Lower School Curriculum
Lower School students explore art through a variety of media, techniques, and processes. In Lower School, students learn color theory, how to apply the elements of art (line, shape, color, value, form, texture, and space), and the principles of design (balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, pattern, rhythm, and unity). Each class also learns about art styles, art history, cultural art, and famous artists. The Lower School Art program teaches proper vocabulary to communicate about art.
Kindergarten through fourth grade teachers implement readers’ workshop, grouping students by skill needs.
Reading instruction is directly taught through a guided reading approach. Students are introduced to a broad selection of genres that serves as a foundation for further exploration of literature and literary styles. Kindergarten through fourth grade students are formally assessed regularly for fluency, comprehension, and reading rate. Writers’ workshop is implemented across all grade levels. Each student works in a small group and individually with the teacher to hone his or her author’s craft in the ways best suited to their skill level, learning style and personal interest.
Students master the writing process, and are exposed to a variety of writing styles, such as expository, descriptive, narrative and non-fiction. Oakhill Day School utilizes an individualized phonics and spelling program that begins in first grade. Individualized vocabulary development starts in second and third grade as students demonstrate readiness. As with reading, students are assessed regularly and data is tracked year over year to ensure that teachers have a detailed portrait of each student. Oakhill Day School sponsors its own annual Spelling Celebration. Modified D’Nealian print writing is mastered in the early lower school grades. During the late part of second grade, students learn D’Nealian cursive which is practiced and mastered in third and fourth grade. Technology is also heavily utilized during writers’ workshop in fourth grade.
Kindergarten students learn to locate and choose appropriate books from the Easy Fiction section of the Library and to follow more independent check-out procedures. They maintain responsibility for the books they check out from the Library. Students learn to identify parts of a story and can recall the sequence of events in a story with some details. Kindergarten students learn the role of an author and illustrator in the creation of a book and they learn more about the various parts of a book. Students learn about the Caldecott Award and can identify and summarize several different Caldecott Award books. Students are beginning to understand the difference between a made up story and a true story – the beginning of their knowledge of Fiction and Non-fiction. We seek to enhance the overall literacy development of Kindergarten students during their time in the Library.
First Grade students are beginning to recognize that the Library is full of resources that are created for a variety of purposes. They are now able to check out books from any section in the Library as they learn about the different characteristics of each. Students maintain a greater responsibility for the books they check out – both at school and at home – and they learn habits of returning books each week. They begin to learn more and can identify various parts of a book and recognize their purpose. Students learn more about what authors and illustrators do when creating books. First and Second Grade students learn about the Missouri Show Me Award books – they read several from the current nominated list of books and learn to summarize the stories. They choose their favorite from the list and they vote for one – their votes are submitted and actually help determine the year’s winning author. First Grade students can tell the difference between Fiction and Non-fiction books and understand elements of each kind. Students enjoy listening to stories in Library class and they are also encouraged to develop their independent reading skills.
Second Grade students are beginning to recognize that the Library is full of resources that are created for a variety of purposes. They are able to check out books from any section in the Library as they continue to learn about the different characteristics of each. Students maintain a greater responsibility for the books they check out – both at school and at home – and they learn habits of returning books each week. They begin to learn more and can identify various parts of a book and recognize their purpose. Students learn more about what authors and illustrators do when creating books. First and Second Grade students learn about the Missouri Show Me Award books – they read several from the current nominated list of books and learn to summarize the stories. They choose their favorite from the list and they vote for one – their votes are submitted and actually help determine the year’s winning author. Second Grade students can tell the difference between Fiction and Non-fiction books and understand elements of each kind. Second Graders are introduced to the online Library card catalog and learn how to use it to find items in our Library. Students enjoy listening to stories in Library class and they are also encouraged to develop their independent reading skills.
Third Grade students are learning how to utilize the various resources that the Library provides. As they gain a greater understanding of the various types of books and where they live in the Library, they are able to check out from all areas (Fiction, Non-fiction, Biographies, Spanish, Easy Fiction, Reference, and Early Childhood) and learn the importance of having the variety available to them. They also begin to understand the different genres of Fiction and how to choose a book based on their personal preference. Students use the online Library card catalog to help them find items in all areas of the Library. They are expected to return or renew their books each week during Library class. Students are introduced to the Mid-Continent Public Library’s website and encouraged to explore the numerous online databases that are available. Third Graders are introduced to the books that are nominated for Kansas City’s Great Kids Can Read Award. They will be encouraged to check these books out and read them on their own and they will also listen to one of the stories in Library class over the course of the year. Students are encouraged to read widely and fluently to make connections with their own lives, the world around them, and even previous readings.
