Fourth grade is an exciting, fast-paced year. Developmentally, students are becoming more aware of themselves as separate persons, and the of the world around them. They are growing as independent thinkers and are curious about the world, and how people choose to live in it. Skills learned in 4th grade are foundational to expanding each student’s view of the world in which he or she lives. Learning to live supportively beside one another, and with nature, are key components of the fourth-grade year. Learning to appreciate all that God has given us so as to learn and grow to help others in our world, in creative, innovative, and empathetic ways is fundamental to the fourth-grade spiritual curriculum. Although each academic subject is taught as a unit unto itself, the concept of spiraling is practiced regularly through interdisciplinary, hands-on projects. Student read many books of differing genres, and complete novel packages, are based projects, and oral sharing reports to develop reading, writing, and speaking skills. Art and writing are integrated into social studies, as well as science and math. Finally, students learn to practice Toolbox, a research-based social emotional curriculum. Toolbox teaches critical social-emotional competencies necessary for academic and life successes such as: resiliency, self-management, and responsible decision-making skills.
In fourth grade, students are becoming more sensitive to the beauty of language. Fourth grade is a wonderful time to introduce two students the multitude of tools available to them to enhance and support their writing. Students begin the year by practicing their paragraph writing, and end the year being able to compose solidly written give paragraph narrative, informational, and opinion/argumentative essays. Students learn the writing process: brainstorming, outlining, drafting, and publication. Students learn about the styles of poetry, and poems are written as a class, and individually, to emphasize rhyme, rhythm, and meter. Note-taking and dictation develop fourth graders’ listening skills, and skills associated with deep focus. Students participate in individual and group oral reports and presentations in a variety of curricular areas. They continue to work on spelling by understanding phonics, as well as whole language techniques. They practice their cursive by writing daily Bible verses, and they practice daily grammar usage through diagramming sentences, studying parts of speech: subject, predicate, object, phrases; verbs: past, present, and future tense. They continue to learn and practice strategies to differentiate fact and opinion, understand the author’s viewpoint, make inferences, predict outcomes, and summarizing. Students in fourth grade read a minimum of five books, each working to develop and grow their vocabulary, and their understanding of the world around them.
Fourth grade students work on the basics of computation as well as mathematical concepts dealing with place value, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, and geometry. Students also learn strategies for working out word problems. Students explore geometry concepts and apply shape properties to create geometric figures. Children in fourth grade apply their knowledge of math facts to fact extensions and develop strategies for multi-digit multiplication and division problems. Other math skills include reading tables for information, collecting numerical data, using map scales to estimate distance, locating points on a grid, and using latitude and longitude for locations on Earth. Children are able to apply a variety of strategies for adding or subtracting multi-digit numbers and can apply them to situations involving decimal values.
“Do humans need plants, or do plants need humans?” 4th grade science begins the year with this probing question, which eventually evolves into an awakening in the student of an appreciation for the interconnectedness of all living things. Exploration of interconnectedness involves studying the environment of the Plant and Animal Kingdoms, including adaptations. Students also learn about geology, marine biology through the visiting teachers from the Lawrence Hall of Science’s MARE program, atoms and electricity, and bodily systems (the senses, muscles, skeleton, and digestion). With this knowledge of the interconnectedness of all living things comes in an awareness of limits. Such knowledge is important because humans can change environments. To do so without awareness of possible consequences can lead to disasters because all living things depend on the conditions of their environment. This awareness leads to the study of our environment, resources, and how best we can preserve our planet for future generations.
Activities in 4th grade include growing plants and terrariums and learning about the many types of soil in which plants are able to survive, and how they adapt to their environments. Students study both plants and animals on various field trips including a trip to the Headlands with the Nature Bridge organization, Ano Nuevo State Park to observe the elephant seal migration, and by studying plants in the Sierras as part of our Gold Rush trip to Columbia, California. Students collect, observe, describe, and record properties of minerals by performing several hands-on experiments. They learn about sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks in their study of solid earth, and have fun making edible rocks, and rock candy crystals. At Good Shepherd, we recognize the importance of a solid foundation in scientific understanding. Through a variety of hands-on projects, experiments (many of them edible!) and art projects, students soon find that the study and exploration of the sciences is their favorite part of the day!
Fourth grade social studies begin with local geography and moves on to an in-depth study of California's geography and history - from learning about California's Native American population, to Spanish Colonial rule, to eventually being acquired by the United States government and becoming America's 31st state. As part of early California study, students read the core text, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and visit the Museum of the American Indian in Novato. Additionally, they complete artistic and writing projects, and a novel study linked to the text. Students learn about California economics, and government, which eventually culminates in a trip to the State Capitol in May. Students are given the opportunity to discover differences and similarities between California and other states. Study of the California Gold Rush is enhanced by a three-day trip to the Sierras where students partake in gold panning, learn about the life of a gold miner, and learn about the impact of gold mining on the Native American population, the environment, and the population of California as a whole. This is a wonderful trip. In order to deepen their appreciation of this important aspect of California’s history, prior to the trip, students are required to write a research report and complete a project related to the Gold Rush period. Students also read three texts with westward expansion/Gold Rush themes: If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon, Patty Reed’s Doll, and, The Great Horned Spoon, and complete associated novel studies, interactive dialogues, arts projects, and storyboards, to reinforce their understanding of 19th century California. Staff at Good Shepherd strive to provide opportunities for our students to participate in community arts and culture whenever possible. In an effort to support this, the fourth grade partakes in an exciting field trip to a special children's performance of The Marin County Symphony in April.
OUTDOOR EDUCATION/OTHER FIELD TRIPS
Integrated into the social studies and science lessons are field trips and outdoor experiences, including an overnight trip to the Headlands in the fall, and a 3-day trip to Columbia, California, to study the Gold Rush in the Spring. Other field trips include the following day trips: the Discovery Museum to study land animals, Marin Museum of the American Indian, Ano Nuevo State Park in Pescadero to observe and learn about the elephant seal migration, the Marin County Symphony, Pioneer Park to participate in Novato’s Earth Day Clean and Green, the Lawrence Hall of Science in Oakland, and a train trip to Sacramento to visit the State Capitol, where students also visit Sutter's Fort, Vallejo’s home, and the California train museum.