The Lower School: Grades 1-5
Central to these early grades is fostering a love for learning and inquiry. Field Study opportunities in horticulture, marine biology, engineering, agriculture, and environmental science complement an academic program focused on the mastery of fundamental skills and learning to think critically.
Reading fluency and comprehension, spelling, vocabulary, writing letters, sentences, and paragraphs are central to the Lower School experience, as learning to decode language is essential to success in all subjects. Similarly, students further discover their fluency in mathematics, mastering the foundational principles of arithmetic - addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Lower School students enjoy frequent recesses and continue to develop their knowledge and skills in Spanish, technology, library, physical education, field study, and music. Relevant to this developmental stage, a considerable amount of time is dedicated to building healthy friendships and social and emotional wellness.
The teachers work together to provide a safe learning environment in which every child feels comfortable taking risks and learning from mistakes. Students are given many opportunities to practice positive decision-making strategies in academic and social settings.
The goal is to create a supportive atmosphere that will help all students realize their potential and prepare them to enter Middle School with the ability to face difficult challenges, think independently, make wise decisions, be open to others’ opinions, and be comfortable in their own skin.
Learn more about the hallmarks of each grade in the Lower School below!
Students are welcomed to the HDS “Big School” as they enter First Grade. First graders are ready for academic challenges and responsibilities in a warm, happy atmosphere. Building strong reading skills and math knowledge is a core focus of the First Grade curriculum. Students engage in action-oriented projects for authentic, lasting lessons. For example, in the campus forest, students adopt a tree, observe the seasonal changes, and blog about it throughout the year. First Grade friends explore many cultures around the world, and perform a play for the entire school. Field experiences may include Strasburg Railroad, Fort McHenry, Baltimore Science Center, Longwood Gardens, and the Ladew Topiary Gardens.
Students learn addition and subtraction facts 1 through 18. They also learn place value to 999. Using these skills, the students learn to add and subtract two and three digit numbers with and without regrouping. They also learn to compare numbers using the mathematical symbols (=, <, >) and explore fractions of a whole set. Multiplication, reading and interpreting graphs, identifying patterns, learning to identify coins, counting money, and basic geometry focusing on two and three dimensional shapes are also part of the program. Problem solving is an integral part of the daily math program.
The major themes in science are studied each year in the lower school including: classification, change over time, energy, engineering design, forces and interactions, measurement, problem solving/process/scientific methods, structure and function, systems, and collaborative discovery through hands-on explorations. In first grade, units incorporating these themes include, What it means to be a scientist, the senses, trees, seasons, weather, light and sound, seeds and germination, insects, and magnets.
Classes utilize the Harcourt Journeys series with controlled vocabulary, home readers, big books, trade books, and supplementary classroom materials. Children's literature includes a variety of different genres to increase vocabulary, recognize correct sentence structure, understand expressions, and enjoy good literature. Reading skills taught include: word attack, comprehension, expressive oral reading, higher level thinking skills, alphabetizing/study skills. Reading and listening are reinforced via books, audio, games, and hands-on materials. Phonics includes consonant review, vowels, the teaching of word endings, contractions, possessives, plurals, compound words, and recognition of multi-syllable words. Grammar usage is taught daily. Common and proper nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, punctuation, including commas, quotation marks, and sentence structure are introduced. Writing is connected to language arts and social studies throughout the year, using the writing p0rocess. Instruction in formal composition includes titles, topic, and supporting sentences. Daily journal writing begins in September. Inventive spelling is acceptable with encouragement to apply phonetic skills for correct spelling.
Map skills begin the year with an emphasis on continents and oceans. Students engage in the exploration of various countries and cultures around the world including Japan, Mexico, and England. Units focusing on African animals and the monuments of Washington, D.C. are also studied. Field trips are planned throughout the year to complement various units of study.
Using games, music, and a wide variety of visuals and objects, including Spanish websites and flip charts, children learn Spanish names and greetings, basic phrases, colors, numbers, animals, foods, clothing, classroom objects, days of the week, the calendar, the family, the weather and seasons, sports, and parts of the body. Students learn many songs in Spanish and gain an understanding of the Spanish culture and basic language. They also engage in projects and the study of Puerto Rico and Mexico.
In second grade students build upon and broaden their basic skills and use them to meet new challenges encountered each day. Students’ reading skills and knowledge are broadened through the exploration of short stories and children’s literature. Math concepts are reinforced through games and daily activities. At this stage, children are becoming more aware of the world around them; therefore, many enrichment activities are introduced that stimulate this new found interest in their community, the uniqueness of different cultures, and the variety of literature available to them. Field trips in our community may include a visit to an Amish farm, a walking tour of Bel Air, the Maryland Science Center, and a theater experience. Second Grade celebrates Fairy Tale Character Day and a special poetry sharing event on Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day. Second Graders gain an appreciation of their community and different cultures.
Students review and build upon the concepts previously studied. The operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are presented. Students begin by learning place value to the ten thousands and rounding these numbers, as well as practice in recognizing coins and their value and making change up to $10.00. Students explore fractions and learn the part of a whole set. In measurement, students learn to measure in both the customary and metric systems. Students are also introduced to basic geometric shapes and congruency. All topics taught include word problems and application of concepts for greater mastery.
The major themes in science are studied each year in the lower school including: classification, change over time, energy, engineering design, forces and interactions, measurement, problem solving/process/scientific methods, structure and function, systems, and collaborative discovery through hands-on explorations. In second grade, the units incorporating these themes include, plants and animals, habitats, soil, the solar system, nutrition, and states of matter.
Language Arts is taught using a thematic approach. Students learn to recognize different genres of literature, as well as literary elements and devices. Speaking is a major part of the language arts program. Students participate in discussions, oral reading, interviews, poetry recitation, and a theatrical production. Listening is of equal importance. Students listen to meaningful literature, improve their ability to follow oral directions, and practice small group discussion. Students learn the naming and telling parts of a sentence as well as the four types of sentences used in writing. Appropriate capitalization, punctuation, verb usage, and parts of speech are taught. Students review the writing process, which involves pre-writing, writing, conferencing, editing, and publishing. Students write journal entries, reading responses, poems, and reports. Students review and reinforce letter sounds including clusters, blends, and digraphs. Suffixes, prefixes, contractions and plurals are all studied. For spelling instruction, the test-study-test method is utilized. Students are given a weekly list of words and are responsible for learning the words and utilizing the spelling rules in their daily writing.
Students are introduced to American history, geography, and cultural differences. Students study important historical figures and their related periods in history. They learn about the geography and economics of a community. Students are introduced to map and globe reading. They become aware of diverse cultures through the study of the Amish community and ethnic holidays. Emphasis is placed on class discussion and projects. Field trips are planned to enhance the information taught in the classroom.
Using games, music, and a wide variety of visuals and objects, including Spanish websites and flip charts, children learn Spanish names and greetings, basic phrases, colors, numbers, animals, foods, clothing, classroom objects, rooms in a school, days of the week, the calendar, the family, the weather and seasons, sports, emotions, idioms, and parts of the body. They learn many songs in Spanish, play games, and gain a general understanding of the Spanish culture, as well as study the country of Mexico.
Third Grade is a transitional year when children become more responsible and independent. They enjoy cooperative learning activities and group projects. Learning to read shifts to reading to learn in Third Grade. Students are assigned their own iPads to use throughout the year. They broaden their knowledge of Maryland as well as their knowledge of the United States. Field trips to reinforce the study of Maryland include Anita Leight Estuary Center, Annapolis, Maryland Historical Society, Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, and the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Students leave Third Grade with a wealth of knowledge about their country and the world around them.
Third Grade students learn to identify place value to the millions and round these numbers. They also learn to add and subtract multi-digit whole and decimal numbers with regrouping. Multiplication of three-digit multiplicands with two digit multipliers is also taught. Students practice division with two-digit divisors and three-digit dividends. A geometry unit is also introduced where they learn to identify geometric shapes and design their own tessellations.
The major themes in science are studied each year in the lower school including: classification, change over time, energy, engineering design, forces and interactions, measurement, problem solving/process/scientific methods, structure and function, systems, and collaborative discovery through hands-on explorations. In third grade, units incorporating these themes include, rocks and minerals, ecosystems, force and motion, chemistry, simple machines, inventions, and the engineering process. In addition, each student takes a turn being a Science Wizard by selecting an experiment and presenting it to his/her peers. Students also participate in Genius Hour, a program that begins with a topic of inquiry followed by research and creation of a prototype.
Different genres are read including biographies, historical fiction, realistic fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and fantasy. Trade books are used throughout the year to teach and emphasize comprehension skills such as: main idea and details, cause and effect, compare and contrast, predicting outcomes, drawing conclusions, problem and solution, summarizing, critical reading, fact and opinion. Literary skills are also emphasized such as: story elements, figurative language, dialogue, vocabulary, sound devices (rhyme, alliteration, etc.) Grammar units include sentence sense, types of sentences, subjects and predicates, capitalization, punctuation, parts of speech (nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs), sentence and paragraph revision. Writing projects complement reading units, and the writing process is emphasized throughout the year. Journals and various projects such as narratives, letters, poems, advertisements, descriptions and comparison articles are written. Spelling generalizations, prefixes, suffixes, endings, possessives, contractions, antonyms, synonyms, context clues, and syllabication are emphasized. Words introduced on Monday with practice work during the week are then tested on Friday. A review of phonics skills taught in previous grades (consonants, short and long vowels, syllables, consonant blends and digraphs, word structure, suffixes and prefixes) is also utilized.
The study of the regions of the United States encompasses the location of each region, states in each region, famous people and places, and geographic "wonders." Map skills include locating states on the U.S. map, distinguishing between a city, a state, a country, and a continent, applying directional words, using map legends and scales, and identifying different land and water forms. By the end of the year, the students identify all the states and capitals on the U.S. map. The study of Maryland includes an awareness of the beginning of our colony until the present, noting people from Maryland as they connect to the history of the U.S. and the geographic features of the state.
Students work to achieve a more natural level of greeting and basic conversation. Focus is on child directed dialogues, pronunciation, and an introduction to basic reading and writing in Spanish. Units of study include identifying objects, describing people, and mastering colors, shapes, numbers to 100, weather, science experiments, and family members. Students practice vocabulary by singing, dancing, and reciting poems. Students also use Spanish websites and flip charts to increase learning. Students complete projects on topics including animals, homes, and Spanish speaking countries.
As the transition year into the intermediate grades, fourth grade is focused on applying skills learned in the primary years and acquiring effective study habits, including management of materials and responsibilities. Curiosity, an essential skill for critical thinking and success, is fostered through inquiry based lessons across the curriculum. Musical and dramatic talents are showcased in a class performance that emphasizes a piece of the Fourth Grade curriculum. Fourth Graders are active and inquisitive and enjoy a great deal of action-oriented activities in all areas. Field experiences may include a drama performance, a day trip to Philadelphia, canoeing and hiking at the Anita Leight Estuary Center, and sailing on a Skipjack through the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Living Classrooms. As the first year that students earn letter grades, students gain more independence, take on increased responsibilities, and hone leadership skills. In addition, the students serve as Big Buddies to Harford Day School K-Prep students.
In math, students continue to gain a strong foundation of skills including place value, operations with whole numbers, and operations with fractions and decimals. Students examine number patterns and expressions to begin the study of pre-algebraic concepts. Measurement and geometry are also integral units in the course.
