English/Language ArtsIn third through fifth grade, the English curriculum empowers students to read and respond to a variety of literature and documents, including fiction and nonfiction. The focus is on reading for content and writing for accuracy. English instruction integrates the process of listening, speaking, reading, and writing in meaningful contexts. Students analyze texts and delve into them for explicit information. Writing is integrated into other areas of the curriculum through the format of Writing Workshop which includes prewriting, drafting, revising, copy editing, peer evaluation, teacher evaluation, and final drafts. The English program focuses on word study, sentence structure, grammar, paragraphing, editing and proofreading, descriptive language, note-taking, thesis writing, fiction and nonfiction compositions, and report writing. In addition, students write and publish persuasive, creative, narrative, and expository pieces throughout the year. Beginning in third grade, students are introduced to technology as a tool for learning. They practice keyboarding skills, compose and edit their written work, and research information. In third through eighth grade, media literacy is integrated into the curriculum to teach grade level appropriate research techniques, internet safety and etiquette, and presentation skills.
MathematicsIn third through fifth grade, students move beyond the basics and begin applying math in more complex ways. Computational skills are still critical, but new areas of learning include multi-digit multiplication, long division, fractions, decimals, percents, ratios, function rules, interpretation of statistics using graphs, composite and inverse functions, negative numbers, geometric reasoning, and solid geometry. As students develop into fluent readers, word problems are regularly integrated into the curriculum as a way of applying the math concepts being studied. In their Small Business Projects, fourth graders create and produce products to sell at the school’s Entrepreneur Fair. In this real life application of math skills, students are pushed to think critically and creatively in developing and implementing a business plan, while also learning about contribution. They donate a portion of their profits to charity. The theme of entrepreneurship continues in fifth grade math, where students are involved in hands-on, experiential projects that introduce the basic financial ideas behind the stock market and microfinance.Science
In third through fifth grade, science is taught as a process of inquiry with an emphasis on developing scientific reasoning. All students receive instruction from trained science specialists in laboratory settings. The goals are to inspire students’ enthusiasm for science and to apply scientific problem solving to real world situations.
Third grade units focus on seed saving, acids and bases, water around the world, optics, and scientific drawings. Students begin to discover new ways to seek information and how to validate their sources. Lab notebooks are used to record observations and experimental data for each unit. Cornell style notes are introduced as a method for documenting information.
Fourth grade science is an investigation of the natural world and its various elements. Students learn the fundamentals of ecosystem ecology seen through the lens of botany and mycology (plants and fungi). They learn the basics of mapping and topography as well as the erosive forces that change the surface of the planet. Students also investigate the basics of climate change, and analyze the impact we all have on the biosphere.
Fifth grade science is a study of human anatomy and the myriad ways in which day-to-day choices affect human health. Students study the various systems of the body, analyze the organs for structure and function, and explore how toxins and pollutants in the environment impact human health.History/Social Studies
In third through fifth grade, the history program aims to broaden students' understanding of how they fit into society and how they can contribute to the future. Students explore ideas and beliefs, identify features of societies, describe the roles of individuals, and recognize how society has shaped the world we live in today. History instruction integrates the process of listening, speaking, reading, and writing in meaningful contexts. Lessons are deeply integrated into the language arts programs. Focus areas for the third grade curriculum are past and present day Sonoma County, Native American tribes in our area, and our local government and economy. Guest speakers and field trips into our community make real world connections to these units of study. In fourth grade, students’ examine the history of California in great depth, including the impact the Russians had on our state. An overnight living history experience at Fort Ross allows students and parent chaperones to assume the roles of Russian or Kashaya Pomos and their daily activities in the early 1800’s. In fifth grade, students become scholars of U.S. history, exploring their citizenship and civic responsibilities. Highlights of the year include a jazz unit linked to The Great Depression and an overnight reenactment of the Civil War on Angel Island.
World religion classes are a part of the history program in fourth and fifth grades at SCDS. This program fosters students’ understanding of religious diversity in local and global communities as well as an appreciation for beliefs that are different than their own. The study of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism are included in the fourth grade curriculum. Fifth graders review these topics at a deeper level and also begin to explore Taoism. Students read selections from Genesis, the Gospels, the Torah, the Upanishads, and the Tao Te Ching. In fourth grade, students visit the local synagogue, the Episcopal Church, the Islamic Prayer Center, a Buddhist Temple and the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Fifth grade travels to San Francisco and spends a weekend attending ceremonies at a reformed synagogue, the Taoist temple, and high mass at Grace Cathedral.
