Lower School (Jr. K through Grade 5)Daily Schedule
Core Curricula & Standardized Testing
Classroom StructureSpanishAcademics by GradePre-KindergartenKindergartenFirst GradeSecond GradeThird GradeFourth & Fifth Grades
Hours: For Grades K-3, the school day runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The core Pre-K program is 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., with a full day option as well (includes Spanish). Grades 4 and 5 begin at 8:15 a.m. and finish at 3 p.m.
Extended-Day Care: For Lower School students, before- and after-school care is available from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Lower School campus. Students not picked up by 3:15 p.m. will be signed into the after-school program. Parents may drop students off starting at 8 a.m. at no extra charge.
Lunch & Snacks: Hot lunches are available for purchase several days a week. Students are also welcome
to bring lunches from home. All students should bring a snack to enjoy
Core Curricula & Standardized Testing
Old Orchard students generally work a year ahead of grade level in core academic subjects. Through Fifth Grade, the primary Language Arts curriculum is Open Court, published by McGraw Hill-SRA; Saxon Math, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is the primary mathematics curriculum. Teachers supplement all programs with an extensive range of enrichment materials, hands-on activities and regular field trips.
Spanish is taught daily by native speakers in Grades K-8. Pre-Kindergartners may enroll in the full day program which includes
Spanish three times each week.
Old Orchard administers the standardized Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), by Riverside Publishing, each Spring in Grades 3-8. The school does not interrupt regular instruction to “teach to the
test." While Old Orchard students do very well, the school largely views the ITBS as a diagnostic tool that allows it to fine-tune its programs.
In Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 3, core
academic subjects are taught by a primary homeroom teacher supported by
an adult aide. Grades 4 and 5 share Language Arts and Math/Science
teachers, in connected classrooms. These teachers share an aide. At all levels, enrichment classes -- visual arts, performing arts, and music -- are taught by professionals, while physical education and computer arts are taught by specialists who
move from grade to grade. In Kindergarten through Grade 8, Spanish is taught daily.
At Old Orchard, Spanish is taught daily in grades K-8. Classes
emphasize not only the acquisition of a second language, but an
exploration of Spanish-speaking cultures. Instruction is entirely in
Spanish, with younger students beginning with conversational Spanish
reinforced by song and simple reading and writing exercises, art and
hands-on projects, and stories and poems. Older students are introduced
to Spanish grammar, writing and reading, with a continued emphasis on
conversation and hands-on activities.
Academics by Grade
Jr. Kindergarten / Pre-Kindergarten
In Jr. Kindergarten (sometimes called Pre-K), students learn to be students. They develop
listening and speaking skills, as well as learning to work cooperatively with other
students and their teachers, listen to and follow instructions, and ask questions relevant to the subject they are studying. The core Jr. Kindergarten program is 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. An all-day option is also offered .
Students master the alphabet and begin to work on phonemic awareness,
learning to identify sounds, letter combinations and blends, rhymes,
and to recognize and write key sight words. They learn to form letters
and numbers, how to put their full name and the day's date on their
papers, and to write short sentences. They read together daily with the
teacher encouraging them to identify words and familiar phrases in
stories, and later to read short passages independently or to each
Math, Science: In Math, students work on number
recognition, counting and patterns. They use manipulatives and are
introduced to concepts such as “more," “less than" and “greater than,"
and simple addition and subtraction. In Science, lessons are
“hands-on," and are designed to engage students' sense of discovery in
the observable world around them. Science often involves cooking, art
and other messy projects.
Music & Art: Pre-Kindergarten
students have music every day and art three days each week. They do an annual community service show at a local senior care facility, and participate in additional shows
each year with other Lower School grades.
Program: The core academic portion of the day –
Language Arts, Math and Science - takes place in the morning. Spanish
is taught three days each week to all-day students.
All-day students have a rest period after lunch, followed by a varied
program of structured activities including art, music, park visits and
Phonics and phonemic awareness are developed with students learning to decode and sound out increasingly difficult words. More sight words are introduced and students are taught to decode new words by considering their possible meanings in the context of the written text as they tackle increasingly challenging reading material. Students write extensively, including entries in daily journals, regular dictation and more structured compositions that develop their eye for detail and teach them to express themselves in complete sentences. In Math, work on counting, number patterns and sequencing leads to the introduction of mathematical operations such as adding, subtracting, and the use of simple graphs.
Language Arts: Phonemic awareness, word building and blending are
stressed. Students develop independent writing skills by writing in
their journals each day, and through more formal individual and class
writing exercises. They work on simple punctuation and on reading and
writing for different purposes. They also learn to give class
presentations and to hone their speaking and listening skills. They
enjoy a variety of literature at school, and through a home reading
challenge. Fun class projects often cut across the curriculum with the
appearance of a Purple Cow, the disappearance of Gingerbread people and the construction of a Stuart Little house, and Spider Facts. When students
reach milestones, such as completing their first journal, they are
often carried across the courtyard to receive well-earned praise from
the head of school and school principal.
Math: Students learn to
read, write, and understand the place value of ones and tens to 100.
They learn to add and subtract, to estimate, and to measure length,
volume, and weight starting with arbitrary units, and moving to standard
units of measure. They learn about currency by working with pennies,
dimes, and nickels, and learn to count by 2, 5, and 10. They also work
with graphing, interpretation of graphs, and calendar skills.
In Science, observation and prediction skills are stressed. Students
are introduced to the scientific method and they learn to hypothesize,
draw conclusions, and answer questions through hands-on projects that
engage their curiosity and sense of discovery. Thematic units are
studied, including our solar system, water, human body systems and senses, the
life of an apple tree – and Bug-ology!
Social Studies: Social
Studies is taught in thematic units that emphasize different world
cultures. Lessons are often cross-curricular, involving reading,
writing, art, and other hands-on projects. The class enjoys learning the
songs and making and eating the foods of different cultures, and
observing important world holidays. Each year, Kindergarten and First
Grade come together for a Thanksgiving feast. Kindergartners study
Native Americans and serve as hosts at the feast, teaching the First
Grade “Pilgrims" traditional games and greetings.
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Language Arts: Students continue their focus on
phonics, vocabulary, reading comprehension, grammar, and syntax. They
are encouraged to read aloud, improving the flow of their reading,
their intonation, and their ability to recognize and place emphasis on
key words and concepts. Oral and written work includes spelling games,
word-building, rhyming, grammar and punctuation, individual and group
poem creation, story-writing, proofreading, book reports, writing and
presenting speeches, stories, and poems. Daily journaling continues to
provide a forum for students' skills as independent writers. Language
Arts lessons are linked to as many other subjects and student interests
as possible. For example, when the class reads Machines in Our Garden,
the book is linked to student gardening projects, with a focus on
levels. When students study the complicated phonics of words with
“dge," students follow the word “bridge" from language arts to science
and social studies with a day-long project on suspension bridges.
Regular homework consists of one-page of work sheets that reinforce the
day's lessons and weekly spelling words. First Graders have a few
longer-term homework projects such as stories, book reports, speech
practice, and projects. Students are expected to read daily at home; a
log of home reading is turned in monthly.
Math: First Graders
are often up and moving during math lessons, acting out math concepts
or using their hands and bodies to experience math concepts through the
use of manipulatives. Students have interactive lessons daily and each
student completes a guided sheet of written work in class. The “B" side
of this sheet is completed as homework and reinforces the day's lesson.
Oral and written assessments are given every five lessons. The
teacher's “hands-on" approach allows students to literally see, feel,
and taste math in practical lessons involving cooking, gardening,
quilting, and other activities. Students who complete lesson projects
early are welcome to work on more challenging material that expands on
the concepts studied that day. A short list of the math topics
covered includes: time, money, arrays, word problems, estimating,
patterns, measurements, weights, fractions, symmetry, Venn Diagrams,
comparison symbols, thermometer reading, rounding to nearest ten, place
value, math fact mastery, time, measurement, and beginning
Science: First Grade science is full of
activities, projects, and experiments designed to stimulate students'
interest in the world around them. The class asks and answers questions
about why things happen in nature, how things happen, how things are
built, etc. First Grade has a garden outside its classroom and uses it
to study plant growth and learn about tending plants, as well as for growing
plants students use in cooking projects and for studying concepts such
as diffusion. First Grade grows basil and makes the world's best pesto
sauce! Students also grow lavender, mint, and other herbs for tea –
which is a great way to study diffusion. Students observe the insects
and other animals that use and need their garden and release Painted
Lady Butterflies into the garden after they've gone through the process
of metamorphosis in the classroom. Science also includes a field trip
to Natural Bridges State Beach to study the Monarch Butterflies and
their winter migration, construction of suspension bridges, and many
fun experiments. In early autumn students look for deciduous trees that
still have green leaves. Before the leaves turn colors, students
collect and crush leaves with a mortar and pestle, mix in alcohol, and
then watch the mixture “wick" up a coffee filter. This process displays
layers of red, pink, yellow, gold, and orange – making the subtle
actions of chlorophyll visible. First Grade parents often develop and
lead First Grade science experiments.
Social Studies: First
Grade Social Studies is a hands-on journey through diverse concepts
that help build essential life skills, such as sharing, friendship,
conflict resolution, resourcefulness, decorum, the importance of “thank
yous" and apologies, community and community service, cultural events,
geography, customs and holidays, diversity, and much more! Students
read books, learn songs, and work on art and cooking projects that help
teach them about history and different cultures. In the fall they study
the Pilgrims, a unit which ends with a day of feasting and games with
their Native American hosts in Kindergarten. Parents often create and
develop special lessons drawing on their own family's background and
culture. Every January, the class has a special unit on the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr. They conclude their studies by writing and presenting their own "I Have A Dream Speeches" and painting portraits of Dr. King.
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Students cultivate their reading comprehension and critical thinking skills by tackling increasingly challenging literature. Journal writing continues, book reports are introduced, and creative writing leads to the production of bound books by the students. In composition, form -- complete sentences, proper use of paragraphs, descriptive detail -- is stressed. In mathematics, more complex addition, subtraction and multiplication operations are introduced, leading to division, word problems and work with decimals and fractions.
Language Arts: Second Graders work
intensively on their reading and writing skills, with students tackling
increasingly difficult material in both their classroom and independent
reading. Strong emphasis is placed on comprehension, students' growing
vocabulary, and their responses to and recognition of different kinds
of literature. Students continue to follow the Open Court program;
outside reading is introduced in special units that include Mr. Popper's
Penguins and Little House in the Big Woods. Writing is a big part of
Second Grade. Students work on personal narrative paragraphs each week
by describing their weekend in “Weekend News." They also write
old-fashioned letters throughout the year. “Step Up to Writing"
techniques are used to teach students about topic sentences, concluding
sentences and the importance of descriptive details. As students learn
about the difference stages of the writing process – prewriting,
writing, editing, rewriting - they work on creative writing projects in
Second Grade's Writers Workshop. In the Workshop, students develop
their own story, taking it from prewriting to publication in their
Young Authors' Fair. Students also work on book reports and speeches,
which they present in class. Students are expected to read at home and
log their independent reading minutes in a fun, motivational program
called “Read Your Way Across the USA." This program incorporates math
and geography skills into language arts, as students keep track of
their reading and chart their progress reading their way across their
Math: The Second Grade
day starts with a class “Math Meeting" in which students practice a
wide variety of everyday skills including using the calendar, a daily
number pattern, problem solving, temperature, time, counting, and
money. During the class's formal math lesson, a new concept is presented
through discussion and a class activity. Concepts and skills studied in
Second Grade include computation, problem-solving strategies, pattern
identification, measurement, geometry, money, time, fractions, graphs,
and charts. Number facts are introduced using fact strategies. Students
practice the facts in class using fact cards, oral fact practice, and
fact sheets. Math concepts and facts learned in class
are reinforced through daily math homework. All new learning is
reinforced through regular practice in class. Math includes many
hands-on activities that illustrate the practicality of a lesson in
students' daily life – such as baking brownies!
Graders study a wide range of science units including the five senses
and human body systems; matter and light; animal and insect survival;
forces and motion; dinosaurs; natural resources; and nutrition and
health. Each unit involves hands-on activities. Students are introduced
to the scientific method, and apply it to everything they study. At the
beginning of a unit students are asked what they know or think about a
subject, and then compare this knowledge to what they learn in class.
Next they pose a question, develop an experiment to examine that
question, and then put forward their hypotheses or expectations. After
testing their ideas against the results of their experiments or their
observations, they draw their conclusions. In addition to experiments,
students work on models – often as part of an art project – that help
them understand the concept they are studying.
Social Studies: Students
follow thematic units of study throughout the year, including: Food
from Farm to Table; Our Nation's Capital; Winter Celebrations Around
the World; The Seven Continents, Presidents, Our Constitution, Flags.
Through these units, students learn and demonstrate map skills by
describing the relative and absolute locations of people, places, and
different kinds of environments. They also develop an understanding of
basic economic concepts, their own place in the economy, and the
importance of individual responsibility. Second Graders explore the
lives of actual people who make a difference in their everyday lives,
and then they make the jump to extraordinary people from history whose
achievements continue to influence their own lives, directly or
indirectly. Units often cross into language arts, math, and science
lessons, and are very hands-on, involving student presentations, art
projects, writing projects, and field trips to a farm, grocery store, restaurant, and factory. Students also learn about different customs and holiday
celebrations throughout the year.
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Language Arts: Students cultivate reading fluency,
accuracy, and comprehension through development of word attack skills,
study of grammar, written and oral activities, and group work.
Comprehension activities include individual written and oral responses
to reading material, group and partner discussions, and book report
presentations to the class (in costume.) Students now “read to learn"
and tackle increasingly challenging literature, poetry, and non-fiction
works including Charlotte's Web, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
and Greek Gods and Heroes. Themes covered in reading include:
friendship, money, imagination, country life, city life. Selections
include short stories, excerpts from noteworthy books, poetry, and
topic-appropriate artwork. Students will be discussing issues of
friendship, learning about the origins of money, imagining what life is
like in faraway lands, and comparing country life to big city life. In
class, students research early inventions such as the cotton gin and
the reaper to appreciate the impact of the Industrial Revolution. Journal
writing continues and creative writing leads to the production of
illustrated and bound books by the students. In composition, form –
complete sentences, proper use of paragraphs, descriptive detail – is
stressed, along with proofreading and self-editing.
