Fourth Grade Curriculum
From character study in literature, through values instruction integrated throughout the language arts, social studies, religious and science programs, our fourth graders are immersed in the elements of good character and successful achievement. Many of these youngsters are able to assess their own strengths and challenges objectively. Through guided goal setting and an emphasis on the journey, our students learn the value of a strategic life plan. We see more deliberate application of our Traits for Success in academic responsibility and achievement.
Traits of Success
The fourth grade actively incorporates all St. John’s Traits for Success into most areas of its curriculum. A conscious effort to recognize traits in our novel readings brings traits into focus. Fourth graders will complete a social studies project in which they write about what Traits of Success a pioneer would need to succeed to be successful in class.
The objective of the reading program is to promote a love of the English language and its effective use in both oral and written form. The core of the language arts program focuses on three novels during the year: Shiloh, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, and The Phantom Tollbooth. Story elements of character, setting, plot, conflict, point of view and theme are examined. Students gain a greater understanding of their reading material and an awareness of character development while enhancing their listening and speaking skills through structured discussions, written responses, films and drama. Connections to St. John’s traits for success are examined in detail. In addition, fourth graders are expected to develop a respect for the values of the written word by reading nightly for at least 20 minutes. In addition to the three novels studied in class, students are to read four novels and present book reports in various forms of media.
Children in fourth grade benefit in a myriad ways from listening to a good story several times per week. They gain a feel for fluent reading and good expression. They can enjoy higher-level text than their own reading abilities allow. Carefully selected books offer opportunities for teachers to help students identify story elements and effective writing to influence their own craft. Read Aloud rekindles the pleasures of reading. Children who experience great books develop a critical taste for good literature. In fourth grade, the following are examples of books read to the children to fulfill these goals as well as provide curricular connections: There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom, Number the Stars, On My Honor and a variety of different books from various authors.
In fourth grade, there is an emphasis on writing across the curriculum using 6-Trait writing skills. Students write in a creative journal, which encourages the expression of thought on paper. Fourth grade students study the elements of paragraph writing, organization, style, and mechanics, before progressing into forms of writing. There is a strong emphasis on writing detailed paragraphs. Students will be able to demonstrate writing a good opening sentence that contains both the topic and the main idea, developing descriptive supporting sentences and, finally, summing up their paragraphs with strong closing statements. Other writing assignments include two five-paragraph research essays. To support their writing skills, students study spelling, mechanics, usage, and syntax, applying these developing skills to writing tasks. A primary focus on the writing process is at the center of the writing program. Students begin their writing process by brainstorming ideas in the pre-writing stage, writing a rough draft, revising and editing alone or with their peers, and publishing a final copy.
Spelling is taught through direct instruction and daily practice and provides an eclectic approach to word study. Spellwell Book Cc and D provide a multitude of exercises where the students not only learn how to spell the spelling words, but understanding their meanings. Bi-weekly spelling packets provide word study to guide students in daily practice. Bi-weekly tests evaluate students’ mastery of the spelling patterns as well as comprehension of their meanings.
Vocabulary is taught alternating weeks from spelling. Wordly Wise 3000 provides a variety of opportunities for students to acquire and to properly use new vocabulary. Bi-weekly multiple-choice tests are administered that evaluate student understanding of word meaning in context. Vocabulary is also studied and assessed in reading. Vocabulary words are selected from classroom novels and are defined by students; students then construct sentences that convey their understanding of the words’ meanings.
Throughout the year, grammar is taught through direct instruction and practice 1 to 2 days per week to build a fund of skills and knowledge of structure. Grammar and punctuation are also taught and reinforced from daily writing assignments. This integrated approach provides the primary means for instruction, practice and assessment, which drives instruction, during the latter months of the school year. Most fourth graders are independent on the keyboard and use word processing tools to develop their spelling and grammar skills while in the process of authentic writing. Spell Check and Grammar Check are effective skill building programs that help students apply to their own writing, the skills taught in isolated lessons.
The Houghton Mifflin Math program works to instill the attitude that math is an integral part of life. This goal is accomplished through the use of different techniques that foster both exploration and discovery. Problem solving is introduced in common-life contexts that provide the basis for more advanced concepts later in math as well as in other subject areas. Work is done both individually and in partnership with other students, allowing them to learn through the ideas of others while establishing good cooperation skills. Daily routines such as five-minute quizzes, worksheets, and study link homework sheets allow for practice of basic facts as well as teacher assessment of student understanding. Skills and concepts are also reinforced through the use of math games designed to be fun while increasing mastery in those areas. Emphasis is placed on establishing a connection between past experiences and the exploration of new discoveries and concepts. This gives the students the ability to apply internalized concepts and skills to new and different challenges they will face in the future.
The concepts that are covered in fourth grade are numeration, operations, number facts, order relations, and number systems; measures and measurements; geometry and spatial sense; functions, patterns, and sequences; algebra and uses of variables; and, algorithms and procedures.
