___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ LOWER SCHOOLLIFE AT THE LOWER SCHOOL | CURRICULUM | GENERAL INFORMATION | ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Lower School AcademicsAll students work on their core academic areas in the morning, starting with small, targeted reading groups in which teachers draw from the most respected programs for language-based learning disabilities. Math and Language Arts (writing, grammar, vocabulary) round out the core elements of the Lower School Curriculum in the morning. In the afternoons, students explore a range of subjects, including social studies, science, arts and electives. Our curriculum gives students a solid foundation in academic skills, an array of learning tools to draw upon, and a growing sense of confidence, while also fostering social/emotional development.
ReadingStudents receive an intensive reading assessment to determine appropriate placement in the reading class that best fits their current needs. Multisensory programs are employed that stimulate and develop concept and symbol imagery. Highly-trained teachers work to develop targeted skills in decoding, language comprehension, fluency, and sight word development. As students move through the Lower School, progress is continually monitored and student placement adapted accordingly.
Language ArtsThe Language Arts Program provides a dual focus of literary analysis and writing instruction. As a class, students read and analyze grade-level appropriate books and respond to the text with literature-based reading activities. By participating in pre-reading, during-reading, and post-reading activities, the students bring unique experiences, perspectives, and contexts to their reading of literature.
The Lower School writing program introduces students to the key traits of writing -- ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and presentation. Students are introduced to graphic organizers and assistive technology that enable them to acquire the skills necessary to create well developed and organized written output.
Mathematics The Math program customizes instruction to the needs of each of our learners. Rather than being placed in limited grade level classes, students across grades 2-5 are grouped by ability. The Lower School foundational program is designed to teach mastery of mathematical concepts and to ensure maintenance of concepts learned. In small groups, students learn through hands-on experiences, discussions, explorations, and oral/written practice.
ScienceThe Social Sciences rotates on a unit-by-unit basis between Social Studies and Science. While following the Common Core Standards, Westmark strives to inspire in students a passion for discovery, a curiosity about the past and an interest in the workings of the world around them.
Innovative online science programs provide students with interactive simulations, hands-on labs and activities, leveled reading passages with audio support, a full video media library, and a fully interactive concept glossary. These programs are further enhanced by research projects and collaborative learning experiences.
Social Studies in the Lower School classroom employs online textbooks, media resources and interactive student notebooks to explore a curriculum aligned with the Common Core standards. In 2nd and 3rd grade, students are introduced to geography and citizenship. In 4th grade, students employ both geography and economics to become familiar with the communities they belong to, both locally and globally. In 5th grade, students explore the five regions of the United States through the perspective of economics, geography, and political science. Throughout their work, research projects, and role-playing are key components of learning.
Development of the whole child is at the root of Westmark educational philosophy. With this in mind, the Lower School Arts Program is designed to further develop students’ existing strengths and engage them in areas of affinity. Students will explore all art mediums including but not limited to: drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, photography, and stop-animation. Projects have been designed to be cross-curriculum, reinforcing topics learned outside the arts classroom. Through process-based art making techniques and exposure to a spectrum of media, students will broaden and develop artistic abilities while finding their own unique creative voice.
Social ThinkingBeginning in 2nd grade, students are introduced to a weekly program that explores the concepts of social thinking. The social thinking program develops students’ ability to correctly interpret the meaning behind others’ actions and to successfully develop strategies to achieve their own social goals. Through the program, students explore perspective taking, cognitive flexibility, and conflict resolution. As students enter 4th and 5th grade, increased emphasis is placed on leadership skills, conflict resolution and making positive life choices.
TechnologyAssistive and educational technology is an integral tool used throughout our curriculum. Students utilize the latest state-of-the art technology daily both in the classrooms and individually.
The Lower School Performing Arts and Music Program is designed to give all students hands-on opportunities in instrumental, vocal, and acting activities.
Students in the 5th grade are introduced to singing, dancing, and acting through their fall musical performance of “Turkeys on Strike”. The 5th graders work together as a cast to produce a wonderful production for our community to enjoy.
Our 3rd through 4th graders are introduced to reading music, music theory, and rhythm through “Recorder Karate”, a wonderful program where students earn belts for each level of song they complete with their recorder instrument. The basis of our program it to explore talents and affinities for our students to grow as performers as well as individuals.