Spring Into RPCS!
Grade four girls begin to develop the academic, organizational and social skills that prepare them for the rigors of fifth grade and the transition into Middle School.
These curious young minds are ready to learn specific study skills, make choices in their academic pursuits, and navigate relationships with more sensitivity and empathy. The fourth grade girl is beginning to think more critically and delve into topics with more high level questions. The desire to have a say in their learning is growing strong. Our girls now question information, challenge us with new ideas, and start to push the limits of their learning. It is an exciting year packed with learning activities!
The goal of our literacy program is to develop confident and self-motivated readers and writers. Individual needs are met as skills are introduced and developed. In grade four, the focus is on building fluency, comprehension skills, and learning to read across disciplines. Our novel-based approach to instruction offers young readers daily opportunities to make connections, predict, infer and derive meaning. We expose children to a wide variety of genres and give them the tools to achieve a deep understanding of text, so ultimately, they attain a more perfect appreciation of literature as well as a hearty spirit of inquiry.
Lower School students grow into effective creative and analytical writers. We deliver classroom instruction along with personalized attention that builds each writer’s unique skill set. In fourth grade, students continue to learn about sentence structure, mechanics, and presentation. These basic elements of written language lay critical foundation for more complex endeavors down the road. All grades consider formal projects that cross various genres while inspiring heart in the writing process.
Fourth grade girls will focus on:
● Effective communication through written and oral presentation
● Novel study to learn literary elements, plot, and character analysis, use of Notice and Note’s 6 Signposts
● Individualized spelling
● Novels may include: Out of My Mind, Sarah, Plain and Tall, The Captain’s Dog, Hatchet, Island of the Blue Dolphins
● Continued practice with keyboarding
● Writing includes: personal narratives/story quilt, journal writing, persuasive writing, poetry, citing evidence from novel study
● Introduction to more complex grammar elements to support writing
The Lower School math program is founded on best practices and research-based mathematics education. The goal of the program is to help our girls construct deep conceptual understanding, build strong problem-solving skills and develop computational fluency. From the earliest age, students are driven to develop a clear number sense that gives them confidence and power over numbers and computation. They analyze mathematical relationships, build their geometric and numeric reasoning and draw conclusions from this deeper thinking. An emphasis on understanding allows students to construct meaning and think flexibly about procedures that are efficient and effective. It is our hope that our approach to math instruction will empower our girls to feel increasingly confident about their mathematical ability and understanding. This confidence and depth of understanding will expand their future possibilities in all STEM fields.
During the fourth grade year, the emphasis is on developing strong number sense, understanding patterns and relationships, and practicing flexible thinking when solving problems. Lessons include:
● Continuing to build number sense and increase confidence with operations
● Practice with two and three digit multiplication and division
● Geometry-attributes and identities, data analysis, and Venn diagrams
● Developing an understanding of fractions and decimal numbers
The purpose of the Lower School social studies curriculum is for students to understand their place in the global community and in historical time. Starting with understanding self and family, students progress to understanding local community, city and state, country and global. Geography and research are integrated throughout the curriculum. An emphasis is placed on the power of the individual to impact the world in which we live.
The goal of our fourth grade social studies curriculum is to look at these enduring understandings:
• History is connected to geography is connected to economics is connected to culture.
• Historians interpret past events with different lenses and perspectives.
• One individual has significant power and obligation as a citizen.
Topics explored include: state geography and facts, regions of the United States, westward expansion, and environmental stewardship in Maryland through a project study of non-profits.
All science units in grades K-5 derive from the Next Generation Science Standards and engage girls in the areas of life science, earth and space science, physical science, and engineering design. Units are hands-on and performance-based and strive to enhance our girls’ natural curiosity. As girls explore the science content and how it connects to the natural world, they develop key learning skills – communication, collaboration, inquiry, problem-solving, resilience and flexibility.
Learning is extended to the outdoors while working in the Lower School garden or visiting the Backwoods. Our garden program teaches basic skills in growing and harvesting plants, caring for the environment, and encouraging individual wellness. During science class, fourth grade girls study:
• Composting unit
• Physical features of living things for survival
• Energy/motion/sound energy
• Electricity and circuits
• Changing Earth
The music program uses a combination of Orff and Kodaly teaching methodologies. The Kodaly method is based primarily on singing and follows a child-developmental approach to learning basic rhythms and intervals. For example, children learn quarter notes and eighth notes first since these rhythms can be related to their walking and running paces. These rhythms are also the building blocks of most of the folk songs and games we play in class. The Orff method utilizes singing, moving, speaking and various instruments (both pitched and unpitched). The Orff instruments provide an ideal medium for texture and color exploration and provide a visual representation of pitch relationships that becomes especially useful when learning to read music. Playing in an instrumental ensemble requires focus, cooperation and an ability to hear one’s part within the whole. As children progress through the program, they begin to improvise and compose their own music and accompaniments to poems, rhymes and simple folk songs.
During the fourth grade year, girls:
• Master pentatonic scale
• Practice with sixteenth note rhythm
• Are introduced to Orff instrument-recorder
• Participate in two concert performances a year
The Lower School art curriculum covers many of the skills necessary for meaningful self-expression. These skills include use of shapes, both geometric and free form, understanding the color wheel, and qualities of 2D and 3D design, as well as composition, using balance and spatial relationships. The Lower School curriculum also takes on an historical perspective that includes art units inspired by famous artists and varied cultures. Some examples of these artistic influences include Warhol, Chagall, Kahlo, Matisse, and Monet, as well as cultural inspirations from the Ancient Egyptians, Greco-Roman Bas Reliefs and mosaics, Native American artifacts, Peruvian weavings, and African tribal masks. Art movements are also incorporated into the curriculum units, such as: Pop Art self-portraits, Surrealist paintings, Impressionist landscapes, and Cubist compositions. Students in Lower School are encouraged to utilize artistic expression within a variety of media and techniques to extend their learning inside and outside the classroom. Media that are explored include everything from painting, drawing, and collage to beading, building, and sculpture. Students at RPCS can stretch their imaginations and intellects thanks to their involvement in the Visual Arts.
During the fourth grade year, girls are introduced to a variety of artists’ mediums and forms of expression, and explore visual texture in art. During this year, the girls study animals at the Maryland SPCA and participate in the organization’s annual portrait auction to raise money for their shelter. Artists studied include Andy Warhol and Pop Art, mythical creatures in art and representational art of state landmarks.
The Lower School dance program introduces emerging to developing techniques, and students evolve throughout the various levels of instruction. Using a variety of dance styles such as pre-ballet, ballet, modern, jazz, hip-hop, partner work, and choreography, the dancers mature in their overall knowledge of many styles and forms. Emphasis is placed on motor control skills, spatial and motor awareness, muscular development, core conditioning, stretching, yoga, and posture. Dance classes are specifically designed to support multiple learning styles. Dancers work together in ensembles, to engage in and connect with problem solving activities, teamwork, and leadership skills.
Fourth grade girls experience dance three days out of the 10 day cycle. They receive an introduction to basic ballet, modern dance, and tap dancing. They continue practice focusing on breathing, movement, posture, spatial awareness and core conditioning. Girls practice performing as an ensemble for the winter and spring recitals.
Fourth grade classes meet five days out of 10 for 50 minutes. The main emphasis of the physical education (PE) program is individual skill development and cooperative interaction. PE in the Lower School strives to provide the best opportunity for physical activity for students. The goal is to develop healthy, responsible students who have the knowledge, skills, and mindset to work together in groups, think critically, and participate in a variety of activities that lead to a sustainable healthy lifestyle. The students explore and refine basic movement patterns and are exposed to exploratory and discovery experiences involving body awareness, spatial orientation, basic body actions, eye-hand and eye-foot coordination, rhythmic movement, and an introduction to team sports such as badminton, soccer, tennis and basketball. During the fourth and fifth grade years, girls may sign up for after school intramurals.
Three languages are offered in the Lower School: Chinese, French and Spanish. In K–2, students practice each language with an emphasis on oral communication reinforced through songs, games, role playing, language-based websites and a broad survey of the representative culture. In grades 3-5, students focus on one language, utilizing a variety of learning tools such as total physical response, Symtalk, poems and plays. Writing and reading skills are developed with the support of books, audio and interactive technology. Girls choose their focus language as they enter third grade. Chinese and one Romance language are offered each year. The Romance language could be Spanish or French depending on the student’s year of entry. Classes are taught five days out of the 10 day cycle for 50 minutes. Projects, games and performances at our Lower School morning meetings showcase their learning.
With over 11,000 books in the Lower School library and an iPad for every student, girls are given endless access to thoughts, ideas, stories, and research that are both current and timeless. Girls in grades K-5 receive weekly instruction in using the library for research and literature appreciation. Library classes provide exposure to many kinds of literature genres and monthly book clubs provide enrichment opportunities for young readers. Girls in grade four use library class time to complete a website related to their study of the 50 states.
RPCS believes that technology can foster and ignite some of the most creative ideas. With our 1:1 iPad program and a dedicated Innovation Lab, we provide students with endless ways to be curious and creative. Our technology program provides tools that are completely integrated into our classrooms and supports learning across all content areas. This integration provides students with purposeful access to research tools, digital libraries, content specific apps, and creative tools. Our Innovation Lab provides a dedicated makerspace filled with state of the art 3D printers, building tools, green screens, and materials for students to design and develop their ideas. The Lower School has a dedicated technology integrationist to help provide instruction and support for students, as well as, learning opportunities and technology integration planning for our faculty. Girls in this grade have an opportunity to participate in Lego League Robotics competitions.
At each grade level of the Lower School, girls’ social and emotional intelligence is intentionally developed. This attention to the whole child is woven into every activity, not just a once-a-week course. Through the use of Responsive Classroom and The Toolbox Project curricula, girls in grades K-5 learn how to recognize the traits in themselves and others that lead to healthy relationships and a sense of personal well-being. Toolbox lessons are taught by the Lower School counselor to give the girls access to the 12 tools within themselves that build self-regulation skills. The Responsive Classroom approach fosters respect and empathy. In addition, daily morning meeting time is used to build an understanding of unique qualities of culture, race and circumstance that enriches our community. Our girls leave Lower School with a moral compass, prepared to see the good in others and appreciate the good within themselves.
• Grade four girls are introduced to the 12 Toolbox tools: breathing, quiet/safe place, listening, empathy, personal space, using our words, garbage can, taking time, please and thank you, apology and forgiveness, patience, and courage.
• Through Responsive Classroom, the girls develop classroom expectations and practice being a good citizen. They learn to express themselves and solve conflict through listening and conversation. Morning meeting time builds community and empathy for each other. Often morning meeting is also a time to use collaborative skills to explore content related to social studies, math, or literacy. Closing meeting every day allows the girls to come together and share meaningful parts of their day.
• Lunch as a classroom is a time for the girls to explore the ideas of healthy eating, make colorful choices on their plate, hold respectful conversations, and use quiet time to listen to stories of individuals that made a difference in the world.
The grade four experience is highlighted by a number of special events including:
• Traveling to the SPCA to draw sketches of the animals available for adoption
• Attending a play about pioneers at Goucher College
• Pre-Preakness visit to Pimlico Race Course
• Non-profit poster presentation and award ceremony