Grades 3 & 4

Grades 3 and 4 are combined at Cambridge Friends School to create leadership and mentoring opportunities, to allow for new social interactions, and to help bridge gaps that are often found in physical development during this age range. Students are grouped by grade for math class, which follows a more linear progression, and are then grouped into mixed grade cohorts for all other daily activities. Projects and curriculum are offered on an alternating year schedule, with scaffolded expectations based on grade level. Read on to learn more!

Third and Fourth Grade Curriculum


At Cambridge Friends School, we believe third and fourth grade students are developmentally ideal for a mixed-grade classroom. The developmental overlap between these grades is significant in terms of social emotional development and academics. At this age and grade level, children are full of ideas and eager to explore and develop their thoughts. Their interest in factual explanations as well as abstract concepts fuels their desire to learn. They are excited to take on more complex challenges while benefiting from the skilled guidance of our faculty as they realize their locus of control and strive to successfully explore their ideas. We enthusiastically encourage the development of their persistence as they meet new and greater academic challenges. 


Combining third and fourth grade students allows them to interact with a larger and more varied peer group. Children broaden their world view at this age, leading to excitement and apprehension about their place in the world. Their focus on peer relationships and developing friendships grows and they become concerned about people in their immediate circles as well as about global events. Their heightened awareness of issues of justice and fairness cause them to focus on rules, logic, and fairness and through the cooperative work we ask of them they learn to voice their own opinions and compromise.


Our multi-age classrooms provide students with opportunities to tackle big ideas and multiple-step projects. The combined third- and fourth-grade classroom is when Cambridge Friends School transitions children from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”  Students begin to synthesize information and form opinions, and move from learning concrete concepts to abstract ones. We empower students in third- and fourth-grade to increase their independence and take on greater academic challenges. In our third- and fourth-grade classrooms, students complete comprehensive research projects, use multiple intelligence theory to present information to their classmates, write original poetry and narratives, design and test models, and engage in service projects.


The third- and fourth-grade curriculum in language arts, science, social studies, music, and art is a two-year program (Cycle A and Cycle B).  Students are separated by grade for math.


A highlight of students’ fourth-grade year is our annual visit to Farm School in Athol, Massachusetts, where they live and work on the farm for three days. Through carrying out daily chores, caring for the animals, and planting crops, students learn environmental stewardship. Working on the farm, students create connections with the land and each other. The need to quickly develop new skills in this hands-on environment helps students understand themselves as learners and to practice the Testimonies of Community and Stewardship at a more profound level.

English and Language Arts

Cycle A


Students participate in Cambridge Friends School’s unique structured book clubs where they analyze texts, develop opinions about stories and characters, and explore themes and authors’ intent, while practicing active listening and discussion skills. Children in third- and fourth-grade also spend considerable time reading independently, choosing books of personal interest and using letter to dialogue with their teachers in the form of letters about their thoughts concerning these books. Mentor texts provide inspiration for students while giving them a starting point from which they can express their personal ideas and enhance their own writing. For example, after reading George Ella Lyon’s poem Where I’m From, students incorporate rhythm, repetition, and literary devices into their own poetry. CFS students understand that writing is a process and learn to gather ideas, draft, revise, and edit before publishing their work. In Cycle A, students write a thorough research project on a bird of their choosing, requiring them to learn to gather and cite credible sources, to take thorough and efficient notes, to formulate informative paragraphs, and to compose a cohesive research paper. 


Cycle B


Students are first introduced to the writing process by engaging in a free-form writing assignment in which they explore and communicate their identities. They practice the skills of giving and receiving feedback through peer editing in this assignment as well as later when they  publish formal pieces of poetry in an anthology they create. After studying mentor writers, such as Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein, students express themselves through poetic devices and figurative language. At Cambridge Friends School, students also explore biographies, which aids in the development of non-fiction reading skills and familiarizes students with different life stories, places, and time periods. Students also spend considerable time reading independently, choosing books of personal interest, and using letters to dialogue with their teachers about their thoughts concerning these books.


Third Grade


Cambridge Friends School uses the TERC Investigations® in Numbers, Data, and Space program, which supports students in developing strong conceptual understandings of important mathematical concepts, strong number sense, and an ability to approach multi-step, problem-solving flexibility with strong computational skills. In third grade, through games and investigations, students extend their knowledge of foundational math concepts, such as place value, addition, and subtraction. As their knowledge and understanding grows, students move beyond using manipulatives to support their work to demonstrating their knowledge with efficient computational strategies. As students work with new concepts, or begin to apply a skill at a higher level, they have the opportunity to again work with manipulatives as they, once again, ground themselves in a solid conceptual understanding. Third-graders develop and solidify multiple strategies to solve multi-digit addition and subtraction problems, to represent quantitative data, and to compare fractions using standard fractional notation. Third-graders also work to understand multiplication and division, and begin basic computation with these operations. Students are asked to represent their understandings in a variety of formats (i.e. drawings, charts, language, and equations) as this provides evidence of conceptual understandings and flexibility in approaching problems.


