Main Lesson Teacher

Nancy Szymanski
  • Nancy Szymanski

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4th Grade Block Curriculum Descriptions

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fourth Grade Morning Lesson Blocks and Skills Classes

The 3rd graders left behind the world of early childhood. Their transition to adolescence has not yet begun. This center phase of 4th and 5th grade is known as the ‘heart of childhood’. Fourth graders become more self-confident as their perception of the world sharpens, but also experience a stronger separation from their surroundings. These developmental steps broaden the child’s perspective on the world and human interactions. The 4th graders metaphorically make their way to the shore, look out to the sea and contemplate adventure. They see a world of possibilities and choices.

Language Arts (three blocks plus two skills classes per week)
The ability to choose consciously is strongly echoed in Norse mythology, the primary story content for the year. These traditional tales center on strength of character, courage, self-sacrifice, and perseverance while revealing hidden motives, character’s fallibility and the challenges of working at cross purposes with others. By following the various gods through trials and tribulations, the children begin to identify individual ‘wrong-doing’ in contrast to communal ‘goodness’. The Norse stories impart the gifts and risks of growing into independent and free human beings. These mythological stories offer a wellspring of material for the three language arts blocks. The main focus this year will be grammar. All parts of speech and past, present and future verb tenses will be introduced. We will bring to our writing and speaking a consciousness of the parts of speech and verb tenses. The children will continue to write stories in their own words including one- to three-paragraph descriptions of the stories and longer dictations. Speech will continue to be practiced daily with an emphasis on alliterative poetry. This will help to prepare the children for individual speaking lines in our class play. Weekly spelling quizzes will continue this year.

In the language arts skills classes reading time will be divided between partner reading, individual, silent reading and reading one-on-one with me. The children will also be assigned three individual book reports, an independent research report on an animal and at least one class reader with assigned sections to read at home. Oral reports from the assigned book reports and animal report will be given at this time. We will also work on writing skills from our lesson work (proofreading, sentence structure, punctuation, etc.).

Arithmetic (three blocks plus one skills class per week)
Upon reaching the ninth year, the earlier harmony between outer and inner worlds is fundamentally broken. This transformation will be reflected in the arithmetic curriculum by the study of ‘broken numbers’ or fractions. Throughout the three arithmetic blocks, the emphasis will be on experiencing fractions through mental picturing. As in 1st grade, we will proceed from the whole to the parts, and then back from the parts to the whole. By the end of the year we will have covered the basics in fractions, including types of fractions, equivalent fractions, common denominators, and an introduction to working on all four arithmetic processes with fractions. Long division with two divisors and long multiplication with three and more multipliers will also be introduced. In the course of the year, the children will review and expand upon all the skills learned previously such as word problems, mental arithmetic, estimation and measurement. This will be the first year with arithmetic homework assigned regularly. We will also play math games at this time to sharpen skills and have fun with numbers.

Local Geography and History (two blocks)
We will begin a new voyage of discovery this year through local geography and history. In grades one through three, the children learned about the environment by connecting with their surroundings and how people live and work from the land. In 4th grade, a new, more concrete source of knowledge begins, encompassing both space and time. The immediate surroundings of the school, neighborhood, city and region will be shown in their geographical and historical development right up to the present. The children’s generalized relationship with the world will be transformed to a sense of belonging, both spatially and socially. The children will learn to read ‘earth-writing’ (geo-graphy) as a step to understanding how our local surroundings were formed and continue to change. New perspectives from understanding ordinal/cardinal directions and a bird’s eye view will lead to map-making. Through stories, the children will learn about the first people who lived in the Chicago and Illinois area followed by stories of people up to the present. These will focus on the impact people had on their surroundings. Through day field trips and our three-day class trip we will explore Chicago and the Great Lakes region.

Human Being and Animal (two blocks)
Progressing from this new perspective, the children experience standing opposite nature with more objectivity. The first step into the natural sciences will begin with the human being. We will then proceed to the animal kingdom with an understanding of the human form as the key to recognizing the unique qualities and forms of animals. Through vivid stories, observation and artistic rendering, we will explore in detail the shape, appearance, life cycle and habitats of different animals. We will observe contrasts, such as how the human backbone is perpendicular to the earth, whereas animals are parallel. While our four limbs are devoted to carrying and supporting our bodies, our upright posture allows our hands and arms free to work and to serve the world. We will not only study animal forms, but also explore how the three internal powers of the human soul – thinking, feeling and willing – are manifested outwardly in the three archetypal examples from the animal kingdom: the eagle, the lion and the cow. As a last step we will bring all of this together in written form. This will prepare the children for their first individual research project – the animal report. This will have three components: a drawing, a project depicting the form of the animal and a written report. Our winter class trip to Camp Edwards will enhance our study of animals by discovering winter habitats and learning about predators and prey. 

Dynamic Drawing and Modeling (one skills class alternating weekly)
Spatial imagination will be taken to a higher level through the drawing of knots and intricately woven Celtic designs. Great focus will be needed to cross lines at different angles and to make cross-over points look plaited by going over and under. The children will learn key designs and be encouraged to add their own twists and turns.

Modeling will continue with plasticine and beeswax to enhance our lessons, and as an important component of the human being and animal block. As we study the form of an animal, we will discover how all animals can be created from the space and movement between our two hands. Through the modeling process the children will reflect on what they observed and at the same time encouraged to look more closely. Besides modeling animals, we will model scenes from the Norse myths and pure shapes.

Painting (one skills class per week)
The Norse myths offer a wealth of powerful and contrasting pictorial themes. These hold polarities to be explored through color such as warm and cool colors, and new color contrasts. Animals, simple color landscapes, maps and color stories will also inspire our weekly painting lessons.

  Schedule of Block Rotations for 2013-2014