Ancient Egypt: What Makes a Journey?
Students explore the essential question, “What makes a journey?” in relation to their own journey through Fourth Grade. The journey will begin with a map and the study of world geography. While reviewing the continents and oceans, students will learn how geography plays a key role in shaping our ancestors’ migration pattern. In particular, students examine how the geography and climate of the Nile River allowed the civilization of Ancient Egypt to flourish. As the year progresses, we will examine another question, “What kind of journey did ancient Egyptians take, both in their daily life and in their beliefs about the gods and afterlife?” Throughout the year, students will come to understand how an innovative civilization advanced Egypt’s practice of art, writing (hieroglyphics), governance, and religion. This integrated curriculum offers various hands-on experiences, such as building a large-scale model of the Nile, mummifying a piece of fruit, and performing their first drama production, which is an adaptation of an Egyptian myth. In our final unit, students probe and think about our final thematic question of the year, “Why do we migrate and/or immigrate?” They will investigate the lives of climate refugees, as well as a diverse group of immigrants.
Reading: Fourth Grade students continue to develop their inference 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. Students learn skills as they apply to both fiction and nonfiction texts. Reading skills are taught through whole-class instruction, as well as individual coaching with a teacher. Students learn to express ideas about reading 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. Students receive small group or one-on-one coaching specific to the genre being studied. Fourth Graders 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 specifically focus 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 realistic fiction, 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, data organization, 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. Under the guidance of the math coach, our young mathematicians engage in enrichment experiences that further explore and challenge their understanding.
Text: Everyday Math 4.
Keeping with the Fourth Grade core curriculum study of Ancient Egypt and what makes a journey, the Fourth Grade science curriculum involves a close look at migrations and migratory species, animals of Northern Africa, plants, soil, decomposers such as earthworms, simple machines, electrical circuits, and an introduction to systems of the human body. In the Fourth Grade Science course, “Organisms and Their Environments,” students seek to understand how a habitat can influence what organisms look like and are able to do. The course is taught through experiments, individual and collaborative research projects, lab reports, model-building, design-thinking, and construction projects. Science practices, including making a prediction/hypothesis, performing an experiment, recording results, drawing conclusions from results, and applying data and conclusions to real world situations are used throughout all scientific activities and experiments. Students also develop the skills of making close observations and producing detailed scientific illustrations.
In the Fourth Grade, integrating technology into the curriculum continues to deepen the learning experiences of the students. Students learn to use technology for research, collaboration, communication, and the collection and manipulation of data. They engage in thoughtful discussions about what it means to be a responsible digital citizen and how their digital footprint can impact their daily lives. Students learn to use Google Classroom to organize their work. Throughout the year, students practice their typing skills using the program, Keyboarding Without Tears.
In Fourth Grade French, students review vocabulary from Lower School and acquire new phrases related to family, pets, colors, sizes, and their personal likes and dislikes. The students start with simple conversations including greetings, personal descriptions, and using question words. Fourth Graders further develop their listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing skills through storytelling techniques, personalized conversations, songs, and communicative games. Part of the year is devoted to the study of the feature film, “Kirikou and the Sorceress,” which allows for a cultural exploration of French-speaking West Africa. Students acquire a foundation of high-frequency words and useful language structures that they will continue to build upon as they move through the Middle School French curriculum.
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 journey the students are taking in their social studies core curriculum from Ancient Egypt throughout time and space. Students learn music from around the world, including the Middle East and Africa, allowing them 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 Travelers Lunch and an interactive concert attendance in Carnegie Hall’s LinkUp program with the St. Luke Symphony Orchestra.
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 Grade 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.
Junior Strings Orchestra: Students in Grades 1-4 are invited to join the Far Brook Junior Strings Orchestra once they reach a certain level of proficiency in their musical skills with violin or cello. The Orchestra plays in Morning Meeting and at Instrumental Music Night. Many students who participate in Orchestra also perform in the annual Recital Night in the spring and progress to the more advanced Orchestra for Grades 5-8 which incorporates more students, a wider range of instruments, and more challenging repertoire.
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. Students also create a linoleum printmaking project based upon an original sketch. Concepts such as creating tone with line, understanding the impact of reverse imagery on narrative art and utilizing multiple images to support content are addressed.
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. After completing the clock, the students are introduced to digital design and 3D printing. Using Tinkercad, they model a famous landmark and print it to scale.
Social and Emotional
The Middle School years are exciting times as students move into the early stages of adolescence and take on increasing levels of responsibility for their learning and for their roles in Far Brook life. As the ability of the students to think abstractly and analytically, and with more critical discernment increases, teachers work to utilize and stretch these developing skills by challenging students to work in greater depth and scope.
Classroom Meetings: Fourth graders have weekly classroom meetings to participate in discussions that help them assess their progress as a class community. Each student has an opportunity to lead part of the discussion and set weekly goals for the fourth grade. During these meetings the teachers also incorporate a curriculum that teaches social and emotional learning and are created for the fourth grade’s developmental situations. Lesson topics include establishing and respecting community expectations, cooperating and compromising, problem-solving, when to tell a responsible adult and when to handle situations yourself, recognizing and accepting differences among people, mindfulness, positive self-talk, and more. The goals of these lessons and meetings are to create a cooperative classroom environment and to give children the skills they need to solve interpersonal problems and to build positive relationships.
Study Skills: In Middle School, the Learning Specialist and Literacy Specialist work with students individually and in small groups within various classroom settings. They consult regularly with the classroom teachers to coordinate strategies that take into account students’ specific learning styles.
Students in the Middle School begin to take on more responsibility for their learning. Through support from their academic teachers and the Learning Specialist, students learn organization and time management skills that are reinforced daily, resulting in students who are more independent with homework. Students also learn various study strategies as they prepare for quizzes and tests and memorize lines for their class plays. In addition, students learn test-taking techniques for classroom quizzes and tests.
The Fourth Grade Sports program includes a combination of cooperative team-building activities, fitness and strength development, and an introduction to the interscholastic sports students will play in later years. Boys participate in soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring, while girls participate in field hockey in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. Students are introduced to the rules and regulations of these games and practice the basic skills and strategies of these sports while learning the cooperation and communication necessary to participate in a team sport. Throughout the year, other games and activities may include dodgeball, pickleball, flag football, basketball, volleyball, or ultimate Frisbee. The cornerstone of the sports curriculum is character development through demonstrating good sportsmanship. Participation in sports at Far Brook is paramount and all students are encouraged to participate to the best of their ability.