Grade Four

Fourth grade boys learn to build on the lessons of independence taught in third grade as they prepare for fifth grade and eventually Middle School. They learn to make good choices, talk things out, be inclusive, and think independently. The exploratory nature of the program allows them to take risks within a safe and nurturing environment.

In Grade Four, your son will study:

Language Arts

Grade four boys focus on reading actively and critically. Independent reading, whole group reading with discussion, and literature circles are all methods used to promote strong comprehension and critical thinking skills. Novels are selected based on the boys’ interests and level of challenge. Most writing is done through small reading groups. The boys learn to compose in-depth responses to their reading, explore the writing process through a writer’s workshop method involving drafting and revision, and build research skills through a multi paragraph research report.


Fourth grade math emphasizes building on the boy’s understanding of basic mathematical concepts and increasing his the ability to problem-solve using a wide variety of strategies. Math units include place value (including decimals), number theory, operations with whole numbers and decimals, fraction basics, adding and subtracting fractions, patterns, estimation, data and graphing, measurement, basic geometry.

Social Studies

Fourth grade boys focus on the study of Maryland, building on basic geography terms introduced in third grade, and learning about the wonderful resource of the Chesapeake Bay. Boys study the first people of Maryland, through Colonial times, to present day Maryland government. They travel to St. Mary’s City to explore first hand the early life of the colony, and embark on a sea adventure through Living Classrooms to explore the complexity of the Chesapeake Bay. Essential skills introduced through the social studies curriculum include note taking, synthesizing and evaluating pertinent information, and organizing ideas for oral and written presentation. The boys read about current events through “Time for Kids” magazine and Newsela on the iPad.


Grade four boys study vertebrates, invertebrates, electricity an circuitry, and bones and muscles.

The boys learn the common characteristics that identify phylum Chordata (vertebrates) as members of one of the five vertebrate groups: fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. We examine the differences between group characteristics and animal adaptations, as well as what all animals need to survive: food, water, shelter, and space. They explore simple and complex invertebrates. We examine the interesting and sometimes creepy world of mollusks, annelids, cnidarians, and arthropods, focusing on group characteristics, habitats, and body symmetry. The unit concludes with a squid dissection.

Boys are introduced to and explore electricity and circuitry. The learn that energy must go in a loop or circuit. Through hands-on projects the boys learn about and create series and parallel circuits. They make open and closed circuits by adding switches. Additionally, the boys deconstruct electronic toys to explore the wiring inside. Finally, using a shoe box, the boys plan, design, wire, and create a special room with working lights that use both series and parallel circuits.

Boys are required to learn all the bones of the human skeleton. They learn the function of the skeletal system and the four types of bones and their important jobs. They also examine ligaments, tendons, and muscles and how they work together with our bones to allow us to move. They review the four major types of joints: ball and socket, hinge, pivot, and gliding, and where they can be found.


The philosophy and work of Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967), Hungarian composer and music educator, provide the foundation for the lower school vocal program. The boys develop musical skill in pitch, rhythm, form, and harmony and learn a large repertoire of songs with an emphasis on American folk songs. They grow in competency as choral music performers and music readers, and they listen to classical and folk music from around the world. Folk dancing and children’s musical games are an important component of the lower school program.  Twice a year, all students highlight their performance skills in concerts that include singing, dancing, and instrumental playing.  In addition to their own personal skills and performance, all students are exposed yearly to a concert with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Students are very excited to learn the final two notes of the Major Scale: fa and ti. They have been waiting patiently to add these to their collection, and once learned, they are able to read, write, and perform music with a full eight-note scale. Boys are also introduced to the Minor Scale, which begins and ends on la. Rhythmically, they continue to increase their vocabulary by adding more complex dotted rhythms and the meters of 3/8 and 6/8. This year brings with it a study of several truly American forms of music - blues, jazz, and rock & roll, from the roots music of Delta Blues to Elvis Presley’s toe-tapping “Hound Dog.” Students gain an understanding of the evolution of music in the United States. The boys also continue to work with their recorders in preparation for the fifth grade instrumental program.

