Lower School

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The Lower School curriculum for Grades Pre-K - Grade 4 is designed to stimulate life-long curiosity and exploration by making learning an engaging process that enables the youngest generation of scholars to build a solid foundation of knowledge, skills, and enduring understandings.

While traditional coursework in language arts, mathematics, science, Spanish, and social studies comprises the foundation of the Lower School curriculum, class activities, lessons, and assessments emphasize experiential learning in an inquiry-based environment.  Every minute of the school day, whether spent inside or outside the classroom, is looked upon as an opportunity for new understanding and growth.  Art and music classes provide outlets for student creativity and self-expression.  Technology and library classes impart foundations in research and library skills.  In addition, all these subjects enrich classroom areas of study through designed integrated units. Daily physical education classes and recess afford opportunities for play, social interaction, and lessons in teamwork, sportsmanship, and leadership.

Historically, Lower School students have enjoyed a seamless transition when they move up to the Middle School in Grade Five. The Fifth Grade program transitions students through a departmentalized curriculum designed to ready our students for the class schedules and intellectual and organizational challenges that await them as they continue in the Middle School.

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Curriculum Pre-K - Grade 4

Pre-K Approach and Curriculum

Our dynamic Pre-K class is a warm, nurturing place for your child to grow as a learner. Our balanced curriculum meets the social, emotional and academic needs of each child. On a daily basis, students are engaged in literacy and math activities. They play and build, interacting with their peers in learning centers designed to promote higher-order thinking skills, interpersonal skills, creativity and imagination. As part of the Saddle River Day School community, they are matched with Reading Buddies, participate in the Rebel Leaders program and enjoy all of the opportunities that make Saddle River Day School a unique place to learn. 

Through quality literature and daily exposure to print, students develop phonemic awareness building a strong foundation for reading. A focus on letter recognition and the formation of letters is achieved with the implementation of the Learning without Tears Program. A love of literature and storytelling is fostered with daily exposure to books, poems and nursery rhymes.

Students develop an understanding of the mathematical concepts through hands-on activities and the use of manipulatives. They count, sort and compare numbers and objects, learn about shapes and colors, identify and create patterns, and recognize and write numbers throughout the year.

During classroom lessons and weekly visits to the science lab, students actively explore the world around them through inquiry-based learning and experimentation. They learn new concepts using tools such as magnets and magnifying glasses. They survey plant and animal life and make observational drawings, investigate animals and their homes, and explore their surroundings using their five senses. Nature walks, gardening and other explorations further enhance their development as scientists. 

The Pre-K social studies curriculum addresses the unique social and emotional development of children for this age. Through engaging lessons, games and books, students gain an understanding of their feelings and how to express them in a positive way amongst peers, friends and teachers. They are given tools to self-regulate their emotions as well as build individual self-esteem and confidence. Through poems, books and creative activities, students are introduced to national holidays throughout the year. They learn the Pledge of Allegiance, national anthem and other patriotic songs. Basic map skills are introduced at the end of the year by asking students to draw maps of their backyard, complete with symbols and a map key. Pre-K participation in schoolwide programs, such as Reading Buddies with Middle School students and Rebel Leaders with Upper School students, develops the overall sense of community at SRDS and strengthens the relationships among students across grades.

Students gain an understanding and confidence in the use of the Spanish language through songs, games and other multisensory activities. They learn the Spanish representation of several classic children's stories and portray the characters in order to develop their conversational skills in the language Students also begin to explore cultural traditions.

Students visit our IDEAS Lab, where we introduce them to various technology media in a developmentally appropriate manner. Students explore language, art, science, design and building through a hands-on, integrated curriculum. They practice design thinking, cooperation and problem solving through an introduction to robotics, 3D printing, coding and play.

In our classroom and during weekly visits to the Lower School Art Studio, students explore a variety of art processes and use art materials such as crayons, watercolors, tempera paint, markers and oil pastels. They experiment with mixing colors, sculpting, cutting and pasting. They are introduced to different artists through history. Our focus is on the process rather than the product.

