In Grade 4, we move toward a more formalized learning approach. Children continue to learn by doing, but they practice the skills needed to record, share and generalize from what they have learned. We emphasize the development of skills needed to become independent, lifelong learners. Producing quality work, while employing study habits and organizational skills, a thorough mastery of basic skills, and the respect and understandings needed to function in a pluralistic society are the main goals of the curriculum. Teachers strive to stimulate every child's interest, curiosity and desire to create, to promote a true love of learning, and to encourage a willingness to take risks.
We plan for children as individuals, helping each child to reach their own potential. Recognizing that our children come from many different schools and learning environments, we assess their learning needs regularly so that we can provide learning experiences at an appropriate level.
Throughout the grades, we emphasize teamwork, cooperative learning, problem solving and an increasing responsibility for directing one's own actions and learning. Our purpose is to help children to become independent, creative thinkers, while fostering concern and commitment to the group as a whole.
Developing a lifelong love of reading is at the heart of our reading instruction. The distinction between reading fiction and nonfiction is a major emphasis in Grade 4. Students examine more complex texts and build ideas grounded in evidence from the text. When reading fiction, children engage in discussion of literature, connecting what they read to real life experiences and other texts, which leads to a deeper understanding of the structure of text. Class discussions focus on helping students to interpret content, explore thematic ideas, and form opinions about meaning. Students learn to identify and use the features of nonfiction text in order to summarize, develop research questions, and find information.
We utilize the Readers Workshop model, which blends whole-group mini-lessons, small needs-based groups, and individual conferring to guide students through a variety of comprehension strategies. Throughout the year, we discuss and model the thinking strategies that all proficient readers use as they read:
Determining what is important: identifying themes and diminishing focus on less important ideas or pieces of information
Drawing inferences: combining background knowledge and textual information to draw conclusions and interpret facts
Using prior knowledge: building on previous knowledge and experiences to aid in comprehension of the text
Asking questions: wondering and inquiring about the book before, during and after reading
Monitoring comprehension and meaning: using an inner voice to think about whether or not the text makes sense
Envisioning: implementing the five senses to build images in the mind that enhance the experience of reading.
Our multi-genre approach includes reading novels, biographies, nonfiction and poetry, and studying their specific elements. For example, as children read novels, they study character, setting, plot, themes, and writing styles and purposes. Teachers select those materials that are most appropriate to the interest level and reading ability of the class, including selections that coordinate Grade 4 social studies units.
In a collaborative program with the Lower School Library, children continue to develop their inquiry and research skills. They learn to obtain information from a variety of texts, diagrams and pictures, and to use various parts of a book in order to locate information quickly—index, glossary, chapter and section headings, and computer catalogs and bibliographies. They learn how to read effectively by surveying the materials, forming questions to guide their reading, reading carefully, taking efficient notes, and reviewing what they have read.
The writing program in the Lower School is based on the Writer’s Workshop approach, which is centered on research supporting the idea that children learn to write more readily when their writing is purposeful and directed toward a real audience. Teachers begin with a mini lesson to give children a powerful model for the genre being practiced. Beginning with brainstorming and planning, children learn specific craft and revision techniques so that they are able to share their ideas effectively with one another. Following the conference, the children proofread and edit their own work, and ultimately publish selected texts. Teachers work with individuals and small groups, discussing genre, teaching skill lessons, helping with the editing process and asking questions to provide feedback. Teachers use a variety of literature as well as student work as examples for practice.
In Grade 4, children are taught various genres of writing such as:
Narrative: The Arc of the Story
Informational: Reimagining London
Opinion: Personal Essay
Informational: Bringing History to Life
Opinion: Persuasive Essay
The spelling program focuses on learning syllables and affixes, along with derivational endings. Teachers augment the program with words drawn from subject area units and students' reading and writing. Students are held accountable for proofreading their daily work.
The lower school math program is based on the Common Core Mathematics Standards, which call for students to develop conceptual understanding and skill proficiency in number, operations, measurement and geometry through engaging problems and activities. Students are presented lessons that will provide learning experiences toward meeting grade-level math standards and problems to solve independently and in small groups. Throughout the year, parents receive information about the mathematical content studied in each unit.