Fourth Grade students are encouraged to utilize the Library to seek information for personal learning in a variety of formats and genres. This is the last year that they will have Library class in the main Oakhill Library, so they really get a good review on the layout and function of each section of the Library. Fourth Graders are skilled at using the online Library card catalog to help them find the items they need in the Library. They are learning more about Fictional genres and beginning to develop their personal preferences of what they like to read. They are encouraged to explore a variety of genres so they can have a good idea of what is available. Students are expected to return or renew their books each week in Library class. Fourth Graders learn to use the Mid-Continent Public Library’s website to search for books and also to explore the numerous online databases they have available. There will be several instances in Library class when they are directed there for research so they will feel comfortable working with this valuable resource.
Fourth Grade students are introduced to Missouri’s Mark Twain Award this year. They will be encouraged to read books from the current list so they can participate in the optional Battle of the Books in the spring. They will also be able to cast a vote for their favorite which helps to determine the winning author. We will read one of the nominated books together in class throughout the school year. After all of the time and effort they have put into becoming strong independent readers, this is a special time set aside for them to sit back and enjoy hearing a story.
Kindergarten through Eighth Grade students learn basic math concepts through the use of the Investigations and Envision Math Series by Pearson. This provides consistent terminology, vocabulary, and processes for students to aid in the continuity of the mathematics program.
However, instructors utilize multiple resources needed to best meet the learning styles and needs of each individual student, while ensuring that mathematics objectives and standards are taught.
Students in Second and Fourth Grade utilize math journals to demonstrate learning. These journals provide an interactive resource for students to utilize. Students in Lower School also use software called Math Missions and utilize an individualized mathematics online program called Reflex Math to help track math progress.
Music classes in the Lower School Division include Kindergarten through the Fourth Grade. For Kindergarten students, classes are thirty minutes long twice a week. Students spend their time moving, playing, composing, and reading music rhythms. Additionally, the Kindergarten classes study the Kodaly and Solfege methods and are introduced to notes and note values. Fourth-grade music is for forty minutes twice a week. This training continues and is built upon throughout the rest of their musical careers at Oakhill. They perform in two musicals and at Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day.
In the second through third grade, there is an after-school choir offered for those who would like to travel and perform in the community. They meet Tuesdays after school from 3:30-4:15 p.m. The fourth grade has their own choir club that meets on Tuesdays after school from 3:30 p.m. until 4:15 p.m. as well, in the south building. These are both non-auditioned choirs that meet once a week after school for the first semester.
Lower School students are introduced to and engage in each sport while building upon and developing those basic skills they learned at the Early Childhood level. Lower School students participate in many drills throughout the first week of each sport unit to help develop their sportspecific skills needed to participate in a game. In Week Two of each unit, students actively engage in putting the skills they have learned into a game-like situation. Students use the skills they were taught to help them achieve and feel a sense of accomplishment. Workout Wednesday and fitness weeks are incorporated into the Lower School P.E. curriculum to promote and teach the importance of lifetime fitness, while also developing the students’ motor and manipulative skills. Free weeks are provided to break up the two-week sports units; throughout these weeks, students engage in many of the fun traditional P.E. games: Dodgeball, Capture the Flag, Kickball, and King of the Court.
First graders begin formal science instruction, taught by a science specialist, in the science lab four days a week. Hands-on activities and experiments foster their natural wonder and curiosity helping them learn about the world around them. Students demonstrate their understanding through class discussions and drawing/writing in their science journal. At the beginning of the year, students study insects, doing activities such as observing caterpillars metamorphose into butterflies, observing and measuring the growth of mealworms, and role-playing the communication and jobs of honeybees. Later in the year, they have fun conducting simple experiments in our unit on Beginning Chemistry, building skills such as predicting outcomes and measuring solids and liquids. Other major units include Ocean Habitats, Bats, and the Solar System.
Second graders engage in hands-on experiments and activities that encourage problem-solving and critical thinking. They continue to come to the science lab four days a week. Students are introduced to the scientific method and use their science journal to record observations, data, and conclusions. They measure using balance scales and other tools and create simple bar graphs/charts to show data from experiments. In our Rock and Mineral unit, students perform mineral tests on rocks and create models to demonstrate the three major types of rock. During our Invertebrates unit, they experiment with earthworms and pill bugs to determine what kind of environments they need to survive. Other major units include Magnets, Plants, and Dinosaurs.
