Academic Program
Lower School

Grade 4

Grade 4

As the oldest students in our building, Grade 4 students take on new challenges and responsibilities in the classroom and beyond. Students engage in a dynamic, integrated curriculum designed to broaden their abstract thinking skills and build their confidence as independent learners. 
Cross-curricular projects deepen understanding of fundamental concepts by actively applying them to various real-world situations. Students often work together in small groups, developing the ability to communicate ideas clearly and assertively, listen and learn from other perspectives, and collaborate effectively to create relevant and successful outcomes. In Responsive Classroom practice, students collaborate to create their classroom agreements, engage in morning meetings, and use collaborative strategies to resolve misunderstandings and disagreements. All students are encouraged to care for themselves, one another, and their school community, with Grade 4 students carrying particular responsibility as they plan and lead regular Community Gatherings for the entire Lower School.

Grade 4 Curriculum

List of 10 items.

  • Literacy

    Students build independence as readers and writers, using their skills in a variety of ways in individual and group projects. Reading genres including nonfiction, poetry, historical fiction, and realistic present-day fiction, students learn to gather information and perspective to support their own growing understanding of the world. Written work includes responses to literature, creative fiction, expository text, and a sustained project of historical fiction as students engage in a year-long integrated research study of immigration to the United States. Students learn strategies for reviewing, revising, and editing their own work to enhance clarity and expression. A focus on vocabulary, spelling, and study skills supports students’ confidence and success in mastering the humanities curriculum. 
  • Mathematics

    Students learn and reinforce skills for analyzing and solving problems with flexibility, fluency, and accuracy. As they solve increasingly complex multi-step, multi-operational story problems, students use a variety of mathematical models to guide and communicate their thinking. Students develop understanding and fluency with multi-digit multiplication and division, along with an understanding of factors and multiples. They find equivalent fractions and learn to add, subtract, and multiply fractions. Students work with angle measurements and other defining attributes to classify and categorize geometric figures.
  • Social Studies

    Using the lenses of history and geography, students complete an in-depth study focused on immigration through Ellis Island and Angel Island, and on the ways our country has developed and evolved over time. Students explore aspects of identity through individual experiences, family stories, history, and culture, all while considering how sharing our ideas, beliefs and perspectives allow us to express who we are in the world.
  • Art

    Grade 4 self-portraits are a highlight in the art studio, incorporating painting skills acquired over previous years along with new skills and techniques, all grounded in thoughtful, close observation. While building upon their personal art-making and depiction skills, students also consider the many ways that art functions in different cultures and disciplines such as fashion, activism, or performance. In a combined Spanish and art project, students work collaboratively to create paper mache piñatas. Students create trophy sculptures as they learn techniques for molding, joining, and decorating clay. Other projects arise from student interest and curricular connections, such as investigating functional and fantastical designs to build models of tenement buildings in support of their work in social studies.
  • Dance

    Students use elements of modern, contemporary, and jazz dance styles to explore space through movement within their personal kinespheres. Working collaboratively in pairs and small groups, they apply choreography tools including the use of positive and negative space, the device of “cause and effect”, and the Limón technique. Dance is connected to the broader world as students study the French movement company Géometrie Variable, work with a guest artist skilled in the Limón technique, and create choreography inspired by their social studies curriculum.
  • Physical Education and Athletics

    Students learn fundamental sport skills as they combine mature motor patterns with perceptual skills such as throwing to a moving teammate, striking a volleyball, and hitting a softball. In gymnastics, students gain upper body strength using the bars and challenge their balance on the high beam. Power and speed are combined with tumbling movements to create sequences such as a running-hurdle-round-off. Students work collaboratively as they develop an understanding of team strategies, along with social and emotional skills for engaging in constructive and fair competition.
  • Science

    Students build upon their scientific skill set as they observe, question, test, and analyze their findings in a number of longer-term projects. The salt marsh study includes a field trip to sample organisms, then a series of safe and humane controlled experiments to test student hypotheses. Studying the forces of flight, students build contraptions that manipulate lift, drag, thrust, gravity, and wind resistance. In a combined science and STEAM project, students work in partnerships to design, build and program LEGO robots using motors and sensors that respond to touch, color, and ultrasonic input.
  • Spanish

    Students practice and enhance their oral and written skills, engaging in a wide range of activities supporting clear expression of their ideas, requests, and interests. Language-rich resources such as level readers, labels, songs, and educational videos strengthen and expand their vocabulary. Pronunciation is honed through choral repetition, reading aloud, and the immersive language of the class. Cultural connections include combined Art and Spanish projects, and a study of renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Students develop confidence and ease with social interactions in Spanish through collaborative tasks such as dialogues, interviews, and surveys. 
  • Music

    Students hone their music literacy skills through ensemble work, collaborating to sing in chorus, and to make music with the recorder, ukulele, and barred instruments. Along with strong foundational work for playing each instrument, students build fluency in reading music, music memory, and melodic and rhythmic accuracy. Making music in harmony builds social skills along with musical ones, and the joy of creating beautiful sounds together is part of every class. At year’s end, students love sharing what they’ve learned in a celebratory culminating performance.

    Students practice and demonstrate proficiency in basic computer operations and skills using digital and interactive media. These skills include text-based coding in Lynx, 3-D design and printing, game design in Scratch, and integration of physical objects with digital programming using micro:bit controllers. Each new skill is approached through an engaging, creative project for individuals or small groups, as students use the tools to pursue their own creative visions. The year culminates in a combined science and STEAM project which focuses on the design of working robots to serve a particular purpose chosen by the students.

Curriculum Highlights

Explore Our Curriculum

A K-12 independent school in New York city, The Spence School prepares a diverse community of girls and young women for the demands of academic excellence and responsible citizenship.


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