Student Chloe presents her research on Colonial America during the Colonial Expo.
Fourth-graders learn to determine the theme of a story from details in the text as well as summarize the text and include key details and events. They practice drawing inferences from a text by identifying evidence in the reading to support their ideas and to provide in-depth descriptions of characters, settings, and events. They begin to understand more fully that we read for a variety of purposes including acquiring information and personal fulfillment. By the end of the year, students understand that good readers employ a variety of strategies; including making connections to their lives, to the world, and to other texts; to help them understand text.
A significant focus in fourth grade is on developing and strengthening the skills involved in reading informational texts. The students practice identifying key details in historical texts that help them to understand what happened and why. They practice integrating information from multiple sources in order to write and speak about a subject knowledgeably. They also compare and contrast various accounts of the same event or topic, identifying the points of difference, and then applying critical thinking skills to attempt to explain the reasons behind those differences.
Through a multi-sensory study of grade-level Greek and Latin affixes and roots, students learn the meaning of word parts which supports their reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. They use these affixes and roots as clues to determine the meanings of words. When writing, they choose words and phrases to convey their ideas precisely.
Students consult both print and digital reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses) to find the pronunciation and determine or clarify the precise meaning of key words and phrases.
Supported by their previous training, students in grade four demonstrate automaticity with the basic facts of mathematics. They are encouraged to continue to apply their understanding of models (arrays, equal-size groups, and equal intervals on a number line), place value, and properties of operations to develop and use efficient and accurate methods to multiply multi-digit numbers. They accurately estimate products and calculate them mentally and using pencil and paper.
Students at this level also develop an understanding of decimal notation as an extension of the base-ten number system. They understand fractions and decimals as representing more numbers between 0 and 1, between 1 and 2, and so on. Students compare and order decimals and, by working with decimals, they extend their ability to recognize equivalent fractions. They recognize area as an attribute of two-dimensional regions, and understand that a square unit is the standard unit for measuring area.
They build on their earlier work with symmetry and congruence to encompass transformations, including line and rotational symmetry. As part of understanding two-dimensional shapes, students measure and classify angles. They also continue solving problems by using and making frequency tables, bar graphs, and picture graphs. They apply their understanding of place value to develop and use graphs, such as stem- and leaf-plots, and they are introduced to hands-on equations as a concrete method to solve algebraic linear equations.
In their unit on physical science, students in grade four study magnetism and electricity through a variety of means. Not only do they observe the interactions of permanent magnets with other materials and construct open, closed, parallel, and series circuits, but they also differentiate between insulators and conductors, construct an electromagnet, and observe that magnets display forces of attraction and repulsion.
In their life science unit, students at this level focus on the human circulatory system by learning appropriate terms to describe the structure and function of the circulatory system. They also identify chambers and main blood vessels and trace the flow of blood through the body. To further their knowledge of life sciences, fourth-graders classify the vertebrates and invertebrates of the wetlands, identify the adaptations of its plants and animals, and identify food webs in the wetlands biome. Students also use a microscope and learn to understand its functions and proper use so that they can prepare wet mound slides.
In earth science, students study rocks and minerals using measuring tools to gather data about rocks so they can categorize them according to their method of formation: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. The also use the tools to differentiate between rocks and minerals, sort minerals on the basis of property, and understand that rocks are mixtures of minerals. Further, students are expected to have a working knowledge of the solar system and astronomy as well as know the correct order and names of planets, recognize constellations as star patterns, and describe the life cycle of a star.
Through an Inquiry-based social studies curriculum, fourth graders explore a guiding question each trimester through multiple lenses. Students engage in research, travel to important historical locations, and learn from guest speakers in order to discover the answers to the guiding questions listed below. Some of the lenses used to answer each question are Native Americans (Lenape, Iroquois and Powhatan) from long ago and from today, explorers and early settlers of North America, colonists during the pre-Revolutionary War era and during the American Revolution. While exploring these questions, empathy is developed as the students seek to understand why people at different times in history made the choices that they did.
They answer these essential questions: How Do People Utilize the Land For Their Survival and For Their Advantage? What are the possible outcomes when different cultures encounter each other? Within a singular culture, how does an individual contribute to a larger society? and How and why do individuals or groups of people in a community share their ideas and experiences to make their perspectives known widely?
In addition to empathy, fourth graders practice skills such as identifying critical details in nonfiction texts, note-taking (summarizing, paraphrasing, organizing), and comparing and contrasting different points of view.
Students in Grade 4 learn that writing can be used to make meaning of one's own experience, as well as of other information and ideas. They become aware that to be effective, writing must be a sufficiently developed, coherent unit of thought to address the needs of the intended audience. They also begin to understand structural elements such as context, meaningful order of ideas, transitional elements, and conclusion—learning that all of these components help make meaning clear for the reader.
Fourth-graders use concrete words, phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely, and use the writing process in order to strengthen writing as needed. Use technology, they produce and publish writing, collaborate with others and demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.
The Colonial Expo
Fourth grade's capstone experience begins when each class creates two debates related to their Inquiry Studies. Each student participates in one of these debates, the subjects of which are as follows:
- Native Americans debating how to respond to a new group that has arrived on their land
Colonial tradespeople debating the actions of the British—some debaters are Loyalists, some are Patriots
They then participate in a live debate at the end of the school year.
"The Colonial Expo" helps fourth grade students to refine their skills in the following areas:
Drafting, writing and refining arguments
A Day in the Life...
Fourth-graders are the leaders of the Lower School. They take this "job" seriously—leading by example and showing their younger classmates the importance of the FH Pillars. They receive instruction in traditional subjects each day but also participate in special subjects like Learning & Design, both Spanish and Chinese language and culture, music and visual arts, and physical education.
Below is what a sample day could look like in our Grade 4 classrooms: