4th Grade Curriculum
Fourth grade at The Geneva School is a living fairy tale. As students study the Middle Ages with knights, damsels, castles, and dragons, they are drawn into the living story around them. Students read about King Arthur and the knights of his Round Table, Robin Hood stealing from the rich to give to the poor, and Beowulf defeating multiple monsters and sacrificing his life for his people. As they learn about invading Vikings and the need for protection and chivalry during the Middle Ages, they create their own coats of arms, dress in costumes of the era, witness a real-life joust, compete in a tournament of their own, and recite the code of chivalry. At the end of the year, they are knighted in front of their families and friends. All of these experiences combine to transport students into an enchanted fairy tale world that brings light and excitement to their learning and creates memories that last a lifetime.
History is taught chronologically and encompasses a combination of church history and the history of Western civilization. During this time period, the church began as a thriving institution, suffered major corruption, and was brought back to the Truth by God’s grace through the faithfulness of bold reformers. Students follow the church through history as they study each major emperor and his impact on the Middle Ages. The students watch Europe transform from scattered villages to developed nations as countries battle each other and create alliances. Studying church history along with the developing nationalism in Europe allows the students to see God’s mighty hand at work during the Dark Ages. With an emphasis on chivalry and honor, students learn to fight for what is good, true, and beautiful.
Spelling, Grammar, and Penmanship
Fourth grade students enjoy beginning the year by practicing their cursive penmanship. They then begin to write solely in cursive, honing and displaying their penmanship throughout the year. The students are immersed in a multimodal approach using the curriculum Spell to Write and Read. It teaches them the phonograms that are foundational in our language as well as rules for proper spelling. In addition, Spell to Write and Read teaches pronunciation and how to encode and decode words. All these skills aid the students in their growth as fluent readers. Further, the students both memorize and apply rules of grammar using the Shurley Grammar curriculum. They then apply what they have learned, delighting in the cleverly crafted writing of our literature selections.
Literature and Composition
Using classic literature as a model for good writing, fourth graders begin to craft beautiful stories with descriptive language, incorporating the concepts they are learning in their grammar and spelling studies. Using the Writing and Rhetoric curriculum, teachers lead students through the exercise of analyzing an original model, and then students both summarize and amplify that model. To create excitement and to nurture a love of learning through books, teachers and students dive into such books as The Twenty-One Balloons, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Prince Caspian, and Robin Hood. The main method students utilize to assimilate the text that they read is the classical practice of oral narration. Students also transfer their oral narrations to written narrations on a regular basis. This practice is foundational in strengthening the students’ abilities in reading comprehension, writing, and rhetoric. The students gather on the carpet for a special read-aloud time at the end of each day. Teachers delight in building wonder and enlarging the imaginations of their students through the expressive reading of Beowulf and King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table.
Library class for fourth graders places an emphasis on the use of the automated catalog. Each student has access to his/her own library account and to the library catalog via the internet. They are taught how to search for titles, how to place holds on titles, and how to evaluate a book by writing reviews. They are taught to identify important information from the catalog records. The students are also exposed to the different genres of literature, taught to use the Dewey Decimal System, and given more opportunities to use various reference materials.
Fourth grade uses Math in Focus: The Singapore Approach. This curriculum emphasizes problem solving as the gateway to math understanding and proficiency. Concepts are taught with a concrete-pictorial-abstract learning progression through real-world, hands-on experiences. The curriculum makes these concepts extremely applicable to students by featuring visual representations and modeling strategies to solve complex problems as they are applied to real-world examples. This approach builds upon their understanding of complex concepts and leads to an expanded understanding of place value as well as procedural proficiency. The aim is for students to understand the “how” as well as the “why” in math. Some of the specific concepts taught this year are long division, multiple-digit multiplication, fractions, data analysis, angles, area and perimeter, and decimals through concrete visual examples rather than algorithms alone.
