A fifth grader calculates the school's weekly trash production—and four easy ways to reduce waste.
Big projects and long-term investigations are at the heart of the fourth grade curriculum. Students design, evaluate and re-build model cars in science. They investigate the ways that people come to the United States and consider the question, “What does it mean to be an American?” They learn as much as they can about one of the 50 states and assemble an exhibit, complete with a three-dimensional map, for their State Fair. They write an extensive biography of a significant individual, learn to play the recorder and sculpt exquisite clay candle houses. In all of these endeavors, the focus is on learning by doing. Through the process of revising and reflecting on their own work, students practice perseverance and develop a sense of well-earned pride in their finished products.
- Social Studies
- Language Arts
- Physical Education
- World Language
Places and changes are at the heart of fourth grade social studies. The year begins with an investigation of the immigrant experience—the conditions people face and the challenges they overcome by relocating to America. A second exploration involves the physical and social changes of puberty. As our students recognize their own emerging strengths, skills and abilities, they study the lives of influential people to consider the impact that individuals can have on the world. Independence and joy in learning are especially visible during the study of US geography. Students take responsibility for a substantial research project about one of the states, culminating in a celebratory 50 States Fair, which provides a showcase for their accomplishments and their new knowledge.
Fourth graders meet three periods per six-day cycle with a science teacher in the Lower School lab. The curriculum focuses on the basic science skills needed to conduct experimental investigations. Students explore and manipulate materials, generate original, testable questions and share results with each other to further their understanding of scientific concepts. They keep science journals and learn to document their experiments. During the fall, students investigate basic properties of solids, liquids and gases, with a special emphasis on the water cycle. Projects include designing a process to separate an unknown mixture and designing and building a thermos. In the spring, the curriculum focuses on force, air and water pressure, the physics of sound, and flight. Students design and build model cars, gliders, rockets, hovercrafts and parachutes.
Fourth graders build literacy skills and confidence all year. They read longer books related to the themes of their social studies content and explore the way chapter books are organized. As students immerse themselves in excellent literature, they analyze the structure of stories and the elements of books. Comprehension exercises focus on details, identifying and explaining main ideas, and language appreciation. Students keep reading journals. Daily involvement in the writing process, with both teacher and peer feedback, guides the students toward greater clarity, more specific detail and an increased awareness of spelling and grammar. One of the highlights of the year is a biography project, which involves focused research, careful writing and revision and a lively presentation.
With a foundation in all four basic arithmetic operations, fourth graders apply mathematical reasoning to challenges in a wide range of areas. Students explore, measure and calculate geometric concepts such as perimeter and area. They expand their understanding of multiplication to include factors and multiples. They learn to construct and solve long division and multi-digit multiplication problems, add and subtract decimals, and explain their understanding using mathematical language. They learn the meaning of measures of central tendency and calculate these values with different types of data sets. They graph number pairs using Cartesian coordinates, determine elapsed time and solve word problems using a variety of operations.
The fourth grade year has an emphasis on art history. With each project, students are encouraged to fully explore their creative potential through experimentation with techniques, references to art history, and expressions of personal experiences. Self-evaluation, decision making and flexibility are encouraged. A highlight of the fourth grade year is the ceramic candle-house project, which the students proudly display during a special winter-themed celebration in December.
Fourth graders continue using the Kodaly Concept, a comprehensive program to train basic musical skill and teach the reading and writing of music and develop a joy of singing, dancing and playing together. Students build on what they've learned, adding the melodic elements low la and low so and 16th notes and dotted rhythms to their rhythmic repertoire. Their repertoire of part-singing expands with more difficult rounds and partner songs, as well as reading in two parts. This is the year the students begin playing the soprano recorder using the absolute note naming system. Listening skills are honed through examples of symphonic, choral and folk music. The dance program continues with learning to square dance, and social skills are reinforced through small-group dances and ensemble work. As in the earlier grades, the primary goal is to foster independence, enjoyment and confidence in singing, moving and playing music.
Drama classes reinforce fourth graders' growing skills in stamina, literacy and comprehension. Lessons emphasize focus, concentration and memorization as the students participate in longer scenes. They engage in storytelling and plot construction, define and give examples of ethical concerns, and analyze selections for important components of a plot (e.g. inciting moment, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement, conclusion). Some projects involve creating a conflict and a resolution for that conflict. Students also begin learning about offering critique: how to look for positive components of planning and performance, and how to suggest improvements for unclear or ineffective areas of performance.
The three sections of fourth grade participate in physical education together and are divided by the three faculty members for activities. This course stresses daily physical exercise and the further development of individual and team skills. Soccer, field hockey, football, basketball, gymnastics, floor hockey, baseball, softball, juggling, volleyball and badminton are explored more thoroughly and extensively, stressing the basics in skill and rules for team play. The mile run is also done in the fall and spring. Many modified games and large group games are played throughout the year.
As their reading, writing and keyboard skills expand, fourth graders use the online catalog for locating desired materials. They begin to differentiate between fact and opinion in nonfiction texts. Students also gain research skills by selecting topics, recognizing the need for background knowledge, and brainstorming questions to clarify the topic and the information they require. They learn proper citation formats and practice organizing information from sources by text marking, paraphrasing and summarizing the information in notes and outlines.
Expanding on listening and speaking abilities that began in third grade, students acquire more vocabulary and grammatical structures, often by playing games, sharing puzzles or participating in activities with friends. While the main emphasis in this program remains aural/oral, there is a written component as well. Activities are supplemented by nursery rhymes, videos, dialogues, puppets and songs. Topics include sports, professions, days of the week, animals, numbers, adjectives, the verbs "Avoir" and "être", and simple negation. A popular French card game is played in class to reinforce vocabulary. Special projects include celebrating Mardis Gras, the “Galette des Rois” (King’s Day), hand-sewing a “beret” and making their own board game.
With a cultural focus on the contemporary Spanish-speaking world, students continue to work toward proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking. Lessons include the present tense of regular and certain commonly used irregular verbs, as well as stem-changing verbs, possessive and descriptive adjectives, noun-adjective agreement, comparatives, interrogatives and contractions. These grammatical concepts are presented within the context of situational dialogues and DVDs that depict the daily activities of young people from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries and cultures. Vocabulary exercises expand the students' fluency as they facilitate the gradual transition toward reading and writing. Special projects include posters about families, presenting short skits and cooking quesadillas and cocadas.
Fourth grade Chinese emphasizes listening, speaking, reading and writing using engaging activities and games. Students learn to talk about professions, places of residence, physical appearance, rooms and furniture. Students present for others in class, and learn from each other in group activities. A STEM unit is typically incorporated into the fifth grade. It usually includes a survey and students express their results in charts and bar graphs. Students are expected to know the basics of writing Chinese characters. They also learn about the etymology of many Chinese characters to help with their sight word recognition.
Presentation skills and digital communication are the focus of technology classes in fourth grade. Students get Foote School email accounts (for use within the school community only) and learn about responsible practices. They expand their knowledge of editing skills, improve their keyboarding efficiency, and use word processing tools to revise written work. Teachers also model online research techniques throughout the year.
In early spring, Kindergartners tap Foote’s sugar maples to learn about making sap into syrup. The unit combines science, math, social studies and language arts, ending with a celebratory sap boil and pancake breakfast.