Lower School

Grade 4

The fourth grade year is the final year in the Ellis Lower School. Students further develop responsibility, independence, and organizational skills as they prepare for the transition to the Middle School. A major component of this preparation is switching classes for academic subjects and learning to manage time and materials. It is a year when the girls develop their personal voice as they learn to constructively take a stand, actively reach out to the broader community to share their talents, and engage in activities about which they are passionate.

While learning content is important in this grade level, equally important are study skills, with organization being primary. We expect the girls to begin to become independent workers, to learn to manage time and materials, and to prioritize. Girls also learn to work cooperatively and collaboratively with one another to complete many assignments.

Fourth grade is also about leadership. As the oldest students in the Lower School, the girls take on leadership roles in assemblies and in organizing School-wide projects. They learn to identify a need or problem and work to find solutions. They take a leading role in service learning projects that help us all to reach beyond ourselves and support the broader community.

The Curriculum

List of 12 items.

  • Curriculum Overview

    Woven through all curricular work in the fourth grade are opportunities for the girls to develop an active voice, have opportunities for leadership, and become more responsible, independent, and resourceful.

    The girls learn to share their thoughts, opinions, and feelings through writing, class discussion, and presentations to larger audiences. The fourth graders act as leaders of the Lower School in a number of ways. They take on the largest roles in the Lower School musical, they make the School a greener place through the Earth Cream Sale, and they lead the entire Lower School in a learning experience through their capstone project at the end of the year.

    At the core, fourth grade is about learning to learn and learning how to apply what has been learned in multiple contexts. Core subjects taught by classroom teachers in fourth grade are language arts, mathematics, and social studies. All other subjects are taught by subject-specific teachers.
  • Art

    Fourth grade art students experiment with concepts, materials, and techniques.  They explore the use of color, the emotional response to color, and the effect of color on the viewer. The three-dimensional experiences include a clay fantasy island using multimedia techniques. Students will study the work of Alberto Giacometti and create plaster figures in wire and wood. Students will learn to create order inside and outside with one- and two-point perspective drawing.

    Students will formulate answers to visual problems and critique their work. At the conclusion of the school year, students will invite parents and friends to “The Fourth Grade Portfolio Exhibit” of their work which includes reflective comments regarding their work and development as artists. At times, the fourth grade classroom curriculum and the art curriculum will join to provide depth and enrichment for the students through a cross-curricular experience.

    Curriculum Units for Grade 4
    • Design: contour drawing
    • Color: Josef Albers color studies
    • Size/Scale: play scenery and props
    • Line: perspective drawings
    • Surface/Texture: clay islands
    • Value: chalk self-portraits
    • Shape: plaster schulpture
  • Computer Education

    The goal of the Lower School computer program is to empower girls to make informed use of the computer as a responsive tool to meet the specific needs of their academic inquiries. Confidence and independent thinking are built as students work through their assignments.

    There are eighteen computers in the lab and every student is assigned her own computer, which she uses throughout the school year. The girls use software and the Internet for projects and reinforcement of the topics covered in the classroom in math, reading, science, and social studies. Unscheduled time in the computer lab, classroom computers, and iPads complement the regular classroom program.

    Fourth graders have computer twice a week for 40 minutes each period. They also have access to the computer lab when they are working on special projects.

    Goals for fourth grade computer learning
    After four years of computer experience in the Lower School computer lab, the fourth graders are increasingly confident in their basic navigation abilities and are ready for further challenges. Students are given more independent projects, and self-confidence and responsibility continue to be emphasized. At this stage, students are generally at ease with the computer as a learning tool and personal workstation. Proper use and care of the equipment is expected, as is ethical use of the computer. The software used in the fourth grade curriculum covers areas in language arts (the writing process), math (problem solving, facts practice), social studies (map skills, U.S. geography), and science. Word processing skills continue to be emphasized, along with formal keyboarding instruction.

