Seeing the World
In fourth grade, the children are beginning the early stages of the transition from childhood to puberty. The children are confident in their new way of seeing the world and are eager to learn about it in a more concrete manner. The children are finding new relationships with their parents, teacher, classmates, and to their schoolwork, while forming a sense of where they are in relationship to their environment, both in a social sense and in a geographical sense.
The teacher must establish a new relationship with the children, one that helps them with the new rules and parameters that coincide with this period of development. Parameters and consequences need to be clear, presented with a sense of humor.
The Morning Lesson
The morning lesson usually begins with a verse, recitation of seasonal poetry, and poems that directly relate to the main lesson topics such as in the study of animals, local geography, or history. Mental math is often practiced with the students at this time for around five or ten minutes. Also during this time the students may work on a song related to the current topic of the main lesson.
Language Arts – Reading & Writing Composition
The study of language usually focuses on the parts of speech, verb tenses, and continuation of work with punctuation. Reading groups of some sort are generally continued into fourth grade to help solidify the skills that have been worked on since first grade. Class reading often supports the content of the main lessons, with readers such as The Children of Odin and The King and the Green Angelica. Spelling practice continues on a regular basis. Students begin to do more independent writing, whether for the main lesson books, reports on animals, or other descriptive writing based on experience.
Norse Mythology & California History
The focus in historic studies in this grade is presented in imaginative narration. Norse Mythology and the lives of the Vikings are heard and experienced. The various Norse gods provide ample content so that the children can relate to and explore the personalities of the characters: Loki with his cleverness, Thor with his hammer and active personality, and Odin and his wisdom. Historical events and legends illustrating the development of California up to the present, with field trips to local sites, enable the children to intimately experience and relate to the changes that have occurred since earliest times.
Geography & Map Making
Local geography is an important aspect of environmental studies. It gives knowledge about the immediate world and can give a sense of belonging, from both a social and spatial point of view. The immediate surroundings of the school, the city, and the state are studied in their geographical/spatial and historic/temporal development right up to the present. Observation of the rising and setting motions of the sun helps to recognize the four compass directions. Drawing a bird's eye view of the school and the children's houses, the surrounding landscape, and different routes to the school, is often done to teach mapping skills.
The study of animals in relation to the human being is the focus of a main lesson block. The polarity of the human head and limbs, with the mediating aspects of the trunk, is studied in relationship to characteristics of animals such as the cow, mouse, lion, cuttlefish, and eagle. One primary focus of this main lesson is the unique quality of the human being, which is to a large extent free from instinctual behavior. While man's physical body lacks specialized features, specialization allows animals to live instinctively in their environment. The observation of the human hand, the uprightness of our bodies, the relationship of the foot, femur and spinal column, can lead to an understanding of the uniqueness of the human being.
Mathematics – Fractions & Long Division
Fractions are introduced in this grade. The process of taking the whole to the parts and back again to the whole is examined. The abilities to expand and contract fractions, understand the difference between the numerator and denominator, convert improper fractions into mixed numbers and vice versa, are cultivated. Mental math with mixed processes becomes increasingly more complex. Students cultivate the ability to read and understand numbers up to six digits, strive to learn the multiplication tables up to 12 out of sequence, perform long multiplication, factoring, identifying prime numbers, long division with remainders, and estimation.
The Arts: Drama, Painting & Handwork
The fourth grade class play often arises from the Norse Mythology block, and often reflects some of the basic dilemmas faced by children of this age when trying to solve their problems in life.
Painting is now linked to nature studies, trees, simple landscapes, animals and figurative themes from the history or geography blocks, and generalized shapes of buildings such as castles, churches, temples, and houses and barns, still using the wet-on-wet painting technique.
In handwork class, the students learn needlepoint and in woodworking the children learn how to sculpt various objects.