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4th Grade | Ilanot

Curriculum Overview

Teachers: Beth Schustek and Malka Rubin
Art: Bibiana Powell
Library / Lab Science: Brooke Einstein
Music: Shoshana Stombaugh
P.E.: Zac Dykan


Beliefs about Learning

We believe that students learn best when certain intellectual, academic, spiritual, social, and physical needs are met. Specifically we believe that students learn best when:

  • they feel seen, loved, honored, and respected as individuals, developing positive self-identity.
  • they feel a sense of belonging to, and a part of, their community.
  • they explore and learn through shared experiences and social interaction.
  • their current knowledge is built upon to construct new knowledge.
  • they are presented with material at their appropriate level.
  • they are taught through many modalities and disciplines, so they can learn in different ways.
  • they are interested in and find personal meaning in the curriculum.
  • they have clear guidelines, expectations, and feedback.
  • they have challenging, achievable goals.
  • they have choices about their learning.
  • they have authentic, experiential opportunities to learn and apply skills and concepts.

4th Grade Goals

Fourth Grade is a time when children grow tremendously and push to gain more independence. They move from concrete to more abstract thinking and start to question more. We aim to create a safety net around them to allow for experimentation, successes, and mistakes. We enable our students to make smart choices by giving them clear guidelines and expectations. Being respectful, prepared, productive, and always demonstrating best effort are major components of our classroom conduct goals.

Life Skills

In 4th grade students will work on major life skills such as organization, cooperation, independence, and time management. Students will each utilize a planner that will help them keep track of upcoming events, homework assignments, projects, and due dates. Students will work independently, in partners, and in groups throughout the year. This will provide the opportunity for students to improve their ability to both collaborate with peers and work independently. Throughout the year, students will receive project assignments that require long-term planning and time management. We will work with students to develop these skills.

General Studies Literacy

The 4th grade literacy curriculum can be broken down into three main categories: Word Study, Reading, and Writing. The aim is for these three subjects to come together as a balanced literacy program, where each element complements the other and promotes higher level skills.

The Word Study component of literacy utilizes the Words Their Way, Wired for Reading, and Wordly Wise programs. The advanced Wired for Reading program that focuses on Latin and Greek prefixes, suffixes, and roots, will be combined with the Words Their Way word sorts with the same focus. These will make up the spelling words that students will study every other week. In addition to learning the spelling patterns, students will also learn the meanings of the affixes, which will ultimately augment their vocabulary and reading comprehension skills as well. Quizzes on these words will involve both spelling and defining the words. The Wordly Wise program will also help students enhance their vocabulary and reading comprehension skills. Students will be assigned one chapter every other week, with a quiz on Friday.

A strong theme throughout the curriculum is a love for reading. Children will be exposed to several different genres in Choice Reading. They will be accountable for this reading by keeping a reading log. Students will also take part in literature groups as a main element for studying reading. The Gradual Release of Responsibility model will be used; at the beginning of the year, expectations for these discussions will be modeled, and students will be taking on more and more responsibilities as the year progresses. In these groups, students will have the opportunity to form groups based on personal interest. When meeting as a group, students will make connections, interpretations, and predictions. They will also ask questions and have grapple with the material as a group. Students will get the opportunity to lead these discussions and will be held accountable for completing the reading assignments decided on by the group and for coming prepared to discussions. Research has shown that students are lacking the skills to read non-fiction texts. This year, there will be various short lessons using non-fiction text that will be integrated into social studies and science to address this need. Also, students are expected to always have a book with them in class.

This year the 4th grade will use the intermediate Writing Workshop curriculum as a primary means to teach writing. This curriculum is divided into several units including personal narrative, essay, and fiction writing. This program also emphasizes conferencing about writing, editing, revising, and publishing. There will be various writing celebrations throughout the year to celebrate the work of our young authors. In addition to Writing Workshop, writing will also be integrated with science and social studies. Students will be both hand writing and typing their writing in class. All published pieces will be typed. Students will be working on typing in class, and we also recommend that students continue this effort at home.