    Keyboarding is a skill taught in both third and fourth grades. Because regular and consistent practice is such an integral part of learning how to type, it is not a reasonable expectation that the girls learn to type solely through their time in computer class. To ensure that students have every opportunity to experience success in this area, Ellis has purchased a subscription to a web-based keyboarding program. This site can be accessed from school and from home so that your daughter can practice keyboarding a little bit each day.

    Sample Units
    Keyboarding, media literacy, U.S. geography, word processing, PowerPoint, iMovie, safe and effective Internet searches, ethical use of computers and resources, strategic games.
  • Dance

    Dance provides a wonderful opportunity for all girls to experience leadership and collaborative roles, develop self-confidence, and to explore the concept that there are often many interesting ways to get to the common goal.

    Each student will learn dance steps for performance, dance vocabulary, and cultural aspects of the dance genres that are studied.  

    • Introductory Unit: Students will learn a set warm-up which reinforces proper alignment and a review of technical elements designed to increase skill, flexibility, and strength.
    • Musical Theater Unit: The girls will learn new choreography to perform in the Lower School musical in December. In addition to dance rehearsal and performance the girls will learn staging and performance etiquette.
    • Leaps and Turns Unit: Students will develop more advanced leap sequences during center practice and will focus on building their turning and spotting technique.
    • Ballet Unit: Students will learn basic ballet terminology, traveling floor patterns, and small jumps.  
    • Historical Dance Unit: We will study the origins of ballet in early court dances and explore its importance on the world stage.  
  • Language Arts

    Fourth grade language arts is comprised of a rigorous writing program and a literature-based reading program. Language skills, including grammar, parts of speech, and editing are an integral part of daily writing instruction. Each girl is encouraged to find her voice as a writer through essay, story, personal narrative, and poetry writing, among others. To further enhance the writing program, an individualized spelling program challenges each girl at her own level. Some reading instruction and novel subject matter is directly related to the social studies curriculum. This correlation along with the various genres encourages students to expand and have conversations about their knowledge and appreciation of culture and geography through literature in small or individual instructional groups. All novels are paired with a long-term project that serves to show deep understanding of the literature, enhance the types of writing addressed in Writing Workshop, and help to further develop time management skills. In all areas of language arts, an emphasis is placed on building strength in speaking before an audience.
  • Library

    The curriculum in fourth grade is geared toward preparing students to locate information in conjunction with their classroom activities as well as to prepare them to navigate successfully through the Middle/Upper School library. Learning the Dewey Decimal System of Classification enables the students to access all parts of the library and all matter of information. Although library instruction takes up a large amount of time, the benefits of pleasure reading are so critical that reading promotion is still an element of the program.

    • To ensure that students can access works of fiction independently
    • To teach students how to locate nonfiction
    • To prepare students for the Middle School library
    • To encourage a love of reading
    • To look critically at literature
    • Organizing information
    • Retrieving information
    • Literature appreciation

    Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Program
    The Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards Program is an annual program for students through grade 8 to read and vote for their favorite book from a selected list. Every year there’s a new list of titles. The list is divided into four sections based on grade level.  

    During the opening weeks of school, the books are presented to the students and they sign up for the titles they’re interested in reading. Participation is voluntary, and no additional work is required—it’s just a chance to borrow additional books. The purpose of the program is simply to promote reading.

    Any student who reads at least three books on the list is eligible to vote. Voting takes place during the first two weeks of March. Once the votes are sent to Harrisburg and tallied, the book with the most votes is named the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award winner. The author of the winning book is notified.  Authors love to win state awards because the award is chosen by children—the intended audience—rather than by adults.

    Students who participate in the program will receive a certificate at year’s end.

