Lower School Curriculum Guide
The kindergarten program addresses the developmental needs and interests of five and six year old learners. The spacious classrooms are filled with educational materials such as building blocks, math manipulatives, SmartBoards, cozy book corners, as well as an area for classroom meetings, dramatic play, painting, writing, and drawing. Responsive Classroom’s philosophy plays an important role in providing students with the tools to effectively interact with each other and develop respect for the learning process.
Students engage in classroom activities that support their growth as communicators, readers, mathematical thinkers, and productive community members. They are provided with time to problem-solve, question, and understand. Children are also given the opportunity to cultivate their own interests through play. Learning extends to include special area classes, field trips, and outdoor play. Physical education, music, science, library, art, and computer classes are an integral part of a kindergartner’s life at school. In all of the disciplines, teachers guide students in developing behaviors that foster independent work as well as cooperative learning.
- Language Arts
- Social Studies
- Visual Arts
- Physical Education
The kindergarten program is designed to nurture enjoyment and self-confidence in reading and writing. We integrate reading, writing, listening and speaking across the curriculum. We facilitate a phonological awareness program to support students in understanding the sound sequences within words and the larger units of sound in our language. We utilize a multisensory curriculum for teaching reading, spelling, and handwriting. Instructional materials and methods represent current understanding of how children learn best and allow for individualization to accommodate children’s reading readiness.
Expressive and Receptive Language
Children are given opportunities to enrich and extend both their expressive and receptive language skills. Our large and small group language arts activities focus on vocabulary, rhyme, auditory processing, memory tasks, and sequence.
Throughout the day, opportunities are provided for children to develop their reading skills. Children listen and choral read while teachers model with literature. Students learn to read the schedule, the morning message, words to chants and poems, and environmental print in the classroom. At this age, teachers are sensitive to the fact that the acquisition of reading skills can be developmental and thus their approach in teaching is more individualized. The teachers guide their students’ development by challenging or reinforcing the necessary fluency and comprehension skills, no matter what the level. In individual and small group dynamics, children apply their growing knowledge of phonics and reading strategies to appropriate text. We encourage children to make inquiries, share relevant insights, and respond to questions about the text in order to promote reading comprehension.
Our writing program is based on the Lucy Calkins Writing Curriculum. Through direct instruction, modeling, and opportunities for independent experimentation, children are introduced to the writing process. Children learn to write personal narratives, letters, and informational text. In addition, they are taught the mechanics of print. We look forward to celebrating and acknowledging the children’s work through class-made books, partner sharing, and author’s celebrations.
The mathematics program in kindergarten, Singapore Math, is designed to help children learn a wide range of mathematical concepts as well as to ensure a beginning knowledge of basic arithmetic skills. This program is based on current research evaluating the most effective ways to teach young children mathematics. The students engage in mathematical discussions and experiences rather than worksheets of abstract drill. The children become actively involved with concrete materials and make many discoveries using tiles, pattern blocks, Unifix cubes, collections of items, ten frames, number bonds, and various other math manipulatives.
During the year, students will explore the concepts of number sense, graphing, sorting and classifying, counting and number operations. Children will be experiencing each of these areas in a hands-on, active way. They will have opportunities to share their discoveries and connections with their teachers and classmates, which will help to make the skills and concepts more concrete.
The emphasis of the social studies curriculum is to provide socialization experiences that help children to bridge their home life with the larger community. Introducing children to a world of many diverse people, cultures, and changing environments does this. Our program focuses on interrelated themes and uses an interdisciplinary and a multisensory approach to help students learn about themselves, families, homes, and the farm. Through whole group discussions and experiences, critical thinking, hands-on activities, literature, and multi-media resources, students acquire new concepts and vocabulary related to the units of study.
During the first six weeks of school, children learn about their roles as responsible members of the classroom community. Through class read-alouds, guided discovery, and interactive modeling, children learn the expectations and the routines of the classroom. Throughout the year, we reinforce the Responsive Classroom community expectations of C.A.R.E.S. (cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self- control.)
Our exploration of homes takes us from observations of houses and construction of a home within our community to homes around the world. Students develop an awareness and appreciation of the different types of homes and lifestyles based on geography, climate, and family traditions.
The kindergarten farm unit begins with the study of “Food and Nutrition.” Next, we connect our food study to planting and agriculture on a farm, including the farm to table journey. Our farm study concludes with an embryology project and the study of chicks as well as a visit to the farm.
In kindergarten, students will learn the use of tools in their table boxes: pencils, markers, rulers, paint, as well as clay, fiber arts, and printmaking materials. They will also learn how to take care of art supplies and the art room, how to work together collaboratively, and how to take responsibility for themselves in a dynamic studio space.