Third graders come to the science lab five days a week to explore a wide range of topics. They work individually and in small groups using the scientific method to design and conduct experiments using skills of posing questions, forming hypotheses, conducting experiments, collecting data, and writing conclusions. They write in their science journal to explain their observations and organize their thoughts and ideas. In our Food Chains and Webs unit, students explore the owl’s role in the food web by dissecting owl pellets, finding bones of various animals the owl has eaten to determine its diet. In our Force and Motions unit, they learn about Newton’s Laws of Physics and engineering design by building bridges, roller coasters, and rubber-band powered cars. Later in the year, they create simple, series, and parallel circuits in our Electricity unit. Other major units include the Rainforest, Sound, and Water.
Fourth Graders come to the science lab five times a week to participate in meaningful, hands-on experiments and activities that involve problem-solving and real-life applications. They strengthen their understanding of the scientific method building on their skills of observation, hypothesizing, conducting experiments, measuring and recording data, and drawing conclusions. During our Meteorology unit, students create various weather instruments to test outdoor conditions. They then use data to create a three-day forecast for a particular city. During our Human Body unit, students learn about the major bones and systems of the body by creating a life-size human body using recycled materials. Other major units include Outer Space, Natural Disasters, and Inventions.
Beginning in Lower School, the Social Studies curriculum is divided into four main areas of focus: Kansas City/Missouri, the Midwestern States, the United States/government, and the World (each grade level focuses on a specific continent). A school-wide culminating event takes place twice a year to showcase student work.
Lower School students use resources including grade-level weekly periodicals, library books, and various websites to reinforce the Social Studies concepts. Geography is taught through the use of maps, globes, Google Earth, atlases, and map skill workbooks.
Third Grade: In 3rd grade, students will increase familiarity/knowledge of question words, basic conversation phrases with a variety of questioning/answering practice in each of the units covered in class. Asking name, age, where a person lives, what do you like to do, favorite colors, hobbies, if a person has pets, questions about family, etc.
Students learn through modeling and repeated yet varied practice. We get silly and we learn!
Students increase exposure to verbs and start to independently use them through the guided practice. Continued work with numbers raises the independent counting goal to at least 80.
Students will learn/memorize the Spanish alphabet with stress/importance placed on the pronunciation of each letter.
Students will also learn the pledge of allegiance in Spanish and be able to recite it independently.
Holidays and cultural Celebrations explored include Independence Days of Spanish speaking countries, Día de los muertos, las posadas (navidad), family vacations, cinco de mayo, día de San Valentín, etc.
Speaking Spanish is very important with a positive/motivating emphasis placed on correctly speaking the language with an accent.
Discussions will explore accents of different countries and the differences in the various dialects.
Use of the language will vary from written, oral, auditory lessons. Methods include discussion, play activity, storytelling, songs, chants, etc.
Fourth Grade: Students continue to further develop skills and take a deeper look at describing themselves and others. Introduction to the Spanish speaking countries throughout the world and related cultural celebrations/traditions.
Students will strengthen verb skills, increase independent counting goal to 1,000, describe family members/people in detail, learn the difference in 2 of the Spanish language’s most important verbs. Students will research the history and significance of a country’s flag. Students will also study a region of Spain in depth.
Students will increase the use of Spoken Spanish, work with auditory comprehension, and increase the streamlining of using Spanish in the classroom.
Various units covering family, food, holidays/traditions, likes/dislikes, differences in which/how to use key verbs and much more.
Students in Lower School participate in formal technology class using laptops in the classroom setting. A dedicated technology teacher provides instruction in not only use of specific devices, but also how to navigate and apply various software. Emphasis is given throughout the curriculum on the importance of understanding and applying digital citizenship concepts such as privacy, cyberbullying, and plagiarism. Computer programming is taught at every grade level in an age-appropriate manner with the goal of strengthening problem solving and critical thinking skills as well as an appreciation for technology design. Keyboard instruction is provided at each grade level, transitioning from letter recognition to formal touch typing skills so that students leave Lower School with high fluency and accuracy. Productivity and creativity are explored through the varied use of Office Suite, digital cameras, podcasting and movie making.