The focus of the fourth grade science curriculum is based on study of the scientific processes: observing, classifying, measuring, prediction, hypothesis, and drawing conclusions. Students learn classification skills, which involves the arranging of objects or events in order or by like properties. Before performing experiments, the students learn to make predictions and convert questions into hypotheses. After performing an experiment, conclusions are made and supported by observation.
Science units for fourth grade are varied and exciting and intended to develop the cognitive abilities of this age group. Current science topics are:
Geology: Fourth grade students explore geology and the Earth. They identify and differentiate the three types of rock. Students discover the process by which rocks are formed and their many uses. They also study the layers of the earth and the effects of plate shifts, e.g. earthquakes and volcanoes.
Ecology: Another interdisciplinary unit on conservation introduces students to the fragile balance between man and nature. In a culminating activity to this unit, a Power Point presentation integrates technology. Student’s expressive language skills are applied throughout the production of this oral presentation.
Energy (Sound, Magnets, Electrical, and Light): Students discover how sound vibrations are made. Through experimentation, they discover how sound travels through the air, water and solids. Construction of an instrument by each student exhibits how pitch of sound can be changed.
Magnets: Students explore kinds of magnets, what they attract, and the forces that surround them.
Electrical: Exploring the usage of wires, batteries and lights teaches the students the methods utilized to complete circuits in our homes.
Light: Students learn how light travels and how it can be bent or refracted. They also learn about different lightwaves’ lengths and how the eye sees color. A special focus on using a variety of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) activities and experiments are used to teach the various concepts of energy.
STEM: Students design and build a catapult to demonstrate potential and kinetic energy out of various materials.
The objective of the social studies program is to promote students awareness of the world around them and their place in it. The academic focus is on the United States.
United States: The year begins with a study of the geography and landscape of the different regions across our country. Students study geographic terms, physical formations, different environments, and political boundaries. Discussions take place on issues such as commonality and diversity, continuity and change, and interaction within different cultures.
Maryland History: The last part of the year is spent in preparation for our St. Mary’s trip as students learn how the state of Maryland came into being. Explorers, conflict and cooperation, individualism and interdependence, and discovery are all examined.
Study skills are taught throughout the social studies units. Emphasis is placed on reading comprehension, note-taking, test-taking and analytical summarization. Students will also learn research skills by referencing encyclopedias, dictionaries and the Internet.
Fourth grade is on a year study cycle of Australia, Ireland and Russia. An in-depth unit of study during International Week involves a study of the country’s land, resources, climate, culture, government and history.
In fourth grade, attention is placed on coordination of articles, nouns, and adjectives as well as the conjugation of regular verbs in present tense. The objective at this level is to teach grammatical structures that assist students in communication. Work in the classroom is designed to develop proficiency in listening and speaking. Students discuss daily routines, daily life, and express opinions in Spanish. From ancient Pre-Colombian civilization to the ways of life in South American countries, videos are used to give the students a deeper understanding of the traditions, customs, activities, and history of Spanish-speaking nations. Classes meet for three forty-minute classes each week.
Grade four begins the year studying the Covenants of the Old Testament. Prophecy is the next unit of study, including, Jeremiah, Micah and Isaiah. This is followed by the study of Psalms. Students evaluate both the types of and structure of Psalms and create a class psalm.
As winter approaches, fourth graders begin to study Advent and Christmas, including John the Baptist, Joseph’s dream, and the birth of Christ. In January, students move into the miracles of Jesus and explore two parables of Jesus: the Workers in the Vineyard, performed as a skit, and the story of the Prodigal Son. The Reign of God is considered in the lessons of the Peaceable Kingdom, the Golden Rule, and the Great Commandment. Fourth graders compare the Golden Rule to the Great Commandment and are asked to evaluate the reasons for adhering to the Great Commandment.
Students explore the meaning and purpose of Lent and celebrate Easter. Fourth graders also review the Great Sacraments, Baptism and Eucharist (New Covenant), focused on in third grade. They then complete an in-depth study of the sacraments of Confirmation, Reconciliation, Ordination, Marriage, and Anointing of the Sick. Students are shown how to use the Book of Common Prayer to understand the promises and responsibilities inherent for those who partake of the sacraments.
Students examine church history, including the Creeds, the Reformation, the Bible, the Episcopal Church in America, and Missionaries. As the year ends, the focus is on ways that people can live out the gospel message in their own lives. Religion classes end the year with a celebration of Pentecost and summer blessings upon each child.
