Discover the Joy of Learning with Inspiring Teachers
The lower school curriculum begins in first grade. Each student follows a sequential curriculum to master the foundational knowledge and skills in English, mathematics, science, history and geography, Spanish, music, art, and physical education. Semi-private piano lessons begin for every child in first grade with the option of adding violin, viola, or cello in third grade. Character education during daily morning assemblies focuses on positive character traits such as respect, honesty, perseverance, and integrity. Other important learning activities include nature walks, theater and museum trips, and guest speakers.
Language arts emphasizes learning and writing sounds associated with the 71 phonograms of the Riggs Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking. The rigorous Singapore Math® curriculum builds on both computation and problem-solving skills as topics are introduced through a concrete, then pictorial, and finally abstract approach. The Japanese science curriculum is a sophisticated experiment-based program using and teaching the scientific method. The history and geography studies draw on the Core Knowledge History and Geography curriculum, and students study world geography as it relates to historical events. All lower school students study Spanish five days a week. Classes address the four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, and also incorporate in-depth historical, cultural and geographic studies of several Spanish-speaking countries.
Music instruction includes singing, movement, piano lessons, music theory and history. Students prepare for recitals, school concerts and special performances, and optional graded examinations of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), London. Art classes offer instruction in drawing and sculpture, supplemented with art history. Physical education emphasizes fitness through individual and team sports that address a range of whole-body and fine motor skills and teach lifelong fitness like soccer, track and field, and tumbling.
LANGUAGE ARTS: Teachers emphasize learning and writing the sounds associated with the 71 phonograms, the building blocks of the English language. Students regularly utilize these skills to aid in reading, writing and spelling. Letter formation and spacing, grammar skills, punctuation, capitalization, compound words and contractions are introduced and practiced. The students work on writing the four different types of sentences, declarative, interrogative, exclamatory, and imperative in daily writing assignments and journal entries. In Writing Workshop, students begin writing personal narratives, fiction and non-fiction, and poetry. Dictionary and library use are introduced.
Reading Workshop develops reading comprehension skills allowing students to spend an extended amount of time reading authentic texts that interest them on a daily basis. Student learn reading strategies and embrace opportunities to talk about literature. The ultimate goal of a Reading Workshop is to develop life-long passionate readers who can read a variety of texts that have increasing levels of complexity.
MATHEMATICS: Through the introduction to the Singapore Math program, students learn to read and write numbers to 100, count by 2s, 3s, 5s and 10s to 100, and add and subtract two-digit numbers to 100. Other topics include time, money, basic fractions, and multiplication and division of 2s, 5s and 10s. Word problems and methods of solving them are an integral part of the program.
SCIENCE: Students in first grade practice the process of science with an emphasis on predicting and recording their observations. Students utilize the campus environment to study aquatic habitats and create desktop ponds to observe the interactions of fish, insect larvae, and plants. Students compare and contrast these freshwater systems to salt water environments. Additionally, students explore the solar system, particularly comparing earth to sun, learning about the earth’s rotation, revolution and tilt. Students investigate food groups and the importance of good nutrition.
HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY: The first grade curriculum includes World and American History. Geography is embedded throughout the various units of study. World studies begin with the Ice Age progressing through early civilizations including Mesopotamia and Egypt. North American history advances from hunters and nomads crossing the land bridge from Asia to North America to a look at the Maya, Inca, and Aztec civilizations. Focus then shifts to early exploration and settlement examining the Conquistadors, English settlers, and the American thirteen colonies. Students are able to demonstrate knowledge through numerous public speaking opportunities centered on global awareness and current events.
SPANISH: The goal of the Spanish program is communicative competence in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Emphasis on building vocabulary through children’s poetry, songs, role playing, games, and stories addresses topics such as greetings, expressions of emotions, people and things in the classroom, numbers, colors, days of the week, body parts, animals, states of being, family, weather, months, clothes, rooms in the school, traffic safety, transportation, places to go, and summer activities. Throughout the year students experience the traditions of various cultures and regions of the Spanish speaking world through units on Cinco de Mayo, Día de los Muertos, and Christmas celebrations. First grade uses the book “Viva el Español” System A.