Hebrew עברית

Based on the principles of a communicative heritage language, our program emphasizes Hebrew as the language of the Jewish people. Our Hebrew program, TaL AM, is internationally recognized for success and based on the concept that the best learning environment for children is one in which knowledge is acquired through a variety of activities using each of the five senses. In addition to textbooks, students use music, games and visual aids to learn conversational Hebrew and to develop a keen understanding of Jewish concepts and values.

The main theme of TaL AM curriculum for the 4th grade is The Unified Class (haKita haMe’uhedet, הכיתה המאוחדת), which emphasizes the construction of a community in which the children can work together to promote collaboration and facilitate successful learning. This concept is modeled by the students of The Virtual Classroom, which have grown and developed together with our students since the 1st grade, and are being used as models for the construction of a learning community.

TaL AM 4 uses the Memory Binder (Tikiyat haZikkaron, תיקיית הזיכרון), which develops students assessment skills and their ability to identify the essential content they have learned in each unit. The Memory Binder encourages students to determine what they would like to store for future retrieval and to incorporate into their lives. Students learn how to categorize, classify and file this information – both physically and in their memory – through a process of emotional and conceptual evaluation.

Students will continue to develop and strengthen their Hebrew skills: speaking, listening comprehension, reading, and writing. They will enrich their vocabulary in various topics and areas, and learn new grammatical features (such as conjugation and usages of verbs in the future tense) and sentence patterns.

For more information concerning the Tal AM program, check out their website:

There are three major aspects to our Hebrew curriculum in Ilanot:

  1. The Unified Class — Focused on daily life in the class and at home, this unit engages students with the rules of etiquette and good manners, linking them to Jewish sources and selected proverbs of Chazal (the Jewish sages, חז”ל).
  2. The Jewish Year and Holidays — Linked to the Mishna (Oral Law), this unit includes The High holidays, Hanukkah, Tu BiShvat, Purim, Pessah & Shavuot, and Yom ha’Atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim.
  3. Israel — Love of Israel is a major goal of SJCS. In Judaic Studies, current events in Israel will be discussed regularly, as they arise. Review of the basic geography and map of Israel will be ongoing. Ilanot students take a major role in leading our annual trip to Israel in May.


This year, we are continuing our use of the school-wide mathematics curriculum, Everyday Mathematics. The Everyday Mathematics program sets high standards, offers innovative and engaging instructional activities, and seeks to help students “appreciate the beauty and usefulness of mathematics” in their daily activities. For some fourth-grade students with a passion for mathematical problem-solving, we will also continue to offer Math Olympiad as an enrichment activity.

In addition to utilizing Everyday Math, we review the basics and continue to strengthen our multiplication and division basic facts. Students will utilize graphs, charts, the newspaper, measurement tools, literature and more to enable their learning. Students will revisit concepts of place value, multi-digit addition, subtraction and multiplication. Dividing by one and two-digit divisors will also be covered. We will work with improper fractions and adding and subtracting fractions. Students will also begin to understand the relationship between fractions, decimals and percentage. Our study of geometry will include calculating area and perimeter and identifying various types of angles. Students will create several different kinds of real world graphs, use coordinate grids and understand measurement systems.

Social Studies

Our general focus this year is Washington State and the Pacific Northwest. History, geography, ecosystems and government will each take priority throughout the year. We will begin our study of Washington by looking at the features that have shaped Seattle, historically, ethnically, and ecologically. This will include numerous fieldtrips to cultural museums in the Seattle area. In November, we will start to learn and compare different geographical regions in Washington State, emphasizing our state’s water resources. Starting in January, we will turn our attention to government and politics. We will learn about the structure of government and local issues, including a trip to Olympia. In the spring we will explore Washington State History, and the adventures of Lewis and Clark in particular. Also in the spring, students will study and present the 50 states and capitals that make up our nation. Throughout the social studies curriculum there will be integration of literacy and science. Students will be expected to read, study, and apply knowledge gained from non-fiction reading (either historical or scientific). There will also be a strong integration of science focusing on the importance and uniqueness of Washington State water systems and how it has shaped culture and environment. In addition to these elements, students will also participate in regular class meetings as a part of our social studies curriculum.

Tikun Olam / Social Action

A major focus of our year in both General and Judaic studies will be on social action and making a difference in this world. Students will take multiple field trips throughout the year to The Summit to cultivate relationships with the elderly residents. Letter writing as well as hands-on projects will be an important part of our work. Biblical and Rabbinic texts will guide us in our work.

