Lower School-Kindergarten through Fourth Grade
Introduction to The Lower School ProgramOur lower school, Kindergarten through fourth grade, is housed in two buildings. Our Kindergarten students are in Chilton House, providing proximity to and ensuring appropriate curricular continuity with, our early childhood programs. Once in first grade, children move on to the Little School building.
The Lower School learning community is a supportive, joyful, collaborative one, built on a partnership between home and school in which teachers, families, students and staff work together to create an optimal learning environment for EMS students to be their best selves.
The lower school builds upon the knowledge and habits of mind gained in students’ early years, increasingly challenging students to be active problem solvers, creative thinkers and innovative learners. Small class sizes and experienced faculty ensure that learning is personalized to both challenge and support students. Students are guided to explore their own interests and passions in ways that are meaningful to them. We focus on building core academic skills while integrating multiple subject areas whenever appropriate.
Through our character education program students develop a strong self and embrace their responsibility to impact their world in a positive and peaceful way. We follow the tenets of Responsive Classroom, a research-based approach to teaching that promotes academic and social-emotional competencies in children. Students build empathy and compassion through daily class meetings, monthly lessons with a variety of professionals including our school counselor, divisional and all-school assemblies celebrating community traditions and grade-level accomplishments, and through student-led community service opportunities.
The Kindergarten child is a doer and a mover, an investigator and a problem-solver, an explorer, an adventurer and a believer. At Elisabeth Morrow play is seen as children’s work and a powerful integrator and generator of knowledge. The Kindergarten day includes a balance of choice, spontaneous activities and experiences guided by faculty. Cognitive and social skills, and academic concepts are woven into the entire school day.
Students use a variety of materials to create two-and three-dimensional art forms and learn how to safely use the tools and materials and develop their fine motor skills. The approach to art is interdisciplinary at all grades levels and often relates to what is being studied in other parts of the curriculum.
Direct and indirect instruction as well as a print- and conversation-rich environment enhances kindergartners developing reading skills. They explore language and develop phonemic awareness and word recognition through stories, songs, games, cooking, dramatic play and group discussions. Teachers provide direct instruction in phonics, multi-sensory activities, word recognition and story comprehension. Kindergarten students engage in independent and collaborative writing experiences during Writing Workshop throughout the week. Through Handwriting Without Tears children practice proper pencil grip and letter formation. Their confidence in use of language and public speaking is also built through Morning Meeting, sharing time, group discussions, brainstorming and presentations.
The Chilton House library is designed especially for young children, and available for planned activities or independent use. Kindergartners visit the library once a week in small groups for an in-depth book discussion.
Kindergarten children utilize mathematical concepts in everyday experiences. Students explore and practice counting, working with numbers 1-19 to gain foundations for place value, graphing, patterning, collecting, organizing and describing data, applying mental computation, estimating, identifying and describing shapes. Children add, subtract and problem solve using manipulatives.
Students are introduced to basic musical concepts such as beat, tempo, dynamics, and timbre using traditional children’s songs and chants sung in a group. Students learn the names, sounds and proper care of the classroom instruments. A very special hallmark of the kindergarten program is the year-end “Kindergarten Circus,” with songs and acts chosen by the students.
In Physical Education, students develop spatial awareness, locomotor skills, ball skills, and movement while focusing on the important concepts of physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle.
In science, students focus on the study of the many animals that live in the science lab. Kindergartners also identify the five senses, name and compare and contrast the characteristics of the four seasons, and plant, cultivate and harvest crops (from the school gardens)
In Social Studies, the year begins by setting goals as students express hopes and dreams for the school year. Through specialized units on themes such as Thanksgiving and Post Office, students learn to recognize themselves as members of a community. As individuals within a classroom, they begin to appreciate the similarities and differences that exist among their peers. This lends itself to the sharing of customs and traditions, in which families are encouraged to participate.
TechnologyTeachers and integrators collaborate closely to determine the best technology to support and augment learning goals. Children use Macintosh computers, iPads and Web-based programs to support the development of literacy and numeracy skills though a variety of experiences. Kindergarteners use iPads in their classrooms on a regular basis for everything from practicing handwriting to reading interactive stories to creating books. Programming skills are introduced through the use of Bee-bots (small bee shaped robots), which help in developing sequencing, estimation and problem-solving skills.
