Grade 4

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 his/her 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.

Language arts


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 Reader's Workshop method, 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, plays 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 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 forms of writing such as:

  • Realistic fiction

  • Informational writing

  • Opinion writing


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.

Problem solving

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

Social studies

Over the course of the year, Grade 4 students investigate the interconnectedness of human-made systems and community. They look at how different groups have survived over time using their environment. Students research other groups, both past and present, and compare and contrast these societies. Throughout the entire year, the following essential questions at the heart of their social studies units are used:

  • How do humans interact with and impact their environment?

  • How do interactions between different groups create changes?

  • Why do groups of people have conflict?

  • How do we evaluate and measure history and identify bias?


Grade 4 students receive three lessons each two-week cycle, taught by the lower school science specialist. The pedagogy, materials and lessons are based on the Next Generation Science Standards and center around Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading and FOSS Active-Learning units. Our science program uses an integrated approach connecting hands-on experiences with reading, writing and inquiry. The Grade 4 curriculum has an emphasis on life sciences. Woven throughout these units are opportunities for authentic discovery. Building upon curiosity and a natural tendency towards exploration and experimentation, Grade 4 students begin to devise test situations to prove, or disprove, their claims.

The first unit of study is Digestion and Body Systems, during which students consider the structure and function of the human digestive system. With an emphasis on visualization, students learn to use precise language and scientific vocabulary to create models and describe processes. This unit integrates with Grade 4 social studies curriculum on food. During investigations, students use first-hand inquiry and information from content-rich books to accurately note their observations, provide descriptions and record their thinking. Students work toward creating explanations from direct evidence and use these to compare, contrast and refine their understanding through discourse with others.

In the second semester, the unit is Diversity and Adaptation. Students study adaptations and how these help organisms to survive. In considering the differences between species and the similarities between individuals, students learn about genes and reflect upon the hereditary nature of life. They expand on this concept by identifying inherited traits and acquired characteristics in themselves and others. Using fossil records, the students differentiate between observations and inferences. Through this study of the relatedness of organisms, students develop an understanding that science knowledge is based on evidence.

Curriculum guides