Grade 4 Courses
The Lower School Visual Arts program at Durham Academy is designed to provide students a variety of art experiences with the intention of fostering an appreciation of art and the value of personal expression. The acquisition of knowledge through the arts is viewed as a valuable component and complement to the core curriculum as well as daily life. Curriculum content encompasses skill development, art history, art appreciation and connections between the visual arts and other subject areas. Weekly lessons are intended to encourage divergent thinking skills, develop artistic exploration and encourage students to take creative risk in a safe environment through active learning. The visual art curriculum for first through fourth grade continually focus and build upon the concepts of the elements of art (line, shape, space, color, value, texture and form) and principles of design (contrast rhythm, unity, emphasis, pattern, movement and balance).
Drama is important for developing confidence, expressiveness and creativity in each child using movement, dialogue, pantomime and improvisation. Students learn about creating, designing, playwriting, directing and acting through a variety of literature choices and theater exercises. A combination of independent and small group work helps to develop intrapersonal skills used in creative drama. Each grade works on projects that teach them skills not only for the stage, but for confidence in everyday life.
Fourth-grade learners work with numbers through the millions and rely heavily on their place value knowledge and understanding. Students develop their fluency with numbers, using a combination of deep understanding, number sense, and flexibility. Number Talks, based on the premise of mental computations, continue in the fourth grade. Students justify and defend their answers and are able to support the thinking of others. Although the algorithm for multiplication and division are introduced, students may use invented strategies to find the product and quotient of numbers. As fourth grade students learn the characteristics of whole numbers, they also explore decimals and make connections among fractions, decimals, and percentages. Appropriate manipulatives and resources are used to enhance student learning. These may include Investigations, DynaMath, Superstars, and iPads.
In fourth grade, students continue to explore a wide variety of non-fiction and fiction in many genres. Readers hone their ability to read from a variety of sources. These sources include trade books, magazines, and print on developmentally appropriate websites. Children take part in literature circles, guided reading groups, as well as book clubs that allow them to self-select books and work cooperatively in small, independent groups. Monthly reading logs or teacher-student conferences provide accountability as students apply independently the reading skills learned in previous years. Our fourth-grade readers are guided to use texts as stepping-stones to expand vocabulary and world experience. Students are expected to link texts with other fiction and non-fiction texts and to make broad text-to-world connections during thoughtful collaborative discussions. These discussions deepen their understanding of texts and enhance flexible thinking. Students have frequent opportunities to respond to their reading through writing.
Emphasis is placed upon the 7 Comprehension Strategies: Using and Creating Schema, Asking Questions, Visualizing, Inferring, Determining Importance, Synthesizing Information, and Monitoring for Meaning/Using Fix-Up Strategies. These strategies are an important support structure for fluent and thoughtful readers.
Our ultimate goal for our readers is to guide them to create a reading life of their own and to inspire them to become life-long readers.
The Spanish class is conversational with an exposure to literacy in the target language. From the very first day, students are spoken to only in Spanish. The lessons parallel topics covered in science and math class. Students are engaged through familiar games and are encouraged to speak aloud their new vocabulary. Vocabulary in the fourth grade includes matter, the water cycle, hurricanes, North Carolina plants and animals, process of plant growth, the skeletal system, nutrition, planets/solar system, weather, renewal/cycles and the conservation of the Earth .
Writing instruction is organized around three units of study. Fourth grade students begin with the unit The Arc of Story: Writing Realistic Fiction. Students learn that the lenses they bring to reading fiction can also be brought to writing fiction, as they develop believable characters with struggles and motivations with rich stories to tell. In Unit 2, Boxes and Bullets: Personal and Persuasive Essays, students learn the value of organization and form as they gather evidence to support and express an opinion on topics they know well. In Unit 3, The Literary Essay: Writing About Fiction, students build on their learning fiction and apply it with increasing sophistication to a unit on literary essays-writing about fiction.
The writing program is built around the workshop model to instruction. Writers are given direct, explicit instruction in the skills and strategies of proficient writers. Students are actively involved in their writing. They spend time collaborating with writing partners. Writers are given opportunities to talk and respond to each others work. As thoughtful and skillful writers, they learn to set goals for themselves.
Explicit instruction is given during a mini-lesson. Afterward, students are provided long stretches of time to write. During this stretch of time, teachers conference with students individually or work with small groups to maximize their potential as writers. Teaching is consistently responsive to the needs of the students.
Emphasis is placed upon the 7 Traits of Writing: Ideas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Conventions, and Presentation. These traits are an important support structure for fluent and thoughtful writers.
At Durham Academy, students become musicians, singers and movers in a very active way. The philosophy for music and movement education for our students is rooted in the Orff Schulwerk creative process of learning music. Orff Schulwerk uses poems, rhymes, games, songs and dances as vehicles to actively learn the elements of music. Students explore rhythm, melody, harmony, form and expressive qualities through singing, speaking, moving, playing instruments, listening, reading and notating. A unique aspect of this approach is an emphasis on developing a student's creativity and the opportunities to improvise in many ways. Students create their own rhythms, dramatizations, lyrics/words, instrument parts and melodies for sections of many pieces. Their own work is encouraged and valued. Through this process, students gain a deep understanding and love of music as they develop their creative potential.
The Physical Education Program at Durham Academy emphasizes active living through participation in a balanced variety of movement experiences. We want to enable all students the opportunity to enhance their quality of life through active living and healthy decisions. Movement and play are focal points of children's lives, critical to all aspects of their growth and development. Our physical education program provides opportunities for all students in the Lower School to be physically active on a daily basis and to develop an appreciation for and enjoyment of movement. Students' active participation and success in a variety of activities is stressed over competition. Our health and wellness program uses hands on, active application on a broad range of topics and may include instruction on bones and muscles, nutrition, first aid and injury prevention.
Fourth grade science is a hand-on, experiential enrichment. Topics include using the lab, water cycle, properties of water, properties of air, discovery of flight, astronomy and space, chemistry, electricity, light and color.
Perspective and perseverance are two major themes that fourth-graders explore through units on the Civil War, World War II and Civil Rights. The following questions encourage students to think broadly and critically about these important topics. How does perspective shape culture? What happens when two cultures collide? Why do cultures change? A country study on China encourages students to compare and contrast an Asian culture with their own. Map skills are refined and practiced.
The main focus of the computer curriculum in fourth grade is to develop students into independent computer users who learn to manage the many steps necessary for completing projects. Students work to apply their computer skills independently in a variety of situations. This helps to ensure success as they transition to the Middle School where they will manage their own projects. Another vital part of being an independent computer user is learning about being a good cyber-citizen. In addition to the email curriculum described below, students explore the use of Internet-based tools and social websites. Topics such as: protecting private information, avoiding SPAM, unsubscribing from email lists, chain letters, email hoaxes, phishing scams, and methods for protecting your email address and the addresses of your friends are discussed. While many Internet tools are designed for students age 13 and over, students take time to look at privacy settings from various sites so they are prepared to navigate such sites in the future.
One goal is to help our students become successful in the digital age. In order to do this, the best approach is to balance teaching children how to use digital tools with how to be good digital citizens. In fourth grade, students spend time learning to use email as a tool as well as developing the communication skills needed to use this tool effectively. The main reason for beginning this instruction as early as fourth grade is to allow us time to properly educate the students on proper email use and etiquette before email becomes part of their daily routine.