In fourth grade we will be using both the reading and writing workshop model in class, based on the work of Lucy Calkins and others. Although many of your children have learned reading and writing skills in a workshop format before, I want to lay out some of the basics. During our school Open House I will be sharing more information, and feel free to ask questions any time.
The reading workshop focuses on the idea that to grow, readers need two things: specific instruction in reading skills, and time to read! The workshop model allows for mini-lessons on particular topics followed by practice time. Students will often be in small reading groups or partnerships, but will also have independent reading time. We will be using a wide range of fiction and nonfiction text at different times this year. Throughout all our topics and genres, readers will be asked to respond to text in some way, whether verbally, in writing, or through projects. Our literacy work will often be tied to or interwoven with themes we are studying across the curriculum.
The writing workshop is based on the authentic process writers go through when they write a piece for publication. This process develops and becomes more independent as children get older. Typically, students collect ideas, experiment, and develop ideas in their writer’s notebooks. Students will be writing in these almost every day, and they may even come home for homework! You might notice that work in these notebooks can be disjointed, messy, or incomplete. That’s ok! This is a place where students generate ideas, and not all of them will become finished pieces.
Once ideas are generated students move through a process of drafting, revising, and editing. We place tremendous focus on the revising process - making “big-ticket” changes like refining structure, writing new beginnings, or elaborating on key points. Editing is about checking spelling, grammar, and punctuation, although students are encouraged to think about punctuation and spelling throughout the process. Finally, pieces are published by typing them, making a cover, or otherwise displaying them for other readers. Finished pieces will also go in the student’s portfolio binder.
The thing we focus on the most in writing workshop is improving the writer’s skill as a writer. While we value the final piece, it’s not the final product that we are most interested in, but rather how the writer grew and changed over the process.
While we will be doing a lot of direct instruction at school, there are many ways you can support your young readers and writers at home.
- Tell stories whenever you can. Share stories from your day or your past, and encourage your child to do the same.
- Read with your child every day. Newspapers, novels, emails, anything. Research shows that read aloud is one of the best ways to grow vocabulary, expose children to new genres, and encourage a love of reading and language.
- Create a writing space for your child, with writing materials available.
- Share your writing and writing process with your child, whether it’s an email, book, or letter. Share how you went about creating it - both the struggles and the successes.
- When your child is writing, try to only give quick bits of help. Asking questions or limiting yourself to a sentence or two provides support while also fostering independence. Some possible questions or comments:
- What are you hoping your reader will get from this piece?
- What’s your favorite part?
- What strategies have you used? Can you show me where you used them?
- Your writing reminds me of __________(insert favorite author’s name) because _____________.
- You worked very hard on this! I can tell that you ________________.
Let me know if you have any questions! I hope you will have many chances to read and write with your child this year.
Our math curriculum is build from the Bridges in Mathematics program from The Math Learning Center. As this is a combined third and fourth grade class, units are taught by topic (such as addition and sibtractio). During math students spend some time in a whole group and some time with their grade level peers, always working on similar topics or strategies, but at an appropriate level of difficulty.
Curriculum Scope and Sequence
Multiplication - models and strategies
Multiplication and Division
Addition and Subtraction
Fractions, Measurement, and Decimals
Extending Multiplication, Division, and Fractions
Extending Fractions and Decimals
Science and Social Studies
Fourth grade is a wonderful time of exploration and adventure. We will be beginning the process of creating and learning with International Baccalaureate (IB) theme units which combine science, social studies, literacy, and sometimes math.
Our first theme unit centers on community through the Middlebury College Organic Farm. We hope that the students will know a plot of land deeply - it’s proximity to the town, college, woods and the TAM, how it changes over time, how people interact with it. With familiarity students will grow an affinity for the land and become caretakers and stewards. The hope is that these budding stewards will carry a sense of caring for the land into their future lives. In addition the children will experience first hand the many ways community can be built through knowing a place so well; a community of givers, a community of thinkers, a community of workers, a community of readers/writers, a community of storytellers and a community of learners.
Over the rest of the year students will study the science of sound and music, Vermont history and government, natural disasters, and more!
Social/Emotional Learning and Positive Behavior Support:
Both positive behavior and social emotional learning is integral to academic success. Positive behavior and social emotional learning are not taught in a 15-minute session on the first day of school, first week, or first month. We believe that these need to be integrated into our schools every day.
RC is a research-based approach that provides teachers and staff practical strategies for integrating social and academic learning all day. It is based on 4 areas of teaching: engaging academics, positive community, effective management, and developmental awareness. RC has 7 guiding principles that help teachers shape their teaching. These 7 principles are based around knowing each student’s developmental and cultural backgrounds, as well as the importance of explicitly teaching a social emotional curriculum along with the academic curriculum. RC allows us to focus on expectations that are framed in a positive way and we use it to create a strong sense of community in the classroom and school.
PBS is a proven approach that decreases the problem behaviors among students, increases on-task engagement, and raises levels of satisfaction with school climate for students, teachers, and parents. It is a framework that allows us to support positive behavior and intervene when students are having trouble meeting the school and class expectations.
Both RC and PBS help us create an environment that:
- engages more students in their learning
- enhances achievement for all students
- is safe and inclusive
- prevents major behavior problems
- responds to students behavior effectively and positively
In addition fourth graders will be studying the brain and using mindfulness to help gain greater awareness and control over our own bodies and emotions.
For more information please feel free to talk with Ms. Harvey.
Students will begin getting official homework by the second month of school. Students are, however, expected to read every night all year long! Research shows that the best way to grow reading skills and a love of reading is to actually READ as much as possible. Please help by encouraging your child to read every day, helping them find books they love, and reading with them!
Math homework generally consists of pages from the Bridges Home Connections book. Students will be doing 2-3 pages a week and will be responsible for bringing their homework books to and from school every day. Math homework should be reinforcing a skill already learned. You can help your child by asking them what strategies that have practiced in class, or be helping them understand the problem. If it becomes way too tricky, it’s always ok to stop and bring it in to school for help!
Long term projects in writing, science and social studies may sometimes come home as well.