Lower School Curriculum
Overview: Grades One Through Five
We strive to create a learning environment that is joyful, engaging, challenging, and multi-faceted. It is a place where students grow in confidence and independence within a broad program where they feel safe to take intellectual risks and grow. With basic academic skills built upon responsibility, creativity, problem-solving, and hands-on learning, we endeavor to teach the “whole” child. Co-curricular teachers tap into the various interests and talents of the students as they work closely with the homeroom teacher to meet the needs of the class and grade. Being a part of a community of learners where students work together and respect differences is a critical element to the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grade experiences.
- Fine and Performing Arts
- Global Languages
- Physical Education
- Social Studies
- Speaking and Listening
- Study Skills
Art: First and Second Grades
Artistic expression and art fundamentals are critical aspects of the first and second grade art curricula. At these stages, students are exposed to techniques, specifics artists, and great works of art, as well as key elements of art including: line, shape, form, space, texture, value, and color. Students often study important works of art and then practice the techniques unique to creating a similar piece of art. Key aspects of the experience include: developing a sense of aesthetic judgment and color theory, understanding how visual arts relate to history and culture, and showing appreciation of the creative works of self and others. SMART Board and iPad technology are used in the classroom to enrich understandings and to offer a unique form of multi-media art-based experiences.
Art: Third Grade
Critiquing each other’s work, investigating the full range of mediums, understanding the relationship between culture and art as well as exploring color theory and aesthetic education, are combined to create a vibrant studio art program. This class meets twice a week in the art studio. Through these experiences and with two and three-dimensional work displayed throughout the school, students come to appreciate each other’s work and enjoy the creative process and how it connects to other disciplines in their school and to world cultures.
Art: Fourth Grade
Through art history and self-expression, students will create works using a variety of mediums. In particular, at this grade, level students will learn about the Elements of Color and be able to communicate their ideas using them; understand the visual arts in relation to history and culture; reflect upon and critique the merits of their own work and the work of others; and make connections between the visual arts and other disciplines. Art meets twice a week in the art studio.
Art: Fifth Grade
This is a studio art course in which art history provides an introduction to each art project, and an inspiration for the students. Drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics and sculpture, as well as mixed media, are central to each student’s experience. While art history and the exposure to various mediums of expression are at the center of the students’ work; art theories regarding color and design are also integrated into their projects. Student artwork is continually displayed throughout the school. The annual All School Student Art Show at Stony Brook University and the Young Illustrators Challenge, in which student art work from around the region is judged, are two centerpieces for our year as well. Students have one block period for art and one class period each week.
Music: First and Second Grades
Students attend music class twice a week and participate in both our choral and instrumental programs. Chorus is an important aspect of our music curriculum, as it fosters a sense of community, responsibility, and teamwork. Students perform in the winter and spring concert each year and develop skills such as following a conductor, pitch-matching, and concert etiquette.
First and second grade students also participate in our recorder program. It is designed to challenge and stimulate a developing sense of multitasking and coordination skills. Through a differentiated approach, each student progresses through the program at his or her own rate, allowing for an individualized experience tailored to each student.
Music: Third Grade
Music class centers on music theory, music history, vocal skills and instrument skills. By listening to music, singing, playing an instrument, reading music and learning about the history and culture of music, students build an appreciation, if not, a passion for this area of study. There are two major performances each year and music class meets twice a week in the music room.
Music: Fourth Grade
Music class centers on music history, music theory and performance. By listening to music, singing, playing an instrument, reading music and learning about the history of music student build an appreciation, if not, a passion for this area of study. Reading notes on the treble clef, identifying notes above and below the music staff, rhythms, time signature are included in the fourth grade curriculum. Students have two major performances every year and each will start (or continue with) a band instrument. Music meets twice a week in the music room.
Music: Fifth Grade
Music class centers on music history, music theory and performance. By listening to music, singing, playing an instrument, reading music and learning about the history of music student build an appreciation, if not, a passion for this area of study. Reading notes on the treble clef, identifying notes above and below the music staff, rhythms, time signature are included in the fifth grade curriculum. Students have two major performances every year and each will start (or continue with) a band instrument. Music meets twice a week in the music room.
First Grade Through Fifth Grade
At the end of the lower school years, students should have familiarity with basic vocabulary and rudimentary styles of conversation. In order to encourage global citizenship, special attention is paid to culturally authentic materials and activities such as: art crafts, foods, greetings, etiquette and customs of the countries studied.
