In the primary years, students master foundational skills in reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies, applying skills in meaningful ways to create and share new ideas.
Project-Based Learning and the 5Cs
Children are deeply curious, full of questions about the world. We devote significant time to student-driven projects where children develop a driving question, research, and share high quality work with a public audience. They develop essential proficiencies across the 5Cs: communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and citizenship; diving deeply into one or two of these areas within a project. Students learn to think deeply, build creative confidence to try out new ideas, and expand their thinking as part of a team.
Here are some of the driving questions our learners explore:
- How can we design and create a device that will help someone scratch their back?
- How can we be stewards of the ocean?
- How can we use the wind to do work for us?
- What could we add to our school playground so that everyone will play, learn together, and have fun?
- How can we support the wetlands habitat?
- How can we use the Scientific Method and the Engineering Design Process to design a technological energy device with minimal environmental impact in our communities?
We use an inquiry-based approach to science instruction, linking hands-on exploration with tools to support critical thinking. Teachers use FOSS, Mystery Science, and Engineering is Elementary as resources to support project-based learning. Currently, our science curriculum is under review as we align our materials with the Next Generation Science Standards.
Reading and Writing Workshop
We’re implementing Reading and Writing Workshop using the Lucy Calkins Units of Study from The Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Reading workshop blends direct teaching and carefully selected read alouds with time for children to read and think about self-selected books. Whole class teaching includes “mini-lessons” where teachers model strategies and invite students to try new tools to advance their skills. Then, children working at their own level, reading, writing and thinking individually or with peers, and conferring with the teacher to stretch towards new levels of thinking. Benchmark goals are set for each trimester, and each child’s reading and writing journey is nurtured along the way.
Handwriting, Spelling and Word Study
Lucy Calkins Phonics Unit of Study
This program provides a lean and concise instructional pathway in phonics that taps into kids’ skills and energy for tackling the fabulous challenge of learning to read and write. It aligns with state-of-the-art reading and writing workshops for a coherent approach in which terminology, tools, rituals, and methods are shared in ways that benefit both teachers and kids.
Words Their Way
Phonics, Word Study, and Vocabulary lessons are the focus of this program. Students complete a pre and post assessment so that the teacher can differentiate support to target each student’s learning goals. Students work in small groups and with their teacher to practice “word work” and build skills.
Handwriting Without Tears (Grades TK-2)
This program targets handwriting for primary learners. Developed by an Occupational Therapist, this approach uses multi-sensory and hands-on learning strategies to support proper letter formation and legible and fluent handwriting.
Loops and Other Groups (Grade 3)
This program addresses Cursive Writing for grades 3 This program emphasizes practice and letter proper formation to build fluency.
Common Core Standards – English Language Arts
The Common Core Learning Standards in English Language Arts call for key shifts including:
- Rich dialogue and close reading of increasingly complex texts
- An emphasis on linking ideas to evidence within the text in reading, writing and speaking. Writing across three types: narrative, opinion and information K-8
- Increased informational texts – By reading about the world, children build strong background knowledge and vocabulary to make sense of themes across science and social studies
Math in Focus was selected for its mastery-based approach to supporting learning. During the selection process, we used criteria reflecting the key shifts of the Common Core Standards:
- Focus: Deep work in grade level learning goals to build a strong foundation. In K-2, instruction focuses on concepts, skills, and problem solving using addition and subtraction. In Grades 3-5, students develop concepts, skills, and problem solving using multiplication, division and fractions.
- Rigor: Challenging and engaging work to help students become powerful mathematical thinkers who can use numbers flexibly and accurately as they apply mathematical ideas to show understanding. Students learn to prove paths of thinking, justifying their solutions verbally and in writing.
- Coherence: Topics and ideas are linked across grades, building understanding to support mastery. At each step, lessons progress from concrete-pictorial-abstract. Hands-on experiences and modeling are emphasized to build rich understanding.