    You may view the list of Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards books on The Ellis School Library page or on the library portion of the fourth grade Haiku page.
  • Math

    The fourth grade math curriculum focuses on developing three key areas of proficiency. First, we continue to develop knowledge of basic facts to improve accuracy and efficiency. Second, we develop strong basic skills in standard mathematical operations. Third, and most importantly, we develop conceptual understanding of math and problem solving--working to help students appreciate and enjoy that math makes sense. It particularly emphasizes extending the concept that whole numbers, parts of numbers, objects, and groups are often well described as multiplicative relationships and fractions.

    Students should know and be able to perform the following by the end of the year:
    • Use algorithms to solve:   
      • multi-digit addition   
      • multi-digit subtraction   
      • multi-digit multiplication   
      • long division
    • Know basic addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts
    • Describe parts of numbers and groups with fractions
    • Analyze problems and determine a sequence of steps and algorithms that will result in an appropriate solution   
      • Wrestle with routine and non-routine problems
    • Classify shapes and parts of shapes in both 2-D and 3-D geometry
  • Music

    The focus of this course is musical literacy and independence. Each student is encouraged to make reasoned choices and to manipulate the elements of music for herself. Students analyze musical concepts independently and develop sound musical judgment. Discussions about music provide an opportunity for students to examine their own and others’ work and to make choices in their performances and listening.

    Units of study
    •    Vocal Technique / Performance:  Lower School Musical, Closing Exercises Concert
    •    African American Music
    •    Music of the Baroque Era
    •    Classroom Instruments:  Xylophones, percussion
    •    Musicianship
  • Physical Education

    The Physical Education program at The Ellis School is dedicated to the principle of a “sound body, sound mind.” Through team and individual sports, fitness activities and movement experiences, students will be encouraged to develop leadership, character, teamwork, motor skills, personal fitness, and graceful movement. All students are strongly encouraged to make physical fitness and wellness an integral part of their lives and hopefully the lives of others around them.

    • To help every student become aware of the importance of physical fitness in acquiring and maintaining total wellness.
    • To help students achieve and improve basic motor skills in order to lead active lifestyles and increase fitness levels.
    • To encourage attitudes of teamwork, leadership, and good sportsmanship.
    • To understand that physical activity provides opportunities for enjoyment, challenge, and social interaction.
    • To learn new activities and movements that can be done outside of the classroom to maintain physical fitness.

    • Soccer
    • Field Hockey
    • Throwing/Catching
    • Wiffleball, Kickball
    • Flag Football
    • Fitness
    • Gymnastics
    • Basketball
    • Volleyball
    • Lacrosse
    • Jump Rope
    • Cup Stacking

  • Science

    The fourth grade science curriculum fosters the student’s natural curiosity about science through inquiry-based learning. Through asking questions, exploring ideas, designing and conducting experiments, and seeking creative solutions to science challenges, fourth grade scientists expand upon their ability to understand and impact the world. This approach helps the girls acquire skills and knowledge and develop a deeper understanding of concepts. It allows them to make connections in their learning year-to-year in science and across the curriculum. Each unit of study has a core of essential questions that drive learning. Additionally, the girls formulate questions to investigate as they work on specific science topics. Students are encouraged to explore new ideas, concepts, and problems. Favorite fourth grade activities include the construction and launch of model rockets and three seasonal field trips to Frick Environmental Center to learn about local biodiversity and stewardship.

    Fourth Grade Independent Studies

    Periodically during the year, fourth grade students are presented with the opportunity to pursue independent studies. This is a voluntary opportunity for the girls to extend their classroom learning at home by choosing to explore a particular question they may have about our units. After research and experimentation, girls present their findings to their classmates. Parents receive a letter about these opportunities as they are made available.

    Learning objectives
    • Utilize the scientific method to observe, hypothesize, make predictions, gather data, and draw conclusions
    • Learn to use a variety of lab equipment
    • Gain the skills of inquiry in relation to course studies and the natural world
    • Use a variety of tools for measurement
    • Apply learned concepts to real-world situations
    • Develop curiosity for exploring and understanding their world
    • Demonstrate problem identification and problem-solving through scientific inquiry
    The fourth grade science curriculum explores units in the physical, life, and earth sciences. Fourth grade units include: oceans, magnetism and electricity, solar system, the human nervous, circulatory, and respiratory systems, forces at work, weather, and biodiversity.