Children explore and express sounds and words in Spanish. Spanish vocabulary is developed through songs, rhymes and stories that focus on the themes of Getting to know You, Colors and Shapes, and Calendar.
Special Events in Kindergarten
The phase-in schedule for Kindergarten is limited to the first week. The length of the day is shortened to a half day for the first three days moving to a full day by the end of the week. Parents will be given a schedule in August. Childcare is available during the phase-in schedule.
Each May the Kindergarten classes attend a field trip to the Turtle Back Zoo. The event occurs during the spring. A parent or a special caregiver, grandparent or family friend is asked to accompany each child. The children love sharing this special experience with their guest but the school will provide an alternate supervision when a family is unable to meet the request. Children may leave with their grown-up upon the return of the bus to school. Childcare is provided for any child who needs to remain in school after the trip.
The Kindergarten Zoo Trip
The Kindergarten prepares and performs a circus each year. The event occurs at the end of the school year. Families are all invited for this special event. A class party is scheduled to celebrate directly after the circus and dismissed for a shortened day. Childcare will be offered for any children needing care after dismissal.
Other Field TripsThroughout the school year the PreKindergarten and Kindergarten attend field trips that support their learning and go beyond our campus. Parents will have opportunities to volunteer as chaperones for these special events but attendance is not mandatory.
Kindergarten Field Trips
• A local farm outing, which occurs in the fall
• Flat Rock Brook Nature Center which occurs in the fall
• The Englewood Post office which occurs every winter
First graders are ready for more advanced work, as well as opportunities to move and play during the day. Children engage in a multiplicity of literacy and numeracy experiences across the curriculum as the classroom teacher, learning specialist and librarian work with whole class as well as small groups. Daily writing experiences increase as students expand sentence structure and content as well as begin to focus on punctuation and spelling. The students are self-directed learners using strategies, information and each other to construct meaning and move their learning forward.
ArtFirst grade students develop observational skills, practice small motor skills, and are exposed to a variety of artistic techniques in projects like self-portraits, collaging, community paintings and animal sculptures.
In first grade, language arts is literature-based as children continue learning sight words and decoding. Participation in shared reading experiences provides a learning environment that promotes vocabulary acquisition and use of language. An emphasis is placed on developing the comprehension skills necessary to enjoy, interpret, and compare a variety of literary genres, as well as on building stamina and fluency in reading. In the library, students are taught basic research skills and become familiar with circulation systems. Writing in the first grade is seen as a tool for self-expression as children learn the organization of a basic paragraph, capitalization and punctuation, and sentence structure. Through Handwriting Without Tears children master proper pencil grip and formulation of letters.
In mathematics, students are moved through a balanced instructional program approach designed to develop basic computational skills and procedures and to develop conceptual understanding and problem solving strategies and thinking. Through exploration, direct instruction, centers and projects, students are given opportunities to explore place value, compare and contrast numbers, and add and subtract them. Math vocabulary and literacy are developed through practice with word problems.
First graders express themselves musically through singing, movement and the playing of instruments. Skills taught include identifying and replicating melodic notes, steady beat, and simple rhythms. Students strengthen performance skills through learning a repertoire of songs to perform at concerts.
In Physical Education, students are taught body and spatial awareness, with an emphasis on safety and further development of social skills. Skills taught include weight transfer through cooperative games, rhythms and gymnastics, balance and ball skills.
First graders continue their study of the natural world in science by asking and responding to who, what, when, where, and why questions. Employing prior knowledge, experimentation, and observation, students begin to unearthing misconceptions, and draw conclusions. Using their five senses, they pursue a deeper knowledge of plant and animal structures.
The goal of the first grade social studies curriculum is for students to make meaningful connections between each other, their school, and local community, as well as the world beyond. Using their classroom as a model, they live and learn and work together, solve problems, and incorporate the 4 C’s of courtesy, consideration, cooperation and compassion into their everyday lives. The curriculum is divided into themes over the course of the year. Topics of study include but are not limited to: community and a comparative study of cultural traditions and celebrations. These themes are integrated into other curricular areas such as literature, mathematics, science, art, music, and Spanish. Students also demonstrate an understanding of how a community supports its people through the planning and building of a model community calledKidTown.
