The Grammar School
Fourth Grade Curriculum
The outdoors becomes the fourth grade classroom as we investigate our natural surroundings and learn about local history in a yearlong study of the Connecticut River. Students work on broadening and strengthening their knowledge base in all areas in this context. The fourth grade year is one in which children often shift from an emphasis on process to an equal focus on the end result. Students are expected to reflect on their learning and set attainable goals for themselves. Additionally, fourth graders can be called upon to collaborate and respect diversity in others. With these factors in mind, we complete many exciting projects together on our fourth grade journey.
The language arts curriculum includes a great deal of reading and writing on a daily basis. We read many novels, short stories, poems, and news stories as a class. Students discuss shared reading and respond to it in a variety of ways. Reading instruction involves analysis of literary elements such as plot, character development, and setting. Comprehension and vocabulary are also stressed. Some of the class selections are Sign of the Beaver (Speare), The Young Man and the Sea (Philbrick), In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson (Lord), The River (Paulson), Fur Traders and Trappers (Siegel), The Real Thief (Steig), and Tuck Everlasting (Babbitt). Daily reading aloud gives students exposure to different kinds of literature and gives them a chance to build listening skills. Students are expected to read silently every day during the sustained silent reading period after lunch and to complete two grade level books independently each term. In the winter we do a cross-curricular mystery theme. We study the literary elements of mystery stories, read books of the genre, and students write a creative narrative in this theme.
Students continue to use writing to express their ideas creatively and as a tool for learning and reflection. Throughout the year, fourth graders work on developing sentence, paragraph, and story structure. Writing portfolios are kept and added to during the school year. Select pieces are shared, edited, and published in class. We practice grammar, punctuation, and editing skills as we compose narratives, poetry, personal essays, research reports, and other written material. The program Spellwell from Educators Publishing Service (EPS) will provide the basis for spelling instruction and will be enhanced by lessons from Mega Words (EPS) and Writng Skills 1 & 2 (King, EPS).
The Common Core Curriculum Standards for mathematics outline the objectives for the concepts and skills covered in fourth grade. Everyday Mathematics, published by the University of Chicago, and a daily routine of math journaling, use of manipulatives and tools, and supplemental activities pulled from a variety of resources contribute to a rounded experience. Students engage in mathematical thinking, communication, and problem solving and gain an appreciation for how math is used in daily life. Throughout the year, students improve their understanding of the multiplication and division algorithms and work on memorizing the basic facts. Classroom time is devoted to whole class and small group lessons, hands-on activities, games, and linking mathematics to other subjects.
Science and Social Studies
All curricular areas are enhanced and reinforced by our yearlong study of the Connecticut River Watershed. We study river formation and geology, flora (mushrooms and ferns), and fauna (beavers). Students keep nature journals that help them develop the ability to observe, record, and communicate scientific thinking. Excursions to local resources and field study add to our understanding of the significance of the river and its ecosystem. Students gain an appreciation for the need to act responsibly in order to preserve the river for future generations. During the mystery theme, students investigate crime scene chemistry and perform deduction studies. We learn about light waves, chromatography, and the function of the eyes. Investigations and inquiry science are threads that runs through the year. Students learn about scientific experiments, gathering and interpreting data, and the importance of legitimate skepticism in scientific inquiry.
Under the umbrella of the Connecticut River Watershed, we also study aspects of Vermont’s past, present, and future. We look at the ways the river has been used over time, from Native Americans, to the European settlers, to the present day. We make a timeline of events, and use primary sources such as photographs, letters, and newspapers to enhance our understanding of the past. The significance of the river in Abenaki culture is a key element of our studies, as well as mapping the river and noting the states through which it flows.
