The theme involves extensive study of ancient Greece. Because the culture was the foundation of Western civilization, learning about it provides students a solid grounding in many of the philosophies that shape modern life and thought in the Western world.
Through the study, students relate this ancient culture to their own experiences. Teachers help students not only to learn about the history of ancient Greece but also to think critically about the information while using knowledge to understand the world. Throughout the year, pupils learn through readings, discussions, simulations, and artistic experiences. Most importantly, students are continually challenged to reflect on how the beliefs, experiences, and philosophies of ancient Greece relate to their own lives.
Each week, students engage in creative writing. Assignments can short and extended stories, poetry, opening hooks, math headlines (story problems), creation stories, thank-you letters, Iliad/Odyssey chapters, playwriting, nonfiction, and more.
Students generally have a lesson on a writing technique or grammar rule, followed by a warm-up activity (which often involves a writer's-notebook entry) and a writing assignment. Writing lessons include using varied and complex sentence structure, vivid verbs and colorful adjectives, sense observations, showing not telling, effective polishing, metaphors/similes as descriptive tools, establishing setting, showing character, expanding on a theme, etc.
Each week, students learn a poem and a song, which they recite and sing every morning. This activity has many purposes, but one is that introducing vivid language and rhythm into children's minds positively impacts writing.
Spelling and grammar are taught in conjunction with writing. Students also have word-study classes, where they learn how English words are derived and constructed from Latin, Greek, and Anglo-Saxon roots. Grammar is taught both one-on-one while correcting students' work and to the entire class when there are grammar questions. Students also refer to "Writer's Guides" while correcting their work, which reinforces learning. They also review cursive handwriting.
Reading opportunities come in many forms: free reading, reading in content areas, listening to read-aloud novels, and Lit Club. Students should always have a free-choice book to read, and reading is part of nightly homework. They keep a list of all the books they read during the school year on their JabberWiki home page to give parents and teachers insight into what they are reading, and to notice trends in their choices.
The goal is for each student to read a book or so each week, keeping in mind that some students will read more, while others will read longer or more challenging books that take more than a week to complete. Teachers assign books to read related to class studies, such as a variety on Greek mythology and history. Fourth graders also conduct research, both in books and online, on a variety of topics for presentations and group projects.
Several times every week in class, fourth graders have a Sustained Silent Reading time for all students. Teachers sometimes use the time to talk to children individually about their reading, help them find new books to read, and read with them. Students also read aloud to the class each week.
In addition to gaining mastery in basic operations, fourth graders focus much of their math work on problem-solving and finding patterns. Students learn to solve and write word problems, build concrete pictures of math concepts and algorithms, complete Continental Math League problems, and explore math in nature, science, and art.
Students also study Geometry via "Constructing the Universe," in which they will see the world around them through geometric shapes and structures and learn to do intricate drawings with compasses and straightedges.
The nightly homework, along with current and overdue classwork, is listed on the Fourth Grade Homework blog, which the children should check each night, and which is done in a form that can be printed out and used as a checklist.
Parents can help by providing children with a regular time and dedicated space free of distractions and interruptions for doing homework. A crucial part of homework is remembering to bring it back to school and submit it on time. Teachers work with students to learn this routine and to find their own solutions when they forget.
Parents can help students gain independence and responsibility by allowing them to overcome consequences of forgetting homework and materials at home. Parents are encouraged to have their children speak directly to teachers if they are feeling overwhelmed or not challenged enough, and when they have specific questions about work.