Teachers and integrators collaborate closely to determine the best technology to support and augment learning goals in first grade. Children use Macintosh computers, iPads and Web-based programs to support the development of literacy and numeracy skills though a variety of experiences. Open-ended computer software like Kidspiration and Wixie are used to practice concepts and demonstrate student knowledge. First graders use iPads in their classrooms on a regular basis for a variety of projects and activities including math activities, interviewing adults and creating content.
The goal of our World Language program is to foster knowledge and develop language. Literacy skills are taught through stories, rhyming games, conversation, and through music and movement. Topics covered include:Daily Living,Family and Pets, and important Hispanic Holidays.
Second graders apply the skills they have acquired in first grade and build on them to become truly independent learners.
Art is integrated into the second grade curricular studies of farm, family and culture. Students design and sew squares for their class quilt. They practice drawing and painting objects using wax resist and experiment with pastels, strengthening their awareness of space and detail. Attention and interest are sustained through long-term projects inspired by the study of such influential artists as Wassily Kandinsky and Andy Warhol.
Second graders study a variety of genres, including biographies, poetry, nonfiction, fiction and fairytales. They read age-appropriate novels both independently and in small groups, relating ideas and personal experiences to construct meaning. Students apply phonics and spelling rules to decode words while reinforcing their oral fluency and vocabulary development. By organizing and expressing their thoughts in a clear and concise manner, they learn to respond to literature in complete, well-constructed sentences. Manuscript and cursive writing are introduced and practiced using the Handwriting Without Tears method. Students write original poems and coherent journal entries with paragraphs that include topic sentences, supporting details and concluding sentences. They begin to publish their work using the standard writing process of drafting, editing and revising.
At the Little School Library, as they learn to differentiate between fiction, nonfiction, biographies and reference materials, second graders are given the opportunity to independently select books and other media. They also listen and respond to a variety of literature. Upon locating information through book- and web-based research, research skills are further demonstrated in discussions, illustrations, timelines and reports.
In second grade, students demonstrate competencies in two-digit addition and subtraction problems. Their mathematical thinking is expanded through concrete work with plane and solid geometric figures. Students learn to measure length, width, perimeter and area collect and organize data as well as tell time to the minute and add coins and make change. Multiplication is introduced as repeated addition. Students build models using fractions, which they then relate to division. Geometry is explored through the concepts of quilt design.
Musical expression is encouraged and practiced through singing, movement and the playing of instruments. Students develop an appreciation of world music through general music classes and the Musical Explorers program at Carnegie Hall. Musical concepts such as steady beat, rhythmic improvisation and notation are perfected as students gain experience performing a repertoire of concert songs.
Second grade focuses on the development of safety and social skills, hand-eye coordination, ball skills, balance and spatial awareness. Through dance and gymnastics, students learn creative movement. They exhibit an understanding of group work, partnering and basic rules while participating in organized games like soccer and kickball.
Students learn to connect the interrelationship of scientific disciplines and the common attributes of scientists. They are introduced to chemistry as well as ecology, with a particular emphasis on the Hudson River and opportunities to tend campus gardens. Students discover how to read maps as a way to understand directionality, symbols and scale.
The second grade social studies concentration on personal family and cultural history sparks an interest in students’ own lives, the lives of their ancestors and the world beyond their immediate community. Student reading is focused on cultural stories, fiction and nonfiction while theme-based projects foster research skills and multicultural awareness.
Teachers and integrators collaborate closely to determine the best technology to support and augment learning goals in second grade. Children use Macintosh computers, iPads and Web-based programs to support the development of literacy and numeracy skills though a variety of experiences. Kidspiration is used for creating graphical organizers, which, among other things, help students with categorization. When studying culture in the second half of the year, Skype is used for live interaction with students around the world. Visual literacy is also introduced at this age with the use of cameras to share a second grader’s view of EMS with their new friends. Basic coding is introduced at this level which helps develop children’s sequencing and logic.