Torah תורה

There are two major aspects to our Torah study in Ilanot:

1. Study of the weekly Torah portion Parashat haShavu’a, פרשת השבוע

Our journey to explore the weekly Parasha focuses on various commentaries on selected verses, introducing the children to the concept of multiple answers and possibilities, which is fundamental to Jewish thought, scholarship and tradition. Students are encouraged to select the commentary that best reflects their opinion, thereby engaging in the act of interpretation. They then extract the message they learned from the Parasha and find its application in their own lives.

2. In-depth study of chosen parts of the Torah in Hebrew
Humash B’reshit, Genesis
Humash Sh’mot, Exodus

Our Humash study is focused on understanding the text in Hebrew, looking at commentaries and discussing the in-depth meanings in English. Students will learn Darka Shel Torah (דרכה של תורה), the specific ways of approaching the Torah text, for example, identifying guiding key words, determining the stylistic significance of repetition, discovering and understanding Biblical ellipsis, and recognizing the structure of the Biblical narrative. We will study the following topics:

  1. Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams and the visit of Joseph’s brothers to Egypt (Genesis 41-42).
  2. The affliction of the people of Israel in Egypt (Exodus 1).
  3. The birth of Moses and his initial prophecies (Exodus 2-5).
  4. The ten plagues (Exodus 6-11).

T’fillot תפילה

Ilanot students begin to become leaders for the school at holiday events and for t’fillot. Specific goals include fluency in leading t’fillot, understanding of the basic structure and meaning of t’fillot, and knowledge of and ability to use appropriate brahot for various holidays and life moments.


The three concentrations for our science curriculum this year are food chemistry, the human body, and models and designs. Ilanot students will classify, observe, measure, infer and experiment in their science investigations with haMorot Brooke and Beth each Tuesday and Friday from September through December and again from late March through June. From January through March we will work in cooperative groups that study the different systems of the human machine.

What is Inquiry Based Science?

Research has shown that the best way for children to learn important science concepts is to actively construct ideas through their own investigations. In the science lab, this means making observations, asking questions, testing ideas, recording results, comparing data, building concepts, and explanations.

Core Inquiry Based Science Concepts for All Students

Students explore core scientific concepts in the science lab. All students work on being keen observers. This means that they use their senses to observe what they are learning. They look – noticing changes, colors, shapes, and behaviors. They touch – observing the temperature and feeling for texture and consistency. They smell – noticing differences between the materials and noting if there is an odor. They listen – noting how the sound relates to the materials. Then, they use their words to describe what they are observing by writing in their science journals and having discussions with other scientists. Students have been learning how important it is for scientists to record data and their observations in organized ways, using tables, anecdotes and illustrations. They make predictions based on prior knowledge and then compare the results to their predictions. Students learn that scientists use models in order to observe something that cannot be easily seen. In the lab lessons, they learn how to conduct fair tests. This means knowing which variables remain the same (controlled) and which variables are changed (manipulated).

Science Lab Units:

Food Chemistry

In the 4th Grade Food Chemistry unit, students investigate basic nutrients found in the food we eat. Through a series of physical and chemical tests, students discover which nutrients-starches, glucose, fats, and proteins are found in common foods. Through reading selections they learn more about the role these nutrients play in human health and how these nutrients are related to the growth and development of their bodies. The students practice lab techniques that help avoid contamination during testing. The testing cycle begins with testing five known liquids to observe positive and negative test results; then testing foods to identify the presence or absence of a specific nutrient; and finally, pooling class results and reading about that nutrient and its role in our health. Students repeat this cycle for all four nutrients. Students are introduced to the concept that chemical tests are not always clearly positive or negative. They learn to interpret results that indicate varying amounts of a nutrient. Students examine food labels and discover that labels provide useful information about the nutrients in foods.

