Academics

Primary Division

At The School at Columbia, our Kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2 students are learning about themselves, their families and their community. The Primary Division program focuses on building a strong foundation for all aspects of learning, and developing skills necessary for school success. We teach literacy, math, and social and emotional learning within the context of a conceptual, integrated, multi-disciplinary curriculum. The commitment to nurturing the young child is reflected in small classes with two or three teachers per class. Getting to know each child well is a priority for teachers in this division. Before the first day of school, each child is offered a visit by their teachers at home.

The school year begins with activities that help students build classroom routines and structures, while achieving a sense of community with their classmates and environment. Teachers build relationships with students in a variety of ways, getting to know their interests, personalities, family values, and learning styles in addition to their academic skills through individual assessments of literacy and math. At several points throughout the year, teachers collect data on each student in order to differentiate instruction of foundational academic and social skills for a diverse range of learning styles. Learning objectives for each grade level that are appropriate for the developmental needs of the age are a mainstay of the Primary Division.

We celebrate friendship every day and look forward to buddy time with our older class partners. We buddy read in each other’s classrooms, and host buddies to celebrate the 100th day of school. Being in the Primary Division is like being part of one large extended family where each member is recognized and appreciated every day.

Kathryn Kaiser
Primary Division Director


Academics: Primary Division

Kindergarten

List of 12 items.

  • Library

    Kindergarten students use their library time to familiarize themselves with the concept of a lending library, and to practice strategies for being responsible users of a shared community resource. Kindergarten library time begins with a shared story. Students are challenged to apply their growing knowledge of patterns to discover and discuss patterns within and between the stories we read. The second portion of library class is set aside for book selection. Kindergarteners are given a wide selection of age-appropriate materials to browse and are encouraged to make independent choices, allowing them to explore their interests through books, and begin to take ownership of their identities as readers.

    During the second half of the school year, Kindergarten students use their library class time to select books, further exploring their interests, and identities as readers. Students enjoy read-alouds and discussions focused on the themes of self and discovery, and are given opportunities to discover many different kinds of books. As the year progresses, students become increasingly independent library users.
     
  • Literacy

    As readers, kindergarten students engage in diverse experiences to develop decoding skills and strengthen comprehension. Throughout the day, students discuss ideas through Turn and Talk during read aloud, choral reading during shared reading, and exploring books on their own. Students read texts across a wide range of genres and styles, such as wordless picture books, environmental print, and pattern books. In addition to using their knowledge of letters and sounds to sound out words, students practice using strategies to read texts. Students learn to use one to one correspondence, recognize familiar word and sentence patterns, and match pictures with words to decode unfamiliar texts. As students gain fluency in recognizing sight words and learn new decoding strategies, they are able to read more texts independently and confidently. As authors, students use their developing knowledge of letters and letter sounds to write words and compose sentences in their books. They sound out each word, listen closely to the sounds they hear, and write the corresponding letter(s). Students draw upon patterns from books they have read to add sentences to their own writing. Students thoughtfully illustrate and add color to their books with the intent of sharing their work with an audience.

    In the second semester, students grew in confidence and independence as readers and writers. They further developed their phonological awareness, knowledge of sight words, word families and short vowel sounds, applying these skills to their reading and writing. Students engaged in a range of nonfiction studies including an exploration of “How To” and “All About” books. They learned ways writers share information about their world, and thoughtfully used pictures, words and text features in their own teaching and expert books. Students also explored the world of poetry, and later personal narrative, where they composed poems and true stories from their lives.
     
  • Mathematics

    Math in the winter term focuses on concepts of quantity, number, pattern, and data. Students develop strategies for counting and organizing objects, such as constructing groups and combining smaller groups to make larger easily countable groups. Tools such as the Ten and Twenty Frames and the Rekenrek (bead frame) provide students with a visual structure by which to understand number and number relationships. Students apply what they have learned about the structure of five to the structures of ten, fifteen and twenty. In addition to existing verbal routines and contexts, students begin to communicate their mathematical ideas on paper by writing numerals and drawing objects. During the winter school-study unit, students collect, reason with and communicate data about the physical and human environment of TSC. Throughout the term, children investigate numeric and nonnumeric patterns, including repeating and growing patterns. They share their mathematical thinking with their classmates and teachers and make connections between ideas.

    Kindergarten children continued to stretch their mathematical minds in the spring term. They applied their understandings of number, quantity, patterns and relationships in a variety of contexts within their school environment. Number work within ten transitioned into number work within twenty: students explored the structure of teen numbers using the Rekenrek, the Ten Frame, and the Twenty Frame as well as other models. In the domain of measurement, students used standard and nonstandard units (e.g., paper clips, Popsicle sticks, and color tiles) to reason about the inverse relationship between the size of the unit and the measurement result (smaller units yield larger measurement results and vice-versa). The data unit began with students generating their own questions about their classroom communities; students then collected, represented, and analyzed their data. Across the term, Kindergarten students applied their mathematical understandings in a variety of problem-solving situations. The structure of math investigations emphasized collaborative and independent work; communication of ideas and outcomes; and the thoughtful consideration of multiple perspectives.
  • Performing Arts: Dance

    Grounded in the Kindergarten theme of “Self,” dance classes offer students the opportunity to learn all about themselves as safe and creative movers. Students are introduced to basic movement skills such as freeze, levels, direction and tempo changes, safety while still and traveling, and personal and relational spatial awareness. Students develop listening and observational skills during “Listening Circle” when the study theme of the day is introduced. During our unit on “Pattern,” students learn to recognize, repeat, invent, predict, and execute shapes and rhythmic movement phrases in simple and more complex repeatable patterns. They learn to perform basic choreographies to a wide variety of themes, musical styles, and song. Students practice safe and careful behavior while freely expressing themselves during dance activities such as “A-B-C Dancing," “Story Dance,” “Apple Picking Dances,” and the “Animal/Letter Adventure Trail.”