The major themes in science are studied each year in the lower school including: classification, change over time, energy, engineering design, forces and interactions, measurement, problem solving/process/scientific methods, structure and function, systems, and collaborative discovery through hands-on explorations. In fourth grade, the course begins with the introduction to the scientific method and the processes used by scientists and includes an in-depth study of the Chesapeake Bay, a unit on astronomy, and an overview of the systems of the human body.
Language Arts skills are presented through reading a variety of trade books. Comprehension is taught and reinforced through the study of literature including setting, plot, theme, character development, conflict, and cause/effect as they develop higher level thinking skills. Critical thinking skills are cultivated through the reading and discussion of a variety of novels. Analytical writing in response to texts read in class is introduced, as well as practice in writing narratives, descriptive pieces, persuasive essays, poems, and comparisons. Students also engage in lessons focusing on grammar concepts: sentence structure; parts of speech - nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions; usage - nouns/verbs - irregular plural forms, subject-verb agreement; irregular verb forms; adjectives; pronouns; mechanics (capitalization, punctuation). Vocabulary is taught in context using words chosen from current novels. Spelling patterns are reinforced and applied in written composition.
U.S. History is a survey course that transitions students into their first study of history as a discipline. Studies begin with a review of the basic elements of geography, mapping, and direction. Students then study Native American tribes and progress through the Age of Exploration and the early colonization of America. The course culminates with a focus on the Revolutionary War.
Spanish instruction includes the core elements of language instruction: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Vocabulary acquisition and correct grammar are practiced through target language conversation, games, songs, and projects. Units include days of the week, months of the year, numbers, colors, greetings, holidays, family, and classroom objects. Students begin the study of Spanish language syntax including the conjugation of verbs. Students also study Hispanic cultural events such as the Day of the Dead and La Navidad.
As the leaders of the Lower School, fifth grade is a transitional year personally and academically. The intermediate teachers help students navigate this time of rapid physical, mental, and emotional growth. To prepare for the challenges of middle school, fifth graders experience an increase in their academic workload, responsibilities, and organizational demands. Fifth graders also enjoy individual and group projects that utilize and further develop their critical thinking and research skills. They model leadership during Town Meetings and younger buddy activities. Teachers strive to instill independence and responsible decision making through varied activities such as project-based, inquiry-based, and reciprocal learning experiences. There is also an emphasis on team-building, and an acceptance and appreciation of diversity explored through the curriculum as well as exciting field trips to Genesee Valley, the Walters Art Museum, and theater experiences.
Math in fifth grade stresses proficiency in basic skills and emphasizes problem solving. This includes ratios and rates, fractions/decimals/percents, review of operations with whole numbers, fractions, and decimals, and operations with integers, as well as pre-algebraic concepts - expressions, equations,functions and inequalities. Geometry concepts such as surface area and volume are examined, as well as basic data and statistics.
The major themes in science are studied each year in the lower school including: classification, change over time, energy, engineering design, forces and interactions, measurement, problem solving/process/scientific methods, structure and function, systems, and collaborative discovery through hands-on explorations. Units studied in grade five include, animal classification, botany, electricity, and energy forms, microscopy, and ornithology. In class activities and experiments, along with field trips, support and enhance concepts.
In grade five, English focuses on increasing students’ global awareness and citizenship through the reading and analysis of various genres including realistic fiction, mystery, poetry, mythology, and fantasy. Deeper critical thinking and analytical skills are emphasized through discussion and written assignments. Students engage in more detailed writing in response to texts and use of evidence to support claims and opinions. Writing integrates concepts and skills studied in literature and grammar. Practice is given in various types of writing such as expository, comparisons, and poetry. Emphasis is placed on developing well-written 5-paragraph essays. Grammar skills are emphasized throughout the year in speaking and writing. Topics include: action verbs, direct objects, linking verbs, prepositional phrases, adjective forms; the eight parts of speech; effective word use, run-on sentences, fragments, and dictionary skills. Vocabulary is also an integral part of the curriculum. New words are studied through lessons from a vocabulary text. Focus is on definitions, synonyms, antonyms, context, and analogies. Students also engage in a spring storytelling unit in which they retell a story for an audience of their peers and younger students.