Models and Designs

The four investigations in the Models and Designs Unit provide experiences that develop the concept of a scientific model and engage students in design and construction. The students will manipulate objects and materials in order to design and construct conceptual and physical models. They will look for relationships between structure and function of materials and systems. Throughout the unit the students will organize and analyze data from investigations with physical objects and systems. As the lab partners work together, they will gain confidence in their abilities to solve problems and learn that there is often more than one solution to a problem. During class discussions they will communicate their ideas to peers and work in a collaborative scientific manner. Students will use scientific thinking processes to conduct investigations and build explanations: observing, communicating, comparing, organizing, and relating.

Homework Schedule

General and Judaic Studies homework is given on Friday for the coming week. It should be returned by the day recorded on the weekly calendar. This calendar will be emailed to parents every Thursday evenings (or Friday mornings depending on time). This calendar will inform parents of the coming weeks’ responsibilities, curriculum focus, and due dates in both General Studies and Judaic Work. This information will be shared with students every Friday, aiding time for students to write in their planners. Homework will always serve as an introduction to a topic, a review of a skill or topic, or enrichment. Generally, math homework will be assigned every day but Friday and is due the next day. Students are expected to spend time reading every evening. Students will also be expected to document this reading in reading log that is turned in on Monday. Each week students will also have either a list of spelling words to study or a chapter of Worldly Wise to complete. Some class time will be devoted to this word study, but any uncompleted work and additional studying must take place at home. Spelling/Wordly Wise quizzes are on Fridays. Sometimes work that is not finished in class or is supplemental will be given in the middle of the week. Special projects are given throughout the year and have various due dates. In order to manage homework more efficiently and to learn effective skills in organization, students are inputting their work and special events into their planners on Fridays.


Students are assessed by using both formative and summative assessments throughout the year. Formative assessments, those done during a unit of study as a method to gauge students’ understanding and further inform teaching, include: observations, personal communication, and homework. Summative assessments such as spelling/vocabulary tests, math tests, and projects reflect students’ understanding at the end of a unit of study. Additionally, students will also participate in certain standardized assessments at the beginning and the end of the year to measure progress. Please note that students will be keeping a Memory Binder, which is a portfolio of their completed work. This will be shown at conferences. Do not be alarmed if you do not see much completed work returning home.


We feel that teachers and parents make up a team. Communication is essential in ensuring this team’s success. We will communicate regular classroom occurrences via the weekly calendar and the class blog. If you have not done so already, please make sure to subscribe to the blog so that you will receive emails of our posts soon after they are posted. To do so, click “Subscribe to our blog via email” in the top left corner of our blog ( Follow the directions in the window that pops up. Make sure to confirm the request when you receive the email. You will need to re-subscribe even if you subscribed last year. Any more detailed or personal communications will take place by email, phone calls, or in-person conversations. We also always look forward to our regular parent-teacher conferences. Please make sure to communicate any questions, concerns, or feedback with us as well.


Listening and Appreciation

  • reviewing major instrumental groups & instruments
  • increasing repertoire of exposure to classical composers and their work
  • revisiting qualities of music, concepts and students’ response to music
  • revisiting and extension of music as a story telling medium in and of itself as well as enhancement and support to the story line

Creative Expression & Movement

  • increasing repertoire of folk dances
  • extending improvisation in response to patterns w/ hand percussion and marimba

Music Concepts

  • applying understanding of basic concepts to repertoire
  • working with note value
  • revisiting notation of rhythms in traditional notation
  • introducing exploration of creative musical notation
  • introducing opportunities for student composition

Instrumental Production

  • applying notation to hand percussion and marimba
  • extending number of parts in marimba playing
  • introducing note recognition on music staff
  • introducing and extending recorder playing skills


  • increasing repertoire of songs
  • working with skills to read & follow music
  • providing opportunities to sing in harmony
  • providing opportunities to perform in a variety of groupings (large ensembles, small ensembles, solo, duo)


Fourth Grade students are welcomed into the Art Room every Monday morning, where we will explore many types of artwork and media. Please help your child remember that art is messy and to choose clothing that can get dirty. Smocks are available but students don’t always choose to wear them. Art is fun, of course, but it’s also hard work, and students sometimes get frustrated. Learning new things can sometimes be uncomfortable, but it’s a positive sign that children are actively engaged in the classroom. Below is a general outline of areas covered in Art over the course of 4th grade. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. I will be at SJCS on Mondays and Wednesdays during the 2013-14 school year. In case you’re wondering where I am the other days, I am at McDonald International School interning other days of the week as part of pursuing my MAT at SPU for visual art instruction. Morah Bibi email:

