Building a Strong Foundation
The best way to learn about the program at Hill is to talk to us and visit. If you would like to learn more we hope you will contact us, either through email or by calling the school to set up an appointment. We are proud of our program and eager to discuss it with you.
Homeroom time is scheduled for the fourth graders at various times throughout the day in both formal and informal ways. Informal time allows students the ability to organize at their cubby area, to interact while playing games, or to socialize in age-appropriate ways with minimal direction of the teacher. Formal homeroom time addresses developmental issues that are so important to 8-10 year olds: fairness, addressing adversity through a growth mindset, organization skills, team-building, gratitude, mindfulness, and issues of equity and inclusion (just to name a few). The goal is to help students help themselves, providing safe times to make mistakes and practical strategies to use throughout their school lives and at home.
The components of our Language Arts program are synergistic and designed to build good habits and foster a love of reading and writing. The students participate in Writing Workshop and work on fictional pieces, as well as non-fiction writing, particularly personal experience narratives. Proofreading and revision are vital components of each assignment. Throughout the year, we work on proofreading skills through the presentation of mini-lessons and participation in “rotten writing” exercises. Completing “polished” pieces for submission to the school’s student writing publications, Curves, Angles, and Dots and Calliope, is also a major component of the course. Reading Workshop exposes students to a variety of literature. The goal of this format is to develop and support readers who find a place for reading in their lives and enjoy reading and its challenges. Through Reading Workshop, students develop into proficient and sophisticated readers who understand that reading is a process of making meaning within the text. Students are required to read nightly and keep a daily reading log. The Accelerated Reader Program is used to monitor the children’s independent reading.
Developing a solid set of procedural math skills is vital for all students. We believe that it is vital to encourage and help all students to become thinkers! All math classes provide an environment that encourages hypothesizing and testing of ideas for validity. The curriculum will follow that of Investigations in Number, Data, and Space. It is designed to support students as mathematical thinkers. While the course emphasizes computational fluency with whole numbers, it also includes substantive explorations with rational numbers, geometry, measurement, data analysis, and early algebra. The students are encouraged to build upon the mathematical ideas they already know to solve new problems. The class is structured to allow them the opportunity to collaborate, to share their ideas, and to describe (verbally and in writing) their thought processes.
History and Geography
The history program consists of an introduction to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt while discussing and reading about current events on a regular basis. Basic geography skills will be developed throughout the year, as well. During the ancient civilization units, we discuss the requisite characteristics common in all civilizations and compare and contrast these features in the cultures we are studying. Students learn how the environment and resources of each civilization shaped its culture. We emphasize learning through the study of intriguing historical figures: kings, pharaohs, heroes, and politicians. We examine Hammurabi’s laws, for example, and make connections with our own laws in Virginia and in the U.S. Constitution. We also study the mythology of the civilizations, and students learn about the daily life, customs, and enduring legacies of the societies. For each unit, we read an accompanying work of literature, such as Gilgamesh, the Hero when studying Mesopotamia, and we also study maps of these areas from the past and as they exist today. The spring unit, landmark issues in Virginia and U.S. history, explores connections with local Civil War and Reconstruction events as well as important Constitutional issues.
The emphasis is on generating curiosity through cooperative activities, making observations, conducting experiments and collecting data. Topics include: rocks, minerals, fossils and erosion; materials that transmit, reflect, or absorb light and/or sound; light and sound energy; pulleys and gears; habitats and communities. The Dornin Science Center is used to study units on soil and organic gardening.
The curriculum for Language Fundamentals has four main components: 1) the study of Latin word roots – we study one word root and its derivatives each week. By the end of the 5th grade, students will know approximately 100 Latin word roots. 2) Fundamental grammatical concepts, including the parts of speech. 3) Discussions and classroom activities pertaining to language exploration, including the creation and evolution of languages, how and why we communicate, the relationship between language and culture, and the value of learning other languages, and 4) Two projects: one creating an original alphabet and the other a research project of a foreign language and culture.
Technology and Research
The curriculum for Technology and Research in the fourth grade has several goals. Students are engaged in appropriate uses of Chromebooks and technology in general while also understanding the school’s acceptable use policy, improving keyboarding skills, and navigating various Google Education apps and other online tools. Fourth grade students develop problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration skills, and guest speakers are often invited to share real world examples of how technology is utilized. Students end the year with an independent 20% Project, where they immerse themselves into a topic of interest and become the expert. This research culminates in a professional presentation to their classmates and other family members. Coding and design thinking skills are introduced in this class, as well, and students will use these in the ever complex life and work environments of the twenty-first century.
The art program teaches students to interpret and understand the world from the artist’s point of view. Students learn to recognize and use the concepts of design and composition which are the building blocks of art. We strongly encourage experimentation. Art is integrated into many aspects of school life, supporting the Science, English, and History programs with interdisciplinary projects. Student work is always on display around the school and in the art building. The art department presents an art show each spring in which every student is represented. Our goal is for students to create work which expresses their individuality by providing them with the necessary technical skills and with the opportunities to experiment and invent.
Music and Strings
The students work on choral tone and learning to sing in both unison and two parts. Written music symbols continue to be explored as they play recorder, strings and Orff xylophones. Emphasis is placed on building self-confidence and encouraging mastery of the pieces taught with an eye to successful performance. Ensemble building activities are introduced as necessary. Strings are taught concurrently with general music and in an additional time on Thursday. The class performs at the Thanksgiving Assembly, the Holiday Concert, the Spring Sing Concert, and at Graduation.
The athletic department helps children develop positive habits of lifelong fitness and the desire to achieve their personal best in all endeavors. To achieve this, every child participates and competes in a variety of team and individual activities that promote sportsmanship, confidence, and competence in a physically and emotionally safe environment. Basic skills, teamwork, and conditioning are emphasized. Students participate in soccer, cross country running, basketball, gymnastics, track & field, lacrosse, and other games. Additionally, students participate in interscholastic competition and intramural green-white games.
Each year the 4th grade will come together as a class to rehearse and perform a play. The students will hold two performances – one during an all-school assembly and one in the evening. During the rehearsals, students will work on improvisation exercises, script analysis, and creating characters.