From time to time, children are asked to carry out an investigation or solve a complex problem that will require sustained work over a period of time. The problem may have more than one correct answer or have one answer but more than one way to solve the problem. A good problem is accessible to all and allows those with special interest to go further. This allows students to practice problem-solving strategies learned in class and provides opportunities to communicate their thinking.
Grade-level math standards can be referenced for more detail but instruction time focuses on these four critical areas:
Operations and algebraic thinking
Uses the four operations with whole numbers to solve problems
Gains familiarity with factors and multiples
Generates and analyzes patterns
Number and operations in base ten
Generalizes place value understandings for multi-digit whole numbers
Uses place value understandings and properties of operations to perform multi-digit arithmetic
Fluently adds or subtracts multi-digit whole numbers using standard algorithm
Multiplies any whole number up to four digits by any one-digit number and any two two-digit numbers
Finds whole-number quotients and remainders with up to four-digit dividends and one-digit divisors using various strategies
Measurement and data
Solves problems involving measurement and conversion of measurements from a larger unit to a smaller unit
Represents and interprets data
Understands the concept and measurement of angles
Draws and classifies angles
Classifies shapes by attributes of their lines (parallel, perpendicular) and angles
Recognizes line of symmetry in 2-D figures
Over the first eight weeks of school, students examine what makes up a community. They have opportunities to learn about each other and how we all have unique perspectives that help shape our classroom community. Students investigate the benefits and challenges of being in a diverse classroom community, and they learn that we can resolve conflicts in a way that meets our needs and the needs of others.
In Cities for the Future, students inquire into what makes a city, how cities are designed, and how they can be improved to meet the needs of all citizens. Students examine the geography and government of London. They identify what makes London unique, specifically its location, place, region and human-environment interactions. Students learn how government affects people’s lives and the most important rights and responsibilities that people have. They learn about the different services a community provides to its citizens and what citizens can to do play a role in their community. Then, students think about the physical characteristics of cities and how they are designed. They examine issues and generate solutions to improve them (e.g. more livable, enjoyable, safer, healthier, inclusive, and sustainable). They learn that life is easier for some people and harder for others based on who they are and where they live. Students analyze the pros and cons of how cities are designed, work in groups to brainstorm solutions, and create a design model representing a solution.
In the American Revolution, students think about how the events of the past have impacted what life is like today. They learn reasons for settling in America, what life was like for early settlers, the tensions that grew between the colonists and Britain, and events surrounding the American Revolution. Students analyze the causes and effects of the events leading up to the conflict. Students use texts, primary sources, maps, and timelines to gather and synthesize information, and they learn how to prepare and participate in a debate arguing whether the 13 Colonies should stay loyal to the British or fight for independence.
Grade 4 students receive three lessons each eight-day cycle, taught by the lower school science specialist. The pedagogy, materials and lessons are based on the Next Generation Science Standards and center on students creating their understanding from investigations of phenomena. Our science program uses an integrated approach connecting concepts through practices and cross-cutting themes such as patterns, systems, and cause and effect. The Grade 4 curriculum has an emphasis on energy, information transfer, the changing surface of the Earth and life structures and senses. Woven throughout these units are opportunities for inquiry and authentic discovery. Building upon curiosity and a natural tendency towards exploration and experimentation, Grade 4 students begin to devise test situations and plan investigations to prove or disprove their claims.
In the first semester, students make observations and collect quantitative data on the characteristics of energy transfer and research renewable and nonrenewable energy resources. Students apply their understanding in an integrated project generating solutions to making cities more inclusive and sustainable. Following a design process to create a programmable model, students test and revise their build to operate effectively. In the next unit, students investigate the manner in which high tech devices such as computers and cell phones, receive and decode information and convert it through digitized forms.
In the second semester, the students extend their understanding of earth sciences through identifying patterns in the changing surface of the Earth and using data to provide evidence for the effects of weathering. Students generate and compare multiple solutions to reducing the impacts of natural Earth processes on humans. The focus then moves to life sciences where students construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support growth, survival and reproduction. Through the development of models, students describe ways in which animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways.