Grade 4

Social Studies

Essential Questions:

  • How are groups of people alike or different?

  • How was life in the past similar to and different from today?

  • Why do people move?

  • How am I different from and similar to others?

  • How am I changing, in personal and physical ways, over time?

  • How are regions and states defined?

  • How did America grow?

  • What does it mean to be an American?

Places and changes, both global and personal, are at the heart of the fourth grade social studies program. The year begins with an investigation of the immigrant experience, focusing on the conditions people faced and the challenges they overcame in uprooting their lives by relocating to America.

A second major exploration in fourth grade involves the physical and social changes our students experience as they move into puberty. As our students recognize their own emerging strengths, skills, and abilities, they also study biographies of influential people as they consider the impact that individual people can have on the greater world.

Independence and joy in learning frame much of the year in fourth grade. These qualities are especially visible during the study of US geography. Students take responsibility for a substantial research project about one of the states, culminating in a celebratory exposition of their work. The State Fair, hosted in the spring, provides a showcase for their accomplishments and their new knowledge.



Fourth graders meet three periods per six-day cycle with a science teacher in the lower school discovery room. Using a hands-on inquiry-based approach, the fourth grade science program focuses on basic science skills needed for students to conduct experimental investigations. Inquiry based learning engages our students in exploring and manipulating materials, generating original, testable questions, and sharing results with each other to further their understanding of scientific concepts. Students engage in measurement, observation, prediction, hypothesis testing, and experimentation. They keep science journals and learn to document their experiments. During the fall, students investigate basic properties of solids, liquids, and gases, with a special emphasis on the water cycle. Fourth grade projects include designing a process to separate an unknown mixture, and designing and building a thermos. In the spring, the curriculum focuses on force, air, and water pressure, the physics of sound, and flight. Students design and build model cars, gliders, rockets, hovercrafts, and parachutes. 



With a foundation in all four basic arithmetic operations, fourth graders apply mathematical reasoning to challenges in a wide range of areas. Students explore, measure, and calculate geometric concepts such as perimeter and area. They expand their understanding of multiplication to include factors and multiples, they learn to construct and solve long division and multi-digit multiplication problems, add and subtract decimals, and explain their understanding using mathematical language.They learn the meaning of measures of central tendency and calculate these values with different types of data sets; they graph number pairs using Cartesian coordinates; they determine elapsed time and solve word problems using a variety of operations. Many of these mathematical areas are incorporated into cross-disciplinary projects and thematic activities. 

English/Language Arts

The emphasis in fourth grade language arts is on building skills and confidence in reading, writing, listening and speaking. Silent reading and/or oral reading take place on a daily basis. The teachers read aloud to the students frequently. Reading comprehension exercises emphasize recalling details, identifying and explaining the main idea, and language appreciation. In fourth grade, students read longer books related to the themes of their social studies content: immigration stories and books about the Chinese experience in building the transcontinental railroad are some examples. Fourth grade is also a year to explore the way chapter books are organized. As children read beloved books like From the Mixed-Up-Files of Mrs. Basil E. Franweiler or Maniac Magee, they analyze the structure of the stories and the elements of the books. Students keep personal reading journals on their independent reading books. Daily involvement in the writing process, with both teacher and peer feedback, guides the students toward greater clarity, more specific detail, and an increased awareness of spelling and grammar. One of the highlights of the fourth grade year is the picture book project, in which each student writes and illustrates a story that is bound into a beautiful finished product to share. 

World Language


In fourth-grade Chinese class, children learn about topics such as clothing, colors, fruits, snacks, drinks, toys, school supplies and shopping. The beginning of the year is marked by an autumn colors walk around our beautiful campus, after which the children make a short video about the different colors of leaves and flowers. The walk is followed by a leaf-rubbing project that tells us each student’s favorite colors in Chinese. Each thematic unit is closely related to students’ own lives, and each unit culminates in a project that incorporates the students’ learning. 

In addition to partner work, children in fourth grade Chinese class are encouraged to present about the topics they learn.

The emphasis of this class is on listening, speaking, reading and writing. The goal at this stage continues to be for the students to speak with correct tones and pronunciation through modeling after the teacher. Although pinyin is introduced, students wll work primarily with Chinese characters, so they do not grow overly reliant on pinyin. The purpose of writing Chinese character continues to be experiential. The writing objectives include following stroke orders, and write some of the most commonly used characters to communicate meaning.

Online resources are provided for those who would like to reinforce classroom learning at home.


Continuing the concentration with listening and speaking abilities that began in third grade, students acquire more vocabulary and grammatical structures as a natural by-product of their desire to communicate in French, whether it be playing a game, solving a puzzle or participating in an activity with a friend. While the main emphasis in this program remains aural/oral, there is a written component as well. Activities are supplemented by nursery rhymes, videos, dialogues, puppets and songs. Topics include sports, professions, days of the week, animals, numbers, adjectives, the verbs "Avoir" and "être", and simple negation.  A popular card game in France called “Jeu des Sept Familles” is played in class to reinforce vocabulary. Special projects include celebrating Mardis Gras, the  “Galette des Rois” (King’s Day) and hand-sewing a “beret” and making their own board game.


Within the context of the contemporary Spanish-speaking world, students continue to work toward proficiency in the four language skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Lessons include the present tense of regular and certain commonly used irregular verbs as well as stem-changing verbs, possessive and descriptive adjectives, noun-adjective agreement, comparatives, interrogatives and contractions. These grammatical concepts are presented within the context of situational dialogues and DVDs that depict the daily activities of young people from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries and cultures. Vocabulary exercises expand the students' fluency as they facilitate the gradual transition toward reading and writing. Special projects may include creating a poster on the family, presenting short skits, and cooking quesadillas and cocadas


Fine Arts


Lower School drama allows children to make discoveries about themselves and others through games, focused exercises, and fun activities.  In third through fifth grade, students explore characters in more depth. They practice methods for making actions seem real, and they learn more about the process of making a play come to life on stage.

Visual Arts

Students in third through fifth grade continue to build foundational skills using a variety of media. Most of their projects are designed to complement the curriculum in science, literature, and social studies: inventor sculptures, arabesque pillows, clay candle houses (a highlight of the fourth grade!) environmental painting and representations of the natural world, Egyptian and Greek arts are a few of the beautiful works our students produce during these years.


Music in the Lower School is based on the Kodály Concept, a comprehensive, sequential, experience-based program used to develop basic musical skills and to teach the reading and writing of music. From lullabies, childhood chants, folk songs, singing games and dances, to the art music of master composers, students sing, move, listen, and respond to an ever-increasing repertoire of music, from which musical elements and concepts to be learned are derived. 

Physical Education

At Foote, we believe in nurturing our students’ physical health and growth as well as their academic progress. With that philosophy as a guiding force, our physical education program is designed to support students’ self-image, build sportsmanship, and provide a basis for a healthy lifelong attitude toward fitness. Our curriculum is carefully sequenced to match the stages of physical, social, and emotional development from year to year. In addition to athletic skills, our program encourages creative expression, builds social concepts such as sportsmanship, cooperation, and fair play, offers opportunities for leadership, encourages children to take risks, and fosters a sense of well-being in a non-competitive setting.

All children at Foote School are members of either the Maroon or Grey sports teams. Spirit is high on our annual Field Day, when students participate in a variety of fun and competitive events between the Maroon and the Grey. Kindergarteners take part only in the morning, competing in a fun run, a scoop relay, and a shuttle relay. All the other students participate in a full day of events, culminating in an all-school relay race around the entire field, featuring the day’s winners of the 60-yard dash from each grade. 

The Lower School physical education program provides opportunities for students to express themselves through movement. In the primary grades, classes focus on fine and gross motor skills, balance, spatial awareness, flexibility, endurance, strength and coordination. Activities are lively and fun, making use of a wide variety of equipment, ranging from bean bags to beach balls, whiffle bats, scoops, and foam paddles. 

Competition is kept to a minimum and cooperative games are included in most lessons. The 3rd-5th grade program encourages students to build endurance through a gradually increasing running challenge, which culminates in a one-mile run. Also in these later elementary grades, team sports are introduced, along with the concept of rules and sport-specific skills.

In Kindergarten through fifth grade, all three sections of the class participate in gym together, allowing the teachers to divide the group into different configurations. Third through fifth have gym four times in each cycle.