Social and Emotional LearningThe social and emotional learning program in third through fifth grade concentrates on effective conflict resolution using the skills of active and reflective listening following a brief period of calming or "cooling off.” Students also learn the process of identifying goals and considering the steps needed to attain them. By using critical thinking to project possible outcomes and using introspection to more accurately recognize feelings, active decision making is strengthened. Also included are strategies for managing strong emotions, and the role that feelings play in daily interactions.
World LanguagesAll students in third through fifth grade receive instruction in both Spanish and Mandarin. Lessons build on prior knowledge but are structured so all students can be successful. With the expansion of their vocabulary each year, students are provided with more complex ways to practice listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Students use the language to create entertaining stories, dialogues, presentations, skits, videos, and songs. Lessons build on students’ interests and are reinforced through hands-on activities, games, role-playing, partner conversations, studies about the culture, and individual and group projects. At the end of fifth grade, students select either Spanish or Mandarin as their course of study in sixth through eighth grade.
Visual ArtsIn third through fifth grade, students continue to expand their creative techniques in drawing, painting, clay, printmaking, and sculpture, with an emphasis on mixed media. Lessons are designed to develop perceptive skills by focusing on alternate points of view and various ways of seeing nature and the world. The art department often collaborates with other teachers on projects, highlighting the integration of different subject areas in art.
MusicIn third through fifth grade, music continues to build on the importance of the singing voice. Instrumental music is added to the curriculum in the fourth grade when all students learn to play the soprano recorder. This is an opportunity to read music in treble clef and to learn appropriate breathing techniques and fingerings. During the year, students are introduced to the instruments of the symphonic orchestra in preparation for their selection of the melodic instrument they will play in fifth grade. Their choices include the violin, flute, clarinet, trumpet, or trombone. In fifth grade junior band, students learn the basic techniques of their new instruments, as well as beginning band skills. By the end of the year they are able to play beginning level concert band literature. Much of the instruction is done in small groups, offering opportunities for close relationships between students and teachers.
Library and Media
Throughout the middle grades, students are reinforcing and expanding their library literacy skills while continuing to experience multiple forms of narrative fiction and informational text. They hear stories read aloud each week and critically analyze and compare texts. They present book talks to their peers, explore different types of reference materials, and begin to use electronic databases for research projects. Students are starting to look at information in a focused manner, gaining a deeper understanding of informational structures and hierarchies, displaying the ability to do independent searches, and participating effectively in groups to pursue and generate information. They are introduced to the Dewey Decimal system as an effective way to organize information, and the online catalog as a tool for locating information on the shelves; they learn to navigate easily the parts of a book that help locate and organize information within the text itself. They begin to evaluate informational texts for accuracy and usefulness, and recognize that book selection, location, and Online Public Access Catalog terminal skills are transferable to other libraries. They become familiar with the concepts of citation, plagiarism, and primary versus secondary resources. They continue to gain exposure to multiple forms of literature through such collaborative units as the Genre Project (fourth grade) and the Jazz Project (fifth grade), expanding their understanding of and appreciation for literature and the ways it can help make sense of the world. Motor Skills and Physical EducationThe physical education program in third through fifth grade is an extension of the motor skills curriculum in earlier grades and is based on a developmentally appropriate scope and sequence for the growing child. Students are introduced to more complex activities that link multiple motor skills; they learn lead-up games that are used as precursors to organized team sports; and they participate in team-building challenges that require cooperation and problem solving. In this phase of the program students are exposed to longer sustained periods of physical activity. They participate in a variety of activities that encourage them to take risks physically and mentally and test their personal boundaries.
In fourth and fifth grades, living history overnight trips in Fort Ross and on Angel Island are highlights of our program. These single-night trips also help students get used to the idea of being away from home, in anticipation of the longer outdoor education trips they enjoy in grades 6-8. Students focus on California and the United States, respectively. These studies are well integrated with the language arts programs. Fourth graders enjoy an overnight trip to Fort Ross where they assume Russian or Kashaya Pomo identities. These hardened overnight veterans then prepare for duty on Angel Island through the study of the Colonial Era and the American Civil War in fifth grade.
Click here to access our curriculum map, which holds more detailed information on concepts and skills in each grade level and subject area.