Fourth Grade


Cambridge Friends School uses the TERC Investigations®  program which supports students in developing multiple strategies to solve multi-digit multiplication and division problems, to represent measurement data, to measure and classify shapes, to analyze patterns, and to simplify, compare, and compute with fractions. Along with developing procedural skills and fluency, the CFS math program assists students in forming and understanding concepts and in building a strong number sense through student use of  drawings, charts, and language to explain their thinking. For example, during the unit Fraction Cards and Decimal Grids,  students learn equivalent fractions through a card game. They then use the cards to create a number line of rational numbers. In the unit Arrays, Factors, and Multiplicative Comparison, students create their own story problems for multi-digit multiplication problems, which teaches them the value of numbers. Students begin fourth-grade math class with timed fact quizzes to build strong automaticity with addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and fraction equivalencies. Fluency with these facts gives students the foundation they need to solve increasingly challenging operations and story problems.

Social Studies

Cycle A


Through studying the regions of the United States, students focus on the interdependencies of these regions, as well as the differences in culture, economy, and geography. Themes of change, conflict and cooperation, differences and similarities, location, place, movement, interdependence, distribution of wealth/scarcity, and production and power are explored.

Through project-based learning, students explore the regions using the lens of multiple historical perspectives. In cooperative groups, students deepen their learning using multiple disciplines including dramatic presentations, art, creation of historical fiction, and other student-led projects. By focusing on a person of inspiration, students further explore issues of bias and social justice in their region of study and develop a sense of social responsibility by responding to the  person of insipration’s legacy.


Cycle B


Students explore the themes of power, privilege, and governance as they study early Massachusetts state history using the lens of multiple historical perspectives. Students explore the concept of laws and regulations by building a classroom community and participating in the creation of rules. They then build on the concept of governance by exploring local Native American tribes, the impact of European colonization in Plymouth, and the Massachusetts Bay Colony and American Revolution. Studying the Wampanoag culture challenges the historical perspective that history began in this area at the start of colonization and fosters an appreciation of the extent to which different cultures have enriched Massachusetts. After reading Plimoth Plantation: A Story of Two Cultures, students visit the living history museum in Plymouth and experience reenactments of these historical periods.


Students continue to develop their natural curiosity and engagement with the physical world around them as they explore life science, physical science, earth/space science, and technology/engineering through hands-on investigations and engineering challenges. The curriculum balances content with the development of skills that support the process of inquiry and problem-solving, from learning to develop productive questions for investigation and recording observations to analyzing and interpreting data and offering evidence to support conclusions. Science is co-taught by the science specialist and classroom teachers.


Cycle A


As they learn about the various parts of trees and their functions, students love to follow their own CFS tree throughout the year. They observe and track changes over time, documenting their findings using photos, drawings, writing, and other media. In earth science, students explore the differences and similarities between rocks and minerals. After conducting a series of tests on a set of twelve minerals, students use their lab notes to identify each mineral specimen. Field trips to the Arnold Arboretum and the Harvard Museum of Natural History are important aspects of this work.


A physical science unit, Sound, includes an introduction to basic principles about how sound is produced, how sound travels and how the frequency of vibrations is related to pitch. Students apply these concepts as they design, build and play simple musical instruments. In engineering, students design and construct a catapult-style device, built to meet clearly-defined criteria. They experiment with different models and look at historic approaches to solving a similar problem.


Cycle B


In Mystery Powders, students are immersed in building lab skills as they observe some common white powders and learn more about their distinct properties. They keep lab notes as they conduct chemical and heat tests and then apply their findings to more complex problems involving mixtures. 


In Sink and Float, students investigate density and buoyancy, testing numerous objects under different conditions to begin to understand the reasons objects float or sink in water. Building on these experiences, students design, construct, and test individual boats made from recycled materials. They apply their math skills as they plan and purchase materials to fit a budget for this project. To meet the engineering challenge, each boat must travel at least five feet in the water and carry a mass of 80g.


After engaging in a series of activities about the water cycle, students make extensive use of stream table models to do a series of investigations about interactions of land and water. Activities and discussions focus on ways humans have an impact on water in the environment and ways to foster conservation and good stewardship of our water resources. 