    During the second semester, students continue to explore the Kindergarten theme of “self” as part of the curricular concept of “discovery.” Students learn to express their ideas and communicate their understandings by creating their own movement interpretations through many units of study including Nursery Rhymes. They are introduced to basic principles of yoga such as self-discipline, focus, spatial awareness, balance, and relaxation techniques through the study of a variety of yoga poses. Nature themes are danced through Wind Dancing, Puppy Play, Country Dance and The Animal Letter Adventure Trail. Students discover tools needed and used for dance. Students also discover more about themselves by listing all the parts of the body and then using their bodies as measuring tools to figure the size of the dance studio. Students learn to discern subtle differences in music and movement qualities by dancing to music from many cultures. Movement vocabulary and self-expression are developed through Self Portrait and Puppets Action Poses, dancing the A B C Train, Story Dancing, and Discovering Why I Love to Move solos. Students build self-confidence, learn to make connections with dance and other studies, and are encouraged to understand the joy and importance of movement in the world around them.
  • Performing Arts: Music

    Since young children are innately musical, the Kindergarten concept of Pattern connected naturally to the music curriculum. Through performing musical patterns with their feet, their bodies, the instruments and their voices, they developed their musicianship as they reinforced the concepts of rhythm, tempo, melody and form. They discovered their singing voice, experienced the steady beat, explored musical instruments, and engaged in musical dramatic play. In addition to instruction in the music room, all teachers and students gathered once a week for a Kindergarten sing-along.

    The integration of the music curriculum with the Kindergarten Discovery unit gives the children an opportunity to continue their exploration of the basic concepts of music. The students discovered dynamics: loud and soft; tempo: fast and slow; melody: singing and pitch matching; rhythm: steady beat and rhythm patterns; movement: rhythmic and melodic interpretation; improvisation: stories and songs; instrument technique: pitched and unpitched percussion; and ensemble work. In addition to instruction in the music room, all teachers and students enjoyed gathering once a week for a Kindergarten sing-along.
  • Science

    In Kindergarten, students are learning scientific skills and developing scientific attitudes through the concept of Pattern. They are learning to gather evidence, ask and answer questions, make predictions, find patterns, and communicate their ideas. Their focus is on how scientists gather evidence using their senses as well as use tools to extend the senses. Students explore with magnifying lenses, pipettes, pH strips, and measure length using cubes, mass using a balance, volume with a graduated cylinder, and temperature with a thermometer. They make and share their discoveries as Kindergarten scientists throughout the semester.

    In the second semester, Kindergarten students continue to develop the scientific skills of gathering evidence, asking questions, making predictions, finding patterns, and communicating their ideas. To explore the concept of Discovery, the children investigate what it means to be alive and put living things into categories. They focus on a different class of animals during each visit to the Discovery Room, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds, insects, earthworms and crustaceans. They learn about the characteristics of each group and consider how they are similar to and different from themselves.
     
  • Social Emotional Learning

    In Kindergarten, social emotional learning skills and objectives are woven into the children’s study of pattern. Students learn to recognize patterns throughout their day: in their daily routines, their interactions with others, and their own emotional responses. As their conceptual understanding deepens, they acquire a more nuanced sense of both their own unique qualities and of how they fit into the larger worlds of classroom and home. In the first semester, children are also expected to master age-appropriate friendship skills, recognize and name their own feelings and the feelings of others, employ self-calming techniques when they become upset and begin to take responsibility for their behavior and choices.

    In the second half of Kindergarten, children learned to become more self-aware and to manage their own emotions and behavior. They learned that choices have consequences and that hard work produces measurable results in which they can take pride. Friendships deepened and children began to learn how to resolve conflicts independently, using words to express their feelings while listening to the needs of their friends. Children began to apply self-regulation strategies they've been taught such as asking for a break, sitting next to a good learning partner, or taking a deep breath when they are upset. Students also learned to appreciate the visible and invisible aspects of their identities that make them unique.
  • Social Studies

    Kindergarten students explore the theme of Self. They learn about themselves and each other through class discussions, read-a-louds and hands on projects. Students create “I am statements” (ex. I am a sister. I am a New Yorker.) to label different parts of their identities. Students also engage in activities that allow them to identify commonalities and differences between their classmates and themselves. They also explore this concept in a broader sense as they connect with other schools around the world through the use of technology
     
  • Spanish Language/Literacy

    The Kindergarten Spanish Curriculum exposes students to the world of second language learning through active, multi-sensory lessons in a safe and engaging learning environment. Students learn a variety of Spanish songs and games that become a part of their Spanish routine. This semester Kindergartners connected to our study of Pattern by learning basic phrases and expressions in Spanish. Students learned the names of colors, numbers and shapes to explore and create patterns. They also learned to express likes and dislikes and to identify parts of the body. They practiced this new vocabulary through a variety of activities ranging from artistic and musical to kinesthetic.
  • Technology

    Students in Kindergarten learn how to use an iterative approach to solving problems and testing ideas through coding. Using their personally assigned world wide web accessible code.org accounts, students learn how patterns are used to create algorithms to solve puzzles and mazes. Creating loops, sequences and variables allow students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills; a skill set that we hope transfers to all their disciplines. Students will continue to explore these themes by programming robots like the Bee-Bot, a tool for teaching sequencing, measurement and estimation. In addition to coding, Kindergarten students continue to use technology to extend, reflect upon and display their understanding of learning content areas. Apps like Book Creator, SMART Notebook and LetterSchool are a few examples of applications students use to support learning in Kindergarten.
  • Visual Arts

    In the art studio, kindergartners develop basic skills while exploring the exciting possibilities of materials. The students first work in collage, learning to cut, tear, arrange, and overlap different varieties of paper and textures. Students also worked in painting, in conjunction with their color mixing with pipettes in Science. Artists discover how primary colors can be mixed to create many new colors and explore different ways of making marks with paintbrushes. In connection with the integrated curriculum, students investigate the concept of pattern through beading and weaving.

    This semester, kindergarten artists explored a wide variety of materials and tools in conjunction with the integrated concept of discovery. Students investigated the many possibilities of three-dimensional art, gaining experience with molding clay, sculpting wire, constructing wood, and manipulating paper. In addition, the kindergartners explored their identity through puppet making in assemblage and self-portrait drawing. They discovered other ways of making art too, with fruits and vegetables in the printmaking process. Students stamped with new tools and created textured collagraphs with unexpected materials as another way to make a print. Students also learned about fiber arts by sewing with needles and yarn on canvas. Delighted by these activities and materials, the kindergartners continue to develop as skilled artists and creative problem solvers.
  • Wellness

    In Kindergarten Wellness, the students are learning and practicing the 8 basic locomotor skills: walking, running, hopping, jumping, skipping, galloping, side-sliding, and leaping. In addition to this, students also learn the four major pathways, straight, diagonal, curved, and zig-zagged, while reinforcing their locomotor skills. The students learn about personal space and how to maintain it as well as general space and how to effectively work within general space. They participate in discussions about self-control and how it can help them to stay in their personal space. Kindergarteners work in small groups and in partnerships to develop cooperative learning skills.

Grade 1

List of 12 items.

  • Library

    First grade students enjoy use their library class time to choose books from an increasingly broad collection of titles, exploring new types of books. First grade library time is also used to share and discuss books about change and life cycles, encouraging students to draw connections and correlations between the changes they’re observing in their classroom projects involving butterflies and chickens. At the end of the year, students are given an introduction to the basic organizational principals of the library, and begin to become increasingly independent and responsible library users.
  • Literacy

    First grade students use literature to explore the concept of Connection. In the personal narrative study, students craft stories based on their life experiences. They use elements of storytelling previously explored in their folk literature unit, such as developing character, including dialogue, clearly sequencing their stories, and using rich setting details to bring their stories to life. Students plan, draft, edit, revise, and publish their stories. In conjunction with the Family Museum, students explore and create nonfiction text features such as captions, labels, diagrams, and maps. Students use these in order to clearly curate their exhibits for the Family Museum. As students continue to develop their independent reading habits, they add new strategies to their reading toolbox. Students read a wider variety of genres and are exposed to strategies that encourage reading fluently and with expression. First graders practice flexibly using the various decoding strategies as they encounter unfamiliar words, and practice applying comprehension skills as they read and listen to books in order to think and talk about their books. In word study, students explore digraphs such as sh-, th-, ch-, and wh- and review short vowel word families.

    Students explored the concept of Change in the last phase of the year, through a wide variety of reading and writing experiences. Looking at seasonal changes and movement through time while studying the author Eric Carle provided rich opportunities for exploring literature to understand change better. Students also learned more about the differences between fact and fiction. They then studied Nonfiction, exploring the variety of text features found in most books, and activating their prior knowledge before and during reading times. They wrote their own research books, thinking about the purposes of informing and instructing their readers. During the Poetry study that followed, students explored the world of free verse and form poetry, and wrote their own poems by describing objects, events and big feelings. They finished the year with a unit on justice and rights, learning about how groups of people make change through social action, and writing a variety of opinion pieces to express their thoughts and feelings. Spelling, vocabulary, decoding and grammatical skills were strengthened as students continued their exploration of word structures and meaning, as well as sentence structure.
  • Mathematics

    Mathematical investigations in the winter term focus on developing children’s number sense and understanding of operation. From the actions of counting and sequencing to comparing and joining, children are supported to gradually move from concrete to more abstract representations. Explorations with the twenty-frame and other models develop children’s understanding of the relationships between basic facts, which in turn informs their ability to compute with such facts flexibly, efficiently, and accurately. Number strings evolve throughout the term, presenting children with increasing opportunities to apply concepts of equivalence to their computation. Meanwhile, story problems provide real-life contexts for understanding addition situations and developing problem-solving habits. A global emphasis on interpretation and representation helps children visualize the mathematical actions and meanings embedded in problems. During the data unit, students integrate their understanding of number and operation with the collection, organization and analysis of information about their classroom and family communities. Throughout the year, students have opportunities to engage in both individual and collaborative work. In a variety of contexts, first-grade mathematicians deepen their understandings in ways that help them make sense of the mathematics in their lives.

