Year of Transitions
Fourth grade represents a time of mastery and preparation for new beginnings, with students participating in several traditions that mark the end of their time in Lower School. One academic highlight is a year-long study of the United States and the people who live here, first exploring the essential questions, "What is a democracy?" and "What make us a United States?" Another signature theme is notable women, with students spending the year exploring the essential question, "What does it mean to be notable?" As part of that study, students read biographies of famous women, and then write a monologue in the voice of that woman. Each girl takes on the persona of that individual at the “Women in Wax” Museum in the fall. Later in the year, the music program reaches a pinnacle in the form of the much-anticipated fourth grade play.
Fourth graders assume several leadership responsibilities, such as raising and lowering the American flag and the Agnes Irwin flag each day, leading the Lower School in the Pledge of Allegiance at the weekly assembly, taking attendance in their homerooms, recycling for the Lower School building, acting as PreKindergarten and Kindergarten helpers at lunch and serving as messengers. A special part of the annual May Fair celebration is the fourth grade’s traditional May Pole dance. The year culminates with a Moving-Up Day ceremony, where students receive their certificate of achievement on stage in front of their family and friends.
In Lower School art, a student is encouraged to discover her own artistic voice, express herself with confidence, connect with the physical world, and think and feel in new ways. Students are introduced to basic design principles as they mix colors, paint, draw, weave, sew, make books and construct in numerous other ways. Art teachers work closely with homeroom teachers to plan art projects that enrich and personalize core curriculum themes. Meets once weekly.
In fourth grade, students interested in playing a woodwind instrument can enroll in voluntary, small group instruction, which meets meets once a week before school. Girls who take this class may continue to study their instrument in Middle School. Instruments can be rented through Zeswitz Music Company.
All Lower School students are introduced to the soprano recorder as part of the curricular instrumental classroom instruction. Starting in third grade, students who would like to learn to play a woodwind, brass, percussion, or string instrument can enroll in voluntary, small group instruction. Each group meets once a week. The instruments currently offered are flute, clarinet, trumpet, violin, cello and percussion. Affordable instrumental rentals are conveniently arranged.
The language arts program addresses the areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening. Whole group and small group lessons focus on developing comprehension strategies, fluency and expanding vocabulary. Oral discussions and literature response journals allow the students to demonstrate their understanding of more complex texts. A variety of literary genres are used, including historical fiction, realistic fiction, fantasy, poetry and non-fiction. Students also learn to select books that are appropriate for independent reading. Fourth grade writers apply the six traits of writing to personal narrative, persuasive and informational pieces. The writing process includes pre-writing, drafting, editing and revising. Students develop their speaking and listening skills through sharing written work, favorite books and research findings.
On their way to becoming independent library patrons, fourth graders use library terminology, encyclopedias and other reference materials for curriculum-related research. They read books from various genres and give spontaneous oral book reviews to classmates. Our shared reading time includes a variety of fiction and non-fiction. Computer skills are coordinated with the technology department.
The math program promotes conceptual thinking, different ways of solving problems and sharing strategies. Use of manipulatives, games and collaborative learning strengthen understanding. Fourth graders expand their knowledge of multiplication and division. Other mathematical topics include: place value, multi-digit addition and subtraction, geometry, money, graphing, fractions, measurement and time.
By fourth grade, students are musically literate, knowing how to read and write on the musical staff and how to sing in two- and three-part harmony. Each student's repertoire of songs is extensive, and fourth graders experience the rewards of performance from the annual winter holiday concerts to the concluding Spring Sings in May. The fourth grade original musical production is a capstone of the year, with each student having both a singing and speaking solo.
The focus of fourth grade physical education is on teaching students the basic skills needed to play team sports. Emphasis is placed on applying learned skills to a competitive situation, winning with grace, and accepting defeat. In addition, students learn the rules of safe play as well as how to properly handle and care for equipment. Competition is used positively to promote enjoyment of sports and to provide for continued social development. Meets four times a week.
Our Lower School science program uses the BSCS Science TRACS curriculum, an inquiry-based program that incorporates many cooperative-learning opportunities in a modular format. The life science module concentrates on the observation of plants and animals in local ecosystems. In physical science, students investigate the changing properties of five simple substances: salt, cornstarch, baking soda, alum and talcum powder. For the earth and space science module, students examine the effects of weathering, erosion, deposition and volcanic eruptions on the Earth’s surface.
In fourth grade, the overall theme for the year is the study of the United States. Students begin by studying the concept of democracy. The girls then study the United States region by region, comparing and contrasting geopolitical attributes, followed by the study of immigration in the United States. Students focus on the use of map skills and learn to read non-fiction textbooks. During the winter term, each student participates in a research project that focuses on the integrated application of 21st century skills, culminating in a grade-wide Regions Fair. Current events are presented throughout the year.
With greater confidence in their Spanish speaking skills, fourth grade students continue to develop listening comprehension and enthusiasm for the Spanish language and culture. This course exposes students to spoken Spanish. Participation in classroom activities is mostly in Spanish, with emphasis on using proper pronunciation. The topics presented are a revision of the ones taught in previous years, but at a more advanced level. Additionally, fourth grade students review all 6 conjugations in regular (-ir/er/ar) and irregular verbs (estar, ser, ir, etc.) and all 6 possessive pronouns (e.g. Es mi regla, son tus bolígrafos, es su libro), professions, household tasks, food and restaurant vocabulary, buying and selling in a store (review of numbers and money), telling time, basic landmarks/nature vocabulary, and traveling (review of transport vocabulary, hotels etc.).
Reading and writing skills learned in third grade are further developed through completion of more extensive worksheets and activities using the SMARTboard and laptops. In addition, students also reinforce and further their knowledge of other disciplines through the foreign language. Students develop an appreciation for diversity as they learn about different cultures. Geography, food, music, dances, arts and crafts, holidays, costumes and traditions of different Spanish-speaking nations are incorporated into the program through the study of Spain and Latin American communities in the United States. This 30-minute class meets daily.
To build computer proficiency while working on projects that enhance the curriculum, students focus on keyboarding, file management, web navigation, and basic skills in word processing and spreadsheets. Graphing, timeline, and multimedia projects correspond with various units in social studies, science, language arts, and math. Past projects have included participating in Web Quests, researching a state in preparation for a state fair, creating timelines to highlight events in their studies of notable women, and using an on-line chat room to discuss favorite books with other students.
The Fourth Grade Wellness program begins by the girls reflecting on one self’s traits, how to be a good friend and the growing role in their family. Being an effective leader and role model, making good decisions and solving problems as more challenging situations arise and boosting self confidence are also examined. The unit comes to a close by discussing proper hygiene and body changes that occur during puberty and the onset of menstruation.