Students are actively engaged in songs, poems and rhymes to develop phonemic awareness and an appreciation for music. We visit the Performing Arts Center on a weekly basis to develop singing on pitch and maintaining a steady beat through poetry, children's literature, circle games and simple percussion instruments. Pre-K students perform in a winter and spring concert with the Lower School chorus.

Students engage in lessons and activities modeling positive interpersonal strategies. They are encouraged to express their feelings and emotions verbally and treat others with respect. Through our programs such as Reading Buddies and Rebel Leaders, they will interact with the greater SRDS community outside of our classroom.

Students participate in age-appropriate games and activities. They develop gross motor skills such as throwing a ball, jumping, skipping and balancing. Through these games, students learn to follow rules and play in a group setting. Yoga practice is part of our daily routine. We also develop students' fine motor skills by using play dough, scissors, Legos and puzzle pieces.


Kindergarten Approach and Curriculum

The Kindergarten program at Saddle River Day School provides students with many opportunities to receive individualized attention. The focus is to build independence, respect for others and to develop a sense of responsibility within each child. Our curriculum strives to build skills in all academic and social areas, and students are encouraged to apply knowledge through activities that are connected to their interests and lives. Open communication between students, teachers and parents is key to a supportive environment where students are known and encouraged to take intellectual risks.

The Kindergarten reading curriculum is taught throughout the day. During whole group reading lessons, students focus on becoming well-rounded readers. The students are taught a variety of reading strategies and begin to develop an understanding and appreciation of different genres. In Kindergarten, we model and practice the process shared by good readers including fluency, stamina and independence. Individualized reading lessons are taught daily during guided reading groups and one-on-one lessons. Developmental reading assessments are used to measure individual student progress and reading lessons are created around each individual's needs. Reading outside of class time is highly encouraged. 

The Kindergarten writing curriculum is also taught in whole group, small group and individualized one-on-one lessons. Kindergarten is an important beginning for developing lifelong writing skills. Our whole-group lessons center on introducing and modeling new writing skills and then giving students time to practice these skills independently. We establish guidelines to follow during Writing Workshop to help increase writing independence. During small group and one-on-one writing conferences, the goal is to challenge students as writers while keeping in mind their developmental needs. Students are engaged in writing throughout the day as they are taught the process of writing, editing and publishing a piece. By the conclusion of the year, each student has compiled a variety of writing pieces that include journal entries, daily writing pieces, non-fiction books, fictional stories and poems. 

The Kindergarten begins the year by discussing “Rules and Laws” and how they help people live safe and responsible lives. We continue to build on this idea with our study of "Neighborhood Helpers." In this unit, the children will explore how a community works and how the members of the community can join together to make it a more enjoyable place to live. Next, the children explore "Maps and Globes" and how we can use them to find the location of specific places. This unit leads perfectly into our study of "Where People Live." We will explore neighborhoods, communities and the world. The class will discuss how a person's location can affect how they live their lives. The year continues with the discussion of “United States Symbols” and how the country began, followed by a look at "National Holidays," why we celebrate the holidays and what each holiday honors. Then, in “Yesterday and Today," students compare and contrast how people lived long ago with how we live today. This unit is the perfect transition into our unit on the American People" and the many different cultures that make up our country. We will discuss families, their cultures, traditions and folktales they pass down from generation to generation. Our last unit in Kindergarten is “Goods and Services." The children will discuss how people work and earn money as well as how people spend money. Kindergarten social studies is a wonderful introduction to learning about our world, country and community.

The Go Math! program is used for math instruction in Kindergarten. Go Math! emphasizes problem solving and model drawing. As children most often learn best by discovery, the program also uses a variety of manipulatives and visual activities allowing pupils to learn things for themselves. Topics covered include:

  • Counting, comparing and writing numbers to 100
  • Adding and subtracting 1-digit numbers
  • Classifying and sorting shapes and patterns
  • Measuring length
  • Using calendars and time 

The science curriculum is based on the Science and Technology Concepts Elementary Program, developed by the National Science Resources Center and the Smithsonian Institute. Our curriculum comprises units that explore physical science, earth and life science, and chemistry, with a focus on hands-on, inquiry-based learning. Units in Kindergarten include magnetism, floating and sinking, solids, liquids and gases, organisms and habitats, the skeletal system, and the butterfly life cycle. Students learn how to make scientific observations and drawings using magnifying glasses and rulers and how to write their own discoveries.

