Grade Four students often display self-assurance and the sense that they have “arrived.”
The language arts curriculum emphasizes independent writing and longer dictations. There is practice with spelling, punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure, and vocabulary development. Parts of speech and tenses are introduced along with independent and group reading exercises and book reports.
“I am deeply grateful for Waldorf education, which woke me up and helped me rediscover my imagination.”
Author of “The Never-ending Story”
Former Waldorf student
Students need a great deal of form to meet school tasks, both academic and otherwise. Self-discipline and healthy work habits are developed at this age, often through spelling words and vocabulary lists in French and English.
Increasing objectivity permeates the curriculum, such as in the first overt science study: study of the self and observation of similarities, differences and relationships between the human being and animals. This study is extended through painting, clay modelling, play acting, and poetry recitation.
Geography study starts with the local area and its geographical characteristics. The class studies the culture of First Nations people before the arrival of the Europeans and the effects of their arrival.
The curriculum addresses this developmental stage through stories from the First Nations people of our land as well as tales from Norse Mythology. With their powerful wills, their contentious natures, and their love of adventure, the Norse gods and the warrior women serve as remarkably accurate reflections of the fourth graders.
These morally ambiguous tales provide a wealth of “larger than life” heroines and heroes. They present a picture of the give-and-take of human relationships, the grey areas–and the struggles within each of us.
Fourth graders also begin to differentiate the world around them more consciously in terms of space and time, as they are experiencing themselves as separate from the world. They are increasingly able to step back and engage with the larger world, with an appreciation of past and present.
The curriculum supports the children by bringing subjects that help put this process of separation into a structural context, e.g. through the discovery of the fractions that make up a whole (math) and the growing awareness of the structure of our language (grammar). Other topics which are taken up in 4-week morning lesson blocks allow the children to forge a strong relationship to their place in the environment through the exploration of where we are in time and space (local geography) and the study of the human being in the context of the animal kingdom (nature studies).
In third grade, the children awakened to the realities of the world around them in a generalized and dreamy way. The archetypal tasks of farming and house-building, along with the activities of measuring and weighing, helped them find their way to the earth.
Now, in fourth grade, they are here, and it is time for them to orient themselves in space and time. For this reason, local geography is introduced into the curriculum at this grade level. It offers the children a way to develop a sense of belonging, both socially and spatially, and fosters an understanding of how their surroundings came to be.
The class is introduced to the concept of geography as “writing into the earth” as well as “writing about the earth.” We delve into the processes that have shaped the surface of the earth before working on the means through which this can be recorded or represented on paper. We explore the four directions and their relation to the Medicine Wheel, which has been so important to First Nations in this area, and learn to draw a compass rose. The children experience drawing and reading maps of their surroundings, review the techniques of measuring area and perimeter, and begin to understand the complexities of representing the earth in three dimensions.
We look at changes in the geology and the natural environment brought about by the movement of the glaciers during the ice ages, and the Great Lakes that came into being at the end of that period. We explore the role of the River Thames for First Nations in this area as well as for the settlers who displaced them, specifically looking at the way they used the land; and we study the origins of the city of London, including historic landmarks and events.
Zoology is the first formal science block in the Waldorf curriculum. From Kindergarten through third grade, the children were introduced to natural phenomena through “nature stories” and fairy tales, poetry and imaginative pictures. Now that the ten-year-old begins to distinguish between the “inner self” and the “outer world,” a degree of objectivity arises which makes the study of science meaningful.
This block is designed to help the children to discover the place of human beings in nature through the mediums of storytelling, writing, reading, observation, acting, drawing, painting, and clay modelling. By relating the animals to the human being, a bridge is built between the children and the animals they study, allowing for a comparison and a realization that while animals are much better at specific tasks, as they are physiologically more specialized, human beings have developed to have a much wider range of abilities, allowing for more freedom in the use of our capacities. A wide variety of animals is then explored, focusing on their relationship to their physical surroundings and their intimate connection to other animals and culminating in an animal research project.
When the structure of the children’s language is raised to consciousness, they experience themselves as actors in a new way and develop a different awareness of their relationships in the world. The following language arts skills are taught and practiced in specific morning lesson blocks as well as in weekly skills lessons.
We review and expand our understanding of grammar: punctuation and capitalization, the nine parts of speech, sentence structure, the four types of sentences, the verb tenses that express the present, past and future, and other grammatical treasures like synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms.
The students learn to structure their writing, depending on the goal or subject – either using a paragraph format, a list of important characteristics, a letter format, or a poem to express themselves. Most morning lesson assignments involve practicing these skills, using a scaffolding process (e.g. with the first and last sentence provided, a list of questions to answer, and the creation of notes or key words on the board). Both the local geography and the human and animal blocks provide ample opportunities for practice.
More emphasis is placed on correct spelling this year. We continue to work on spelling patterns and practice the spelling of the most commonly used words, as well as spelling dictionaries to help edit one’s writing. The children practice their growing skills increasingly in regular dictations.
In terms of reading, the children make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn, specifically through their animal projects. They continue to listen to stories read to them and regularly practice reading individually and in groups (readers’ theatre, class readers, individual readers), often accompanied by specific comprehension assignments.
These stories provide a backdrop to Black History, Indigenous and Pride Months, and to topics on Orange Shirt Day.
The class play in Grade Four is more substantial in volume and demands more from the students in terms of memory, creativity and social processes. The theme of the play aids the deepening of the curricular content while allowing students to explore and reflect on the characters. Intrapersonal skills are given attention as students develop self-expression, courage, self-responsibility and confidence.
The Grade Four Mathematics curriculum addresses the inner transformation the children are experiencing–the recognition of being separate and different from others and yet being part of a group–by working with “fractured” numbers (fractions) during three Morning Lesson blocks. Fractions are introduced as part of a whole and as ratios through a variety of hands-on activities. We explore the four operations with fractions of like and unlike denominators and work with improper fractions and mixed numbers, using the appropriate technical terms associated with these processes. We explore the greatest-common-factors numbers and learn to simplify them to the simplest term.
To support the children’s number sense and increase their flexibility in thinking, we continue to look out for special number patterns and work with magic squares and number games. We also explore factoring numbers, learn the order of operations, distributive and associative properties of numbers, and look at abundant and deficient numbers.
Mental Arithmetic and Review
Mental arithmetic continues during our daily circle warm-up exercises. We continue to work out number journeys that incorporate all four processes individually and in groups and also review and practice times tables through movement, games, and practice sheets. The vertical processes of multi-digit multiplication and division are reviewed during morning math and skills lessons.
In Grade Four, children are increasingly interested in their “feeling” relationship with their surroundings. Figurative representation of the external world is not as important as the emphasis on asking which colours and shapes help us to fully express a theme pictorially.
Motifs from Main Lessons such as Norse mythology provide a major focus for our artistic activities. Norse mythology is distinguished by a rich and powerful sense of drama. These stories offer a wealth of contrasting pictorial themes: polarities between light and dark colours, perspective, small figures in front of larger figures, and light and dark contrasts between areas that are modulated and “stretched” in diverse ways.
The animal kingdom presents the second big theme of the year. Drawing and painting animals can engender a very intense feeling and interest and provide a good way to develop an awareness of one’s surroundings and to work with drawing and wet-on-wet painting exercises. We also explore other mediums such as clay and beeswax.
In Grade Four, the children are ready to meet the greater challenges of learning complex stitches and designs. At the same time, they are open to perceiving the beauty of their own creations and appreciating the quality of their work. The Grade Four projects offer an extended opportunity to exercise the children’s creative will, thinking skills, and spatial orientation, together with further cultivation of their relationship with colour. Colour as a design element is addressed in every step of the project. The students experience how beauty and practical life can meet in the everyday world.
The year starts with a brief period of revisiting the projects from the last year, to allow for a reconnection with the techniques, and to build momentum for seamless finishing of the projects started last year. After this introductory period, the students carry on finishing these projects along with work on embroidery, the theme of the year, to build gradually increasing levels of stamina, perseverance, and emphasis on autonomy in a task.
Grade Four projects include making an embroidered bookmark, a needle case, and a cross-stitched pincushion (or an alternative project to suit the skill level of the child). The children learn a number of embroidery stitches, which they use to create their own designs. They learn the basic techniques in preparing, completing, and the proper finishing of their projects.