The third- and fourth-grade art curriculum consists of projects that allow for a point of engagement for the whole range of ages and learners. While some projects are presented in a two-year cycle to allow new experiences for fourth-grade students, others are repeated each year to deepen students’ understanding of the concepts and skills involved. For example, students will practice mixing colors in both third- and fourth-grade. In contrast, one year all students will build ceramic low relief sculptures, while the next year all students will build hollow animal sculptures with clay.


In the Cambridge Friends School third- and fourth-grade art classes, students are encouraged to use creative thinking and problem-solving to find a unique approach to the questions imbedded in studio projects. They begin to develop vocabulary to communicate their own creative expression and their ideas about art made by others. Projects are designed to help students sharpen their fine motor skills and continue to build self-confidence.


Some of the concepts explored by third- and fourth-grade students in the art studio include mixing tertiary colors (blue-green, red-violet, etc.), tints, and shades. They use composition strategies such as repetition, symmetry, positioning of objects, overlapping, and foreground and background in their artwork. Projects and materials include cut paper design; 3D paper sculpture; calligraphy pens; wire; sewing; ceramic coil, slab and low relief sculpture; and printmaking.

Physical Education

Third-and fourth-grade classes emphasize further development of gross motor skills. Circuit exercises, tagging and fleeing games, and fitness routines are integrated for warm-up activities while a variety of group games help students explore dodging, fleeing, and interpersonal skills as they navigate working together in a group setting. Team building is also explored by implementing group challenges and cooperative initiatives.  Lead-up games are implemented enabling students to practice previously learned skills. Basic skills of dribbling, kicking, striking, throwing and goaltending are practiced during a variety of games and activities. These activities prepare students as they progress towards small-sided games in fifth grade. Team building is also explored during a variety of cooperative initiatives and parachute activities. Core units include fitness, soccer, basketball, change and four goal hockey, backyard games, and activity stations. Student-choice activities allow students to explore a variety of different types of equipment.



Each combined third- and fourth-grade classroom has music two times a week. Every class begins in a circle with group singing before expanding into other musical activities including dance, movement, drumming, quiet listening, and playing instruments. These activities are created to embrace the foundational elements of music which include rhythm, pattern, sound, silence, melody and harmony. As the year progresses, students refine their evolving musical skills into more complex endeavors. Highlights of the year include contra dancing, creating original compositions on wooden xylophones, singing in harmony, and drumming in 4-6 part polyphony. Underlying Cambridge Friends School’s third- and fourth-grade music curriculum is a commitment to interweave the profound joy and spiritual nature of music, so that each student has confidence in their own creative abilities and artistic expression.


The Cambridge Friends School library program for third- and fourth-grade students is a two-year curriculum.


Cycle A


The third- and fourth-graders have a regularly scheduled library class each week, and additional classes are scheduled as needed. The library program includes stories read aloud by the librarian and then discussed. Time is set aside for the students to learn about the library collection by browsing and searching for books for their independent reading. There is a two-year rotating curriculum for the 3/4 grades. The following is included in the Year A curriculum:


Traditional Literature

For our read-aloud time, the main theme is Greek mythology. We read stories about the family of Olympians and myths that explain natural phenomena such as the changes of the seasons (Persephone and the Pomegranate, Ishtar and Tammuz). We also read about heroes and heroines (e.g. Prometheus, Bellerophon, Theseus, Atalanta, and parts of The Iliad and The Odyssey), while learning about the customs of the ancient Greeks.


Cycle B


Students have a regularly scheduled library class each week, and additional classes are scheduled as needed. The library program includes stories read aloud by the librarian and then discussed and activities for learning library and research skills. The curriculum changes at each grade level and builds on the learning of previous years. Time is set aside for the students to learn about the library collection by browsing and searching for books for their independent reading. Library classes also support the learning and activities that take place in the classrooms. The following is included in the Year B curriculum:


Traditional Literature

The students listen to and discuss creation stories from folklore and religion and then compare these stories to nonfiction books about science, including explanations of the Big Bang Theory. As part of our creation theme, we read nonfiction and historical fiction about historical “firsts,” such as historical fiction about the first artist to create cave paintings and nonfiction about the discovery by children of the cave paintings in Lascaux, France. We also read traditional stories from many cultures that explore the concept of the Golden Rule and stories about the origins of seasonal, cultural, and religious celebrations.


Biography and Author Study

Biographies are read and discussed, and there are author studies during which the children learn about an author’s life and listen to examples of their work – a particular favorite is the life and work of Hans Christian Andersen. 


Middle School Open House

We welcome prospective middle school students and families to join us for our evening Middle School Open House. Participate virtually in demo lessons with our expert faculty and learn more about our educational philosophy during this introduction to our unique Middle School program. Join us on November 18, 2020 from 7:00 – 8:30 pm for this exciting opportunity!