Art Concepts

  • Ongoing development of art vocabulary as it relates to various media and processes
  • Elements of Art, discussed and reviewed as they best relate to individual media experiences
  • Principles of Design, discussed and reviewed as they best relate to individual media experiences
  • Introduced to the concept that the Arts reveal who we are
  • Introduced to the concept that the Arts are a means of Communication

Media and Skills

  • Drawing with pens, pencils and oil pastels, developing an understanding of human facial proportions
  • Painting with finger paints, tempera and watercolor
  • Collage with a focus on showing movement and contrast
  • Printmaking with collographic plates and self-carved stamps
  • Ceramics with focus on slab construction and attachment technique
  • Sculpture using assemblage and paper mache techniques
  • Fiber arts with an introduction to knitting

Art Appreciation and Reflection

  • Understanding that art reflects the time and place of creation as well as artists’ influences
  • Integrating art with general studies Washington State and NW Coastal Formline Art
  • Viewing and responding to artwork by familiar and new artists and learning about their lives and contributions
  • Introduction to self-assessment
  • Continuing development of Visual Literacy

The Creative Process and Creative Expression

  • Using line, shape, color, texture, form and space to communicate ideas and feelings.
  • Selecting subject matter, using visual art elements to communicate
  • Following the creative process as modeled and creating own work showing craftsmanship
  • Responding to master artwork by creating their own work



  • Library expectations
  • Library Sections: Fiction, Chapter Series, Everybody, Nonfiction, Biography-where to find them and the characteristics that make them distinct
  • Spine labels for: Fiction, Everybody, READ, Dewey, Biography
  • Literary Genres: Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Fantasy
  • Parts of a book


  • Dewey Decimal subcategories and how to use them to refine your search.
  • Nonfiction spine labels and how to order them to the 2nd and 3rd decimal.
  • Parts of a book: introduce glossary
  • Literary Genres as relates to monthly theme in literacy block
  • Using the SPL online encyclopedia for research.
  • Elements of a Successful Reader
  • SJCS Library Sections: Jewish Fiction, Jewish Nonfiction, Jewish Biography, Jewish Holidays, Hebrew Fiction, Hebrew Nonfiction-where to find them and the characteristics that make them distinct.
  • Spine labels for each of the SJCS Library Sections (Jewish and Hebrew)
  • Literary Genres introduced as relates to monthly theme in literacy block
  • References and Resources: atlas and almanacs

Physical Education

Health Education plays a key role in the development of the whole child. Students will develop movement skills, the ability to work as part of a team, overall fitness, and build character. This year the curriculum will emphasize cooperative games, team sports, health and fitness, and creating an atmosphere of mutual respect through positive language and sportsmanship. By incorporating music and engaging activities, the program encourages students to be healthy and active, and fosters lifelong appreciation of fitness.

Daily Routine and Curriculum at a Glance

Students will start each session by entering the gym and sitting in their assigned role spots. At this time there will be a review of previous skills learned as well as an introduction of new skills that the class will be using in the day’s activity. Some of the units we will cover this year include soccer, various takes on dodge ball, softball, handball, gaga, basketball, volleyball, and cricket. PE class will conclude by students returning to their role spots where I will wrap up the day’s lesson. In addition, students in grades second through fifth will have fitness days once a week. These days will focus more on activities designated to increase the students’ overall fitness level rather than their skill level.

Dress Code: Running shoes and clothing that is comfortable for physical activity are a must. Look through your child’s wardrobe for a couple of t-shirts that can get dirty and sweaty and dedicate them to PE. Footwear such as boots and flip-flops are inappropriate. Remember to dress for PE on the right day. There is a handy reminder below.

Second Grade–Fifth Grade: This group of students will become more aware of personal wellness and fitness levels. They begin to take ownership of their activities and set goals. Students will examine how they can improve on chosen activities through technique and effort. Students begin learning games with more complex rules and strategies. Team spirit and Dereh Eretz are fostered through cooperative games and kind play. 4th grade has PE on Tuesdays and Thursdays.