As Fourth Graders transition into the Middle School, they begin to take on more responsibility for their learning. Research comes alive through the art work that emerges through the core curricular study of Ancient Egypt. Students gain new responsibilities, performing their first class play related to their Egyptian studies, and become members of the Far Brook Choir.
Ancient Egypt and its African Environment.
The class studies the geography and climate of Egypt and the plants and animals found in the Nile River Valley. They then turn their attention to Egyptian art and hieroglyphics, government and the pharaohs, and finally the belief system involved in the worship of the gods and goddesses. The amazing architecture of the pyramids and belief in the Afterlife and reasons for mummification are included as well. Emphasis throughout the year is placed on the question of how and where people live impacts their lives and how an Ancient civilization like Egypt expresses itself through its culture.
Topics in the curriculum act as a way to practice and extend the skills they are learning in reading and writing to the study of social studies. Class discussion and projects, as well as their first drama production, usually an adaptation of an Egyptian myth, further help them understand the history and culture. Project work includes the making of a shaduf, a simple machine to lift water for irrigation; window paintings to explore the way Egyptians drew people and demonstrated social hierarchy; and silk-screening to conclude their unit on animal research.
The culminating event of the Fourth Grade year is an Egyptian feast which the students prepare in school. They wear their silk-screened tee-shirts and have a chance to share their odes to the gods and their “Journey of the Soul” stories. These are the syntheses of all they have learned during the year in social studies, reading, and writing. They compose their own imagined adventure to the Afterlife using an Ancient Egyptian setting and a plot sequence based on original texts.
Reading: Fourth Grade students continue to develop their inferencing skills while reading. They practice strategies to become more active readers, such as stopping to question themselves about what they have read, and write ideas about their books on post-it notes while they are actively reading. Reading skills are taught through whole-class instruction, as well as individual coaching with a teacher. Students learn to express ideas about writing in their Reader’s Notebook, supporting their ideas with textual evidence. Through partnerships, book clubs, and class read-alouds, students share their thoughts and practice comprehension skills.
Writing: Fourth Grade writing is taught using a workshop approach, during which time students are taught as a group before practicing the writing skills individually. During writing, students receive small group or one-on-one coaching specific to the genre being studied. Fourth Fraders study the attributes of strong writing in each of the genres they study, and then work to master these skills in their own writing. Fourth graders spend particular attention on how to elaborate and expand their ideas. Students also study how to punctuate sentences and to express their ideas in paragraphs. Spelling, vocabulary, and grammar skills are reinforced through Word Study lessons. Cursive handwriting and keyboarding skills continue to be refined and utilized. Drafting and editing of written work is done through word processing. Fourth Grade writing includes narrative writing, information writing, and opinion writing. Units of study include a personal narrative, a biography report, a five-paragraph personal essay, and poetry.
The skills of problem solving, communication, critical thinking, and analysis continue to evolve in math in the Fourth Grade. Emphasis is placed on problem-solving processes and sound computation skills as students master the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Hands-on activities and math games deepen and enrich student understanding and application.
The Fourth Grade math curriculum includes geometry, organization data, multiplication, long division, number sentences, algebra, decimals, estimation and computation of big numbers, fractions, perimeter, and area. Students study multiple methods and strategies for problem-solving. While accurate computation is reinforced, Fourth Grade math also includes a strong emphasis on the ability to show and explain work. Text: Everyday Math 4.
Recorder: For half the year, Fourth Grade students meet in small groups for Recorder Mini, a practical application of music theory concepts. Their repertoire broadens to reflect the core curriculum of Egypt. This includes music of the Middle East and Africa, which allows students to explore more chromatic melodies based on modal scales, maqams, and mixed meters. The year culminates with guest appearances as travelling troubadours in the Sixth Grade Medieval Feast and an interactive concert attendance in Carnegie Hall’s LinkUp program with the St. Luke Symphony Orchestra.
Music Theory: Fourth Grade students embark on a formal music theory curriculum called Materials of Music, which delves deeper into units on timbre, rhythm, melody, and expression. Using the Far Brook repertoire as a basis, students practice ear-training and sight-singing exercises in each class. Rhythmic and melodic dictations hone aural skills and reinforce note-reading.
Dance Choreography: The Dance workshop series for the Fourth Grade explores and develops choreographic skills and performance ability, while encouraging small and large group collaborations and the active sharing of ideas. Fourth Graders specifically work on a theme-based choreography project connected to their classroom curriculum. The workshop focuses on the study of Ancient Egypt, using traditional form in Ancient Egyptian art as a stimulus for the creation of original choreography. Connecting the figures found in ancient art with everyday gestures and movements is central to the dance work that each student has a unique hand in creating.
Choir: All students in Fourth and Fifth Grades meet weekly as the Far Brook Choir to study sight-singing, theory, vocal tone development, and to begin choral part-singing. Students work on music for the Thanksgiving Processional in the fall semester, studying great works by J.S. Bach and repertoire focusing on the harvest. The Spring Choral Concert provides an opportunity for the Choir to sing alone, without the assistance of the older students, in a formal concert setting exploring themed-repertoire.
Orchestra: The Director of Music invites students to join the Far Brook Orchestra once they reach a certain level of proficiency in their musical skills. Many students who participate in Orchestra also perform in our annual Recital Night in the spring.
Drama: The Fourth Grade shares two presentations with the school community, one a presentation of poetry drawn from the work of authors as various as Shel Silverstein, e.e. cummings, and William Butler Yeats. This presentation acts as a bridge to the second: a play presented later in the year, adapted from their books of legends or myths of Ancient Egypt. In Drama, Fourth Graders learn to work together in ensemble and learn to breathe, move, and speak together to tell a story to their audience. Their class play is an ensemble-based choral work, interwoven with solos, duets, and smaller groups.
Art: Fourth Grade Art students create Egyptian death masks including an elaborate headpiece called a crown. This project connects conceptually and aesthetically with the core curriculum study of Ancient Egypt. Concepts such as understanding proportion and balanced design are supported and developed. Students make connections between the refinement of their skills and the visual continuity in their work. They also develop a more complex understanding of pattern and its impact on visual clarity. Recognizing how to transpose a two-dimensional sketch into a fully realized three-dimensional object is an important lesson in the editing of visual imagery and concepts of design. Students discuss Ancient Egyptian iconography and a variation of this imagery is included on the surface decoration of the mask and its crown.
Woodshop: In Fourth Grade Woodshop, students study how to use two new tools, the chisel and the gouge. In addition, they also learn two new finishing techniques to complete their projects, staining and sealing with polyurethane. These tools and techniques are then used to create an original working clock with Egyptian imagery or hieroglyphics, integrating their core curriculum of Ancient Egypt.
Open Circle: The Open Circle curriculum is a comprehensive social and emotional learning program that supports elementary children in developing the skills needed to be good learners and to form healthy, positive relationships with people throughout their lives. Lesson topics include listening well, including one another, cooperating, when to tell a responsible adult and when to handle situations yourself, teasing, recognizing differences among people, getting calm, problem solving, positive self-talk, and more. The goals of the lesson are to create a cooperative classroom environment and to give children the skills they need to solve interpersonal problems and to build positive relationships.