Lower School

PreK-4th Grade Curriculum

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Pre K - 4th

Reading/Language Arts

Reading and Language Arts are taught through a balanced literacy program incorporating four main components of instruction: Phonics/Spelling, Guided Reading, Self-selected Reading, and Writing. 

A. Phonics/Spelling - During Phonics/Spelling instruction, children learn English phonograms and how they come together to spell words. Students learn sight words, as well as word patterns that allow them to decode and spell numerous other words. 
 
B. Guided Reading - The purpose of Guided Reading is to expose students to a wide range of literature, to help students develop reading fluency, to teach comprehension strategies and vocabulary, as how to read material that becomes increasingly more difficult. Shared Inquiry is introduced in Lower School via the Junior Great Books program and is the precursor to the Harkness Method utilized in Upper School. 
 
C. Self-selected Reading - During Self-selected Reading, children choose what they want to read and to what parts of their reading they want to respond. The Accelerated Reader program is a program which encourages independent reading and to reward students as they advance their reading skills. 
 
D. Writing – Writing is an integral part of the curriculum and is taught primarily through Journal Writing, Writing Workshop, and Writing Across the Curriculum. 
 
a. Journal Writing occurs at all grade levels, beginning in Pre-K. Students write in their journals on a regular basis as students select their own topics or are assigned specific topics. Teachers respond to students’ journal writing, offering instructive comments and encouragement. 

b. Writing Workshop teaches students about the process of writing, including prewriting, creating a rough draft, editing, publishing in a paper format or presenting in a digital format. Student/teacher conferencing and student/student conferencing are important elements of the program. Grammar is incorporated within the writing program utilizing the Shurley method, which focuses on understanding grammatical concepts, analyzing sentence structure through classification, and applying knowledge through sentence composition. 
 
c. Writing across the curriculum may include logs, research, letter writing to pen pals, newsletter writing, etc. 

Mathematics

Learning mathematics is an active endeavor. Children experience mathematics as problem-solving. Children grow to understand that math is about reasoning: making conjectures about why something is the way it is and then checking out those conjectures; thinking for oneself rather than trying to figure out what the teacher wants. Mathematics is about communication: clarifying one’s thinking by talking to classroom peers, by listening to what they have to say, by finding ways to write down one’s experiences and thinking with the appropriate mathematical language, with diagrams, pictures, and graphs, and with mathematical symbols. Rather than being a set of isolated skills and procedures to be practiced and drilled until they are mastered, mathematics is about connections: seeing the relationships between mathematical ideas, seeing mathematics everywhere one looks. 

In an effort to gain mathematical understanding about their world, students work with hands-on manipulatives and real objects to estimate, add, subtract, sort, classify, measure, etc. At the concept level, the children work with manipulatives only as they create math stories and solve problems orally. At the connecting level, the children work with manipulatives and prewritten symbols such as “+” and “-“ and “=” to solve problems. At the symbolic level, the children work with manipulatives, solve problems, and record equations on paper or on the computer. At the abstract level, the children are capable of working problems mentally and recording their answers on paper or computer.  

Science

Our inquiry-based approach to science includes learning about specific phenomena (characteristics, classifications, and principles that explain the universe) and the general strategies used to collect to collect and evaluate such information. One goal is to develop children’s innate curiosity about the world by allowing them to investigate unfamiliar objects and events, by teaching them respect for all living organisms, and by teaching them appreciation for the beauty, balance, and orderliness of the environment. A second goal is to broaden each child’s procedural and thinking skills for investigating the world, solving problems, and making decisions. This is achieved as each child actively participates in the scientific process, using his/her senses to observe changes, using science equipment and tools to measure and quantify observations in the classroom, laboratory, or outside, and using his/her own judgment to identify similarities, differences, and draw reasonable conclusions. 

Social Studies

Social studies concern the nature of people and the world, the heritage of the past, and all of contemporary social living. The social studies are uniquely suited to fostering the knowledge, attitudes, values, and skills believed necessary for citizens not just to participate in a democratic society, but also to continually improve and perfect that society. In the early grades, students learn about the world in spatial terms. They are introduced to maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective. They learn about directionality, distance, and time. They also learn about the human “family” and systems for living, including homes, food and farming. In addition, children are introduced to the concept that they are citizens of the United States of America and the importance of good citizenship and patriotism. Studies of other cultures around the globe include, but are not limited to, China, Mexico, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Japan.