    In the final term of the year, Grade 1 students engaged with the mathematical domains of number and operation, time, geometry, problem solving, measurement, place value and money. In the Time unit, students reasoned about the concept of change, including how change is experienced and recorded in daily life. They explored the structure of calendars and clocks and learned how to use each as a practical tool. In the process, they reasoned with equivalencies between units, for example, 60 minutes = 1 hour and 1 week = 7 days. In the domain of number and operation, students began to use now-familiar facts (10+, doubles, near doubles and 10-buddies) as helper facts to solve problems involving numbers in the 20s and higher. Students used the closed number line and the bar model to develop their understanding of addition and subtraction as distinct operations that are nonetheless unified by a single part-part-whole structure; for example, 9 ‒ 4 = 5 because 4 + 5 = 9. Meanwhile, they used the hundred chart model to develop their understanding of money and place value. The Geometry study required students to identify, sort, and classify shapes according to their attributes. During an integrated study of Measurement, students explored various tools and units of measurement. They used their understandings of number and operation to estimate, find, and compare specific measurements. Throughout the year, students engaged in authentic problem-solving tasks and activities. In the final term specifically, students revisited story problems, this time applying their new part-whole understandings to reason with problems where the unknown quantity or number could be the end, start, or change in the structure of the problem. Across all units of study, students further developed their mathematical vocabulary and communication skills by working both independently and collaboratively.
  • Performing Arts: Dance

    In Dance classes, first grade students solidify their understanding and execution of basic movement skills such as freeze, levels, musicality, directional changes, locomotor movements, safety while still and traveling, and personal and relational spatial awareness. Students continue to develop their abilities in listening, observation, and cooperation while they practice more refined performance skills such as changes in energy levels, rhythmic patterns, and movement qualities. They learn to relate what they are studying in other disciplines, to all the activities they are exploring in dance, such as Lines, Shapes, and Feelings, Traveling Trios, and Dance the Connections. During the units of study on Family and Connection, students formulate connections on physical, emotional, and intellectual levels. They learn to work with a partner and an ensemble while creating their own movement interpretations of nature, of lines and pathways, of their personal narrative writing about their family experiences, and of their museum experiences. During the museum dance project, students choreograph, title, and rehearse their own museum dances. These pieces are videoed and posted on the TSC website’s “Vidigami” and “The Tube.” In the final steps, students exhibit the videos in their class Museum Curriculum Shares and have the opportunity to perform for their fifth-grade buddies during the Buddy Dance Shares.

    In the second semester, students continue to develop technical and improvisational skills and learn to apply specific intellectual concepts to each of their dance projects. Students practice traveling dance steps in synchronized trios. Based in the curricular concept of Change, students experience advanced Puppy Play, partner dancing, and intermediate yoga, reflecting on how they have changed since first learning these activities one year ago. Students also expand their imaginations and study the poetic changing of words by choreographing to nonsense poetry and Dr. Seuss stories such as “Eletelephony” and “The Thinks You Can Think.” They demonstrate problem-solving techniques by creating their own Save The Solar System invention dances that illustrate changing pathways of moving energy. After studying the stage areas, students learn to track and record these dances on a Stage Area Map. Through study, rehearsal and performance, students build self-confidence, grow in creative expression, and develop a new level of understanding about how dance can be a powerful medium for communication of ideas and connection with the world around them.
  • Performing Arts: Music

    In first grade music class, the students work on recognizing and performing a steady beat using a variety of means such as movement, body percussion, and instrumental playing. Instrumental playing includes the use of unpitched percussion instruments and barred instruments; xylophones, glockenspiels and metallophones. Movement and instrumental improvisation are explored through games and stories, which support the overall theme of Family and the concept of Connection. The semester culminates with a Family Concert, featuring songs and dances that reflect our diverse community. Preparing for this concert offers the students the opportunity to develop their singing skills and musical memories, while expanding their song and dance repertoire. The children strengthen their musicianship and community ties, along with learning about performance etiquette through this joyous experience.

    The Grade 1 students worked on identifying rhythmic patterns such as the quarter note, quarter rest and eighth notes, which have been labeled ta, ta rest, and ti-ti. In the context of playing musical games and analyzing the sentence structure in songs, they practiced reading, writing and composing patterns using these rhythmic values. Dramatization of the Ukrainian story, “The Mitten” gave the students opportunities to explore improvising on the barred instruments and small percussion, along with acting, moving and singing. Students were also introduced to “Music Street” where the pitch syllables Sol, Mi and La live. They learned to sing, read and aurally identify patterns comprised of the pitch syllables Sol, Mi and La. They also practiced reading simple melodies using the Curwen hand signs, using their own fingers as a staff and also reading from a two line staff. Through these activities, they experienced the concept of lines and spaces in musical notation, thus preparing them to read from a full five line staff next year. Throughout the semester, students mastered many new songs and dances, related to the curricular theme of Change. Great fun was had by all when dramatizing the Aboriginal tale “Tiddalick the Frog,” which highlights the importance of water, humor and community awareness.
  • Science

    In our kitchen science unit, children explore everyday chemical and physical changes. Experiments include dissolving various solvents in water, growing salt crystals, making butter and creating simple chromatograms. In a series of yeast experiments, children investigate how changing one variable at a time affects the outcome. All of these experiences help students develop the scientific skills of asking questions, making predictions, noticing patterns, recording observations and communicating their ideas.