First Grade through Fifth Grade
This is a multi-faceted class where students broaden their background and exposure to a range of types of literature, library resources and technology while becoming more independent in how to negotiate the resources in the library. Students read independently, take out books for outside reading, are read to, and learn about how best to use the atlas, dictionary, and thesaurus. Students listen to various stories, authors and genres, learn about multiple print resources, and understand and use the Internet catalog system as they take books out on a regular basis. Students visit the library for their regular library period, and visits to the library happen throughout the year as needed for research.
In first grade, students reinforce the skills learned in kindergarten but also begin working with fractions, place value, and data interpretation.
By second grade, students review all that has come before in grade one and then move into certain areas more deeply. They study place value, addition, subtraction, and begin multiplication and division. Problem solving is a major focus in every unit.
Confidence in mathematics grows as each concept is introduced, understood, practiced, and mastered. In third grade students solidify their knowledge of number facts, numerals through 100,000, place value and money. Basic number operations of addition and subtraction with re-grouping and understanding multiplication and division concepts are also major elements in third grade. Reading is fundamental here as well with word problems incorporated into the class.
The fourth grade mathematics program’s goals focus on understanding the theory behind the numbers, computation skills and, most importantly, having students build confidence and an interest in learning math. Whole number operations, place value, fractions, decimals, geometry, data analysis, measurement, probability, time, measurement and problem solving are part of the fourth grade curriculum. We also focus on problem solving and using math vocabulary to explain the meaning behind the math computation.
Harbor fifth graders learn to reason mathematically and use mathematics to solve problems in authentic contexts. Students learn about numeration, operations, patterns and functions, geometry, measurement and data through exploratory activities. Supplemental materials are used to extend and enrich student experiences and ideas. Lessons, assignments, and homework are differentiated in order to meet the needs of each student. Teaching is responsive to the individuals and is consistently monitored to make sure the level of enrichment and reinforcement is appropriate.
First Grade through Fifth GradeLower school students participate in Physical Education (PE) in our gymnasium or on the athletic fields, depending on the weather. We build a physical education program as a life skill class where responsible behavior, good health, teamwork and knowledge of and exposure to athletic games and physical movement all play a role. Competency in motor skills, using a wide range of age-appropriate athletic equipment, physical fitness, cooperation in team play, nutrition and competition are a part of the curriculum.
First graders are developing the skills needed to improve independent reading and are beginning to read to learn. As decoding gives way to fluency, a first grader’s reading comprehension improves. Focusing on high frequency words helps improve fluency. The first grader begins to fall in love with characters in stories, becomes familiar with folktales, and use illustrations to support comprehension. First graders begin developing understandings of letter patterns known as blends and diagraphs. Nuances of word patterns, such as the concepts of plurals, contractions, compound words, and synonyms/antonyms, greatly expand reading skills. In writing, students learn to add details to stories, to write sentences, and to vary their sentence structure. They practice writing stories with a beginning, middle, and ending.
Second Grade is a time where reading fundamentals are becoming established and students are now reading to learn new things or to make connections to what they already know. By second grade, non-fiction reading becomes more important as students do more research and learn to organize their ideas. In writing, emphasis is placed on writing descriptive sentences, compare/contrast, writing “how-to’s” and relying on themes as a backdrop for writing. Writing is often based on content related to cultures. Students are also trying their hand at scientific writing such as with making predictions. The Teachers' College Reading & Writing Project is used at this grade level to support biographical writing, informational writing and research papers.
Students in third grade have a wide range of interests in the types of books they read and in the level at which they read. Our goal in third grade is to create an environment throughout the day and year, where students build on their love for words, books and reading. Exposing them to a range of genres provides the right context for this to happen with fiction, non-fiction and poetry.
This is an exciting time in their lives as they turn from solidifying reading skills – depending on the reading level of each child – to using reading to learn about the world around them. The third grade teacher takes the time to learn about, through a variety of means, what authors and literature will continue to ignite a child’s love for reading. Decoding, using context clues to improve comprehension, understanding the structure of a story including details about the characters, setting and plot, predicting, summarizing and, importantly, making personal connections to the reading are all skills developed at this level.
Students also develop fluency through guided practice and repeated readings with appropriate expression and phrasing. Engaging our students in regular repeated readings will improve their word recognition, reading rate, comprehension, and overall reading proficiency.