In second grade, students build upon basic Spanish vocabulary and conversational skills. They learn songs and games from Spanish-speaking cultures. Units of study include Los Meses del Año (The Months of the Year), El Mensaje Secreto de Cumpleaños (The Secret Birthday Message), Las Frutas (Fruits) and El Dia de Miranda Para Bailar (Miranda’s Day to Dance).
Third graders are ready to take the leap into abstract thinking and problem solving.
ArtThird grade art focuses on colonial crafts in America such as weaving, candle making and pottery. Students study and emulate the style of a selected artist and participate in art appreciation discussions. Further exposure to art materials aids in developing visual awareness and fostering creative expression.
Language ArtsStudents practice skills to improve oral fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension, such as applying phonics and phonemic skills to decode multisyllabic words. While reading independently for sustained periods of time, they analyze, synthesize and interpret fiction and nonfiction stories, with a focus on answering the questions of who, what, where, when, why and how. Students participate in a variety of writing experiences, including personal narratives, fiction, responses to literature, reflections, poetry, creative writing and research. Timelines, graphic organizers, outlines and note-taking are used to organize and plan for individual and group writing assignments. Students publish their work using the standard writing process of drafting, revising and editing. Grammar and spelling are taught through direct instruction and guided practice.
LibraryStudents independently select books and other media. They are given the task of locating information in a variety of texts and digital resources. Students begin to distinguish between fact and fiction, with a focus on historical fiction using picture books.
Third grade mathematics focuses on problem-solving strategies and the communication of mathematical ideas. Students sharpen their ability to mentally calculate simple problems as they refine their addition and subtraction skills with regrouping and learn multiplication and division facts through 10. They are introduced to two-digit multiplication and division with remainders as well as proper and improper fractions, relating fractions to time, division and measurement. Multiple strategies and algorithms are demonstrated, discussed and applied in order to solve word problems. Model drawing is used to develop problem solving.
Students receive a hands-on introduction to orchestral and folk instruments as they actively begin to acquire skills in listening and reading pitch and rhythm. Students have the opportunity to join the chorus. American classics and Native American songs are taught at the third grade level, as are composers and basic music theory. Students learn to play the recorder and participate in the Link Up program at Carnegie Hall. Through choice and diverse musical experiences, students develop an appreciation for music and musical expression.
Safety and social skills are reinforced in third grade, when students focus on the sequential development skills related to sports, dance, movement, gymnastics and physical fitness.
Third grade science focuses on the skills of observing, classifying, sketching, hypothesizing, experimenting, collecting data and graphing. Students explore magnetism, static electricity and current electricity as well as design and build electric circuits.
Social studies involves the exploration and discovery of how the environment affects the way people live. Students answer how and why people form beliefs in order to function in society while beginning to understand and appreciate what life was like before and during colonial times in what is now New Jersey. They participate in Clan Day, Colonial Day and extensive field trips to historical landmarks and sites in New Jersey. Research and interviewing skills are refined as students learn to manage long-term projects. Collaborative and oral communication skills are honed through a variety of presentations throughout the school year.
Teachers and integrators collaborate closely to determine the best technology to support and augment learning goals in third grade. Macintosh computers are used in both the classroom and the technology lab. A class set of laptops is shared across the grade providing for 1:1 access when needed.
Students use Google Drive to collaborate on projects and create presentations. Students are introduced to keyboarding using a Web-based program that also reinforces citizenship, etiquette and safe behavior online. Minecraft, a virtual environment, is used to augment the social studies curriculum as students experience what it is like to survive in a colony. Being in a virtual world also reinforces a number of 21st Century skills such as collaboration, problem solving and citizenship. Visual literacy, with a focus on still images, is also a focus in third grade. Students select from their own photos, manipulate and analyze them for details and share their knowledge in a multimedia project. Programming skills are developing as students use computational thinking and logic to create projects using Scratch and Turtle Art.
In third grade, students begin to work on all four areas of Spanish language acquisition: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Vocabulary and conversational skills are enhanced through partner work and skits. Students also become more familiar with Spanish-speaking cultures.
Opportunities for leadership and expanded choices await the fourth grade students. They are ready to use their acquired skills for more abstract thinking, researching, and problem solving.
ArtFourth grade art involves building upon knowledge and experiences with color mixing in the form of complementary colors, shading and tinting. Students paint with watercolors and are further exposed to various artists and styles of expression. They explore the elements of foreground, middleground and background and integrate art into other curricular areas to create work that is representative of different cultural areas.
