities as the reading-writing connection is strongly emphasized as a means to deepen comprehension.
Throughout the year, students learn to negotiate non-fiction texts and to appreciate how the text structure contributes to greater comprehension. In a collaborative program with the Lower School library, the students read non-fiction as a means to develop their research skills. Using common research methods, the students are guided through the process of determining a topic, selecting and evaluating resources, obtaining information through a variety of texts, recording information obtained and documenting sources used in the research process. The products of their research include written reports, oral presentations, and more creative scrapbooks and visual displays.
Students’ vocabularies are developed through the study of context clues, analogies, figurative language, idiomatic expressions, as well as through words studied in curricular areas and in classroom texts. To support vocabulary development, teachers use the Vocabulary from Classic Roots and rich vocabulary extracted from classroom literature, which strengthen the link between vocabulary and reading comprehension.
In Grade Four, students continue to hone their writing skills through the use of the Basic Writing Program and writing activities across the curriculum. Students engage in a process-approach to writing, which includes planning, drafting, conferencing, revising, and producing a final piece. The focus of the fourth grade program is on the creation of a well-defined and expanded paragraph. Students are offered specific instruction on how to create a topic sentence, supporting details, and a concluding sentence. Emphasis is placed in the organization of ideas and the development of voice for an intended audience. Beginning with brainstorming, students then use a Quick Outline to plan and organize their thoughts on a topic. Students learn specific conferencing and revision techniques so they are able to share their ideas effectively with one another. Teachers work with individual students and small groups guiding students through the editing process and advising them in their expansion of sentences and choice of precise vocabulary.
The students are taught forms of writing, such as descriptive and personal narrative paragraphs, expository writing of reports, letter writing, and the creative process of composing poetry. Through the fourth grade writing program, it is hoped that all students will develop the skills, confidence, and interest in expressing themselves through writing.
The fourth grade students learn the skills involved in public speaking. To begin the year, the students become familiar with the characteristics of a strong public speaker, including voice projection, the importance of body language, and eye contact. The students learn how to write, practice, and perform a variety of speeches including informative, demonstrative, and inspirational. In addition, the students become familiar with the art of storytelling and oral interpretation. As leaders of the Lower School, fourth graders have the opportunity to host Lower School Morning Meeting. Public speaking easily lends itself to curricular tie-ins with our social studies and writing units.
The fourth grade math program, Singapore Math, relies upon a concrete, pictorial, and abstract process that has our students first working with tangible materials then exposing them to a pictorial representation of the mathematical concept before moving onto more abstract numbers, notations, and symbols. This program emphasizes the communication of mathematical ideas, encouraging students to reflect on the strategies they use to solve problems and to share these strategies with their peers. With a teacher’s guidance, students are led to select the most efficient and accurate strategy for solving a task.
Students begin the year by developing their understanding of place value within nine- digit numbers. They start by counting, reading, and writing whole numbers to 100,000,000. By using place value discs, they practice creating nine-digit numbers and writing them in standard and expanded form. Working with these large numbers, students recognize number patterns and develop approximation skills by learning how to round whole numbers to the nearest ten thousand, hundred thousand or million.
Students review their understanding of multiplication by using rectangular arrays and begin to understand the terms: factor, composite numbers, and prime numbers. They learn rules of divisibility for 2,3,4,5,6,9 and 10 and learn the concept of multiples. Throughout the unit, they practice listing factors, common multiples and least common multiples. Students move on to mixed operations involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division without parentheses while applying the order of the operations to solve word problems.
Throughout the year, fourth graders practice the four operations. In the addition and subtraction unit, students add and subtract using a vertical algorithm up to 5 digits and practice using mental math calculations to add or subtract a number close to 10, 100 or 1000. Students use place value number discs to solidify their understanding of multiplication and division and develop their use of estimation to verify the reasonableness of their solutions.
The fourth grade fraction unit includes reviewing equivalent fractions and simplest form as well as developing the students’ understanding of mixed numbers as the sum of a whole number and a proper fraction. Students solve problems involving mixed numbers and improper fractions and convert between the two.
In their geometry unit, students learn to recognize angles of 180, 270 and 360. They estimate, measure with a protractor, and construct angles that are less than 180. They learn to distinguish and draw perpendicular and parallel lines and move to the formulas for the area and perimeter of a rectangle.
Fourth grade students finish the year with a study of decimals. By using decimal discs, they learn to read and write three-place decimals. By the end of the unit, they are able to express fractions with a denominator of 10, 100 and 1000 as a decimal and write mixed numbers as a decimal. They practice comparing and ordering numbers having up to three decimal places and finish the unit by rounding decimals to the nearest whole number as well as to the nearest tenth.