    This semester students explored the concept of Change through life cycle investigations. They studied the various organisms growing in the discovery room and homerooms, including darkling beetles, various plants, painted lady butterflies, and chicks hatched from eggs. Students strengthened their observation skills through discussion and by making notes in their science folder. Experiments included recording mealworm food preferences, noticing how temperature affects the rate of metamorphosis, and investigating how withholding light, water or soil affect plant growth. Trips to Riverside Park throughout the year helped to deepen students’ understanding of Change.
     
  • Social Emotional Learning

    In first grade, social emotional learning skills and objectives are embedded in the children’s study of Connection. Students investigate essential questions involving the myriad connections among and between people, themselves, and the natural world. A deeper understanding of themselves as unique and important members of their own families and communities is acquired as children begin to explore the complex relationships among people in many different settings. Working in large and small groups, the children also work toward developing an emotions vocabulary, learning to identify and respond to non-verbal cues of others, showing effort and persevering through challenges, and assuming responsibility for one's own actions and attitudes.

    In the second half of Grade 1, social emotional learning is integrated into the study of Change. Children began to appreciate the ways in which their own hard work brings change in the form of increased competence in multiple areas. They began to set realistic goals for themselves, and to feel pride in mastering new skills. In their friendships, students practiced taking turns and sharing, as well as resolving conflicts and being flexible. Gradually, students developed an awareness of the ways in which their actions affect those around them and the ability they have to change situations for the better. As they moved toward second grade, the children also became more independent as learners. Grade 1 students grew in their understanding of the need to be responsible for their work and for their actions throughout the day. Students practiced making positive contributions to their classroom and the larger community.
  • Social Studies

    First grade students continue to explore the theme of Family and the concept of Change during the second semester. Students work to notice and make change in our community as well as in the wider world. As they begin their studies of change in the greater community, students investigate change in terms of time, seasons, and the calendar. In a continuation and expansion of this study, first graders use the research question, “Where do families get their food?” To guide the inquiry, students visit farms, farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and local food organizations. From there, the students engage in several learning experiences that help them understand how food makes it way from farms to tables. After studying natural change, their focus shifts to how to influence change in the wider world. They learn about problems in our community, such as pollution, recycling, trash, and staying healthy. In a final share, first graders present the facts about these topics and suggest small changes their families could make that could help solve these larger issues.
     
  • Spanish Language/Literacy

    In first grade Spanish, students connect their knowledge of the language to the theme of Family as well as to their daily school life. Students make connections to others by learning how to describe themselves in Spanish and learning how those physical traits make us similar and different to other people. Students apply their language skills by practicing new and old vocabulary in Spanish through didactic activities, games and songs. Spanish classes are designed so that every student has the opportunity to listen to, speak, read and write key vocabulary in the target language. They also make literary connections while reading various books that highlight the theme of Family. Students are learning about families and cultures that have similarities and differences from their own. Throughout the semester, students discover how we can create different types of connections to others and how that can change our perspective of the meaning of family. Spanish classes are based on a creative problem-solving in dynamic groups where outcomes are not always predictable, but ultimately greater than any individual perspective could envision. In first grade, we strive to continue building a love of language and cultural learning where students are eager to participate. Mexico and The day of the dead are a very important part of this wonderful journey.

    In the second part of the year, students explored the concept of Change beginning with the seasons unit. Students learn new Spanish vocabulary like How to express feelings and emotions, the four seasons and different elements of each season. In April, students delved into the spring unit continuing to track the journey of the monarch butterflies to and from Mexico. All of our units have cultural components that connect to Mexico. They ended the year studying the farm and its animals. Students learned how to describe animals and compare them by physical traits. Students applied their language skills by practicing new and old vocabulary in Spanish through didactic activities, games and songs. Spanish classes are designed so that every student has the opportunity to listen to, speak, read and write key vocabulary in the target language. In first grade, we aimed to continue building a love of language and cultural learning where students are eager to participate.
  • Technology

    Students in first grade are becoming skilled at using technology learning tools in their classroom like laptops and iPads. Using their personally assigned iPad, students are developing routines, safety protocols, and understandings of symbols inherent in iPad applications. These understandings promote independent use across disciplines. In addition, first graders learn how to use an iterative approach to solving problems and testing ideas through coding. Using their personally assigned world wide web accessible code.org accounts, students learn how patterns are used to create algorithms to solve puzzles and mazes. Creating loops, sequences and variables allows students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills; a skill set that we hope transfers to all their disciplines. Students engage in the study of simple machines through the use of Lego Education WeDo kits. Students learn to construct simple machine models and program them to come to life. Through construction and programming, students reinforce ideas around problem solving, collaboration, design, and engineering. Students learn about motors, gears, pulleys, cams and continue to make real world connections. This unit culminates in the construction of each student's very own automaton constructed from everyday materials.

