3rd Grade Science

Learning about circuits and design
In the second trimester, third-grade students learn about circuits and electricity in science. We begin the unit by defining closed and open circuits. Then students spend time exploring the different materials used to create a circuit including a battery, conduction wires, and a light or soundbox. The unit culminates in the creation of a class arcade. Students partner to build an arcade game incorporating some sort of competition, and when the player wins or loses, the lights turn on, and the sound buzzes, much like a game of Operation. Students spend time planning and building the game together, troubleshooting, and then decorating the game in a particular theme of their choosing.

Finally, we set up all of the games and invite our kindergarten buddies to come play! It is so much fun for the third graders to share their knowledge of circuits and electricity, and it is so exciting for the kindergarteners to learn from their exceptional third-grade buddies. Buddies at Bentley are extremely special. Each grade buddies with another and spends time reading together, playing together, learning new topics, teaching one another, and having fun. The third graders love becoming the big buddies!

3rd Grade History

Exploring the lives of Native Americans
In the second trimester, third graders learn about the lives of Native Americans. We learn about their values, work, everyday lives, struggles, successes, and more. Incorporating our writing unit, we study the art of legend writing and write our own legends, focusing on the elements of traditional legends, and adding some modern flair. Students incorporate components, such as animals, morals, lessons, and adventure into their legends. We have a publishing celebration where we read each other’s work and celebrate one another as creative authors. 

Our unit continues with the examination of the different parts of Native American life. We explore the similarities and differences between the tribes and how that relates to their geographical resources. We learn about the hardships and the successes and problem-solve to see how we could have solved those knowing what we know now. There are many opportunities throughout this unit for design challenges and class discussions. The unit culminates with a watercolor of a Native American scene (village, hunting, games, storytelling, etc) and a polished published explanation of the scene incorporating facts learned throughout the unit.

3rd Grade Social Studies

Celebrating Black History Month
After a visit from the high school to talk to us about Black History Month, each grade chooses an African American person to study. Third grade studied the extremely talented Alvin Ailey, an accomplished dancer and choreographer. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is his legacy and has trained thousands of dancers of all ages and backgrounds. Collaboratively as a grade, students collected videos, learned about his life and ultimately presented to the school. Included in the presentation was a dance performance by students 2nd-8th grades, led by our talented, Patricia West. 

Simultaneously, third graders (by class) study a variety of influential and accomplished African American men and women. We celebrate their accomplishments as writers, entertainers, athletes, musicians, doctors, generals, and more. Given a variety of people to select, students choose one to research further. Throughout the unit, students research their figure and use elements of our nonfiction writing skills to create a presentation. To finish the unit, we have a celebration and students present to the class, putting into action public speaking skills. We all learn something new! 

3rd Grade Math

Understanding geometry and construction
The third grade Math curriculum begins with a review of whole numbers through the thousands, addition and subtraction of large numbers, and the basic multiplication and division facts. New calculation skills include estimation, multiplication of large numbers, and division of larger numbers. Students learn new math concepts: using customary and metric measurement, creating and reading graphs, plotting data and predicting outcomes, comparing and ordering fractions, equivalent fractions, mixed numbers, adding and subtracting fractions, decimals to the hundredths place, and negative numbers.
Geometry concepts include points, lines, rays, angles, circles, polygons, symmetry, perimeter, area, and volume. Beginning algebra concepts include missing numbers, functions, and graphing equations. Essential building blocks of third grade math are memorization of the multiplication and division facts, careful checking of addition and subtraction, and critical reading of story problems to determine what is being asked. Instruction is differentiated to meet students’ individual needs. As mastery is reached, students are appropriately challenged.

3rd Grade Language Arts

Enjoying reading and writing
The main goals of the reading program are to encourage students to enjoy reading, to appreciate good literature, to become fluent readers, and to understand, interpret and synthesize information. Reading should excite the imagination, inspire invigorating discussion, lead students to inquiry and discovery, and help students make meaningful connections. Students read a variety of genres including novels, short stories, poems, essays, plays, mysteries, fables, folktales, legends, biographies, and nonfiction. Teachers consistently emphasize fluency, accuracy, and expressiveness in oral reading. Independent and silent reading are also integrated into the reading program. Book reports and projects are frequent and often require creativity, problem-solving, and inquiry. Choices focus on each child’s ability and interests.

Teaching methodologies include direct instruction of formal comprehension skills, class discussion, lecture, directed reading, vocabulary preparation, and providing background. Project-based, hands-on, and experiential techniques are used, as is arts integration. Teachers use brainstorming, debate, group read-aloud, and role-playing, as well as literature circles, or other small group discussions or projects. Written responses to literature may take a variety of forms, such as answering formal comprehension questions, journaling or reading logs, diary entries, newspaper articles, and character interviews.

