Grades 4 and 5 have three homeroom sections at each grade level. Grade 4 students learn language arts and social studies in their academic homerooms. Beginning in the winter, Grade 4 students regroup, and many change classrooms, for math. In Grade 5, teachers specialize in an academic subject, so students move among Grade 5 classrooms to have different teachers for language arts, history and social studies, and math. Accelerated sections are available in Grades 4 and 5 math, and accelerated work in language arts is offered to students through a process of differentiation within their classes. Special classes continue in Spanish, science, religion, art, music, and physical education. Teachers integrate technology into student learning experiences throughout the Upper School.
Promoting a love of the English language and its effective use in both oral and written form is the objective of the language arts program. Students strengthen their skills and improve comprehension through whole-class shared novels, small-group shared texts, and independent books. Students reflect on what they read in thoughtful, meaningful responses. They examine the elements of genres such as fantasy, realistic fiction, and historical fiction. They continue to develop skills necessary for reading nonfiction texts for meaning.
The writing program focuses on style, voice, and mechanics. Students move both individually and as a group through the process of generating and developing an idea, drafting, revising, editing, and creating a final product in both narrative and expository writing. They study authors and follow the examples of their craft to hone elements of style, as well as organization, paragraphs, and mechanics. In addition to these individual writing projects, writing is integrated throughout the curriculum. Students are frequently called upon to respond in writing to topics in literature, math, science, and social studies.
We reinforce writing mechanics and grammar through explicit instruction and daily practice. Spelling continues to be a focus in Grade 4. Students begin by studying high-frequency words and then move on to study specific spelling patterns and rules. Grade 4 students use Wordly Wise to encourage growth in vocabulary and verbal reasoning. Students also learn and review content-specific vocabulary words in related subject areas.
Language arts work is often integrated with social studies content and includes geography, the arts, fiction reading and writing, nonfiction reading and writing, and science and technology. Further development of nonfiction reading and writing skills as well as presentation skills occurs during an end-of-year travel agency project highlighted in the social studies curriculum.
The overarching theme of Grade 4 social studies is exploration of the question How do physical and social environments affect individuals and groups? Students study different time periods and varying perspectives in United States history to expand their knowledge of their local community and other areas within and beyond the Mid-Atlantic region.
Grade 4 students begin to identify places, events, and documents that represent the history of the United States. A study of colonization and the American Revolution provides students with an overview of the historical factors that have shaped their community and nation. Using a case study of Chestertown, Maryland, near the Chesapeake Bay, students identify the geographical features that influenced explorers and settlers to come to the region during the colonial period. A field trip aboard the schooner Sultana, docked in Chestertown on the Chester River, shows students the ways in which some people lived and the concerns they had in the eighteenth century. These studies also expand students’ developing understanding of freedom and democracy as they examine heroes, traitors, and great thinkers. Throughout this social studies unit, students acquire greater understanding of citizenship, history, geography, and culture from multiple perspectives.
In the second and third trimesters, students study Lewis and Clark’s expedition and its impact on the ever-evolving American story. Students use historical maps and read In Their Own Words: Lewis and Clark by George Sullivan, diaries, and nonfiction accounts to learn about United States history during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. A writing project during the Lewis and Clark unit requires students to create a first-person narrative journal, much like Lewis and Clark wrote on their expedition.
At the end of the year, students focus on world geography by researching and reporting on physical and cultural aspects of different countries. Students learn how to read various world and continent maps and work in groups to study the geographic, economic, and cultural aspects of one particular country. Students then assume the role of a “travel agent” and present their findings to “clients” both in writing and as a presentation.
The Grade 4 math program is built on the curriculum Investigations in Number, Data, and Space. By undertaking a series of related investigations, students deepen their understanding of areas of mathematics previously introduced, while also exploring and developing an understanding of new areas. The curriculum focuses on five strands of mathematics: Number and operations, algebra, data analysis, measurement, and geometry.
In the number and operations strand, students begin by returning to the operations of multiplication and division. They strengthen their computation strategies while deepening their problem-solving skills. Students learn to solve computation problems efficiently and accurately. They then move on to work with fractions and decimals. They continue to develop their understanding of part-whole relationships and move into adding and subtracting fractional parts. In the algebra strand, students determine missing numbers in equations and begin to use symbols to represent numbers. In the data-analysis strand, students read and create increasingly complex graphs. They identify common statistical markers, such as median and mode, and learn to draw meaningful conclusions based on a given data set. In the measurement strand, students use both standard and non-standard forms of measure. Finally, in the geometry strand, students deepen their understanding of shapes and continue to explore two-dimensional geometry. Throughout the strands, there is a coordinate focus on computation and number sense. In addition, students benefit from daily practice and review in each of the five strands.
Experimentation, observation, analysis, and collaborative discussion drive the Grade 4 science experience. Science is an active discipline, and Grade 4 students are expected to be involved participants in a variety of activities that will ultimately enhance their scientific literacy. In the beginning of the year, students explore energy and change through first-hand experiences. Students investigate electromagnetic forces and useful applications of electromagnetism in everyday life through engineering design challenges. Students explore energy transfer through waves, repeating patterns of motion that result in sound and motion. In the Grade 4 environments unit, students study structures and behaviors of organisms and relationships between organisms and their environments. Understanding these relationships, students are armed with the knowledge and awareness of limits and how human behavior can change environments. Students explore a variety of organisms across the unit, conducting experiments, collecting data,and analyzing and interpreting results. Grade 4 students participate in a fish-hatching program to help restore populations of the American Shad in the Potomac River. Following the release of newly hatched American Shad, students explore river systems, erosion, and patterns of change over time.