Language ArtsStudents continue to develop skills in clarifying word, sentence and paragraph meaning in addition to their vocabulary and grammar skills. They make predictions, state opinions, summarize, develop an understanding of cause and effect, recognize figurative language and draw conclusions. Literature studies include a variety of genres: nonfiction, novels, legends, newspapers, poetry, plays and biographies. Students read for information for sustained periods of time, cultivate a love of reading and use examples from texts to support their written and oral responses. Fourth graders practice their writing in a variety of assignments and activities — personal journals, research, poetry, scripts for drama, essays, expository writing, interviews, friendly letters, scientific notation and mathematical word problems — and proofread for usage and mechanics.
LibraryFourth graders are tasked with independently searching library resources and selecting books and other media. There is a focus on historical fiction through picture books and other resources. Students are exposed to the processes of citing sources, choosing appropriate media for presentations and comparing media sources. They discuss and analyze the emotional impact of media on a particular audience.
MathematicsStudents learn to communicate mathematical thinking and compute with accuracy and speed. They are introduced to long division using divisors and perform simple computation with fractions with unlike denominators. Geometry study extends to rays, segments, lines, angles, congruent figures and construction of geometric patterns. Students use graphs and calculators to solve problems. Statistics is taught at this grade level, when students begin to recognize patterns and relationships in numbers up to one million. Expansion of problem-solving solutions includes models, patterns, illustrations and tables.
MusicUsing Dalcroze and Orff methods, students further their understanding of musical form. They may continue in chorus or join an instrumental ensemble. Students identify instruments and composers in classical masterworks as they begin to develop as performers who deeply appreciate all forms of music.
With an emphasis on physical fitness and personal growth, students reinforce their safety and social skills while developing good sportsmanship through noncompetitive experiences playing sports.
ScienceThrough on-campus field study, students observe and analyze plants and animals, including invertebrates, mammals, birds, trees and wildflowers. They complete lab work involving birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish.
Social StudiesIn social studies, fourth graders begin to think and reason in more abstract ways within their studies of Ancient Egypt, immigration, geography and New Jersey. Students further develop their research skills --- locating information, taking notes, organizing the data, and paraphrasing --- while learning to appreciate other cultures, old and new. They study how cultures change and adapt when people of different traditions settle together. Geography and map skills are reinforced. Students share their research experiences through written reports, art projects, oral and multimedia presentations.
TechnologyTeachers and integrators collaborate closely to determine the best technology to support and augment learning goals in third grade. Macintosh computers are used in both the classroom and the technology lab. A class set of laptops is shared across the grade providing for 1:1 access when needed.
Students continue to use Google Drive as a collaboration and creation tool. Keyboarding skills continue to be developed through word processing and note taking. Multimedia projects in any given year may take the form of a tour of ancient Egypt in Google Earth augmented with photos found using Sketchup; a skit created in a virtual world; or the creation of an original movie in iMovie. Fourth graders are also exposed to other types of technology that stretch their thinking and creativity such as MaKey MaKey, a microcontroller that turns ordinary objects into input devices when connected to a computer. Programming skills are developing as students use computational thinking and logic to create projects using Scratch and Turtle Art.
World LanguageIn fourth grade, students continue to work on all four areas of Spanish language acquisition: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Articles, nouns and adjectives with gender differentiation, plurality, and conversational skills are practiced through pair and group work, and textbook exercises. Students also become more familiar with Spanish-speaking cultures, and participate in conversations with other Spanish speaking students through the use of technology.
Students in Little School use their prior knowledge, content and skills to learn and contextualize science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) lessons and projects. Students make connections within the STEAM disciplines and core subject areas, learn to work collaboratively with one another, help solve real-world problems and actively participate in the engineering design process. They take steps to build empathy and care for targeted audiences, focus, brainstorm, make, and optimize solutions. They reflect on this process to develop their engineering practices and critical thinking skills.
Lessons and projects are aligned to connect to areas of study at their grade level. The overall goal of these processes and lessons is to enrich each student’s understanding of their local environment, and encourage compassion and creativity to making the wider world a better place.