    Grade 1 students learn how to use an iterative approach to solving problems and testing ideas through coding. Using their personally assigned world wide web accessible Scratch and Lightbot Jr accounts, students learn how patterns are used to create algorithms to solve puzzles and mazes. Creating loops, sequences and variables allows students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills; a skill set that we hope transfers to all their disciplines. Students engage in the study of simple machines through the use of Lego Education WeDo kits. Students learn to construct simple machine models and program them to come to life. Through construction and programming, students reinforce ideas around problem solving, collaboration, design, and engineering. Students learn about motors, gears, pulleys, cams and continue to make real world connections.
     
  • Visual Arts

    In Visual Arts, the first graders work to develop their creative and problem-solving skills while learning to create their artwork responsibly and respectfully in a collaborative space. As part of the first semester’s focus on the connection theme, students explore lines, shapes and colors through a variety of art mediums. First, they explore various lines and shapes with drawing materials. Then the students learn to create lines by sewing. They learn about sewing materials and practice threading a needle, sewing, and finishing sewing by making double-knots at the end. The first graders then move to the collage unit and focus on cutting and combining various shapes to create things they know. Their final collages depict a family member doing an activity they love, reinforcing the themes of family and connection.

    The Grade 1 students have explored and deepened their understanding of the yearlong concept “Change and Connection” through artistic expression in the art studio. Following the collage study last fall, the students began this semester with studying printmaking techniques. They learned to change a collage into collagraph prints. The students continued to investigate the artistic element of three-dimensionality and how to change forms and connect them together. They explored unique qualities of materials such as paper, fabric and clay, and practiced construction techniques in their sculptural work. The experience with a variety of materials this year allowed them to expand their knowledge and skills for art making and creative problem-solving. Throughout the first grade in the art room, the students have been observing change, responding to change, and being empowered to make changes as artists.
  • Wellness

    The first grade students explore a variety of Wellness topics this year. They review and practice concepts of personal and general space, how to move safely in close proximity to others and further their mastery of locomotor movements. In addition, students gain an understanding of nutrition related topics and how to make conscious food choices based on a traffic light concept (red, yellow, and green light food categories). The students make the distinction between tossing and throwing techniques, while solidifying their catching skill set. The first graders continue to explore different types of equipment both independently and in small groups and also begin a study of balance, flexibility and strength.

Grade 2

List of 12 items.

  • Library

    Second grade students learn and think about the structure of the library space and the structure of the library’s organizational system. Second graders begin using different strategies and tools, such as shelf markers, to help them become more independent library users. Library class time is also used to expand on classroom studies, including work on realistic fiction. Students read and discuss realistic fiction picture books and explore what distinguishes a realistic fiction story from other genres of fiction.

    During library class time in the second semester, second grade students are encouraged to pursue their interests as they select books from an increasingly broad collection of picture books, chapter books, and nonfiction titles. In April, during National Poetry Month, second graders read and discuss poetry, focusing on narrative poems, and explore the library’s poetry section. As the year progresses, students are given more independence as they navigate the shared space and work towards becoming more effective and confident library users.
     
  • Literacy

    Second grade students continue their exploration of the concept of Structure, and begin to explore communication using literacy as a lens to enrich their understanding. They read a variety of texts, delving more deeply into fiction texts in order to discuss the form and function of stories and how they are structured. Students practice reading fluently and expressively. Reading comprehension skills are strengthened as students stop and think more often as they read, applying specific strategies such as predicting, connecting and noticing story elements. Students also explore the world of nonfiction, as they research a variety of topics related to a community structures project. In writing, students learn to write clearly organized nonfiction books about topics they are expert in. They create text features such as a table of contents and headings to clearly structure their writing for readers. They also write nonfiction texts about the community structures that they build, learning how to research and put new information into their own words. They then compose their own personal narratives, moving through the writing process more independently and using mentor texts in order to revise their writing. Students continue to learn more about word and sentence structure and hone their phonetic skills as they write.

    Students continued to develop as readers and writers through the culminating studies connected to the theme of Community. They examined the structures and elements of both narrative and informational nonfiction, as they thoughtfully discussed authors’ uses of details, description and dialogue. They read a variety of narrative texts and made interpretations about the more complex story elements of character development, plot, theme and point of view, and also participated in meaningful conversations to discuss those ideas. They then incorporated these craft skills into their own pieces. Integrated closely with their Community Study, the students then launched into an in-depth look at different forms of informational and opinion writing. The students explored the ways writers use facts and opinions to inform and persuade an audience. They looked at a variety of formats and text types to see how writers organize their writing. Spelling, decoding and grammatical skills were strengthened as students continued to explore word, sentence, and story structures across each unit.

    A Poetry Study enabled the students to look at the world through a poet’s eye and experiment with different structural elements. Through careful examination of published poems, students learned the importance of word choice in clearly and effectively expressing one’s thoughts and ideas and notice how the line breaks, white space and purposeful use of punctuation affect the oral expression of the piece. They then applied these understandings as they collect meaningful and descriptive language about their experiences and craft and recite poetry. Throughout the semester, students learned and applied many literacy skills, such as word and sentence structure, vocabulary, and fluent and expressive reading. They then transferred this knowledge to books read aloud or independently and to writing in other contexts.
  • Mathematics

    During the winter term, children continue to build their understanding of number relationships and their repertoire of computation strategies. By using games, models and manipulatives, they extend their understanding of place value and the structure of the base-ten system. Students also make connections between disciplines as they explore the attributes of different geometric shapes and the purpose of those shapes in the human environment. Through open-ended explorations and number and reasoning routines, students develop their math vocabulary and communication skills. As they progress throughout the term, students engage in both individual and collaborative work focused on creating meaning with the mathematics in their lives.