Ancient History includes the study of prehistoric humans and the civilizations of Sumeria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India, Greece, and Rome. Focus is on the geography and contributions of each civilization. Map skills and graphing skills are further developed. Research and study skills including note taking, outlines, oral and written reports are emphasized.
Spanish instruction includes the core elements of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Vocabulary acquisition and correct grammar are practiced through targeted language conversation, games, songs, and projects. Students engage in more in-depth study of the Spanish language including pronouns, conjugation of verbs, questions and answers, common expressions, and the elements of basic conversation. Learning the geography and culture of Spanish speaking countries is an integral part of the course.
Fine motor skills are strengthened through the use of scissors, pencils, markers, and paint. Students are introduced to the elements of art: line, shape, space, color, pattern, and texture. Exploration of a variety of media is used in projects that are directly related to Social Studies, Science, and Language Arts classes.
Creativity and basic skills are emphasized as the students continue to be exposed to the elements of art: line, shape, space, color, pattern, and texture. Using many types of media, these fundamentals become the foundation for more complex thinking, planning, and creating throughout the school year. Projects relate to consecutive classroom studies, art appreciation, and the study of different cultures.
Drawing, sculpting, and painting skills are emphasized as the students further examine the elements of art: color, line, shape, space and design. Projects are related to classroom studies, art appreciation, and different cultures. To correlate with social studies units of the various regions of the United States, art projects complement each region.
Students reinforce their knowledge and use of the fundamental elements of art: line, shape, color, pattern and texture. Yearlong focus is on American art history with an emphasis on maritime related art, which correlates with their studies of the Chesapeake Bay in other subject areas. Fundamental layout and design are introduced in relation to creating interesting and balanced posters, reports, and other visuals.
Library rules and responsibilities are learned and observed, as well as how to handle and care for books properly. Skills such as differences in fiction and non-fiction, locating materials in the library, understanding the Dewey Decimal System and identifying parts of a book are introduced. Students are also taught the appreciation of books as sources of information and for recreation, sharing, and enjoying stories and literary extensions. We introduce the research process and need for finding information for a specific purpose. Students are exposed to proper care and use of computers, equipment, and software. Using primarily Wixie, Education.com, ABC ya, Kids Blog, and various educational web resources, students acquire basic, transferable technology skills such as saving a document, printing to a networked printer, retrieving a saved document, word processing, desktop publishing, blogging, and web navigation.
In the library, basic skills are reinforced. Students select materials appropriate to their reading levels and begin to learn research skills. Students discuss award-winning picture books in an effort to develop a greater appreciation of literature. They also participate in the Black-Eyed Susan Book Award program. Students are exposed to proper care and use of computers, equipment, and software. There is a strong emphasis on logical thinking, etiquette, and manners. They learn to navigate the Mac OSX operating system and grasp the concept of input/output devices and processors. Using primarily Kids Blog, Wixie, ABC ya and Education.com, students begin to master basic, transferable computer skills, such as word processing, desktop publishing, keyboarding, and web navigation. Internet safety activities for the safe use of communication technologies are introduced in Second Grade.
Students learn to locate, read, and enjoy books in fiction collection; locate specific areas of interest in the non-fiction section; locate biographical materials. Various genres including folklore, fable, fairy tale, and tall tale are introduced. Students also learn to navigate the automated library catalog system and encyclopedias. Appreciation of books as a source of information and pleasure is emphasized, and students begin to evaluate quality in picture books. Third Graders also complete a Spanish-speaking country research project using print and non-print materials and read and evaluate picture books for the Black-Eyed Susan Book Award Program. Students are exposed to proper care and use of computers, equipment, and software. There is a strong emphasis on logical thinking, etiquette, and manners. They learn to navigate the Mac OSX operating system. Students learn how data is transported through a computer and how various peripherals work together to perform a task. Using primarily Wixie, Education.com, ABC ya, and various educational websites, students begin to master basic, transferable computer skills, such as word processing, desktop publishing, keyboarding, web navigation, and creating Quick Time movies. Internet safety activities for the safe use of communication technologies are taught in Third Grade through Common Sense Media.
