Fourth and Fifth Grades

Our oldest students are on the threshold of a significant new stage of development: adolescence. Dramatic physical changes reflect major shifts in cognitive, social and emotional development. The intellect is awakened, demonstrated by the individual’s emerging ability to engage in more complex thinking processes involving symbolic ideas and abstract concepts. Children exercise newfound abilities as they begin to reason, consider diverse perspectives, and imagine a multitude of possibilities. Individuals approaching adolescence have a need to understand and engage in the ‘real world.’

Experiential and project-based studies exercise ‘real life’ problem-solving abilities and provide meaningful contexts for the acquisition of new concepts and skills. For the socially-oriented pre-adolescent, cooperative and interactive learning supports academic instruction and cultivates a strong sense of community. A pre-adolescent is defining, testing, and transforming his/her perception of self and seeks to be understood and valued by others. They challenge assumptions and values they once adopted without question.  Our program honors this vital process, providing new intellectual challenges while supporting the emotional and social challenges inherent to growing up.


School Day: 8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. with the option of Extended Day through 4:30 p.m.

Language Arts

A balanced approach is most effective in children’s reading and writing development.

For reading and writing teachers use Reader's and Writer's Workshop curricula, developed at Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.

Below are key elements of our rich and balanced language arts program:


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Reader’s Workshop – Able to read fiction and non-fiction, Fourth and Fifth grade students are engaging with more complex texts. In Reader's Workshop, teachers start with a minilesson where a particular reading skill or strategy is explicitly taught. Then the children go off and read, with teachers coming to them to confer. Children read “just right” books and try the strategies learned in the lesson. Reader’s Workshop provides children with feelings of success and competence while reading.

Young readers need opportunities to read high-interest, accessible books of their own choosing. Our classroom libraries in the upper grades contain over 600 leveled books, all organized into collections, shelves, and bins based on level, genre, topic. Our libraries meet all learners’ needs, both for students reading at, above, and below the benchmark.


Book Clubs - Book clubs provide a structure for meaningful and purposeful conversations about the books they are reading. When in book clubs, students meet regularly to talk about a book they are reading together and study author moves. Students carry out their work independently, assigning roles to various members and using the coaching and suggestions from the teacher.


Writer’s Workshop - In the Fourth and Fifth grades, students are on the cusp of writing more academic texts. They begin practicing the thesis-driven persuasive essays, literary essays, and research reports that later years of writing in school will bring. In The Arc of Story: Writing Realistic Fiction, students learn that the lenses they bring to reading fiction can also be brought to writing fiction, as they develop believable characters with struggles and motivations and rich stories to tell. They also engage in a unit called Boxes and Bullets: Personal and Persuasive Essays where they learn how to organize information and gather evidence to support their opinions. In Bringing History to Life, students are ready to tackle historical research in which they collect evidence and use details to vividly describe people and events long ago and far away. Lastly, in The Literary Essay: Writing About Fiction, students build on their learning of essay writing through writing fiction.


Every writing session starts with a minilesson where a particular skill or strategy is taught. Then the children go off and write, with teachers coming to them to confer. Writers learn to use the writing process: rehearsing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Writing is taught with direct, explicit instruction including spelling conventions and the skills of proficient writing. Writing across genres gives children practice with different authorial voices. At the end of each unit, authors edit their work for publication and are celebrated at publishing parties.


Listening and Speaking - Through classroom discussions, teachers actively utilize the social dynamic of the classroom to develop each student’s ability to express thoughts, feelings, and needs respectfully and effectively. Through a variety of literature, students are introduced to the concept of 'windows and mirrors' to children through the varied texts. Windows allow you to view someone else’s experience and mirrors allow you reflect on your own culture. Both resources help build one’s identity and develop empathy and understanding.


Spanish - Through weekly Spanish classes, children continue to build Spanish vocabulary and develop deeper conversational Spanish skills. They continue to learn about Spanish-speaking cultures through both fiction and non-fiction books.


Reading Support - When students are not meeting the literacy benchmarks that they developmentally could meet, the Head Teacher makes a referral to the Reading Support Teacher. Our Reading Support Teacher is trained in the Institute for Multi-Sensory Institution Orton Gillingham Reading Approach. The Reading Support Teacher meets frequently with students either one-on-one or in small groups using an explicit, sequential, systematic, and multi-sensory approach used to teach literacy. The support program breaks reading and writing into smaller skills involving letters and sounds, then builds on these skills over time. The Teacher will also meet with children for reading fluency and writing support as needed.


At Nantucket Lighthouse School, we use Bridges in Mathematics developed by The Math Learning Center. Math in the Fourth and Fifth grades focus on forging meaningful connections between what children understand conceptually and the conventional symbols and procedures used to represent mathematical concepts.

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Social Studies & Science

The study of Nantucket's ecosystems, understanding of local environmental challenges, and engineering and coding skills coalesce in a special project where students build robots to solve local environmental challenges. There are many important social studies and science strands taught in our Fourth and Fifth grade classes:

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Physical Education

Weekly Physical Education classes include exercising gross motor skills through running, jumping, hopping, climbing, balancing, throwing, and catching. There is an emphasis on collaborative games and good sportspersonship.


In 4th and 5th grade music, students have built a solid amount of musical experience in the earlier gradesIn music, students sing songs from American folk repertoire, popular music, and around the world. Students deepen their understanding of music notation, including how to read and write simple rhythms and melodies. They also expand their abilities with songs and rounds, aiming for more independence with both singing and instrumental accompaniment. Students learn to accompany simple songs on the keyboard (one per student) and learn the layout of tones with the goal of playing keyboards together as a group.