Fourth and Fifth Grades
‘Main Lessons’ are comprised of rotating units, approximately 8-10 weeks each, that delve into a subject with a multidisciplinary approach. The 4th/5th grade units of study are thoughtfully designed to meet the developmental and intellectual needs of our oldest students, who are supported to expand their social, emotional, and intellectual horizons. Literacy, handwork, art, and mathematics are all woven into the Main Lesson, giving 4th/5th graders the opportunity to synthesize and integrate the reading, writing, handwork, and numeracy skills that they have built throughout their primary school years.
Each child records their learning in their individual lesson book – a student-created textbook - by writing about what they are studying and creating a pictorial representation (drawing or painting) to accompany it. By the end of a unit, each child has created a beautiful record of their learning journey.
This rhythmic and holistic approach to teaching is inclusive for learners of all kinds, providing the opportunity to hone talents and concurrently work on areas of relative struggle. With their heads, their hearts, and their hands, our Upper Primary students lead the way.
The classroom is a place of respect, thoughtfulness, challenge, freedom and curiosity.
School Day: 8:20 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. with the option of Extended Day through 5:10 p.m.
A balanced approach is most effective in children’s reading and writing development.
For reading and writing teachers use Reader's and Writer's Workshop curricula, developed at Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.
Below are key elements of our rich and balanced language arts program:
Reader’s Workshop – Able to read fiction and non-fiction, Fourth and Fifth grade students are engaging with more complex texts. In Reader's Workshop, teachers start with a minilesson where a particular reading skill or strategy is explicitly taught. Then the children go off and read, with teachers coming to them to confer. Children read “just right” books and try the strategies learned in the lesson. Reader’s Workshop provides children with feelings of success and competence while reading.
Young readers need opportunities to read high-interest, accessible books of their own choosing. Our classroom libraries in the upper grades contain over 600 leveled books, all organized into collections, shelves, and bins based on level, genre, topic. Our libraries meet all learners’ needs, both for students reading at, above, and below the benchmark.
Book Clubs - Book clubs provide a structure for meaningful and purposeful conversations about the books they are reading. When in book clubs, students meet regularly to talk about a book they are reading together and study author moves. Students carry out their work independently, assigning roles to various members and using the coaching and suggestions from the teacher.
Writer’s Workshop - In the Fourth and Fifth grades, students are on the cusp of writing more academic texts. They begin practicing the thesis-driven persuasive essays, literary essays, and research reports that later years of writing in school will bring. In The Arc of Story: Writing Realistic Fiction, students learn that the lenses they bring to reading fiction can also be brought to writing fiction, as they develop believable characters with struggles and motivations and rich stories to tell. They also engage in a unit called Boxes and Bullets: Personal and Persuasive Essays where they learn how to organize information and gather evidence to support their opinions. In Bringing History to Life, students are ready to tackle historical research in which they collect evidence and use details to vividly describe people and events long ago and far away. Lastly, in The Literary Essay: Writing About Fiction, students build on their learning of essay writing through writing fiction.
Every writing session starts with a minilesson where a particular skill or strategy is taught. Then the children go off and write, with teachers coming to them to confer. Writers learn to use the writing process: rehearsing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Writing is taught with direct, explicit instruction including spelling conventions and the skills of proficient writing. Writing across genres gives children practice with different authorial voices. At the end of each unit, authors edit their work for publication and are celebrated at publishing parties.
Listening and Speaking - Through classroom discussions, teachers actively utilize the social dynamic of the classroom to develop each student’s ability to express thoughts, feelings, and needs respectfully and effectively. Through a variety of literature, students are introduced to the concept of 'windows and mirrors.' Windows allow you to view someone else’s experience and mirrors allow you reflect on your own culture. Both resources help build one’s identity and develop empathy and understanding.
Reading Support - When students are not meeting the literacy benchmarks that they developmentally could meet, the Head Teacher makes a referral to the Reading Support Teacher. Our Reading Support Teacher is trained in the Institute for Multi-Sensory Orton Gillingham Reading Approach. The Reading Support Teacher meets frequently with students either one-on-one or in small groups using an explicit, sequential, systematic, and multi-sensory approach used to teach literacy. The support program breaks reading and writing into smaller skills involving letters and sounds, then builds on these skills over time. The Teacher will also meet with children for reading fluency and writing support as needed.