In Kindergarten, Spanish instruction is given two times a week. The general goals of this course are to develop elementary speaking and listening skills and generate student response to simple commands, greetings and questions. Throughout the year, students engage in songs, storybooks, games and activities with specific props that reinforce the subject matter. The use of technology is present in the classroom to support vocabulary acquisition. 

Grade 1 Approach and Curriculum

The first-grade program continues building basic skills in all curricular areas. Students begin connecting their own interests to the subject matter. We encourage further learning outside the classroom and maintain open communication between students, teachers and parents. With science two times per week in our state-of-the-art Lower School science lab, Spanish twice per week and a robust Go Math! program rooted in visual learning, our first-grade curriculum provides a solid foundation for academic success.

In grade one, the reading and language arts curriculum combines phonetic instruction and literary activities with elements of the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Program as a foundation. Strategies that develop both literal and inferential comprehension are stressed, as well as decoding skills and vocabulary development. Through Reading Workshop, students learn story elements, how to retell a story using sequential events and how to understand the difference of genres: fiction and nonfiction.

Through our Writing Workshop method, students create their own books and examine the story elements (setting, characters, problem, events, and resolution) of a book.  Students utilize iPads and explore various computer software programs and apps that reinforce what is being taught in the classroom. Incorporating Reading and Writing Workshop into our curriculum promotes higher learning through the use of modeling, conferring, engaging and actively exploring. 

In grade one, the students begin to understand community as it relates to their family, their school and the neighborhoods in which they live. They explore how community leaders are chosen and the importance of working together to make neighborhoods nice places to live. Students begin to discover the similarities between rules and laws, the rights and responsibilities of a community's citizens, and the role of government. In order for the students to appreciate their community today, they also become aware of how aspects of life change over time, while some things stay the same. This helps children to understand what customs, traditions and history Americans have in common and what makes the country's population diverse. Additionally, students will learn how to use maps and globes to find and compare locations in their community, state, country and around the world. 
Verbal and written expression are important life skills. Therefore, much emphasis is given to the writing process.

The Go Math! program is also used for math instruction in grade one. We begin to build problem-solving into the curriculum and teach students how to understand and manipulate numbers while thinking abstractly. Topics covered include:

  • Building problem-solving skills and strategies
  • Adding and subtracting 2-digit numbers
  • Classifying and sorting shapes and patterns
  • Money and time
  • Measuring length
  • Number sense
  • Place value 

First-grade students meet twice per week in our fully equipped, state-of-the-art science labs. The science curriculum is based on the Science and Technology Concepts Elementary program, developed by the National Science Resources Center and the Smithsonian Institution. Our curriculum comprises units that explore physical science, earth and life science, and chemistry, with a focus on hands-on, inquiry-based learning. Units in first grade include working like a scientist, changes in matter, measuring weather, chemical mixtures, and life cycles of plants and animals. Science skills include learning how to measure with thermometers, meter sticks and rain gauges. 

In grade one, Spanish instruction is given two times a week. The general goals of this course are to strengthen listening and speaking skills. Songs are used regularly to support and develop fluency and accurate pronunciation. Throughout the year, students engage in storybooks, games and activities that place them in real-life situations and reinforce the subject matter. The use of technology is present in the classroom to support vocabulary acquisition. 

Grade 2 Approach and Curriculum

The second-grade program takes the next step in building a solid foundation across all disciplines. Our students receive the individual attention they need to remain engaged, motivated and excited by the learning taking place.

