The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 15, 1999


Review shows fourth grade curriculum may need modification

The fourth grade is evolving as teachers are integrating a systems approach to the curriculum and analyzing where changes might be made to align the curriculum more closely with state frameworks and the MCAS exam. Fourth grade teachers Bill Gale, Raphaela Deming, Jennifer Putnam, and Geraldine Madigan presented their curriculum overview to the Carlisle School Committee at their January 5 meeting.

Gale spoke about how systems dynamics was being used as a tool and integrated into the existing curriculum. Fourth graders are using behavior-over-time graphs to look at systems. They are also trying something new in looking at the "open circle" of the social competency program as a system.

The math curriculum is based on the University of Chicago program. Deming, who taught in many schools before coming to Carlisle this year, said that she was very impressed with the curriculum. The math activities connect with real life. They are about 95 percent problem solving and 5 percent computation. Challenging problems from the Continental Math League are also being used to teach problem-solving strategies, she added.

The literature used for reading and writing in the fourth grade is linked to the social studies and science themes, Putnam explained. She told the school committee that teachers read to the students every day. There is also in-class reading time each week and 20 minutes of reading assigned for homework each day. Students do periodic book projects for homework.

Writing in fourth grade is mostly non-fiction. Students often answer open-ended questions about their reading, Putnam said. They learn paragraph skills, spelling, vocabulary, and analogies. Research and library reference skills are taught with weekly visits to the school library.

Fourth-grade social studies covers U.S. history through the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution and westward expansion, Madigan explained. In geography, students learn about the world's continents, she said.

State demands

In the history and social studies curriculum there are at least two areas that do not match the state frameworks. The state expects ancient civilizations to be covered in the fourth grade while Carlisle has always studied them in the fifth grade. The state also wants an economics component in social studies that Carlisle has not had. The fourth grade team will be looking at these issues for the future, Madigan said.

When school committee member Peter Cole asked what the teachers needed to do their jobs better, their response was more reference books and newer encyclopedias. Cole suggested that residents might be willing to donate encyclopedias on CD-ROMs.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito