Lower School Curriculum (K–4)
Krieger Schechter Day School offers a dual language program where students spend about 60% of their day in General Studies and about 40% in Judaic Studies. In addition, all Lower School students also participate in a number of special subject classes including Art, Music, Physical Education, and Makerspace. All of these course offerings mean that our teachers are always working together to build cross-curricular units of study and to reinforce content and skills between the disciplines. This is the key to making the learning robust and memorable. What they learn about sentence structure in English is applied in Hebrew. What they learn about other cultures in Social Studies is applied in Art and Music. KSDS students don’t learn anything in isolation. It’s always about connecting, extending, experiencing, and sharing in all we do every day.
The Lower School Language Arts curriculum incorporates reading, writing, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and oral language skills with the ultimate goal of instilling a lifelong love of literature and proficiency with the English language in all our students. Students begin their journey in Kindergarten with letter patterns and blended sounds and expand to grow their sight word recognition and decoding skills throughout their years at KSDS. As their reading abilities grow, they are able to interpret ever more complex meanings and comprehend longer sentences, paragraphs, and stories. As all children naturally develop their literacy skills at their own pace, our teachers work with each child to meet their specific needs and provide them with opportunities to grow and delve into deeper literature connections. In the later Lower School years, students will be reading stories and novels, moving towards independence with skills such as story mapping, inferencing, summarizing, making connections, and citing textual evidence to support their conclusions. The writing journey is similarly individualized to give every student the opportunity to develop their ability to write words which become sentences, paragraphs, and eventually multi-paragraph essays. This is accomplished by strengthening spelling, grammar, and vocabulary skills alongside specific writing goals and through the routine practice of editing. By the time students leave our Lower School, they are able to independently read novels, demonstrate comprehension, and write on a variety of topics for a variety of purposes and audiences.
Lower School math instruction is about creating and filling a tool box of math skills which students can reliably use throughout the rest of their lives along with the problem-solving strategies and mathematical thinking that allow them to have mastery over those tools. We accomplish this with a spiraling curriculum which introduces new skills or strategies, provides practice, and then continues to move forward and spiral back in a steady current in order to grow and reinforce both computational and conceptual mastery. In Kindergarten students begin building their number theory with one-to-one correspondence, skip counting, base-10 systems, comparing and ordering numbers, and gaining the vocabulary to discuss their mathematical thinking. As they advance through the grades they learn about place value, addition/subtraction, multiplication/division, fractions/decimals, geometry, and more. Not only do they build the skills, adding to the tool boxes, but they learn about why math works, why we use certain operations to solve different problems, and they develop their algebraic thinking. Math at KSDS is never boring as teachers engage all the senses in fun and engaging lessons that feature games, projects, art, and more. It is never enough for our students to get the right answer; they must be able to explain how they got it, and why they chose to solve it that way even (and especially!) if their approach was different from someone else’s. Students leave Lower School ready to tackle ever more complex math in the middle school years ahead, with a rich mathematical vocabulary, a fully stocked tool box, and the knowledge to put it all to use.
In the early years, Social Studies is about understanding the role of the individual within their expanding circles of community- family, school, neighborhood, city… As they grow they begin to look at how they as individuals relate to others and to compare their communities with others around the world. In first grade they learn about elements of culture within several of North America’s indiginous tribes, and then they apply that understanding in an independent research project where they each explore and describe the culture of a selected country. Second graders explore history through its great changes, highlighting the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and the technological revolution. A hallmark project is where students research an inventor and teach their classmates about the impact their invention had on the world around them. Third graders explore a theme of journeys, studying the movement of people and how those movements shape geography and history. The journeys that are studied in depth include the Underground Railroad, immigration, and the era of Westward Expansion in the U.S. Fourth graders look at American foundations, with a heavy focus on the establishment of the Maryland colony, the conflicts and decisions that shaped the early years of our state, and then the foundation of the United States as an independent nation. A civics unit explores the foundations of government such as the three branches and the Constitution. A unit on the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay focuses on what made Maryland a desirable place to settle, how people have impacted the Bay through the years, and what role citizens today can play in protecting our ecosystem. Social Studies instruction focuses on important, cross-curricular skills such as cause/effect, compare/contrast, ask/answer questions, and the ability to draw conclusions from texts, primary sources, maps, pictures, and more. Additionally, our social studies curriculum emphasizes citizenship as an important value within our smaller and larger communities, now and in the future.
Science in the Lower School is taught with a hands-on approach, incorporating the scientific method. Students go to the LS science lab to meet with the science specialist twice a week. The focus is on inquiry, testing, observing, learning, and having fun! Units of study include weather, the solar system, plants and leaves, the human body, layers of Earth, insects, magnetism, states of matter, mammal classifications, rocks/minerals classifications, forensics, and more. Many units of study are developed collaboratively to support what students are studying in other curricular areas such as making ink and candy like in colonial times, or studying the effects of different types of pollution and erosion on the Chesapeake Bay. Students are encouraged to ask questions, form hypotheses, and learn by doing.
In Kindergarten, Hebrew classes focus on learning the Alef-Bet. There is emphasis on the phonemic awareness and phonics of Hebrew as well as the written formation of the letters. Teachers help students to become familiar with understanding and using common words by using, singing, drawing, and acting out certain vocabulary terms regularly throughout the days. As students progress through the early years they expand their vocabulary sets to include numbers, shapes, colors, and days of the week. They learn and use words that center around themes such as holidays, weather, family, and Israel. Moving up through the Lower School the students learn to read, write, and speak in ever more complex sentences as they communicate more complex ideas such as throwing a party or going on a field trip. Students at all levels of Hebrew ability are able to learn the content through our iTalAm and Chaverim b’Ivrit curricular materials as well as creative teaching featuring songs, skits, art projects, games, interviews, and more. By the time they leave the Lower School, students are reading and writing paragraphs and stories as well as holding spoken conversations. Hebrew is built into the fabric of KSDS and is used daily throughout the school, and our LS Hebrew classes establish a lifelong connection and foundation to the language.
Our Lower School Judiacs program has two overarching goals. The first is to teach the Torah stories, t’fillah (prayer), and Jewish culture that form the basis of Judaism and Jewish practice and the second is to help each student to make personal connections to all those aspects of Judaism so that they develop a strong Jewish identity and internalize the Jewish soul connecting them through history to their ancestors. Participation in t’filah starts with a few of the most important daily and Shabbat prayers and expands each year to the point that our 2nd graders lead a Rosh Chodesh morning minyan, our 3rd graders lead a Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat, and our 4th graders lead a full Saturday morning Shabbat service including Torah readings. KSDS students celebrate the Jewish holidays together and honor Jewish lifecycle events. Students are given regular opportunities to practice mitzvot, tzedakah, and Jewish ethics and values such as derech eretz (respecting the ways of the community) and tikkun olam (repairing the world).