MUSIC: In first grade, students begin weekly piano lessons, applying and reinforcing music concepts learned in classroom music including rhythm, pitch, and spacial relationships. Students learn to set goals and develop beginning performance skills as they prepare for their first piano recital. Singing in a group and alone, through movement exploration, and playing instruments, students establish critical musical experiences that lead to a meaningful understanding of beginning musical notation. Unison choral singing in choir also prepares students to work collectively to perform in two concerts, and for assemblies on Grandparents Day, for Fine Arts Week, and during other special events. Students enjoy being introduced to the instruments of the orchestra as they hear and learn about the four instrument families and are exposed to a variety of orchestral music.
ART: Students learn basic drawing, painting, and sculpture. They discover color properties and observe the interplay between color and light and bright and dark colors. Students also examine and discuss works of art, including various genres such as portraits and still-lifes. After studying some of the art “Isms” including Impressionism through Monet and Cezanne, they then create a piece in the style of one of the artists.
PHYSICAL EDUCATION: The program emphasizes physical skills that can be applied in multiple sports situations. Through games and drills, students learn basic skill development, fine and gross motor movements, spatial awareness and basic strategy. They develop confidence and motivation to participate in organized and individual physical activities and learn leadership, teamwork, and good sportsmanship while emphasizing lifelong fitness.
LANGUAGE ARTS: Students practice spelling words in groups with similar word patterns, using the Words Their Way program. Students are encouraged to properly form lower case and capital manuscript letters in their writing. During the second half of the year, they learn the lower case and capital cursive letters. The eight parts of speech are taught in isolation and then applied to sentence writing. Once all eight parts have been taught and discussed, students identify them within sentences. Grammar skills, including punctuation, capitalization, compound words, antonyms, synonyms, homonyms, and contractions are practiced. Second graders work on writing different kinds of sentences (declarative, interrogative, exclamatory, and imperative) in daily writing assignments and journal entries. Daily Writing Workshop also gives students an opportunity to learn and apply writing skills to personal narratives, poetry, and fictional stories. Students practice using the dictionary and thesaurus and prepare their first book reports. By participating in a daily Reading Workshop they learn and model comprehension skills. Students then practice the skills as they read books independently. Students are encouraged to read a variety of genres and choose books at their appropriate levels. In addition, students read and discuss books as a whole group.
MATHEMATICS: In the Singapore Math program, basic concepts introduced in first grade extend to reading and writing numbers through 100s both in digits and in words, adding and subtracting to 1,000 without renaming, and completing those operations with renaming. Topics covered this year include standard and metric measurement, multiplication and division through 5s, money, time, geometric shapes, graphing, and area of simple figures, with extensive practice with word problems.
SCIENCE: Students in second grade continue to nurture a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world while developing a more concrete sense of the process of experimentation. They learn to hypothesize, observe and study the results of their experiments while utilizing the campus environment to study structural adaptations of plants and animals in a variety of ecosystems. Second graders compare and contrast the moon and the earth, looking at size, rotation and revolution differences.
HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY: World History includes the study of India, China, and ancient Greece. Studying the creation of the U.S. Constitution, westward expansion, civil rights, immigration and citizenship helps students build their background knowledge and make connections with history through discussion, the sharing of related picture books, projects, mapping, and writing assignments. Students explore each culture through many lenses: people and places, interactions, culture, social structures, and change and continuity.
SPANISH: Second grade continues to build vocabulary and begins to study sentence construction. Emphasis on building vocabulary uses children’s poetry, songs, and role playing. Topics include a review of first grade material, the alphabet, numbers, the house and house furnishings, entertainment, seasons and activities, food, restaurants and table settings, likes and dislikes, school subjects, instruments, adjectives, buildings, the zoo, and prepositions. Throughout the year, students enjoy learning about the various cultures and regions of the Spanish-speaking world, including units on Cinco de Mayo, Día de los Muertos and Christmas celebrations while they develop competency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Second grade uses the book “Viva el Español” System B.