In fourth grade, students study the fall of Israel and Judah. They study all of the prophets chronologically through the year, and they witness the rebellion of God’s people, the punishment of their captivity, and their restoration back to the Promised Land. By studying each prophet and their message to the people of God, the students acknowledge how easy it is for sinful man to fall into repeated sin and how graciously God corrects those he loves. While learning about the prophet Ezekiel, students lie on their sides and eat Ezekiel bread to experience a very small taste of what Ezekiel was called by God to do (lie on his side for 430 days!). In the fall, the students perform a selection of medieval mystery plays. These plays are designed to reflect the plays of old that were performed on village greens during the medieval era to an audience of townspeople who couldn’t read the Bible. In the spring, the students delight in the story of Jonah. They each illustrate a different portion of the prophet’s story and then arrange the illustrations into a mural displayed for others to enjoy outside their classrooms. After being immersed in the major and minor prophets for the year, the students bring it all together in May for their culminating performance of Prophets Speak.
Historically, the world of modern science finds its foundations in the period from the Middle Ages into the time of the Renaissance. It is against this backdrop that the fourth grade students enter into “apprenticeship” in Leonardo’s Workshop. Throughout the year they encounter stories of the great thinkers of the time and are given opportunities to contemplate the same thoughts, gain a sense of the excitement of discovery, and imitate the manner in which each thinker approached his work. Leonardo directed his students to look to nature as the master teacher. Through observation and attention to accuracy, the students conduct a field study of a local watershed and botanical garden and determine the health of the various ecosystems. They make sketches of macro-invertebrates and create models of insects. Upon looking through Leonardo’s sketchbooks, they too study geometric shapes and employ them in engineered structures like towers, bridges, and earthquake-proof buildings. Leonardo was also a master inventor, and so the apprentices accept challenges calling for creative designs. The next great thinker, Sir Isaac Newton, invites them to wrestle with defining and describing light and to rigorously examine God’s miraculous design of the eye coupled with the dissection of a sheep’s eye. They continue their studies into the physical nature of the world as they work with Newton’s Laws of Motion. Additionally, Galileo, Boyle, and Turner take the students into the realms of the heavens, the plant kingdom, and the composition of matter. It is a year of wonder and amazement. Ultimately, may the students discover as Robert Boyle did, that “the study of creation should lead to a doxology of praise to God.”
Students learn Latin through reading Latin stories about the history and culture of a Roman family in the book Minimus. Highly illustrated, the book contains a mixture of stories and myths, grammar explanations and exercises, and background cultural information. Pupils are drawn into the material as they read about the life of a family living in a community at Vindolanda; the adventures of the children and the family cat and mouse provide interest throughout. Minimus offers a lively introduction to Latin and classical studies. The grammatical content helps to develop language awareness and provides a solid foundation from which students can progress to further English or foreign language studies. Students also learn Latin by chanting grammatical elements such as declensions and conjugations as well as comparing and contrasting the structure of Latin to their knowledge of English grammar.
In every grade at The Geneva School, music study and performance are vital to developing an aesthetically rich liberal arts education. Fourth grade students build upon the musical foundation of previous years, further deepening their understanding of the elements of music. In fourth grade, texture and tonality are introduced. Students sing medieval songs and chants, canons, partner songs, folk songs, hymns, and spiritual songs to further develop their understanding of the role that music plays in our school, history, and the Bible.
Fourth grade students use their developing musicianship skills to notate musical patterns consisting of sixteenth, quarter, eighth, half, and whole notes, along with quarter and half rests. In our orchestra unit students learn to identify instruments in the four instrument families: string, brass, woodwind, and percussion.
This is an especially exciting year for music study at Geneva since vocal and instrumental music played such an important role in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. All fourth grade students learn how to play the recorder. The recorder was one of the primary instruments in the Middle Ages, introduced about 1500. Through group and self-paced lessons, students use their music reading skills to learn correct fingering and good breath control.
Fourth grade highlights include performances at Grandparents Day, First Lessons and Carols, and the Spring Concert.
