Lower School | Grades 3 & 4
Students in Grades 3 and 4 continue in the mixed-age classroom setting during these two years. Children in Grade 3 are ready to take on more rigorous academic study and look to their Grade 4 peers as models and mentors, and children in Grade 4 are encouraged by their teachers to explore and embrace what it means to be a leader in the classroom. This understanding of responsibility is important at this stage of students' development as they prepare for the leadership they will be expected to provide for the entire school in Grade 5.
The 3/4 curriculum begins to address more nuanced learning objectives as homeroom teachers introduce activities that deepen skills in organization, responsibility, time management, and public speaking and presentation skills. A central goal for 3/4 teachers is to hear the voice of each student every day—laying the foundation even at this early age for the discussion-based, seminar-style approach that students will encounter in the Middle and Upper Schools.
- Language Arts: Third and fourth grade students study language arts during Reader's and Writer's Workshop. During the Workshop, teachers present skills and behaviors through mini-lessons. Students spend significant time reading and writing as they build independence and practice reading, writing, and communication habits and skills. Genres of study include: building a reading life, fiction, non-fiction, research and inquiry. The study of grammar, spelling, and handwriting continues.
- Math: Grade 3/4 mathematics continues the Math in Focus curriculum and highlights problem-solving as the focus of mathematical learning. Concepts are taught using a concrete-pictorial-abstract learning progression to anchor learning in real-world, hands-on experiences. Critical content areas for Grade 3 include multiplication and division; fraction equivalencies; and 2-dimensional shapes. Critical content areas for Grade 4 include fluency with multi-digit multiplication and division; fractions; and properties of geometric figures.
- Social Studies units include civics, investigations of basic economics concepts, geography of North America, ancient Mayan civilizations, world history, and immigration. Each year students complete a grade-wide interdisciplinary unit that culminates in student research projects and a celebration in which students showcase their understanding of the historical period. Throughout the Lower School, social studies units are interdisciplinary, deepening and developing literacy, research and writing skills while also integrating science, music, art and technology skills and concepts.
Grades 3/4 also work in specialist courses 2-3 times per six-day rotation. The specialist courses include science, Spanish, music, art, physical education, and curriculum-based time in the Lower School library. Learn more about specialist classes.
Grade 3 also marks the beginning of students' participation in Minis. Minis are four to six week electives for students in Grades 3-5 and taught by Lower School homeroom and specialist teachers. Minis offer students an opportunity to learn new skills outside the classroom and collaborate with different students and adults in the community. Minis offered in recent years include basic coding, stop-motion animation, laser cut printmaking, basketball, drums around the world, and mindfulness. A Spanish mini is also offered for students in Grades 3-5 who are new to SPA and need extra time with the Spanish faculty to work on foundational Spanish language skills.
As children move towards the "tween" years, a safe learning environment that supports social and emotional development is critical. In Grades 3/4, daily morning meetings, flexible student partnerships, community goal setting, and classroom jobs are opportunities for students to learn both personal responsibility and a sense of trust in themselves and their peers. The increased sociability and peer awareness of children this age is captured by the Grade 3 "Student of the Week" (SOTW) program, in which each student is celebrated for a week with photos, personal stories, and a visit from that student's family or special friends for a question-and-answer session with the entire class.
Family involvement: Although children are becoming more independent in Grades 3/4, parents are still an invaluable source of insight and information about their child’s growth and development. Grade 3/4 teaching teams stay in close touch with their families through regular emails, class website updates, written reports, and conferences. Parent volunteers are always invited to visit the classroom and contribute to the rich learning environment and the fun of Grades 3/4.