In writing, students work on expressing themselves clearly, vividly and with meaning through well-structured sentences and paragraphs. The writing program emphasizes the development of fluency in a variety of forms of writing including personal narratives, journals, letter-writing, persuasive writing, poetry, scriptwriting and different types of creative stories. Expository writing assignments include essays, research reports, journalism (class newspaper), and writing in the content areas of all subjects. Methodologies include teaching the entire continuum of the writing experience, from brainstorming and drafting to revising, editing, polishing, and publishing. There is a focus on purpose, audience, voice, organization, word choices, and descriptive details. 

4th Grade Character Development

Understanding the Periodic Table of Character Strengths
Character development is an integral part of everything we do at Bentley and every day in fourth grade. The core values that guide students’ daily interactions are honesty, effort, responsibility, and respect. As a reference, “The Periodic Table of Character Strengths” is used during Morning Meetings. Each week a different strength is the central focus of whole class discussion, as together the classes brainstorm synonyms and specific actions attributed to the particular trait. Next, students think of individuals they admire as role models for demonstrating the specific attribute, and ways they can apply it to their lives at home, on campus, and in the greater community. Finally, students set whole class and individual goals about which character strengths they would like to further develop and model for others. Character strengths that are featured include kindness, creativity, curiosity, courage, a sense of humor, optimism, and fairness as well as self-control, leadership, teamwork, perspective, social responsibility, social justice, and a life-long love of learning.

4th Grade Social Studies

Reading biographies and constructing autobiographies
In fourth grade social studies, the area of focus is American history from Native Americans to the Industrial Revolution. In the spring when the classes have a solid base of background knowledge, each student reads a biography and conducts research on a famous American who has made a positive impact in his or her field. From civil rights activists to athletes, scientists to visual and performing artists, and politicians to authors, students are encouraged to select a person with whom they feel a special interest or connection. Using carefully selected highlights from the life and legacy of the famous Americans, students write epitaphs and scripts representing the individual’s most important accomplishments. At the annual Biography Tea, the fourth grade classes present a performance introducing their heroes and heroines to the audience, lead a question and answer session, and finally read inspirational passages from the biography books they’ve read.

To continue the biographical genre, students' final writing assignment of the year is to pen autobiographical sketches. In their well-organized pieces, they write detailed, anecdotal stories about their lives in the past and present, followed by their hopes and dreams for their lives. They conclude with the impact they hope to have in the future.

4th Grade Science

Studying nutrition and plant parts
In fourth grade science, students participate in study of nutrition and healthy eating habits, while during the same time period exploring plant parts and their nutritional value in the Bentley Garden. In partners, students research key nutrients like calcium, iron, vitamins, protein, and healthy fats and design posters advertising the value of each key nutrient. In the garden, students spend six weeks learning the structure of each plant part, the function each plant part plays in the life of the plant, and how to read nutrition labels featuring foods from each part. The outdoor lessons are complemented by singing the song, “Six Plant Parts: Roots, Stems, Leaves, Flowers, Fruits, and Seeds,” as well as tasting samples from each category of plant parts. Later in the unit, students track their own diets for one week, produce digital pie charts using Google Sheets comparing their data to the Recommended Daily Allowances, and write an analysis based on their data. The unit culminates with a field trip to a local resource and treasure, The UC Botanical Gardens for a workshop called, “Foods of the Americas, and, finally, a classroom potluck-style salad bar luncheon.

4th Grade World Language

Using another language to communicate ideas
The World Language program offers French, Mandarin, Latin, and Spanish from introductory through advanced levels. Students are asked to produce meaningful language about meaningful topics, so they are using the language not as an end in itself, but as a tool to communicate ideas. Rather than learning grammar in a vacuum, students learn linguistic structures by reading, writing, and talking about themes. Classes are conducted primarily in the target language. In a student-centered classroom, time for students to converse is maximized. As many students as possible are given the opportunity to practice speaking the language as often as possible. The program incorporates a variety of teaching modes in order to reach all learners.

Upon completion of Bentley’s language program, students will be able to communicate in the language with native speakers; analyze both fiction and non-fiction texts; recognize cultural references to history, literature, music, art, religion, and politics made by native speakers in conversation; write poetry and stories, perform plays and do multi-media presentations; and love the language enough to live, at least for a time, in a country where the language is spoken.