Students enjoy a deep exposure to U.S. history, government and geography and read several biographies about key figures in the American landscape. In second-grade science, which ramps up to three times per week, an emphasis is placed on inquiry-based learning and exploration, and students learn how to design and write a basic lab report. 

We continue to combine phonetic instruction, literary activities and vocabulary development in our second graders. They gain listening skills by hearing stories read aloud and reading out loud themselves. Shared readings and guided reading groups are also used as comprehension and higher-level thinking begin to take shape and phrasing and fluency increase.

Students write by choosing topics related to moments and experiences in their lives and personal interests. We also introduce the concept of research and writing with specific purpose. In addition, students learn to infuse writing strategies similar to those of authors whom we study during the year. They will also use strategies in writing such as mini-lessons, author studies and teacher-peer conferencing. The relationship between reading and writing is also explored. Keyboarding and word-processing skills are introduced through Chromebooks, and students explore various computer software programs and apps that help reinforce what is being taught in the classroom.

The overriding theme for second grade is Neighborhoods and Community. Each Kids Discover Magazine covers one broad social studies topic and includes features, activities and opportunities to interact with the material. This series has print and digital options to foster students' curiosity. The following topics will be covered in our curriculum:

  • Leaders and Government - Students will explore what it means to be a citizen in our country.
  • Location - Students will learn how to describe their location using a variety of maps.
  • North America - Students will explore the geographic features, climate and plant life of North America.
  • Communities and Resources - Children will learn about natural resources and the roles in the economic system.
  • Family Histories - Students will trace the history of several families and compare and contrast between families today and in the past.
  • America's Beginnings - Students will study about the people and events that helped shape the United States.
  • Heroes - Students will discuss the importance of the accomplishments of many heroic historical figures.
  • A World of Culture - Students will discover how people around the world celebrate and share their culture and values. 

Using the Go Math! program as a guide, second graders continue to focus on problem-solving skills and strategies and understanding concepts rather than memorizing procedures. We also teach mental math strategies for fast fact fluency. Topics covered include:

  • Addition and subtraction with or without regrouping
  • Measurement
  • Multi-step story problem solving
  • Multiplication and division
  • Introduction to fractions
  • Geometric concepts
  • Bar graphs 

Second-grade students meet three times per week in our science lab. With a focus on hands-on, inquiry-based learning, students explore soil science, chemical tests, animal studies, and force and motion. Students build on previous science skills and learn to write simple lab reports after experiments, including writing an hypothesis, recording results and writing their own conclusions.

Provided twice per week, Spanish instruction in grade two continues to strengthen the basic listening and speaking skills acquired in Kindergarten and grade one. In order to develop their listening comprehension skills in the language, students are introduced to an Instituto Cervantes online program titled Mi Mundo en Palabras. Spanish customs and culture are further explored through the integration of literature, music and hands-on activities. 


Grade 3 Approach and Curriculum

As a transitional year for students, grade three offers the opportunity for students to work independently and develop a higher regard for their own work. We focus on organizational skills, responsibility, independence and the ability to follow directions—both oral and written.

Reading and writing skills are emphasized through a variety of literary genres and research exercises. Our third graders learn how to conduct research and assess the authenticity of information. Various writing techniques are taught and explored throughout the year in our Writing Workshop.

Students practice reading with increasing independence, accuracy and depth, while comprehension and higher-level thinking begin to take shape as phrasing and fluency increase. Students expand their repertoire by reading a wide variety of literary genres. SRDS third graders predict outcomes, make inferences, identify main ideas, recognize setting, plot and themes, and notice the author's perspective and intent. Children read nonfiction for research, using multiple sources and learning how to assess the authenticity of information.

In our Writing Workshop program, students explore more deeply the stages of the writing process and gain the capacity to work diligently on every phase of creating a finely written piece. Through mini-lessons, students are taught writing techniques and focus on different writing genres. Students work collaboratively, independently and in small groups as well as conferencing daily with the teacher. The writing process encourages students to express their thoughts and ideas in an engaging and convincing manner. We also introduce the Zaner-Bloser Handwriting program for learning how to write in cursive with a focus on strong penmanship. Continued keyboarding and word-processing skills are taught using Chromebooks, and students explore various computer software programs that help in the writing process.