Design and Woodworking

The Design and Woodworking program is designed to include hands-on instruction and learning. The objective of the program is to expose the students to the art of craftsmanship, teaching them how to use basic tools and follow a specific set of instructions to produce objects that are both useful and beautiful. Projects build sequentially based on students’ age and skill. As the ability to manipulate tools gets better, the projects increase in degree of difficulty. This program further builds skills such as perseverance and patience. Safety is a top priority and emphasized in every class.

Fourth grade boys work with measurement accuracy. The learn knot tying, and gain practice with the drill, saw, backsaw, and stippling. Examples of projects include wind chimes, climbing bear, and marble maze.


The art program encourages the student to express himself creatively and explore the world from an artist’s vantage point. The lower school art program aims to foster the creative growth of each individual student while exposing him to a wide range of art styles and forms. Through engaging and fun instruction our students are exposed to many aspects of art.  Students learn to use art vocabulary, as well as respond to and  appreciate art. The art program Includes drawing, painting, collage, constructing, printmaking, and ceramics.

The fourth grade art program explores the many styles of local architecture. The boys look at many examples and create a drawing using some of the many shapes and architectural elements commonly found on Victorian homes. The results are humor-filled houses complete with pop-up doors and windows. The boys look at Asian art. They create lively paper dragons in honor of the Chinese New Year and paint monochromatic landscapes based on the work from China’s Song Dynasty. In addition, the boys create exciting wire sculptures and landscapes inspired by ancient Chinese art. These sculptures are then electrified using simple circuitry learned in science class.

Physical Education

The lower school physical education curriculum includes physical education, aquatics, and athletics. Aquatics instruction starts in the Prep-One year and continues through Fifth Grade. Kindergarten through Fifth Grade receive a spiraling program of individual and group experiences. Sportsmanship, cooperation, and skill development are given high priority in all elementary grades. Specific traits of the Gilman Five are reinforced such as humility, respect, and excellence.

Fourth grade boys receive 45 minutes of instruction eight days out of the ten day cycle. Homerooms rotate through swimming every four days. The aquatic component stresses water safety, coordination, and skill development. In grades four and five the boys are introduced to water polo and compete in an intramural tournament each spring.

Foreign Language

The Modern Language program includes French and Spanish. All boys in a grade study the same language. After Kindergarten, they study that assigned language for the rest of their lower school years. Classes meet six times during a ten day cycle.

The lower school’s foreign language courses are taught using activities that will develop listening comprehension and conversational skills. Culture is used to deliver the content of different curricular units, and exposure to a variety of cultures that speak Spanish or French is an integral part of the program. The goals of the program are to expose the students to the language, to help them develop basic conversational skills, and to introduce them to the language used in its cultural context.The environment of the class is of one of neutrality and at no moment is there a preference for one culture or another.

Fourth grade boys continue to add structure to their thoughts and dialogs. Grammar lessons continue.


With over 18,000 books, and access to multiple databases and digital content the lower school library, also known as the William Passano Library, offers the boys a rich, global collection of contemporary materials to explore. Students enjoy the library daily, as a space to research and for reading. Weekly classes with the librarian allows the boys to delve into research, explore what makes an award winning story or illustration, and learn about genres that may expand their reading experiences. Additionally, the librarian collaborates with the classroom teachers to support and enrich studies covered throughout the academic year. Building curious, confident, and avid readers who love reading is the goal of the library program.

Grade four boys delve into biographical research and focus on innovators. Students continue to refine their research skills as they examine, select, and utilize sources tailored to their question. Fourth grade boys also locate and read award-winning literature.

Special Events

The grade four experience is highlighted by a number of special events including:

  • Overnight to St. Mary’s City
  • Genesee Valley Day Trip
  • Class Plays
  • Book Talks with Bryn Mawr School
  • International 4th/5th Soccer Tournament
  • Math Fair
  • Living Classrooms Trip
  • Big Buddies to Second Grade
International 4th/5th Soccer Tournament
International 4th/5th Soccer Tournament
Math Fair
Math Fair
Math Fair
Math Fair
Math Fair
Math Fair
Overnight to St. Mary's City
Overnight to St. Mary's City
Overnight to St. Mary's City
Student-Teacher Ratio  
Kindergarten 7-9:1
Prep-One 7-9:1
First 15-17:1
Second 15-17:1
Third 15-17:1
Fourth 15-17:1
Fifth 15-17:1