At Nantucket Lighthouse School, we use Bridges in Mathematics developed by The Math Learning Center. Math in the Fourth and Fifth grades focus on forging meaningful connections between what children understand conceptually and the conventional symbols and procedures used to represent mathematical concepts.Show More
Fourth graders focus on multiplication and division with multi-digit numbers, fractions, and geometry. Throughout the year they find factors and multiples of different numbers; compare fractions and break fractions into smaller parts; compare decimal numbers and find decimal and fraction equivalents; develop efficient strategies for multiplying and dividing multi-digit numbers; calculate area and work with volume; and measure and draw angles using protractors.
In fifth grade students focus on computing with fractions, dividing with larger numbers, calculating with decimal numbers, and finding the volume of rectangular prisms. Throughout the year they add, subtract, and multiply fractions; divide unit fractions by whole numbers; divide whole numbers by unit fractions; calculate with decimal numbers; and find the volume of rectangular prisms.
Following a two year rhythm, the Upper Primary curriculum seeks to educate students about freedom and equality through units focusing on: 1. West African folktales, culture, and history 2. slavery and 3. the Civil Rights Movement. The study of West African culture provides a rich picture of thriving, advanced cultures (specifically the kingdoms of Ghana, Songhay and Mali).Show More
Music, folk tales, and craft/artwork infuse this historical study with vibrancy. Against that backdrop, students progress to learning about the history of the transatlantic slave trade and slavery in this country. Using the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) educational framework as a guide, we teach ‘hard history’ in a developmentally appropriate manner, with the goal of openly educating students about race, commonalities, civics, conflict and change, all centered on the stories of enslaved people. To quote the SPLC’s ‘Learning for Justice’ site, “Teaching young people about our hard history should engage them in important questions that have relevance in their lives… what it means to be free and how humans make choices even in the most adverse circumstances.”
The study of Ancient Greece takes 4th/5th graders into the world of Greek mythology via literature, poetry, and song and is then tied to history as students learn about Ancient Greece in the context of its geography, city-states, contributions – geometry, astronomy, democracy, philosophy – and great thinkers – figures such as Socrates, Homer, Hippocrates, and Pythagoras. As math units on geometry and science units on astronomy are explored simultaneously, the interconnectedness of these subjects is illuminated.
During botany and astronomy units, students explore the ground below and the sky above. Upper Primary students engage in scientific thinking and scientific habits of mind by learning to collect data and observations, conduct and record experiments, ask objective questions, and explore the natural world with respect and care.Show More
Each science unit is infused with art and literacy and tied in to previous units – the Ancient Greeks, for example, provide a starting point to learning about the constellations. This strand is woven back in to students’ learning when they hear about the North Star’s prominent role in guiding slaves who escaped on the Underground Railroad.
Botany is taught in the fall and spring so that field trips and horticulture classes can be utilized during Main Lesson, and astronomy in the winter, when we have our shortest days, so that observations of the night sky can be made for homework and special field trips.
As each unit echoes across the year and across the subjects, teachers strive to delve deeply while also fostering an understanding of the ways in which disparate topics are connected. We nurture students who self-advocate, direct their own learning, and approach the world with curiosity and wonder.
Weekly Physical Education classes include exercising gross motor skills through running, jumping, hopping, climbing, balancing, throwing, and catching. There is an emphasis on collaborative games and good sportspersonship.
In 4th and 5th grade music, students have built a solid amount of musical experience in the earlier grades. In music, students sing songs from American folk repertoire, popular music, and around the world. Students deepen their understanding of music notation, including how to read and write simple rhythms and melodies. They also expand their abilities with songs and rounds, aiming for more independence with both singing and instrumental accompaniment. Students learn to accompany simple songs on the keyboard (one per student) and learn the layout of tones with the goal of playing keyboards together as a group.