Students continue to work with the Dewey Decimal System and learn to recognize different genres of literature, expand reference skills, and use of the automated library catalog system. They evaluate criteria for quality in books and participate in the Black-Eyed Susan Award Program, reading and evaluating picture books. Students gain experience using various websites. Students are exposed to proper care and use of computers, equipment, and software. There is a strong emphasis on logical thinking, etiquette and manners, including those involved with email and password protection. Using primarily Google Suite, Wixie, ABC ya, Education.com and various web resources, students begin to master keyboarding, graphic design, presentations, desktop publishing, and word processing. Internet safety activities are used to demonstrate safe use of communication technologies.
Students continue to use the automated library catalog system as a resource for selecting books for informational and recreational reading. Students also gain experience using and evaluating various web sites in their research. An emphasis is placed on creating Slides presentations and introducing Google Sheets. Internet safety activities continue.
By singing, playing instruments, and moving, children continue to develop accurate singing, a sound sense of rhythm and beat, and an expressive sensitivity to music. They explore musical opposites, including fast and slow, loud and soft, and long and short, using folk music and classical music from around the world. They also begin reading rhythms and pitches. Performances include the Holiday Program, Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day, and a spring class presentation.
Second Graders learn about singing technique, including posture, breathing, and head and chest voices. They learn how to read, write, and compose using an expanded set of pitches and rhythms. Playing the xylophones gives students their first experience accompanying singing and playing pieces with multiple parts. They explore expressive qualities and meter through creative movement and folk dances. Their performances include the Holiday program, Second Grade musical, and Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day.
Third Graders continue to read, write, and compose with new pitches and rhythms. These music reading skills are reinforced as they begin recorder. By playing the recorder, they learn tonguing, breath control, and improvisation. Singing rounds challenges them to listen to different parts while confidently singing their own part. Their performances include the Holiday Program, Third Grade Musical, and Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day.
Fourth Graders apply their knowledge of rhythms and pitches in order to improvise and compose. They continue to accompany singing and play ensemble pieces on the xylophone. They sing in multiple parts and work on choral skills like singing in their head voices and blending. West African percussion gives them the opportunity to learn about other cultures, while challenging them with new rhythms. Their performances include the Holiday Program and Fourth Grade Musical.
Fifth Graders continue to read, write, and compose with new pitches and rhythms. They practice proper mallet technique and playing ensemble pieces on the xylophone. By playing the recorder, they learn tonguing, breath control, and improvisation. Partner songs challenge them to hear how contrasting parts compliment each other. Their performances include the Holiday Program and Fifth Grade Musical.
Fundamental movement skills, fitness, body awareness, and creative rhythms are learned. Jump rope activities, hoops, parachute, beanbags, and frisbees may be introduced. Teamwork is nurtured and stressed throughout all activities, especially as the fundamental skills of some of the major sports (soccer, basketball, lacrosse) are introduced.
Emphasis is placed on teamwork, fitness, fundamental movement skills, cooperative games, body and spatial awareness, and creative rhythms. Students will continue to participate in activities involving jump ropes, hoops and balls, parachutes, beanbags, Frisbees, and traditional field and court sports.
Fundamental movement skills, attention to games, body and spatial awareness, creative rhythms and dance are the emphasis of the course. Use of jump ropes, hoops, parachute, beanbag, Frisbees, hoops and balls, and court games help to develop skills. There is an introduction to team sports, emphasizing sportsmanship and teamwork.