With gradually increasing complexity, the children have an opportunity to cultivate their sense of spatial relationships, together with strengthening their intuitive sensibility to colour as they see new patterns forming in front of them. These projects are designed to encourage children to pay attention to the processes in their hands and strengthen their creative and thinking will, along with building an increased sense of autonomy and independence. Making connections with beauty and objects of everyday life represents an essential part of their work.
This year, the children learn to think like farmers. They feel increasingly competent, take pride in their work, and learn to deal with disappointments when circumstances are unfavourable. As the children develop an awareness of the connection between their efforts and the harvest they can expect, they are motivated to overcome physical challenges and can get quite competitive. The year starts with a critical look at the garden to understand what happened over the summer and what we can learn from for the year ahead. The weeds are pulled and the harvest is brought in. The paths are mulched, and the soil is turned over and prepared for planting vegetables, The work is completed by covering the field with straw to help our plants grow over the summer, sheltered from the hot sun and clear of weeds.
The music curriculum this year encompasses singing, recorder, ukulele, rhythm practice, and music reading, as well as learning to play a string instrument (see below). The experience of holding their own part in singing is crucial for children in Grade Four, and it is practiced in rounds and ostinato songs. The class is ready to learn how important it is to listen to each other and to work together when making music. This extends also to recorder practice. Opportunities are provided to practice new pieces independently in small groups, supporting each other and striving for a harmonious sound. Music reading and rhythm practice are continuously woven into the curriculum.
Students participate in weekly individual and group lessons in violin, viola, or cello. There is a focus on the natural posture underpinning playing their instrument, as well as techniques specific to the repertoire being studied. Pulse provides the foundation of accurate rhythm, while direction and flow inform musical phrasing. Reading fluency is approached through pattern recognition on the stave. The weekly ensemble class provides students with the experience of playing together to grow a more holistic understanding of the repertoire. Individual needs for consolidation or faster progress are met in individual lessons. In the winter term, a combined ensemble class of violin, viola, and cello students is formed. The focus of this class emphasizes harmonization and orchestral-style playing. Students continue to build their musical listening skills, augment their musicianship, and further their love for learning music.
In Grade Four, the main goals of teaching French are for the students to become familiar with recognizing words, to gain more confidence in speaking in the secondary language, and to sow the first seeds of awareness of the grammatical structure of the language. The children start reading words and sentences that they have practiced in the oral and written form, copy songs and verses from earlier grades, and start using more complete sentences when speaking individually in class. In Grade Four, dictations are introduced in a very basic and fun way to support word recognition, create curiosity about grammatical elements, and bring back the French alphabet in a deepened context. The students continue to follow and give simple instructions, practice grammatical patterns like the conjugation of regular verbs, and start forming their own little sentences. Topics like the house and home, the marketplace and all its merchandise, and an introduction to family terms provide a context for familiarizing the children with the grammatical aspects of gender and plural as well as simple dialogues. There is a growing emphasis on individual participation; active speaking is strengthened by imitation as well as the creation of questions and answers on one’s own. In Grade Four, different levels of ability, as well as learning styles, become more apparent than in previous years, and the teacher works with the awareness of the different capabilities.
In Grade Four, physical education with its emphasis on the development of specific movement skills as well as teamwork is introduced. We strive to help children develop positive attitudes toward physical activity, stimulate their natural propensity for movement, and foster motivation that leads to a sense of personal achievement. We encourage self-discipline, tolerance, and cooperation, providing opportunities to contribute to team decisions and ideas. We aim to provide an environment that fosters self-confidence and resilience, and most importantly, we want the children to enjoy themselves.
In Grade Four, the year begins with cross-country running; throughout the year, soccer, volleyball, and floor hockey skills are introduced and practiced
LWS provides opportunities to participate in larger team sports and individual sports events through recreational tournaments hosted by the London District Catholic School Board. In September, the children participate in our annual Terry Fox Run, and at the beginning of October, we train students for cross-country running. In the spring, practicing for the annual Track and Field Meet (sprints, long distance and relay runs, long jump, softball, shot put, and accessible events) provides opportunities for the students to test their athletic skills.