MUSIC: In second grade, students continue with weekly piano lessons, applying an expanded understanding of musical concepts learned in the music classroom, such as greater attention to articulation, dynamics and form as well as rhythm and pitch. This year they also perform in both a fall and a spring piano recital. Classroom activities include singing, movement exploration including circle dances, playing instruments, and music games. Reading and writing musical notation expands to include a wider range of notes, rhythms, additional symbols, and vocabulary. This year, students learn to identify instruments in each of the four orchestra instrument families and are introduced to more excerpts of orchestral music and some of the composers who wrote them.
ART: Students review color, line and shape while they study sculpture and architecture for symmetry and balance. They also study depth, perspective, light and shadow in two-dimensional artworks. They also look at children’s book illustrations and create works in the style of an illustrator. Making clay sculptures and examining topics and activities to complement other class subjects, such as Greek mythology, may be added.
PHYSICAL EDUCATION: The program emphasizes physical skills that can be applied in multiple sports situations. Through games and drills, students learn basic skill development, fine and gross motor movements, spatial awareness and basic strategy. Students develop confidence and motivation to participate in organized and individual physical activities. Learning leadership, teamwork and good sportsmanship also emphasizes lifelong fitness.
LANGUAGE ARTS: The goal of a balanced literacy approach is to create skillful readers and writers. Classes use shared texts and independent reading to practice specific skills and strategies. Reading and writing are integrated; students analyze, discuss, and compose texts as both readers and writers to compose literary essays, narratives, and expository non-fiction pieces. Students develop their critical thinking by writing about their reading and participating in constructive conversations. They also learn to listen with purpose, share ideas, and grow their thinking together. Incorporated into this approach is the understanding that writing must be clear for an audience; this includes attending to spelling, grammar, and penmanship.
MATHEMATICS: In Singapore Math, students deepen their understanding of the base ten number system in order to flexibly manipulate numbers and compute efficiently. Goals include learning to multiply and divide large numbers by a single digit, representing the relationships between operations symbolically with bar diagrams, and using the methods and vocabulary to effectively communicate solutions including the ability to discuss and analyze their work for correct logic and procedure.
SCIENCE: Students in third grade begin to formalize their use of the scientific method by keeping a lab notebook to record their work. They explore life cycles of flowering plants and insects by raising plants and using bees to cross-pollinate. Students take core samples to obtain soil profiles, comparing and classifying properties of different soils. They discover the properties of air and water under compression and learn the applications in everyday life. Measuring the movement of shadows and learning to use thermometers helps them make observations about differences between shadows and sunny areas. Third graders experiment with the heat absorption properties of black versus white objects.
HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY: Students study the history of Ancient Rome, Europe and the Middle East in the Middle Ages, and the Age of Exploration. They build their background knowledge and make connections with history through discussion, reading multiple sources, projects, mapping, drama, and essay writing. Students explore each culture through a variety of view points: culture, society, location, people, transition, and constancy.
SPANISH: The goal of the Spanish program is communicative competence in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Third graders build vocabulary, work on sentence construction, and begin to work on conjugation. Emphasis is on building vocabulary using children’s poetry, songs, and role-playing. Topics include classroom objects, adjectives, the calendar, numbers, classes and activities, season and weather, likes and dislikes, states of mind and states of being, age, telling time, expressing opinions, and the family. Throughout the year, students are introduced to the various cultures and regions of the Spanish-speaking world, including units on Cinco de Mayo, Día de los Muertos, and Christmas celebrations. Third grade uses the book “Viva el Español – Hola”.
MUSIC: Students begin a broad introduction to the Baroque and Classical periods in music history, studying composers, styles, and forms of music, and listening to many musical examples. Students continue to improve their ability to read notes from the grand staff and apply rhythmic counting during theory class using various instruments, voice and body percussion, and then put these concepts to practical use during weekly partner piano lessons. Once weekly choir class offers students the opportunity to analyze music pieces, practice sight-singing and aural skills, and learn how to read from choral scores. Students will prepare for twice yearly piano recitals, twice yearly choir/orchestra concerts, and the optional graded examinations of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, London. In third grade, students are able to begin strings (violin, viola, cello) with twice weekly instruction.
