Fourth grade marks a student’s entrance into the upper cluster, categorized as grades four through six. Responsibility and independence are central themes throughout the fourth-grade year. Moving into the upper cluster means students have an increased level of ownership of and personal responsibility for their learning.
To teach and nurture these skills, specific structures are put in place across the curriculum. Challenging and complex projects are scaffolded into manageable parts, allowing each student to be successful at each step, increasing confidence, independence, and accountability along the way. Weekly centers allow students to work in small groups on a variety of activities to promote choice, differentiation of academic instruction, opportunities for small-group sharing and discussion, and ownership of learning.
To further foster responsibility, fourth-grade is the first year students have a younger buddy. Fourth graders serve as mentors to kindergarten buddies; each fourth-grader is paired with one kindergartner for the year. The buddy relationships formed over the year, often blossom into long-term friendships, giving a sense of empowerment and leadership to the fourth-graders.
The language arts program in fourth grade marks the transition between learning to read and reading to learn. Students read several novels, short stories, and nonfiction texts throughout the year, with a balance of whole-group, small-group, and independent reading. Through novel, short story, and author studies students explore characters, setting, conflicts, resolutions and author’s craft. Nonfiction texts are used in conjunction with thematic studies and are used for researching, synthesizing, and extrapolating information.
The writing process is practiced throughout the school year, starting with prewriting and idea generation, moving onto drafting, then revising and editing, and finally publishing. Fourth graders write a variety of genres including a five paragraph essay. Writing mechanics, grammar and vocabulary are taught both in isolation and as part of the writing process.
The overarching goal is to help fourth-graders become fluent, avid, and critical readers and writers.
Everyday Mathematics: The University of Chicago School Mathematics Project forms the basis of math instruction in fourth grade. The series is designed to present real-life application of math concepts and enhance critical thinking skills. It emphasizes various ways to arrive at a solution, as well as increase basic concepts and skills. There is a mixture of whole-class instruction, small-group centers, partner work, and independent practice.
Thematic Studies (Social Studies)
The first essential question investigated in 4th grade Theme is what are the causes of animal endangerment and what can I do to help? Through researching the answers to this question, students learn two important skills: discerning salient information and note-taking. They present their research using a variety of media. The second essential question investigated is what makes a successful and sustainable civilization? Through researching a variety of ancient civilizations, students synthesize their findings to then create their own civilizations.
Technology in the Classroom
A one-to-one Chromebook program is introduced in fourth grade, allowing students daily opportunities to use technology in their learning. Various apps and websites are used for skill practice and students use technology to create videos, posters, and other multimedia projects across the curriculum.
Developing self-awareness, self-advocacy, a sense of community, and an understanding of different opinions and perspectives are at the heart of the fourth-grade social-emotional curriculum. Lessons to develop these concepts are woven into literature and thematic studies, as well explicit schoolwide dispositions. The school-wide use of Responsive Classroom practices are the formal curricula for social emotional learning.
Fourth graders work with their kindergarten buddies to choose a service learning project that connects to either an academic subject about which they are passionate or a social-emotional topic. For example, last year fourth graders and kindergarteners worked together to raise money and awareness for the Okapi, an endangered species native to The Congo - home to two of our teachers.