Program of Studies
In grades 3, 4, and 5 language arts, we look at what the children already know and then help our students strengthen their skills and expand their knowledge. Independent reading is at the heart of language arts in the intermediate grades. To maximize growth in this area, we enlist activities that help students read on their own, become more facile at reading, and begin to see with the eyes of the author. We teach and practice strategies that are used by successful readers and examine why these strategies work. In language arts we also focus on writing to learn, writing across the curriculum, and the process of writing. Students attain developmentally appropriate skill with the physicality of writing and letter formation, spelling and punctuation. We begin to work on automaticity and speed, using writing as a tool for learning and expressing oneself. The best way to learn anything is by doing it, by being able to initiate and repeat the process in a different situation, and by keeping the skills in context where there is a need to use them correctly and efficiently.
All students have a weekly class and a chance to check out books. Beginning in 3rd grade and continuing through 5th grade, we place greater emphasis on developing students’ information literacy skills. We start by helping students become familiar with the layout of the library and how to use the various search features of the online catalog; then we move into learning how to use the online encyclopedias and databases.
The intermediate mathematics program seeks to reach students on all comprehension levels and build upon the authentic mathematical explorations they encountered during their primary years. Daily lessons at this level encourage students to explore and play with concepts, articulate and evaluate their ideas, and practice and refine their thinking. Students work to develop a repertoire of methods and practice being thoughtful about the mathematical situation in front of them. Through problem solving, students develop and refine these methods and learn to apply the strategy that works best for them, thus fostering skills such as creativity and persistence. This approach to learning enables students to initiate and construct their understanding of mathematics, rather than just reproduce a “standard” set of steps and operations. By the time students are presented with algorithms or formulas, they are able to understand why such methods are effective and apply them in a variety of situations.
Music and Performing Arts
The music curriculum in the intermediate grades continues the development begun in the primary years. All children participate in a choral experience, developing the ability to sing in a group. Partner songs, rounds and two-part harmonies are performed at this level. Using the Orff-Schulwerk Process, intermediate level children learn to read basic tonal and rhythmic notation and use these skills to play instruments, and listen to and sing music from a variety of genres and cultures. Elective instruction on band instruments begins in the 4th grade, and includes the opportunity to play in a concert band.
The intermediate students follow a similar pattern as the primary level but with activities that are more complex and more specific. More time is given to manipulative skills, sport skills and games, cooperative challenges and fitness activities. Students are encouraged at every level to respect, cooperate, and motivate themselves and others. In addition, good sports manners and following rules/directions are essential to their learning.
At the Intermediate level, science instruction builds on student experiences at the primary level. Within this age range, student thinking develops and matures to more sophisticated skill levels for analysis, data collection, and reasoning. Thus, students are expected to bring new levels of accuracy to their observations, measurements and data records via student journaling, discussion and deeper analysis. Students begin to see how all the steps of the scientific process (observe, question, hypothesize, measure, analyze, conclude, question) are supported with solid reasoning. Students provide evidence to support their conclusions.
More focus is placed on students communicating their understanding of concepts and processes in both written and verbal modes. Teachers also help students to understand the idea that scientific inquiry is reflexive, reflective and on-going by asking students to keep and maintain science journals where they not only collect and record data but also reflect upon concepts, processes, and develop new questions.
The Intermediate years are an important time for the development of stewardship towards the environment. Our hillside habitat and trail means real world observations, interactions and systems are available for enjoyment, wonder and study. Outdoor explorations support and affirm classroom studies in ecology, biology and environmental studies.
The Intermediate Level social studies program closes the expanding environments structure that started in kindergarten and begins a more formal introduction to history. Grades Three and Four include substantial units on geography, with an emphasis on exploration, observation, and how to represent those observations on large scale maps. In addition, Intermediate Level students are introduced to key concepts in historical understanding such as cause and effect, change and continuity, periodization, how to interrogate evidence, and how to construct and support an argument.
At the intermediate level, students at Falk School continue to have Spanish class for 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week. The students continue to gain speaking and listening comprehension skills in the immersion-based setting, but at this level, they begin to read and write with larger amounts of text. In grades 3-5, more attention is given to grammatical aspects when they appear within the context of our lessons, but grammar is never the sole focus of any unit of study.
Each lesson at the intermediate level continues to be part of a larger thematic unit. Similarly to the primary level, these units often reflect topics that the students are already studying in their other classes at Falk and consequently help to strengthen the students’ overall academic skills. In grades 3-5, students explore broader themes including those about “Family and Home,” “Community,” and “Daily Routine.”
To help deepen the students’ understanding of cultures other than their own, the students also continue to explore the products, practices, and perspectives of Spanish-speaking people and cultures. At the intermediate level, the students complete units about the “Caribbean,” “Spanish Art,” and “Music and Performance in Spanish-speaking cultures.”
In the upper elementary years, our goals include developing comfort with the tools that will support children in their academic life, as well as building vocabulary and competencies in key areas of computer science. We emphasize algorithmic thinking is in grades three through five. Algorithms are at the core of creating and understanding computer programs, and our algorithmic thinking curriculum is anchored by an extensive robotics exploration in 4th grade. By the end of fifth grade, students have foundations of academic computing, such as word processing, spreadsheets, and cloud computing. In addition, they are able to analyze scientific data, manage electronic files effectively, and present their work in multiple media. This emphasis is to allow students to become comfortable and successful in a collaborative digital environment as they progress to middle school.
In the Intermediate years students continue to grow in their artistic practice as they are challenged with increasingly sophisticated projects and creative processes. They use a variety of materials and techniques such as printmaking, collage, painting, drawing and ceramics to express imaginative stories, build inventive worlds and share things that are important to them through the language of the visual arts. Some favorite projects include the construction of fairy homes, the creation of puppets of much-loved pets and the invention of programmable robots.