4th Grade STEM

Becoming designers and inventors
During the fourth grade stem unit, students look at the world through the eyes of designers. Each student researches an inventor and invention that made a difference in the world of travel, health and safety, communication, entertainment, convenience, tools, or foods. Young scientists and inventors then identify everyday problems and brainstorm innovative ways to solve them. They draw diagrams of possible devices to serve the purpose. Next, the student engineers build, test, and modified models and prototypes of their selected inventions. Each student also uses their technology skills to create a slides presentation including the purpose of the invention, the materials used to build it, their step-by-step procedure, and any problems they encounter and learn from along the way. Students are encouraged to use photographs, backgrounds, animations, and transitions to enhance their slide show presentations. As young writers, the students pen slogans, advertisements, and jingles to market their newly created products to their target audience. Finally, each student presents his or her invention to peers during the annual Invention Convention.

5th Grade Social Studies

Creating ancient Greek artifacts
In the third trimester in social studies, fifth graders focus primarily on the civilization of ancient Greece, learning about the geographic, environmental, and cultural factors that shaped the way of life in City-States such as Athens and Sparta. They learn about different forms of ancient Greek government, study the causes and outcomes of the Greco-Persian Wars, and research great Greek thinkers from the Golden Age of Athens. Our entire study of ancient Greece culminates into an exciting and engaging hands-on project called the Greek Museum. Students use their creativity, resourcefulness, and knowledge to recreate an ancient Greek artifact of their choosing, which they research, showcase, and present in an interactive museum-style exhibition.

5th Grade Art

Creating the annual Bentley Artist Salon
During the second trimester, students engage in an art and writing project in collaboration with their art and classroom teachers. Improving upon their composition, as well as their research and bibliographical skills, students use a variety of physical and digital resources to choose a fine artist for their report and analysis. They excitedly recreate one of their artists’ works, adopting their style and medium in their art class, while, in conjunction, working on a biographical essay to hone their expository writing skills. For the finale of this engaging project, students then dress up as their chosen artists during the day of the Artist Salon, showing off their masterpieces and presenting their research and all that they’ve learned from the perspective of their artist.

5th Grade Science

Constructing solar ovens
In the third trimester in science, fifth graders learn all about solar radiation and the electromagnetic spectrum. Students focus on how solar radiation provides heat, light, and energy necessary for all living organisms, which ties into our previous studies of the kingdoms of life. Similarly, such scientific studies help students to understand that solar radiation helps determine the delicate balance of Earth’s ecosystems, further front-loading them for their studies of climate change in the sixth grade. Fifth graders learn about and experiment with waves and their properties, as well as the concepts of reflection, absorption, conduction, and retention. Towards the end of our unit, they excitedly apply all that they’ve learned to build their very own functional solar ovens, creating delicious food items using the power of the sun for our solar oven cook-off!

5th Grade Mathematics

Enjoying fun and engaging math challenges
In fifth grade Mathematics, students are taught operations with whole numbers and decimals, reading and creating graphs, operations with fractions and mixed numbers, integers and rational numbers, introduction to algebra, ratio, proportion and percent, geometry, and probability and statistics. Throughout the year and in addition to the 5th grade mathematics curriculum, students work collaboratively on a variety of math challenges to help build their mathematical reasoning and fluency, as well as build upon their teamwork, leadership, and presentation skills. From difficult Brain Busters, to numerous math games, real-world math problems, team POW problems (problem of the week), and more, students have ample opportunities for differentiation, working with others, problem-solving, and sharing their knowledge with the class. Not only does this help to build engagement, and confidence in mathematics, but teaches students how to be stronger collaborators and become more accountable in preparation for middle school.

5th Grade Language Arts

Preparing for Middle School
The fifth grade Language Arts program builds on the reading and writing skills of the previous grades and prepares students for the rigorous critical reading and writing demands of middle school. Students work on developing a foundation of skills grounded in thinking critically about the ideas and information they encounter. As students analyze information, they can best determine its relevancy and strive to understand it better. Students read a variety of genres including novels, short stories, poems, essays, plays, biographies, and nonfiction.

Writing instruction focuses on descriptive paragraphs, articles, pantoums (a form of verse), poetry, memoir, expository paragraphs, essays, and short stories. Students publish a class newspaper. Journaling, note-taking, and study skills are part of students’ daily work. Students also learn scriptwriting and make short films. In grammar and vocabulary, students hone skills of usage, synonyms, and analogies. Students continue to use the writing process learned in earlier grades, with a particular focus on transitions between paragraphs and use of specific detail to support assertions and key ideas. Student work is kept in portfolios and assessed using rubrics. They learn to use Keynote, iMovie, Google Drive, and Pages.