In order to strengthen the students’ understanding of money, the economy, and one’s personal finances, the fourth grade incorporates a yearlong classroom economy study into the curriculum. The students learn about a variety of financial concepts such as salaries, bank accounts, renting versus owning, and ultimately how to operate a small business. Upon receiving a “salary” for their classroom jobs, the students learn how to budget and handle money, balance accounts, and make donations to organizations/causes for which they feel passionate.
The fourth grade social studies curriculum gives students an understanding of geography by exploring the relationship of humans to their environment through an in-depth study of North American regions. As students study each region, the overriding theme is the connection between environment and culture. By comparing and contrasting American Indian tribes that are located in these different geographic settings, students become aware of how the available resources in an environment impact the people’s culture. This awareness of the many differences among various groups of Native Americans also enables students to explore the inaccuracy of Native American stereotypes. In addition, after learning about the arrival of the Europeans, students understand the results of cultural contact and the conflicts that often arose.
Later in the year, fourth graders explore essential questions such as why people migrated and explored new regions, and how their findings impacted our nation’s history. Through project-based activities, examination of historical resources, and exposure to non-fiction texts, students will study geographic and scientific discoveries made during the Lewis and Clark expedition, and learn how the expedition affected Native American tribes in the region. Students explore multiple perspectives as they learn about the constructs of the United States. In addition, students will practice their reading comprehension, writing, and map skills.
In their study of geography, the students develop essential map skills while mastering the identification and spelling of all fifty U.S. states and capitals. Throughout the year, students are engaged in several research projects, both independent and cooperative, which allow them to practice research skills such as: reading for information, note taking, organizing information, and presenting their findings. One such project is, “The Inspirational Figure.” Students research an historical figure of choice and write a persuasive paragraph about him or her. In addition, the students create a script and present it on stage, dressed in character.
Each year, in conjunction with the Choice Based art philosophy, the Lower School art program has an overarching theme for its curricular focus. The curricular focus of fourth grade is “Celebrated Artists” with a focus on diversity and inclusion. Some of the artists we cover include: Monomi Ohno, Cyrus Karibu, Jose Posada, Yayoi Kusama, Jacob Lawrence, and Louis Nevelson, to name a few.
Sometimes the lessons at the start of class will focus on the curricular theme, while at other times the focus will be on a material or technique within a certain medium. After each lesson, students will then have the choice to work on art inspired by the special project or an original creation made from materials found in the centers around the room. In addition to the media, concepts, and skills explored in previous grades, fourth graders learn art forms inspired by their Native American studies. They learn flintknapping and how to illustrate oral stories (created in library) onto paper “buffalo hides.” At the same time, more formal drawing skills, such as one point perspective are taught. Various types of printmaking, including carved printing blocks are also introduced. In the spring, students build armatures and use modeling clay to sculpt a model of someone they admire. Interdisciplinary projects incorporating science and technology are also embedded in the program. Fourth graders become more aware of themselves as artists, recognizing that there have many skills that may lend themselves to various art forms. These crafts not only enrich their classroom curriculum but also help students who are less comfortable with art skills such as drawing to find strength in these other art forms. Fourth graders reflect on their artistic process by taking photographs of their artwork using Artsonia with the apps on the iPads and learn basic photo-editing skills and how to add titles and artist statements.
The eight Studio Habits of Mind are incorporated into daily life and language in order for students to learn true artistic behavior. Those habits include envisioning, observation, expression, developing craft, stretching and exploring, engaging and persisting, reflecting on their work and understanding art worlds.
In the fourth grade, students gain a deeper understanding how to safely navigate computers and other technology by exploring project-based curriculum that is deeply integrated and collaborative with the child's homeroom and specials classes. These collaborative projects allow each child to use various tools to develop, refine, and ultimately articulate learned concepts. We also do stand-alone assignments where the primary intent is to encourage the students to problem solve and develop resilience in working with technology. While building skills through independent and collaborative work, each child is also developing an understanding of what technology can and cannot do. Throughout the year, the students utilize the Typing Club keyboarding tutorial to strengthen their typing skills. The fourth graders also frequently use Google Docs on their laptops in the classroom to refine their word processing skills.
In the autumn, the students explore interface, variables, and conditional programming by coding an interactive conversation simulator in Scratch. They also spend two periods exploring the mechanics of what happens between turning on the computer and doing a simple Google Search. Through this exploration, they learn that their privacy is a commodity, and hopefully gain a deeper desire to protect it. We use coordinate graphing skills to code illustrations inspired by Navajo rug and Lakota quilt designs. We create a Google Slides presentation to teach others about mean, mode, and median as a representation of a larger group. They create databases in FileMaker and line graphs using Google Spreadsheets. Using Photoshop, each fourth grader creates photomontage self- portraits. These images and other computer works are incorporated into their 3D portfolio showing the evolution of their technology skills and understanding throughout their Lower School years.