    Grade 2 students used a variety of addition and subtraction strategies in the final term. They reasoned about the structure of each strategy and the ways in which particular strategies match best with particular numerical situations. Students used the open number line to represent and analyze these strategies. Overall, the curriculum emphasized accuracy, flexibility, and efficiency. Across tasks, children were encouraged to build problem-solving habits of mind such as perseverance and collaboration. Throughout the term, the curriculum integrated mathematical process with the broad theme of community and the general concept of communication: students recorded their mathematical thinking in order to share their ideas with others, and they identified mathematical situations in the classroom, school, and larger world. Moreover, mathematical investigations provided a platform for students to apply their addition and subtraction skills in real-life contexts. Instruction within these investigations focused on strategy selection and collaborative work process. Within each inquiry, students further developed their mathematical language.
     
  • Performing Arts: Dance

    Dance class is tightly woven into the second grade curriculum. The children have various creative movement opportunities based on picture books, poetry, nature and their own imaginations, as seen in their Black Rock studies and extensive Nutcracker study. Upon returning to school in January, Grade 2 dancers begin an exciting world dance unit. Alongside all of this challenging work, dance technique skills are introduced and developed through the warm-up, stretch, and traveling sequences that are a part of every class. Each child’s social and emotional growth is nurtured by working in small groups and partnerships, sharing dances, playing the role of a good audience member, respecting each other, oneself and the studio, as well as being consistent, cooperative and enthusiastic participants in class.

    We began the semester focused on dances from the Caribbean. The children learned numerous dances from a variety of cultures and also choreographed some of their own animal-inspired work as well. They did a lovely job sharing their finished product with the 2nd Grade community in our integrated Art, Music, Dance and Español performance, ¡Eclipse de Carnaval! Upon returning from Spring Break, the children worked on improvisation through story dancing and even created small group dances based on the picture book Imagine by Alison Lester. This led beautifully into a larger project inspired by our trip to Storm King Art Center. This extensive choreography project focused on and introduced the “ingredients” of dance – time, space, energy and body. The children worked very hard and produced beautiful work. Alongside all of this challenging and creative work, the students continued to build on their dance technique skills through the warm-up, stretch, and traveling sequences.
  • Performing Arts: Music

    Music in second grade is an exciting time for students to express themselves through singing and moving. Second grade students made connections to sound and rhythm through active listening and moving with a variety of rhythmic movements. The concept of community in the curriculum gives them a chance to experience the format from solo, duet, trio into a small music ensemble setting. Fall poem celebration led them to experience a collaborative work in music, movement, poetry and visual art work in the classroom by listening to “Carnival of the Animals” composed by the French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns and America’s first Children’s Poet Laureate. They learned to master singing music by solfege hand signs as well as distinguished scales and arpeggios. Second grade students studied the structure of a song including AB Form and were able to follow a listening map.

    Music in second grade was an exciting time for students to express themselves through singing and moving. This year second grade students studied rhythms and rhythmic notation, the structure of a song, the structure of an orchestra and instrument families. Second grade students performed a varied repertoire of songs in collaborative concerts.
     
  • Science

    Second grade students learn scientific skills and develop scientific attitudes through a study of organisms and their habitats. At the start of the semester, students visit Black Rock Forest to research and experience the forest habitat, then draw comparisons to city environs back at home. We then focus in on the world of birds, and students learn to be close observers, ask questions, and use their observations to develop scientific ideas. Student scientists study nests, adaptations, and bird behavior. A special treat will be learning about birds of prey to strengthen an understanding of food chains. An important focus of second grade is communicating ideas; throughout the unit each student maintains a scientific folder where ideas, observations, scientific thinking, and questions are recorded.

    During our winter unit, students explored concepts of renewable and nonrenewable energy, and experimented with solar and wind power. Students then engaged in the engineering design process as they brainstormed new ways to use alternative energy, and developed prototypes for their ideas. Students drew up a blueprint and then worked through design challenges as they transformed their 2-D blueprint into a 3-D prototype using various materials. In addition to alternative energy, students also investigated circuits and explored various ways of constructing a circuit.
     
  • Social Emotional Learning

    In the first half of second grade, social emotional learning skills are integrated into the study of Community. Children learn how people express their identities and their feelings and begin to appreciate the many ways in which diversity strengthens a group. They also become aware that people can express the same feelings in different ways and that others may have perspectives that differ from their own. Working in the whole class and in small groups, children develop empathy and learn to resolve conflict through negotiation and compromise. They learn to assertively express strong feelings, and become increasingly comfortable taking academic risks and persevering through challenges. They are increasingly independent in completing their work, and they take responsibility for their actions so that the community can function effectively. Finally, as part of their understanding of community, children develop an understanding of bullying and bystander behavior, and learn how to be an ally, standing up for themselves and for others.