Fourth graders also investigate other cultures, with the overarching goals of both developing an appreciation of the daily life of people from the past and/or from another region of the world and better understanding how climate, geography, and available natural resources affect key elements of any culture. This year there is a school wide theme to learn about life in South Africa. During the latter half of the winter term, we undertake a unit shared with the third grade focusing on the civilization of Ancient China. Art, drama, and writing projects, along with field trips and visiting experts, are important tools for fourth graders to build and express their understanding of another culture. Biographical selections, the study of artifacts, map activities, and critical thinking exercises provide students with a range of experiences to increase their ability to understand a culture in greater depth. The fourth grade pays particular attention to the large rivers in China, looking for and making connections as we compare and contrast those rivers to our local rivers.
In fourth grade, students can expect to be assigned homework and half an hour of reading every evening. The goal of this work is to give students time to reinforce and practice concepts and skills covered in school. Other projects and research assignments are given on a regular basis. It is important that fourth graders learn to follow through on homework and develop a routine that will serve them in the coming years. Organization and time management skills are taught and practiced at school and at home.
The social curriculum at TGS is designed to complement the academic curriculum and help maintain a healthy social and learning environment. This includes a series of “Community Life” classes that complements and reinforces the classroom based social curricular activities and goals. The Community Life classes help highlight and develop important community skills such as cooperation, team building, personal and social responsibility, deep listening, mindful speech, emotional literacy, respect for diversity, conflict resolution, stress reduction and relaxation, self-awareness, and problem solving.
The fourth grade art curriculum builds on earlier years and is a time to learn techniques and skills to render fine detail and more complex color relationships. Students practice showing space in their work and begin using the foreground, middle ground, and background, as well as 2-D and 3-D as terms to describe art. Students also work with the concepts of value and complex symmetry. A few artists that we study are Georgia O’Keefe, Keith Haring, and Andrew Goldsworthy. Detailed drawings of hands and feet in the style of Leonardo da Vinci, Rube Goldberg silhouette collage drawings, and Elizabethan portraits are just a few highlights of the fourth grade curriculum.
Fourth graders focus on recorder duets, instrumental ensemble groups, improvisation, syncopated rhythms, and advancing their music writing and reading skills. Physical warm-ups, improvisation, and theater games are all part of elementary music classes.
Fourth graders meet together weekly for 4-6 Chorus, which incorporates choral singing, dance, and theater skills. This group performs together at the K-6 Spring Concert. Their program also includes one session per week of soprano recorder.
In the fourth grade, we again use Alex et Zoé as our text. This fun series features recordings of native French speakers and employs a workbook for written exercises. The book is structured in units that incorporate songs, games, phonetic activities, and reading and writing, all built around a body of vocabulary. Topics are greetings, possessions, colors, the alphabet, activities, food, days of the week, clothing, months, homes, telling time, and families. We meet twice a week.
The fourth graders meet in the library one period a week to choose books and to do various activities designed to give them practice using the library. They look at different types of print media, become familiar with the online library and the reference section, and practice finding books shelved by literature type, alphabetically, and by the Dewey decimal system. Activities include listening to literature read aloud, games, discussion, map making, treasure hunt, and report research using print and Internet sources. As part of the Red Clover Award program, they practice evaluating literary material by text, illustration, and information. Fourth grade library includes Internet activities designed to help students evaluate and use bookmarked websites.
Fourth graders use computers to learn and practice keyboarding skills, for writing and editing stories and reports, and for bringing several pieces from draft to published form. Understanding and skill with basic file management is emphasized. Using the Internet for research begins and web quests are introduced. Students are able to use a variety of programs including Microsoft Word and the Internet. Fourth graders use iPads to create short films in the spring.
Physcial Skills Development (PSD)
The PSD program in the fourth grade combines games and drills to help develop an enjoyment of sports and a variety of physical activities. We work to improve each individual’s muscular and cardiovascular strength and endurance by participating in soccer, cross-country skiing, field hockey, and Frisbee. Fourth graders meet three times a week with third graders at PSD time. Cooperation, teamwork, and good sportsmanship are encouraged, as well as good listening skills and positive efforts towards improvement.