How the World Works

How the World Works 

 Central Idea:  

Recognizing patterns within our changing world can lead to new solutions. 

Lines of Inquiry: 

Students will inquire into: 

~Identifying patterns in Earth’s features
~Cause and effect relationships of Earth’s physical events
~Engineering ethical solutions  

Key Concepts: 

Form, Causation, Responsibility 

Related Concepts: 

Patterns, Impact, Cause/Effect  

Learner profile: 

Thinker, Knowledgeable, Reflective 

Key Vocabulary: 

weathering, erosion, landforms, fossils, rock layers, earthquake, tsunami, volcano, design, floods, glaciers, cause and effect, continents, claim evidence reason, eruption, plate tectonics,  Overview: 

In this next Unit of Inquiry, students will use both a Science and a Social Studies lens to investigate patterns in the Earth’s land features. Students will look at how the Earth is constantly changing in both fast (earthquakes and landslides) and slow ways (plate tectonics). They will identify landforms and look for clues as to how they might have been created. 

Students will participate in a range of experiments and inquiry-style science investigations that will get them handling sand, soil, clay and other earth materials, investigating layers in land formations, and watching weathering and erosion in action. They will make earthquake-proof buildings and test them in a simulation, simulate landslides and tsunamis in the classroom, and look at the impacts these types of natural disasters have on a community. 

Students will also explore systems that communities have in place to provide early-warning systems for impending disasters, as well as explore the community response after a major natural event.  

Literacy Integration: 

As we delve deeper into the reader’s and writer’s workshops, our grade 4 text analysts and authors are focusing on more complex works. This includes continuing with fictional texts but also integrating a more detailed use of the nonfiction genre. Students will be working on opinion writing through the lens of research and uncovering information through their nonfiction reading and other multimedia sources.  

This unit emphasizes organization, detailed note taking, and providing reasoning through evidence to support our claims in our thesis and topic sentences. In reading, students will review text features and be able to identify and use more sophisticated vocabulary as they use each feature. They will reflect upon strategies they can use to better comprehend informational text as they read. As a whole class they will be reading nonfiction texts based on various physical features, landforms, and patterns present on Earth. These texts will embed literacy within our unit of inquiry to ensure the unit remains transdisciplinary. The nonfiction books and texts we will be reading will be rich with diverse and complex topics, vocabulary, and encourage complex thinking.  

Finally, students will continue developing reading and writing strategies that provide a platform for growth and goal-setting as they reflect on the past two units as a whole and compare the growth they see within themselves as progressing readers and writers. Stay tuned for an invitation to view students’ published writing pieces (among other student work) in our next unit. Math: 

The focus of math Unit 2 is measurement. Students will use length (km, m, cm), mass (kg, g), and volume (L, mL) in the metric system to convert between units using place value knowledge. We will explore the patterns in the place value system through metric unit conversions to prepare for fraction and decimal operations which come later in the year. This unit will also include time conversions between hours, minutes, and seconds. 

In this unit, students will also be introduced to the multiplication model based on the area of a rectangle. This will support conceptual array models.  We will practice various ways to model these problems, moving from concrete (using manipulatives) to models (pictures) to abstract symbols (equations). Flexibly thinking about numbers is stressed above memorizing facts. The multiplication algorithm is not addressed until grade 5. During this unit we will solve division problems using what we know about inverse multiplication equations (i.e. 18/3=? will be solved by “using what we know” and thinking about missing factor multiplication problems 3 x ? = 18.) 

Key words and vocabulary will include 

  • Length: the measurement of something from end to end 
  • Kilometer (km), Meter (m), centimeter (cm): units of measure for length  
  • Weight: the measurement of how heavy something is   
  • Mass: the measure of the amount of matter in an object  
  • Kilogram (kg), gram (g): units of measure for mass  
  • Capacity: the maximum amount that something can contain  
  • Liter (L), milliliter (mL): unit of measure for liquid volume  
  • Mixed units: e.g., 3 m 43 cm  
  • Convert: to express a measurement in a different unit 
  • =, <, > : equal, less than, greater than 
  • Estimate: an approximation of the value of a number or quantity) 

 Please see the “I can” statements below: 

  • I can tell relative size of measurement units (km, m, cm, kg, g, L, mL, hrs, min, sec). 
  • I can convert larger units of measurement to smaller units. 
  • I can solve word problems involving distances, intervals of time, liquid volumes, masses of objects, and money.  
  • I can tell that the formula for perimeter of a rectangle. That means Perimeter = 2L + 2W or L+L+W+W.  
  • I can tell that the formula for area of a rectangle. That means Area = L x W  
  • I can use the formulas for area and perimeter of a rectangle to solve real world and math problems.  
  • I can explain multiplication strategies.  
  • I can use strategies based on place value and the properties of operations to multiply numbers.  
  • I can explain my answer using written equations.  
  • I can explain my answer using rectangular arrays and area models.  
  • I can explain my answer using the relationship between multiplication and division  


In order to practice the skills needed for this Unit of Inquiry, students should be reading more nonfiction texts both at school and at home. It is important that students who need more support with their English read more than the daily 20 minutes currently required for homework. Ideally, students will be reading 30-40 minutes a day and keeping track of any new vocabulary they may find.  

Please encourage your child’s learning by discussing the content from this Unit of Inquiry using your home language, especially if it that is the language that both of you are most comfortable with.  

In order to familiarize themselves with the vocabulary for this unit, students should use Quizlet ( for a few minutes each day.  

How you can help at home: 

  • Go on nature walks and talk to your child about the landforms and rock formations you or he/she may notice. Encourage your child to think about how they may have formed. 
  • Discuss and breakdown the important vocabulary terms we will be exploring in this unit like weathering, erosion, landforms, earthquake, tsunami, and eruption in your home language. 
  • Use a graphic organizer to compare/contrast solutions to natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and/or volcanic eruptions and how those responses look different in different places. For example, compare an earthquake in Japan and the engineering solutions applied there to an earthquake in Haiti and the engineering solutions applied there (Venn Diagram, T-chart, and/or checklist). 
  • Be an active listener when your child reads their opinion essays. Add an encouraging note in their writing journal or on Seesaw. 
  • Try to read and spark interest in earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides and floods in your home language.  
  • Talk about major natural disasters you know about from your home country or that you may have experienced. Story telling is one of the best ways to cultivate interest! 

 How you can help with math: 

  • Using metric measurement tools, encourage your student to measure objects around the house  
  • Use measurement tools when baking or cooking.  
  • Compare items by length, weight, or capacity. 
  • Take an object and estimate the weight. Then use a scale to determine the exact weight and compare the two amounts.  
  •  Use a ruler to measure objects around the house in centimeters and meters.  
  • Continue to talk about place value patterns with your child, e.g. how many 10s in 100? How many 100s in 1000? 
  • Review basic math facts up to 100 (e.g. 3×4= 12). Aim for 3 seconds. 
  • Review math vocabulary terms like conversion, length, width, height, weight, capacity, and volume. 
  • Discuss the term conversion and how it works in metric measurements like millimeter, centimeter, meter, and kilometer for length, and milligram, gram, and kilogram for weight. 



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