    In the second half of Grade 2, social emotional learning skills and objectives are built into the children’s study of Communication. In Community Club, children begin to understand the difference between passive, aggressive and assertive communication, and have opportunities to apply this knowledge across disciplines. Through lessons that encourage flexible thinking, children work in large and small groups to practice active listening using an appropriate tone of voice and expressing strong emotions. Children are given opportunities to practice perseverance and understand the importance of taking responsibility for their own actions and attitudes.
     
  • Social Studies

    Grade 2 has a year-long theme of Community and focuses on the concepts of Structure and Expression. Students come well-prepared for the emphasis on independent and cooperative learning opportunities. We begin with activities to build a grade level community filled with the collective strengths of the children. Students see that they are each unique and together complete. They investigate how physical and organizational structures help the members of a community grow and prosper. They examine the ways families, The School, and other communities express their affiliation, and how these communities meet the needs of each member and help to make the groups within successful.
  • Spanish Language/Literacy

    This semester students explore the concept of Structure by being exposed to new language structures and vocabulary. They learn key vocabulary to be able to communicate and interact with their peers and understand their surroundings in Spanish. We study the theme of Community by getting to know each other, making connections with the people in the classroom and the spaces in the school. Students will use the four essential language-learning skills, listening, speaking, reading and writing, in order to expand their vocabulary and grammar skills. Specific vocabulary units will pertain to physical traits, objects in the classroom, places in school, subjects at school, days of the week and useful expressions. Spanish and Latino architects (Structure and Communication) with The Caribbean and its culture are part of the second-grade curriculum. Spanish classes are based on creative problem-solving in dynamic groups where outcomes are not always predictable, but ultimately greater than any individual perspective could envision.

    In the second part of the year, students work on a research unit on The Caribbean. Students begin by discovering that there are three Spanish-speaking islands in The Caribbean (Cuba, Puerto Rico and República Dominicana). We explore different cultural elements from each island, such as food, music, people and nature. During this semester students practice guided school tours and key words about our neighborhood and city. Students apply their language skills by practicing new and old vocabulary in Spanish through didactic activities, games, songs and writing poetry. Spanish classes are designed so that every student has the opportunity to listen to, speak, read and write key vocabulary in the target language.
     
  • Technology

    In Grade 2, students are learning Design Thinking, the process by which designers, engineers and scientist problem-solve. With a focus on arts, crafts, carpentry and engineering, students are introduced to the concept of “Making” and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) and Do-It-With-Others (DIWO) culture. Students collaborate to design, create a prototype and final iteration of a selected product. Skills sets that promote collaboration, decision-making, and self-directed learning are reinforced.

    In the second half of the year, students explore electricity as part of an integrated project with Art and Science. Students examine how electrons flow through circuits and conductivity in all three environments. Students later apply their conceptual understandings by inventing with simple circuits using the Makey Makey circuit board. After, electronic textiles and wearable technology are introduced with students creating Mii Dolls. This unit requires that children design circuits, sew them in place, test and troubleshoot their connections and finally complete a rag doll with a functioning LED in both Technology and Art spaces!
     

  • Visual Arts

    In the Art Studio this fall, as part of the first semester unit theme of “structure,” the students began with a painting exploration. They explored color mixing and the expressive qualities of paint by making a wide range of colors with a limited palette of red, yellow, blue and white. We then discussed how the color wheel is organized and how that structure can help an artist create a composition. Using this exploratory experience, each child made a collage with complementary colors of their choice. Working three-dimensionally, students created constructions using a variety of materials, including paper, wire, and cardboard. Each student created their own stable and steady sculptures of a play structure, an animal, and a place in school. In clay, 2nd graders learned how to connect clay using the “3 S’s.” In addition, students continued to develop their creative problem-solving skills and ability to work successfully in a collaborative space.

    In the Art Studio this spring, the second graders have continued to develop their creative problem-solving skills and ability to work collaboratively in the studio space. As part of the second semester study of the Caribbean, each class created animals from a Caribbean country for their 2nd grade performance. In preparation for our spring visit to Storm King Art Center and the Donald M Kendall Sculpture Gardens, students focused on drawing from observation and thinking about how the environment can impact the works of art. We then spent time focusing on a technology and art collaboration. This experience allowed student to use their knowledge of materials to make individual choices for their creations. In addition, students mastered fine motor tasks, such as sewing and cutting.
  • Wellness

    During the first semester of Wellness, students focus on important developmental physical skills while connecting to the theme of community and concept of structure. We began this year by working on sportsmanship and teamwork through the use of cooperative games. Following cooperative games, the students dive into a study of the human body. The students work on their understanding of how the skeletal and muscular system are structured and their interconnections with one another. We also study the structure of the brain and how it can help us be better movers and learners. We incorporate mindfulness practices during our study of the brain and throughout the year. We incorporate fitness activities and a nutrition study on My Plate. Following the human body unit, the students worked on their juggling skills.

    In Wellness, students work on building trust, practicing cooperation, improving general fitness and solidifying the eight basic locomotor skills. They worked with partners, small groups, and the whole class to enhance their verbal and non-verbal communication by working together in order to complete challenges. In addition, how to self communicate in a positive manner when a task feels difficult. They learned throwing, catching with a partner and using different strategies to catch equipment that is going away from the body. The students practiced striking with volleyballs and understood the basic skills involved in a volleyball game. The parachute study emphasized community building and exploration.


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