Reading is one of the keys to success in school and life. The homeroom teacher focuses on the reading level of each student to build a reading program that will challenge them appropriately and excite them to become life-long readers. We use a variety of means to learn what kinds of books will interest each child and at what level is just right. Through both conversation and the choices students make in their free reading to regular assessments around fluency, expression and comprehension will help us fine-tune the kinds of literature that will stretch each child’s mind. Students are exposed to fiction, non-fiction and poetry and a range of genres and authors. In addition, we teach the basic academic skills about character, setting and plot. Improving comprehension, learning how to summarize, inferring meaning, decoding unfamiliar words and making personal, global and text connections help to create a firm base for future growth and development of each child’s reading foundation.
The fifth grade reading program focuses on building essential comprehension skills while keeping students engaged in a variety of texts. Students read a range of literature, both as a class, in small groups and independently. We utilize the Reader's Workshop method, which blends whole group mini-lessons, small needs-based groups, and individual conferring to guide students through the application of seven basic comprehension strategies.
Instruction is designed to meet students at their skill levels and to raise their abilities and confidence as readers. There is a focus on developing critical-thinking skills, such as drawing conclusions from a text and making predictions. In addition, students are taught and encouraged to make connections to their reading in a variety of ways, which helps them to internalize the deeper meaning of the text. Independent reading is a critical component to being a successful reader, and this is heavily emphasized. As students progress through the fifth grade program, they become comfortable and adept at thinking, speaking and writing about what they read.
Students in first grade learn about insects and spiders, cold and warm blooded animals, and use measurement to make scientific observations. Field trips to go apple picking with kindergarteners and a trip to the local grocery store, to study nutrition, take place during the school year. The scientific method is introduced.
Second grade science is a time for exploration and creativity. Students study innovation; they create their own inventions and they assemble and program robots. Robotics features strongly in the second grade science curriculum. Within the biological sciences, second grade students raise Monarch butterflies in early spring.
Third grade science is a hands-on lab science where students investigate, explore and learn about the three branches of science. This course examines life, physical and earth science. Through observation, data recording and experiments, the central themes to the year are living things in our environment, understanding the earth’s surface and how we can protect its resources, understanding matter and mixtures and how they change and, finally, energy.
Fourth grade science is a hands-on lab science where students investigate, explore and learn about the natural world. This course examines earth, life and physical sciences. Through observation, data recording and experiments, the central themes to the year include watersheds – a critical catalyst to life on our planet electricity - natural resources and marine life of Long Island and electricity.
In fifth grade, we unite theory with practical applications through field trips to natural outdoor settings on our nearby coastline and Long Island’s regional science centers. The scientific process forms the backbone for our laboratory work, and lab reports are the culmination of the students’ research and hands-on studies. Basic academic skills, such as note-taking, proper lab report writing, discussion and collaboration, are reinforced throughout the year. The fifth grade studies all three scientific disciplines: life, earth and physical.
In first grade, students develop understandings related to citizenship. They study important historical figures as well as U.S. states, with special emphasis on New York. Map skills are explored to a greater extent, especially through the unit related to Flat Stanley. Students are given opportunities to problem-solve, to negotiate, and to develop understandings related to facts versus opinions. A strong emphasis is placed on the ideas of citizenship, community, and respect.
In second grade, the curriculum focuses more on map skills, landforms and explorers. Students work to a greater extent developing the idea of citizenship. There are a number of social studies project in second grade including a research project related to Hawaii, a geography project related to rainforests and a habitat project related to penguins.
Child development tells us that children at this stage in their growth are beginning to understand that they are not just an individual in this world but a contributing member of a group of people. Parallel plan continues, but it is less and less a part of what they are naturally inclined towards. There are myriad lessons learned as children become cognizant of and a valuable member of partnerships and group work. This is why the theme of third grade social studies focuses on Community. What role do people play? What role should each member play? What examples exist in our school and local regions? Beyond our localities, the third grade will learn about the fifty states as well where we are in the global community.
The theme of the fourth grade social studies program is the State of New York. From the first inhabitants, explorers and slave trade to the Revolutionary War, founders, local and state government structures, and immigration, students become well-informed historians about our regional history.
The fifth grade social studies curriculum focuses on the study of people from around the world, beginning with the emergence of mankind and continuing through to ancient China. Traditional skill building through note-taking, research, debating, writing and reading are core elements to our history program.
