In 4th grade at MDE, students are becoming more independent, accepting more responsibility, and are taking ownership of their own learning. Students are given opportunities to set goals, evaluate their progress, and be rewarded for accomplishments. It is a "growth year."
Fourth graders study important events, issues, and people from ancient times to the present in regard to Texas. Emphasis is placed on understanding the impact of the people, the cultures, the languages, the geographic location, and the political issues of the past, the present, and the future that affect us as Texas citizens. A fall field trip to George Ranch is a great motivator for learning all about Texas history. It is an interactive and participatory trip. In the spring we are invited to Taste of Texas to sample some Texas cooking, and have a great history lesson about our heritage. Mrs. Hendee, owner of the restaurant, is a wonderful Texas history teacher! On the way back, we stop at a Texas history park at Memorial City Mall.
The students use the strategy of scientific inquiry when observing the natural world and what affects us daily. We have adopted the FOSS Science Kits for our classroom instruction. This program incorporates investigation, experimentation, and oral and written responses for our units of study: electricity and magnetism, the human body, ideas and inventions, and water. These methods of instruction have been well received by students, teachers, and parents. Monthly science enrichment classes are taught by our parent volunteers. These lessons compliment the Science TEKS and make the learning much more "hands-on."
During the first semester, the students refine their writing skills, write to a specific prompt, learn to read and listen to "good writing" and "borrow" ideas from authors. The students learn to expand vocabulary in their writing and speaking, become excellent editors, and take pride in original works. We write about many topics, but all for a specific purpose. There is time for collaborative writing, partner writing, and independent writing. We orally share works to learn from one another and make suggestions for improvements. We have a strong vocabulary program which teaches parts of speech, grammar skills, antonyms, synonyms, and analogies. Our reading program emphasis is on exposure to different genres, writing styles, using words to create mental pictures, and writing purposes. Using many sources including weekly and monthly publications, basal readers, newspapers, novels, short stories, etc., children are reading for a purpose. This direction enhances the writing program. In the spring, we have education coordinator from the "Greensheet" come visit, teach a writing lesson, and then weeks later we can see our own original writing in print.
Regular book reports, outside projects, and classroom research in small groups, with partners, and independently incorporate many skills, active participation, and a chance to share information. The use of technology, audiovisuals, guided internet searches, library resources, etc. encourage group learning and oral reporting. It is a fun way to learn!
In Math we reinforce learned skills, emphasize proficiency of multiplication facts to 12 x 12, apply real world experience, encourage logical reasoning, and use problem-solving techniques to find solutions. Application of "learned skills" is so important! Use of technology, web sites, manipulatives, and a variety of instructional settings promote student-centered instruction. This year, problem-solving steps have been a focus. The children have become excellent teachers because they can tell exactly "how they found the answer" and the necessary steps to get to that point.
By May, 4th graders are ready to be self-directed 5th graders.