In mathematics, increasingly complex addition, subtraction and
multiplication operations are introduced, leading to division, word
problems, standard and metric measurements, and work with decimals and
fractions, positive and negative numbers, and probability. Students
learn to measure angles with a protractor, and are introduced to square
roots, and simple exponents, and long division with remainders. They work
with calculators, tangrams, and rulers with millimeter and
sixteenth-of-an-inch markings. Accuracy and attention to detail are key
components, providing students with important study skills that will
help them as math becomes increasingly challenging in years to come.
Students are encouraged to focus and be disciplined, and the class
engages in oral as well as written math exercises. The class also plays
numerous math games, which help students sharpen their knowledge of
Science: Science is very hands on. The
primary textbook is Accent on Science 4. Unit studies include the Human
Body, Geology, Planetary Systems, Light and Sound. The year begins with
the human body. By the end of the unit, students can explain and
illustrate the digestive system, identify and give scientific names for
major bones of the skeletal system, take their pulse, and discuss the food
groups and nutrition. Lessons use a model of a human torso that can be
taken apart, lots of observation and note-taking, and even the
dissection of a human brain … made of gray jello. In Geology, students
learn to identify a wide variety of rock formations, consider the
density of different rocks, and create their own “granite" with foam
blocks. Students go on a “rock walk" of the neighborhood, magnifying
glasses in hand, identifying local rocks. Many more varieties are
examined in the classroom and on field trips. Students then move on to
space with a field trip to the Chabot Space and Science Center. They
choose a subject of particular interest, which they research, write up, and then present to the class with a diorama illustrating their
Social Studies: Social Studies
embraces a wide range of subjects from life in early America to guide
dogs. Along the way, students learn the different ways maps can be read
and used, from finding a local address to the latitude and longitude of
a spot on the globe. Units the class covers include the study of
different cultures, Native American and pioneer life and history, land
forms, natural resources, and citizenship. The study of maps leads
naturally into the study of land forms, climate, and vegetation, and
consideration of how different environments help shape different
cultures. Students will study early pioneer life and the lives of
different Native American cultures, from the Pacific Northwest to the
Pueblos to the Plains. Students also study the difference between life
in the country and life in the big city. They draw on the Little House
books by Laura Ingalls Wilder to help understand life in early America,
and take field trips to local historical sites.
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Fourth & Fifth Grades
In Language Arts, a literature-based program stresses reading comprehension as well as an appreciation for how novels and stories are structured, and how different writers use different styles to convey meaning. Students write extensively, using journals, compositions, and reports to develop their own ability to express themselves with clarity and conviction. In Math, students work with more complex operations involving fractions, decimals, percentages, and conversions, and geometric concepts are introduced. Fourth Grade students study California history and take a three-day field trip to the Gold Country. Fifth Grade students study U.S. history and take a five-day science field trip.
In anticipation of Middle School and High School, students are gradually taught to assume greater responsibility for keeping track of their assignments and work. They are shown how to use agendas to stay on top of their work, and are more formally introduced to other study skills such as note-taking, making outlines and summaries, and planning and managing lengthy assignments. Progress reports are posted weekly for parents. Students have all academic subjects daily.
Language Arts: Through a literature-based program, students refine reading accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. Classical literature is taught, with emphasis placed on how novels and stories are structured, how writers use different styles to convey meaning, and the study of plot, characterization, and figurative language. In grammar, students master parts of speech and more rigorous usage and mechanics. Study skills and grammar workbook drills are incorporated. Students write extensively, using journals, compositions, and reports to develop the ability to express themselves with clarity and conviction. They work with different styles of writing, including journal writing and creative and expository writing.
Math: Increasingly complex operations are taught using addition, subtraction, multiplication, with whole numbers, decimals, and fractions. Students continue to learn about measurement, graphing, percents, ratio and proportion, perimeter, area, and volume. Geometry and geometric concepts are introduced. Good work habits are stressed, teaching students to show all work in preparation for pre-algebra/algebra in Middle School.
Science: In Science, students have weekly, hands-on labs and participate in the school science fair. Fourth Grade studies the plant kingdom, ecosystems, blood and breathing systems, sound, and hearing. Fifth Grade studies the properties of physical matter, temperature, sources of energy, and the organization of living things are studied. Fifth Grade goes to Walden West Science Camp.
Social Studies: Fourth Grade studies California history and takes a three-day field trip to the Gold Country with teacher and parent chaperones. Fifth Grade studies U.S. history, with an emphasis on the colonial and revolutionary eras. Both courses incorporate history texts, historical literature, and hands-on projects.
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