In general music in Kindergarten through fourth grade, students explore four key areas of development; music performance, music literacy, music appreciation, and classroom and global connections. Students perform through singing, dancing, and playing of instruments. Students acquire and apply music literacy skills through development of musical vocabulary. Students listen and respond to music from a variety of cultural and historical sources. Students make connections between music, their world, and the greater global community through their singing, dancing, listening, and playing. Students have many opportunities to connect to and demonstrate the Traits of Success particularly Courage, Persistence, Positive Attitude, and Attentiveness as they study and perform music. Students in fourth grade sing independently with tonal accuracy and dynamic contrast using multi-part rounds, canons, partner songs and descants. Students demonstrate an understanding of musical genre and historical or cultural period through performance and written response listening. Students continue to acquire a wide range of musical vocabulary and use terms appropriately during written or oral response. Students participate in coordinated movement activities and sing and play instruments confidently.
To demonstrate these skills, each student participate in the three performances annually including the Festival of the Arts. Students also complete performance-based assessments on or above grade level expectation. Students demonstrate connections between music and other subjects through satisfactory completion of research projects, composition, and choreographing. Fourth graders play more complex accompaniments using recorders and spend a significant amount of time studying African-American spirituals and gospel songs.
Fourth grade students work in a variety of media including pencils, markers, pastels, watercolor, tempera etc. Children complete 2-D and 3-D projects. Students work on a volcano project which corresponds to their science studies. The curriculum provides the opportunity for children to learn and develop skills in drawing, painting, composition and crafting with more emphasis put on correct shapes, details and shading. The main rules of perspective and figure drawing will be reinforced. Demonstration and step by step explanation of how to complete projects are used to ensure children understand the project and how to complete it. The instruction about safe and proper use of equipment is a part of the lessons.
The fourth grade Physical Education program introduces new opportunities for the students to experience a wide variety of activities. These activities aid in developing motor ability, fitness, teamwork, sportsmanship, and sports skills. The program exposes students to a variety of activities that are both competitive and non-competitive in nature.
The fourth grade program begins to refine the necessary skills that enable our students to safely and successfully participate in individual and team sports throughout their lifetimes. Small sided games encourage the team concept and introduce more demanding game strategies. Fitness games encourage the children to challenge themselves and introduce them to the health components of fitness. The traits for success are reinforced during a variety of cross curricular and global offerings.
The Physical Education department organizes and supervises school events such as community building week, international festival, blue-gold events and field day. An appreciation for teamwork and good sportsmanship is emphasized in class and team activities.
During fourth grade, students develop an age-appropriate understanding of technology concepts, systems and operations, building on their previous years’ experiences. By the end of fourth grade, we expect St. John’s technology students to be able to work independently in all software programs that we use throughout the year, including operating the related peripherals, tools and menus. Fourth graders are expected to be able to create advanced Slideshow presentations and animated movies, as well as any necessary bibliographic references. Keyboarding practice results in an overall class average of around twenty words per minute. They are introduced to programming, and will be able to use basic programming logic to compete in class-wide games. Fourth graders are expected to explain the meaning of copyright as it applies to various media, as well as copyright infringement. They articulate their own personal views about music and movie downloading, as well as plagiarism. Finally, projects involving data charting and spreadsheets allow fourth graders to explain the function and uses of a spreadsheet. Their experience includes projects that encourage critical thinking and decision making, digital citizenship, creativity, communication and collaboration, and finally, basic research and information fluency.
Students in fourth grade are introduced to the Dewey Decimal System. Students learn to use the networked catalog program and know how to be responsible library users by checking out their own materials using the automated circulation system. Books selected for emphasis and sharing during the library class are often based on the success traits of Courage, Faith and Positive Attitude.
Over the past several years, our fourth graders have participated in St. John’s African Palms program. They also team up with first grade in the spring for our Mother’s Day Bazaar. Students make a product and sell it at the bazaar as a part of a unit on making change with math and understanding supply and demand in social studies. All money earned is donated to a charity that is connected to the school community. For example money has been donated to ALS and Multiple Sclerosis in honor of members of our school community dealing with these issues.
Traditionally, fourth grade goes to Historic St. Mary’s in the spring of each year. This field trip coincides with the Maryland History study done in Social Studies at this time. Often in the fall, the fourth grade also enjoys a nature hike on a local trail (Rachel Carson Trail in Laytonsville, MD) where they look for different ecosystems and search for evidence of decomposure which is studied in science. Fourth grade also takes a trip in the winter to the Montgomery County Courthouse to see how a courtroom is run and to witness the judicial process in action. This integrates two different subject areas: reading and social studies. Fourth graders hold a mock trial after reading the novel, Shiloh, and they learn about the judicial system and county government in social studies. Last, in the late fall, students take a trip to the Baltimore Museum of Industry where they get to participate in a STEM activity of building a car based on wind power (an energy unit in science). They also participate in an assembly line where they build a smaller version of Henry Ford’s Model T. This integrates into our studies of the Midwest in social studies.
As a continuance from third grade, students participate in monthly declamation days. They memorize poems about different themes and recite them to their class. The best recitals are then chosen for presentation in front of the entire student body. Declamation Day develops student leadership and is a chance for every student to perform in front of an audience.