The fourth grade year at Open Window School is a time of excitement and growth. Fourth graders experience many long-standing Open Window School traditions. These traditions include conducting the Curiosity Quest research project on a topic of their choice, learning about the history and geography of Washington, studying the Civil Rights Movement through influential people and events, and culminating the year with their first-overnight trip to IslandWood on Bainbridge Island. During fourth grade, students continue to grow in self-awareness and autonomy as they learn to navigate longer-term projects. Throughout all of these experiences, fourth graders continue to build their research, communication, and time-management skills. As with all grades at Open Window, fourth grade also provides an intentional, age-appropriate progression of social and emotional learning and development.
Building on a solid foundation of reading and writing skills developed in earlier grades, fourth graders thrive in a language arts program that is designed to nourish literacy at all levels. Language arts concepts are integrated throughout the core disciplines in the fourth grade curriculum. Reading comprehension, literary response and analysis are the main areas of focus in fourth grade reading instruction. Students’ reading skills are assessed using the Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) early in the year and also through ongoing reading conferences. Students keep reading notebooks and participate in a differentiated and independent reading program. The fourth grade reading program incorporates monthly genre studies, Junior Great Books, whole-class novels, and book clubs with a strong focus on developing critical thinking skills.
Fourth grade students are becoming independent writers, and are provided the instruction and skill development to make this a priority through the workshop model. Fourth grade students view themselves as creative, competent writers, eager to share their ideas with an audience. Writing occurs daily and is integrated throughout the curriculum, including writing journals, reader response activities, reading journals, grammar lessons, and Handwriting Without Tears cursive lessons. Fourth grade word study concentrates on Greek and Latin roots and enhancing vocabulary knowledge. Communication skills are emphasized through class discussions and presentations, cooperative group experiences, and personal interactions.
Features that distinguish fourth grade math instruction are: real life problem solving, balanced instruction, multiple methods for basic skills practice, emphasis on communication, and the use of technology. Using enVision Math, and supplemental enrichment materials, math instruction is differentiated according to students’ needs and abilities. Math instruction includes practice problems from the textbook, Writing to Explain word problems, and hands-on activities that both build foundational math skills as well as ask students to use their math knowledge to extend and deepen concepts. Assessment is ongoing and informs the content and pacing of the math instruction. Groups are created depending upon skills students need to learn or practice, and groups may be flexible depending upon the unit, activity, or project.
Fourth grade scientists learn how to write a scientific paper, recording the results of their observations and investigations. Students at this level work on experiments that are students driven that include planning, supply orders and budgets, time management, peer cooperation, and even collaborating with scientists from all over the world for real-world expert review. These experiments and investigations are then assembled in a digital science portfolio for the end of the year. Devoted strictly to kindergarten through fourth grade learners, the Open Window Lower School Science Lab offers inquiry based, hands-on experiences for young students. Capitalizing on the natural curiosity and zeal for learning of gifted students, the lower school science curriculum develops not only a solid foundation of science skills but a passion for all things scientific. Scientific investigations cover four domains over the course of kindergarten through fourth grade: the physical sciences; the life sciences; the earth and space sciences; and engineering, technology and applications of science.
The social studies theme of Washington State provides students with an up-close study of their home state. Investigations into regions and geography, the First Nations People, Explorers, early settlement, and present day economy and government, allow students to learn first-hand about their home state.
The lower school exploratory Spanish program follows the natural sequence of language learning: understanding > speaking > reading > writing. Understanding and speaking are the primary focus. The program is designed to provide both an introduction to another language and an appreciation of another culture prior to the more academic middle school Spanish curriculum. Consistent with how a child learns his or her first language, the Spanish curriculum encourages a learning environment in which the language directly relates to the students and their surroundings, reflecting their needs, interests, and everyday life. Students are exposed to Spanish-speaking cultures through stories, songs and a study of customs. An appreciation of other societies and cultures is fostered through the study of the Spanish language.