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.
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.
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.
The 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade Chinese curriculum has a spiral design so that increased detail, rigor, and scope are added to similar themes of study each subsequent school year. The classes are proficiency-oriented with a focus on conversational Chinese and meaningful communication with the Chinese-speaking community. Each month is a themed-unit so that students first understand and then produce the language. Students start by recognizing and responding to the instructor and each other in Chinese. Gradually, students begin to use the words independently within an appropriate conversational context. This transition happens naturally as the curriculum spirals and builds on previous learning from unit to unit and grade level to grade level. The Chinese writing system will be introduced during the second semester of 3rd grade and writing instruction includes recognizing specific radicals within each Chinese character.
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.