How we speak and listen to each other is a natural connection to our social studies theme and is an important part of child development at this age. There are many opportunities to speak in third grade in pairs, groups, with one’s homeroom teacher and in public forums. Presenting information in a clear manner with good eye contact and a loud voice are skills we reinforce. As a considerate member of a community knowing how to share, listen and brainstorm effectively students learn how to work as a team to solve problems and create solutions.
There are many forms to speaking in school and we believe in providing frequent opportunities for each student to become self-assured, poised speakers. Summarizing current events, explaining the processes used in answering questions, reading aloud fluidly and with expression, as well as presenting projects in a public forum, are examples where students gain confidence in themselves a public speakers.
The pace of life in school can be fast, but by concentrating on attentive and thoughtful listening skills, students learn more about the world around them from their classmates and teachers alike. By listening carefully and patiently to oral directions, student discussion and storytelling, for example, students appreciate the power of listening.
Speaking and listening are woven into many areas of the curriculum throughout the year, especially in their partnership work in literacy, math, and social studies as students strive to develop skills related to attentive listening, collaborative communication and clear presentation of ideas.
One of the backbones of establishing a solid foundation for future school success is in laying the groundwork in study and organization skills. As part of a community where each student develops skills around cooperation, responsibility, preparation, collaboration, children learn to become contributing members of a class and school. They also grow into independent, self-assured individuals.
Constructing a reliable and predictable set of study skills paves the way for deeper learning. Organizing desks, books and folders, as well as developing consistent homework, project and classwork timelines, builds confident learners.
It takes a combination of skills to achieve academic success. These skills are practiced as students work on various projects throughout the year. The skills are organization, time management, prioritization, concentration, and motivation.
First Grade through Fifth GradeTechnology is an integral part of the curriculum and it is integrated into the homeroom teacher’s program. Through instruction of basic skills, familiarity with various hardware sources, and projects, students gain an appreciation for and confidence in their computer skills. Learning about safe use of the Internet, students are exposed to the computer, laptop and iPad. Google programs are introduced and reinforced – email, Google Drive, and the calendar. Students will continue to learn about Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Google Chrome, and improving keyboarding skills.
By leaps and bounds, students in the third grade grow as writers as they publish their own work on an increasingly sophisticated level. Students are introduced to the basic concept of paragraph writing. They learn the essential parts of a paragraph, which include main ideas, topic sentences, supporting and body sentences, and conclusions.
The reading and writing programs work like hand-in-glove in developing each child’s writing. Writing about what they read and about what the teacher read to them, we provide an opportunity for students to express themselves in writing every day. It starts with a safe learning environment where students feel comfortable writing and in generating their own ideas independently. From understanding that stories need a beginning, middle and end to building a logical story line with character development, setting and plot, students gain confidence as authors of their own work. Learning about the mechanics of writing fine-tunes their work as the gain knowledge about capitalization, punctuation and formatting. Students come to appreciate the essential need revision plays in becoming great writers.
One of the mainstays to a robust language arts program is its writing curriculum and with it, creating confident writers. Writing often is one of the keys to this and using a variety of styles and techniques in another. We do this with practice in writing narrative, persuasive, expository and creative writing pieces. Building a foundation of basic skills by solidifying each child’s knowledge of and familiarity with the importance of writing an essay with an introduction, supportive evidence and a concluding sentence all with proper mechanics are essential skills. Creating an energetic style within each exercise includes instruction around transition words, description language, fluid phrases, a varied sentence style allow students to develop their own unique style in writing. Research is also a part of the writing program, which includes not only finding credible and varied sources, but also citing research.
Writing in fifth grade is based on a writers' workshop model. The goals of writers' workshop are to develop students’ awareness of the process and craft of writing and to increase their ownership of their writing. Teachers expose students to a variety of writing styles and aim to develop each student's unique writing voice. Students are carefully guided through the writing process, and writing lessons scaffold to allow students to build upon strategies and skills learned throughout the year. Beginning with brainstorming and planning, children learn specific conferencing and revision techniques so that they are able to share their ideas effectively with one another. Following the conference, the children proofread and edit their own work, and ultimately publish selected texts. Teachers work with individuals and small groups, discussing genre, teaching skill lessons, helping with the editing process and asking questions to provide feedback.