Fourth grade students spend the year expanding their understanding of the vocabulary of visual art and gaining exposure to the art and lives of accomplished artists. It is important to develop visual literacy in order to look at and see art as it was meant to be seen by its maker; this conversation engages students in what is considered the “grammar” of art—the elements and principles of design. Students transition from imaginative, symbolic drawing to representational drawing and painting through exercises emphasizing three-dimensional form and volume. Using a variety of media (e.g., colored pencils and tempera paint) and the art forms of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and the Reformation, students grow in their understanding of color, including value changes in color and black/white works. For example, students practice shading and shadows. They are also introduced to the elements of art using the principles of design (harmony, variety, contrast, etc.) as tools in successfully creating their own work.
The Geneva School drama program not only seeks to enrich a student’s learning through the experience of history and literature but also seeks to build character through the rehearsal and production process. Students are given responsibilities appropriate to their developmental level and are encouraged to problem solve and work together as a group to tell their story.
In fourth grade, students perform medieval mystery plays: short, dramatized Bible stories. They delight in being able to work and collaborate in small groups, giving everyone the opportunity for a star role. The students take personal responsibility for memorizing lines, and through this experience, they learn how to think and act quickly in the production by adjusting lines when necessary to cover any mistakes that might be made. In addition, at the end of the year, the students perform Prophets Speak, a culmination of all they have learned throughout the year in Bible.
The Geneva School is committed to providing a curriculum in physical education which allows frequent and diverse opportunities to engage in physical activities necessary to support a healthy mind and body. Fourth grade students develop specific sports skills through learning, practice drills, and modified game play. Students learn the basic rules of a variety of sports and games and build health and fitness through strength and flexibility conditioning with an emphasis on cardiovascular endurance. Fourth graders develop motor proficiency through expressive play and creative movement. Students enjoy individual sports such as tennis and track as well as team sports such as volleyball, Wiffle ball, and basketball.
Field Trips and Culminating Events
- Medieval Times: Students reflect upon their studies of the Middle Ages as they tour a medieval village complete with artifacts, pictures, and historical specialists. Students then enjoy an educational presentation on medieval weapons and falconry and are entertained by a live joust during a traditional feast.
- Cathedral Tour: After studying medieval architecture, the fourth grade embarks on a tour of churches in downtown Orlando. They enjoy an architectural scavenger hunt and are instructed by several knowledgeable tour guides as they visit the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, St. James Catholic Cathedral, and St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church.
- Mead Botanical Gardens: Students investigate Mead Botanical Garden under the direction of an expert botanist and a waterway conservationist. They experience an edible plant walk, a pond investigation, and a stream exploration.
- Monastery Day: Students spend the day praying and working in silence as they seek to experience what life was like in a medieval monastery. Students enjoy working in the school garden, preparing the day’s meal, serving others, and performing various other tasks around the school.
- Viking Day: Students experience life as Vikings as they create projects, enjoy a meat-centered feast, play Viking games, and hear Viking stories.
- Medieval Mystery Plays: During the Middle Ages, Bible stories were passed down verbally and sometimes by dramatic performances. Students re-create and perform important Bible stories for their families and fellow students in much the same way as it was done in the Middle Ages.
- Printing Press: Johannes Gutenberg introduced printing to Europe in 1439. He created the printing press; for the first time, the Bible became accessible to everyone. Students learn about this world-changing invention and practice printmaking modeled after the technique used by Gutenberg.
- Knighting Ceremony: After months of studying the Middle Ages and progressing through the stages of knighthood, students participate in a squires tournament, Maypole dance, knighting ceremony, and scrumptious feast. Parents and loved ones are encouraged to attend this spectacular event. The Knighting Ceremony is the crowning glory of the fourth grade experience.
- Prophets Speak: At the end of the year, students present the dramatic production of Prophets Speak in which they recount each of the prophets’ and God’s messages to his people. In preparation, students recite extensive Scripture passages that they have memorized over the course of the year. The production is a favorite of family and friends.