Bible

The study of Bible is encouraged both formally and informally in the Lower School. The students attend a weekly Chapel service centered around a yearly theme from the Bible (e.g., “the fruit of the Spirit”). Students are encouraged to express their Christian faith through art, singing, performing and prayer at the weekly Chapel service. 

Students also study the Bible in class lessons, with a daily reading, discussion, and prayer. Students in the early grades focus on God as our Creator and that of the universe. As they advance, students progress through a systematic study of the Bible, which will lead them to discover that God is eager to manifest Himself today in them through Jesus Christ. 
 
Our teachers serve as Christian role models and employ an interdisciplinary approach by taking every opportunity to share the Christian perspective as it relates to the day’s activities in and out of the classroom.

Lower School Enrichments

Lower School Library

The 1st through 4th grade Library program supports children's independent reading and research as well as their classroom activities. As students advance through the lower school, they develop increasingly sophisticated approaches to research in a variety of media, both in the library and online.  The lower school library uses both fixed and flexible scheduling. Each class will come to the library for instruction at least once a week and students are offered additional time throughout the day for independent work.  In addition to developing a love for libraries, authors, illustrators, and genres, students will learn skills to become effective and cautious users of information.  Students will have, access to and instruction in, technology and resources that will enable them to access, evaluate, interpret and apply information from print and non-print materials.

The Pre-K through 1st grade Library program focus is to encourage reading for pleasure.  Students are exposed to both fiction and non-fiction stories that support and enrich their classroom curriculum.   Students visit the library weekly for read-aloud, literature promotion, and exposure to various genres of stories in different types of media – i.e. audio books, e-books, printed, dvd and cd.  Students will be given the opportunity to develop a love for libraries, authors, illustrators, book styles, and genres.

Lower School Spanish

Lower School Spanish Pre-K –2nd grade focuses primarily on the acquisition of vocabulary while incorporating hands-on, interactive activities that are developmentally appropriate.   Some of the units of study include: colors, numbers, shapes, food, animals, and body parts.  Language skills are learned through music, art and games.  

In 3rd and 4th grade, students increase their knowledge of vocabulary and begin to incorporate grammar into daily lessons.  At the end of fourth grade, students are learning verb conjugations, how to translate short paragraphs through simple question and answer activities, and how to formulate short sentences. 

Lower School Music

The goal of the music program in Pre-K through first grade is to introduce students to the basic elements of music. Students explore music and voice through singing, playing Orff instruments, and moving to songs of different cultures from around the world.  Students explore music in order to develop listening skills and auditory discrimination of sounds: high, low, loud, soft, same, and different.  The primary focus is to develop musical awareness, begin to distinguish basic form, recognize expressive elements, and learn to match pitch. 

The goal of the music program in second through fourth grade is to develop students’ understanding of music through singing, chanting, reading rhythms, as well as individual and group movement.  Students play various classroom instruments, using them to play written rhythms as well as those composed in groups with their peers.  Students continue to explore music and voice through improvisation, directed composition, and songs of different cultures from around the world.  The primary focus is on gaining and applying practical knowledge of basic musical theory and proper vocal production.

Lower School Art Program

The goal of the art program in Pre-K through first grade is to introduce students to basic art concepts and materials. Students are introduced to the elements and principles of art through a variety of art techniques. Students explore drawing, painting, clay, collage, and other media. Students are also introduced to aspects of art history. The primary focus is on developing basic art skills and exploring materials. Students also learn to develop their own ideas about their work and their peers' artwork.

The goal of the art program in second through fourth grade is to have students apply the elements and principles of art to their work, develop strong creative expression, and discuss thoughts on individual and peer artwork. Students are taught art skills through painting, drawing, sculpting, collaging, and other media. They are introduced to famous artists and styles and how they have impacted art history. The primary focus is in on developing a strong, creative expression with knowledge of how to apply the elements and principles of art and art history to their artwork.

Lower School P.E.

The goal of the physical education program in the lower grades is to provide students with the opportunity to develop body awareness and physical fitness, learn cooperation and teamwork, and understand how to make healthy eating choices. Students participate in games/free play, locomotor activities, and creative movement. In addition, they are taught about food and nutrition and the importance of an active lifestyle.