ART: Students observe how the basic elements of art, lines, color, light, shadow, texture, pattern, etc., work together to please viewers, to show emotion, to tell a story, or to give viewers a new way of looking at something. Students learn volume drawing, recognize and duplicate positive and negative space, practice still life drawings and paintings, and sculpt in both clay and paper maché.
PHYSICAL EDUCATION: The program emphasizes physical skills that can be applied in multiple sports situations. Through games and drills, students learn basic skill development, fine and gross motor movements, spatial awareness and basic strategy. Confidence and motivation to participate in organized and individual physical activities develops. Students learn leadership, teamwork and good sportsmanship while emphasizing lifelong fitness.
LANGUAGE ARTS: Using a workshop model, while reading and discussing literature as a whole class, in small groups, between partner pairs, and through individual reading responses, students apply higher level thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Students write in their Writer’s Notebook daily, using the writing process to produce final pieces in the genres of memoir, persuasive essay, historical fiction, poetry, and fantasy. Students engage in regular spelling, vocabulary, and grammar studies, and apply these skills to their writing.
MATHEMATICS: Topics covered this year in the Singapore Math program include numbers to one million, factors and multiples, fractions, parallel and perpendicular lines, area and perimeter, computation and use of decimals, volume of solids, and extensive practice with multi-step word problems. As a part of the Singapore curriculum, students develop an in-depth understanding of these math concepts and give special attention to the reasoning and process of solving mathematical problems.
SCIENCE: Students in fourth grade practice analyzing data to formulate conclusions to experiments. Students analyze the interaction of human joints and muscles to create movement. They measure how the human pulse, respiration rates and temperature are affected by exercise, and then extrapolate this information and relate it to all mammals. A comparison of series and parallel circuits enables students to discover the appropriate applications of each. Lab safety and basic equipment becomes imperative as they study the transfer of heat in solids, liquids, and gasses. Fourth graders experiment with the water cycle and the power of water in nature.
HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY: Students study Map Skills, American History (from the colonies through the first seven Presidents), and Ancient African Kingdoms. Many of our units build upon one another, allowing students to identify cause and effect and to see how historical events are related to one another. Students increase their background knowledge through reading and discussing our textbook as well as other outside sources. They engage in a range of projects that aid in understanding and application from planning a road trip, to interviewing a President, to creating a PowerPoint comparing and contrasting the five African Kingdoms.
SPANISH: The goal of the Spanish program is to grow in communicative competence. Fourth grade curriculum continues to build vocabulary and further develop sentence construction and verb conjugation. Topics include body parts and expressing pain, numbers, clothing, describing appearance and personality, describing the inside and outside of a house, chores, table settings and food, morning and evening activities, and occupations. Throughout the year, students discover various cultures and regions of the Spanish-speaking world. Fourth grade uses the book “Viva el Español – Qué Tal”.
MUSIC: Students begin a broad introduction to the Romantic era and American Jazz in music history, styles and forms of music, by studying composers and listening to many musical examples. Students work from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music Grade 1 Theory workbook and put theory concepts to practical use during weekly partner piano lessons. Once weekly choir class offers students the opportunity to analyze music pieces, practice sight-singing and aural skills, and learn how to read from choral scores. Students prepare for twice yearly piano recitals, twice yearly choir/orchestra concerts, and the optional graded examinations of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, London. Students can choose to continue their string playing in fourth grade to explore new sounds and skills.
ART: Students learn approaches to design and figure drawing and make independent drawings from graphics and sight observation. The year includes a section on art history as students study M.C. Escher and optical art, Japanese art, and Gothic cathedrals. Topics and activities coordinate with other class subjects, particularly history and geography. Students participate in a Faith Ringgold quilt-making study along with a self portrait.
PHYSICAL EDUCATION: The program emphasizes physical skills that can be applied in multiple sports situations. Through games and drills, students learn basic skill development, fine and gross motor movements, spatial awareness and basic strategy. Students develop confidence and motivation to participate in organized and individual physical activities while learning leadership, teamwork and good sportsmanship, all of which encourage lifelong fitness.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart. My son felt supported. He felt included. He felt safe. No parent could ask for any more.” – MCDS Fourth Grade Parent