Each year the Lower School art program provides an overarching theme for its curricular focus in conjunction with the Choice Based art philosophy. The kindergarten focus will be on gaining “inspiration from books.” This broad theme allows students to learn about celebrated artists, illustrators, and concepts in art while utilizing teacher read a-louds at the start of class. We will read the book, What is Art? by Bob Raczka and focus on examples of illustration styles in Eric Carle’s and Lois Elhert’s books. Lastly, we will read several stories about artists, including Henri Matisse and Wassily Kandinsky.
Kindergartners have vivid imaginations and love to express their stories through their art making. They are encouraged to incorporate topics from the classroom, other disciplines, and their own lives whenever possible. Students learn to reflect on their art and determine whether their work is finished or needs more details. They learn to work independently, as well as collaboratively learning how to share, plan, and predict what they can do with various materials. Students have the opportunity to learn from and appreciate the talents of their peers at the end of class.
The eight Studio Habits of Mind are incorporated into our daily life and language in order for students to learn true artistic behavior. Those habits include: envisioning, observation, expression, developing craft, stretching and exploring, engaging and persisting, reflecting on their work, and understanding art worlds.
The kindergarten students learn how they can safely utilize computers to enhance their math, language arts, social studies, and science curriculums. Each child uses technology to develop, refine, and ultimately teach others concepts that they are studying while also learning to take chances and develop resilience in working with technology. While building skills through independent and collaborative work, each kindergartner is developing an understanding of what computers can and cannot do. We begin the school year developing essential computer safety and navigation skills, which include accessing and saving their work. In the autumn, the students use iPads, the flatbed scanner, and Notebook software to create a scientific illustration of a campus maple tree. They also create surveys, tables, and various types of graphs. In the winter months, the students expand upon their geometry, social studies, and “following-multistep-directions,” curriculum to create a 3D model of a house. The kindergartners finish the year by creating complex illustrations showing the journey of food from the farm to the market.
The Lower School library is a place of inquiry and discovery for all who use it. Students visit the library on a regular basis so that they can explore their own interests; be introduced to new stories, concepts, information and ideas; and discover who they are as readers and thinkers. The library program is designed to support the kindergarten curriculum. Students are introduced to various books, genres, and authors that support their units of study as well as their own development as readers. Inquiry-based projects centered on major topics of classroom study (such as homes and farms) allow students to learn research skills. Every library class includes the opportunity for children to use the library independently. During this time, students decide for themselves what books they want to read and/or take home to borrow.
Kindergarten music encompasses singing and dancing in a cooperative group setting. A vast repertoire of songs, dances, and musical games help to develop the concepts of steady beat versus rhythm, language, rhyme, high/low, slow/fast, loud/soft, and speaking/singing through multi-cultural song literature. This foundation serves as a base for music making during the continuation of their time in the Lower School.
The kindergartners participate in a physical education program that allows the students to understand and apply movement concepts and to become competent in basic motor skills. The motor skills that are taught and practiced on a daily basis include: skipping, hopping, jumping, chasing, galloping, sidestepping, and running, to name a few. Specific skills are taught in themes and include: throwing, catching, jumping and landing, striking, kicking, dribbling and volleying. Some lifetime sports are also taught in class and include: tennis, yoga, ice-skating, bowling, and fitness. In the winter, students also ice skate for four weeks as part of the curriculum. Throughout each activity, safety, cooperation, teamwork, and sportsmanship are emphasized.
A key component is teaching children to feel positive about themselves and their participation in physical activity, thus encouraging them to try new and varied activities. With clear safety practices set forth by the teachers, the students practice specific patterned movement skills to enhance their manipulative skills, develop spatial awareness, and broaden their movement repertoire. In addition to skill development, students participate in community events such as the American Heart Association’s “Kids’ Heart Challenge,” the “Fun Run” that kicks off Wildcat Weekend in the fall, and the Lower School Field Day in May.
The kindergarten science program builds on the emerging skills of students as they engage in “hands-on” activities to make discoveries and learn to think critically. The children delve into a variety of science topics related to the farm study that highlight the physical, earth, and life sciences. In the fall, the students begin by using their five senses to observe the science room. Then they focus on trees and the properties of wood. Later, the children learn how to build many simple machines used on a farm. Near the end of the study, the students learn about farm plants focusing on the plant parts that are edible and growing their own vegetables. The children learn about a variety of farm animals, but are immersed in the life cycle of chickens as they carefully monitor hatching chicken eggs in an incubator. The culmination of the unit is a trip to a farm looking for the animals, plants, and machines they have learned about over the year.