    Field Trip
    Students in grade 4 take three field trips to Frick Environmental Center to learn about local biodiversity and practice stewardship.
  • Social Studies

    Fourth grade social studies focuses on an interconnected exploration of regions of the United States, map reading skills, and the ability to extract geographic knowledge from many sources including fiction and nonfiction texts, pictures, video, and personal experience. The overall goal is to develop geographic literacy. This course has been plotted by selecting novels, biographies, and other texts for reading class and Social Studies Alive: Regions of Our Country to serve as a core resource for learning about regions of the United States. These sources will help students develop knowledge about locations and regions of the United States. They will also help students to understand a variety of ways cultures have adapted to different climates and circumstances in the world. The course explores themes such us human dependence on land, comparison of urban and rural life, and changes brought about through exploration and movement of people. Novels will provide deep experience in specific locations and cultures; while texts and other sources will provide context and background about the settings and characters of the novels, biographies, and other stories.

    Fourth grade social studies focuses on learning how to learn about peoples and places as well as how to demonstrate what has been learned.
    • Take notes from class discussions, texts, pictures, maps, and film
    • Learn to organize knowledge acquired from a variety of sources
    • Gather facts from and interpret primary and secondary sources
    • Present learning through expository writing, narrative writing, public speaking, and visual expressions
    • Learn to use mnemonic devices and study techniques to support learning large amounts of information
    • Role-play
  • Capstone

    The Fourth Grade Capstone is a culminating project for Fourth Grade students as they end their Lower School years. The Capstone's purpose is for the students to address a real world problem (environmental, local or global) which requires the students to apply learned skills and knowledge, work collaboratively, and demonstrate creativity to identify the causes and address possible solutions. The students present their findings to an audience.

    The collaborative nature of the project requires the students to identify talents within their team, and discuss how they will organize the work to accomplish their goal. Innovation, creativity and a bit of design thinking go into the process, which is guided by a cross-curricular fourth grade team. Technology is used both in research and in the presentation to an audience.

    The Capstone is the final project for the students as they prepare to leave Lower School. Research, use of technology, team work, and presentation are four key aspects of the Capstone. Through the Capstone, the students have an opportunity to delve deeply into a topic and apply skills learned in their years in Lower School. At its best it represents a culmination of the Lower School experience.

Co-curricular Highlights

List of 5 items.

  • Author Day

    Each year Ellis invites a special author to visit students in Lower and Middle Schools. Students enjoy a special assembly, and then spend time with the author in smaller groups. Past authors have included Lisa Yee, Sarah Pennypacker, and Kathi Appelt. 
  • Candlelight Recital

    Two recitals are given every year in the Lower School, one in February and one in May. February’s Candlelight Recital has participants from grades two through four who study instrumental music, voice, or dance outside of the regular school day. May’s Candlelight Mini has participants from Pre-Kindergarten through grade one who study instrumental music or dance. Parents, grandparents, and special friends are invited to attend the Candlelight Recital.
  • Heritage Day

    Students in all divisions honor the cultures and heritages of their classmates on Heritage Day. Family traditions are shared and their histories discussed, and costumes and dress of each child’s heritage is worn. It is a day to look beyond the American culture to other countries around the world.
  • Maker Mania

    Fourth graders extend math, science, language arts, and more by designing and building. Students use computers, iPads, cardboard, Hummingbird robotics kits, and more to invent and make as part of their learning experience. This aspect of the curriculum culminates in a Lower School Capstone experience called Maker Mania where fourth graders host a maker fair for parents and students.
  • Rocket Launch

    In the spring, grade 4 scientists build and then launch their own rockets.