The Lower School Spanish and French programs provide opportunities for language acquisition. Students are exposed to the language through developmentally appropriate activities and contexts via stories, role-plays, songs and rhymes, games, videos, and other strategies. Attention is paid to the four language skills: listening, reading, speaking, and writing. Listening always precedes speaking, and reading precedes writing. We seek to foster the students’ awareness and appreciation of the native speakers’ cultures in and out of the classroom. The class meets twice for forty-five minutes every six-day cycle.
In fourth grade, new language structures, basic vocabulary, and previously introduced content are presented in novel situations and contexts to ensure a deeper level of language acquisition. The students’ readiness to produce language increases. Special attention is given to the new students to the grade in order to facilitate a smooth integration into the program.
The Lower School library is a place of inquiry and discovery for all who use it. Students visit the library on a regular basis so that they can explore their own interests; be introduced to new stories, concepts, information and ideas; and discover who they are as readers and thinkers. The library program is designed to closely support the fourth grade curriculum. Various fiction and nonfiction books are introduced to expand and enrich topics of classroom study, such as Native Americans, Lewis and Clark, and inspirational figures. Also in support of their study of Native Americans and geography, students take a close look at Native American folktales and create their own digital story that incorporates the oral storytelling tradition. In addition, inquiry-based projects and activities are developed in collaboration with classroom teachers so that students can explore what interests them about a topic and develop vital research skills such as: locating information via print and online sources, evaluating resources, and creating citations.
Fourth graders also develop into strong digital citizens by exploring relevant issues such as cyberbullying, online safety, and copyright. Various digital and online tools are integrated into learning activities so that students can practice these digital citizen skills. Every library class also includes the opportunity for children to use the library independently. During this time, students choose the books they want to read and/or take home to borrow.
Fourth grade students have the opportunity to put musical skills to use in both classroom and ensemble settings. Each class continues to meet twice per rotation for 45 minutes, and the entire grade level meets for chorus once every other rotation. Vocal development during chorus time comes from singing simple songs in a round and eventually singing in two parts. Ensemble listening and memory skills are greatly developed through these activities. Classroom music consists of developing vocal, movement, rhythm, and reading musical notation skills while continuing to learn the recorder. The students use various percussion and Orff instruments to create melodic and rhythmic compositions in both individual and collaborative projects.
The fourth grade classes are gender split and with the guidance of two teachers in each group, students participate in activities that demonstrate locomotor, non-locomotor, and manipulative skills, and demonstrate specialized skills both while stationary and in motion. In fourth grade, the students recognize active and enjoyable physical challenges and voluntarily participate in myriad activities that tap the talents of our students and stretch their abilities. The goal of the program is to develop the students’ skill levels while encouraging them to feel positive about themselves and their participation in physical activity and to recognize the importance of cooperation, teamwork, and good sportsmanship. The expectation is that the fourth grade students be able to develop a mature form of patterned movement skills and locomotor skills and be able to vary and adapt their movements when appropriate. Emphasis is placed on being able to follow instruction and adhering to safety procedures while working cooperatively and productively with a partner, in a group, or independently. During the winter, students ice skate and also have an option to play ice hockey as part of the curriculum. In addition to the instructional units covered in class, the students participate in community events such as the American Heart Association’s “Kids’ Heart Challenge,” the “Fun Run” that kicks off Wildcat Weekend in the fall, and the Lower School Field Day in May.
The fourth grade science curriculum provides a variety of “hands-on” activities as the students become wholly immersed in the scientific method and use related process skills. Throughout the year, the children are expected to work independently as well as collaboratively in observing, documenting, and reflecting on their varied experiments and activities. As often as possible, the students’ study of physical, earth, and life science is coordinated with and complements their homeroom social studies, language arts, and math curricula as well as their experience in art, library, and computer.
The students begin the year by learning about the “three sisters” (corn, beans, squash) plants, earthworms, nutrition and the relationships among them, which is a connection to their Native American studies. The students learn the way scientists document collected data in the form of line graphs and stories. Later in the year, in conjunction with their computer science and art programs, there will be a S.T.E.A.M. unit in which students build robots that are programmed to interact with a specific environment. In the winter, the students learn about the habitats, plants, rocks, and minerals that would have impacted Lewis and Clark’s expedition west. When the spring arrives, students are exposed to inspirational scientists, and we focus on those who are often overlooked. The culmination of the year is an exciting study of the owl and its prey! Students work together to dissect owl pellets (the regurgitation of the hair and bones from an owl’s prey), identify bones, and then reconstruct the owl’s prey.