Fourth Grade Curriculum
In Fourth grade, our students are immersed in the elements of good character and successful achievement. Students are able to assess their own strengths and challenges objectively. The STJES Success Traits are incorporated into the Fourth Grade curriculum through novels, writing, and assignments.
In Fourth grade, the reading program promotes a love of the English language and its effective use in both oral and written form. 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 Fourth grade, there is an emphasis on writing across the curriculum. Students study the elements of paragraph writing, organization, style, and mechanics. There is a strong emphasis on writing detailed paragraphs. To support their writing skills, students study spelling, mechanics, usage, and syntax, applying these developing skills to writing tasks. They also learn about the writing and editing process.
Spelling/Vocabulary/Grammar: Spelling is taught through direct instruction and daily practice and provides an eclectic approach to word study. Bi-weekly spelling provides word study to guide students and Bi-weekly tests evaluate students’ mastery of the spelling patterns and comprehension. In between, students study vocabulary gleaned from novels and curriculum; students are assessed
Vocabulary is studied and assessed in reading; Throughout the year, grammar is taught through direct instruction and practice 1 to 2 days per week to build a foundation 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.
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 Google Slide 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. The construction of an instrument by each student exhibits how the pitch of the 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.
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 participates in performances annually including the Festival of the Arts. Students also complete performance-based assessments on or above grade level expectations. 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 the 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 discomposure 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.
Each year, the students participate in the International Festival. One week is devoted to the study of a country. The selection of a country is made on a three-year cycle. During this time, children are immersed in the study of the selected country, with all classroom activities, literature, and projects centering on that country.