Program of Studies
At the primary level (grades K-2) we provide our students with a wide range of experiences that meet children where they are in their reading and writing development. In the emergent stage, children are learning about reading and writing. In the early stage, they are learning to read and write. At the fluent stage, children have developed some independence in their reading and writing, which continues to grow and mature. We use multiple texts to help children find their interest in reading, and we use a workshop format to help children express themselves through writing. Our students are immersed in a literacy-rich environment through discussion, oral and silent reading, and process writing. Teachers use various resources to provide children with engaging opportunities in reading, writing, listening and speaking, moving them forward on the path to literacy.
The primary math program focuses on creating authentic opportunities for children to explore mathematical concepts. Daily lessons combine exploration, inquiry, demonstration, and discussion to form a solid foundation for each child's future mathematics development.
Curriculum for mathematics at the primary level spirals. Each time a topic is explored new challenges are presented, expanding the students’ understanding and level of mastery. Topics include, but are not limited to, number sense, patterning, measurements, money, sorting, foundations of geometry, and functions and computation.
Authentic learning opportunities are achieved by linking mathematical concepts with concrete, child-friendly themes. The lessons are the link between the theme and a specific skill. In this way, children may be learning concepts of multiplication/division by studying groups of insects and their legs, antennae, wings, and body parts. As a result, children are not learning concepts and skills in a vacuum, but instead are applying them to concrete situations.
Science at the primary level is based on the cognitive, emotional and physical needs of the child, specifically the way children’s thinking develops and matures. In these years children begin applying spatial strategies and mental images to solve every day real world problems. They are able to make predictions after performing a few explorations. Children in this age group have increased awareness of patterns and regularities. In addition, they have an emerging awareness of part/whole relationships. They apply this knowledge to the new situations and challenges. They start to make connections with previous learning (What does this remind you of?), they begin to reflect on how they know and they are able to predict and plan for the future. Although thinking becomes more organized and complex, the children’s limited experience requires concrete experiences to bring into question events and changes in the physical world. They continue to learn best with repetition and hands-on explorations with materials.
Teachers of primary age children are sensitive to the knowledge and experiences that the children have and help the children refine and add to that base. Teachers support children’s scientific understandings by asking and inviting thought provoking questions and by providing experiences that inspire the children to think, question, and explore. Children are encouraged to discuss their ideas and share their findings. The children’s scientific understanding is also promoted through opportunities to record and document their knowledge by using various representational methods: words, drawings, gestures, models and artwork. In line with science education K-8, primary level teachers nurture children’s innate curiosity about the world and encourage open-mindedness. At the heart of this is knowledge of the developmental needs and abilities of each student.
Grade level experiences in science include:
- Growth and development, light and shadow, and the senses in kindergarten
- Animals, healthy living and water in first grade
- Forces and balance, plants, and weather in second grade
The Primary Level social studies program follows an expanding environments structure, beginning with an examination of the classroom and immediate family, and then studying the neighborhood and community. Throughout these early years, we encourage students to be curious about the world around them. Students use shared experiences and observations to help students better understand where they are in space, time, and in relation to other people. Beginning with the classroom and expanding outwards to other shared spaces as the students progress through these early grades, students observe, explore, and consider how to represent significant and meaningful features in block models and large scale maps. Students bring in artifacts from their lives to share and learn about each other and their immediate families. as well as develop a sense of where they are in space and time, and who they are in relation to others. We discuss different timeframes to learn about sequence and about past, present, and future.
At the primary level, students at Falk School have Spanish class for 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Students are in an immersion-based setting, and English is rarely used. The overall focus is on communication, and activities are developed to strengthen the students’ skills in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Although grammar is discussed, it is always contextualized and never taught in isolation. This is similar to native language acquisition.
Although every lesson is different, each lesson is part of a larger thematic unit. These units often reflect topics that the students are studying in their other classes at Falk and therefore help to strengthen the students’ overall academic skills. The very first unit the students complete in kindergarten is an “All about Me” unit, so the students can begin to develop an understanding of the Spanish language in relationship to the “self.” As the students enter into first and second grade, they also study units about “Falk School” and “Health and Wellness.”
In addition to studying the language, it is also a goal for our students at Falk to acquire an understanding and appreciation for cultures other than our own. To meet this goal, the students also complete units focusing on countries and cultures of Spanish-speaking peoples. In these units, the students examine the products, practices, and perspectives of these countries to discover how they are similar and different from those in the United States. At the primary level, units are completed about “Venezuela” and the “Lands of Peru.”
Our two goals are to develop our students’ love of reading and to introduce them to information literacy skills. At the Primary Level, we spend most of our time developing our students' love of reading. All students have class once a week and a chance to check out books. In addition to circulation, we read aloud to them and provide informal instruction as and when appropriate. As students become curious about books in our collection that are not on the browsing tables, we show them where to locate them. During the latter part of 2nd grade, we begin to develop their information literacy skills by showing them how to use the online catalog to locate books.
Music and Performing Arts
In the primary grades, the children are active learners. Through echo songs and patterns, children are encouraged to find their singing voices and learn to sing in tune. The children respond naturally to listening activities by moving, singing, or playing along. Rhythm patterns are learned aurally, followed by notation experiences. Using the Orff-Schulwerk Process, primary level children participate in vocal and instrumental musical games that encourage them to discover the many ways in which they can communicate through music.
Physical Education and Movement
At the primary level the students are engaged in activities throughout the year that focus on: spatial awareness (low organization activities), fundamental motor patterns, non-locomotor movements, manipulative skills, basic sports skills, cooperative challenges, and fitness activities. Other important focal points of the program include educating students about: respect for themselves, others and equipment; motivational skills; cooperation with others; how to be a good sport; and following rules and safety directions.
In the early elementary years, our goal is to provide opportunities for children to understand and explore the world around them. At this level, the focus is on breaking down technology into primary elements (light, sound, motion), engaging in curious and critical thinking about the technologies around us, and exploring technology as a creative medium and a platform for inquiry. Digital devices are integrated thoughtfully into technology starting in second grade after the seed of curiosity and wonderment of technology has been planted.
In the Primary years students are invited to experiment and play with many different art materials to learn their expressive qualities and make meaning through the artistic process. Students draw, paint and sculpt to communicate things that are important to them, to tell stories and to understand the world around them. They practice the skills of the artist to become increasingly confident in their creative practice. Some favorite projects include painting the colors of pumpkins, drawing self-portraits and designing homes for squirrels.