The Social Studies curriculum in grade three centers around communities near and far. Lessons reflect upon the vital importance of understanding citizenship, how we affect the environment around us and how to effectively participate in a democracy. Our studies take students through investigation and discovery as we analyze maps of the world, reflect upon the meaning of culture and ancient civilization, and dive deep into United States geography Specific Topics:

  • Mapping Our World
  • U.S Geography
  • People and the Environment
  • Protecting Resources
  • Ancient Civilizations
  • Settling the Land
  • Role of Citizens
  • How America Works
  • America: Heritage and Culture
  • Culture: Expressions Around the World 

Concepts are investigated through exploration and guided inquiry. Ongoing assessment of understanding and skills form the basis for flexible groupings that shift accordingly throughout the year. Students are expected to clearly articulate their understanding orally and in a variety of written contexts. Topics covered include:

  • Rounding and estimation
  • Place value
  • Multiplication and division
  • Fractions
  • Multistep word problems
  • Geometric concepts
  • Advanced time-telling concepts 

While meeting three times per week in our state-of-the-art science laboratory, students gain more exposure to physical science, earth and life science, and chemistry, with a focus on hands-on, inquiry-based learning. We integrate science with the reading and mathematics curriculum to help students develop complete understandings of natural phenomena while learning the basic skills of science.

Students continue to build their science skills as they explore rocks and minerals, experiment with forces, study plants, and explore electricity, including the Build Your Own Flashlight Design challenge. 

In grade three, Spanish instruction is given three times a week. We use the program Descubre el español con Santillana - Level D, in which students meet engaging characters who travel to eight Spanish-speaking countries to learn about the culture. Topics discussed include famous landmarks in Argentina, popular pastimes in Honduras and traditional foods in the Dominican Republic. Students also engage in reader's theater, games, projects and activities that reinforce the subject matter. The general goals of this course are to strengthen the students' use of conversational Spanish, introduce writing skills in the language and support vocabulary acquisition. 


Grade 4 Approach and Curriculum

Students work on organizational skills as well as effective time management and a greater emphasis on higher-level critical thinking skills. We assign written assessments including quizzes and tests with letter grades for the first time.

Fourth-grade students continue to enjoy the benefits of a robust writing curriculum, including an exploration of narrative, informational and opinion writing. Math competencies are expanded to develop skills and confidence in solving multistep problems, working with fractions and decimals, symmetry and congruence. Our fourth graders continue their growth as scientists in our lab four times per week.

The fourth-grade reading and language arts curriculum builds on the objectives and topics introduced in previous years. The curriculum continues to focus on literary activities including fiction and nonfiction works and reading with increasing independence, accuracy and depth with emphasis on comprehension and higher-level thinking. Detailed and broader discussion questions involving inferential thinking give students greater opportunity to expand their comprehension and vocabulary. Readers learn to express ideas about writing in their "Reader's Notebook," supporting their ideas with textual evidence. 

Fourth-grade writing includes narrative writing, informational writing and opinion writing. Units of study include a personal narrative, several book reports on Newberry winners, biographies and poetry. Students continue advancing their cursive and keyboarding skills as they work on various writing pieces. The Writing Workshop model allows the teacher to meet the different interests and abilities of each student.

Topics in the fourth-grade social studies curriculum focus around U.S. states and regions. Each lesson asks students to imagine, think and participate in hands-on activities, so they are always processing information. Students will explore physical and human geography; discover the landforms, bodies of water, and climates of the United States and the world; and reflect on the causes and effects of climates in terms of plants, animals and humans adapting to them. Additionally, students will discover the geography, history and culture of the five regions of the United States. Students will also study the structure and function of government in the United States; the rights and responsibilities of citizens; and the symbols, ideals and systems that unite all Americans.

By encouraging students to solve problems in a variety of ways, this program promotes an understanding of the way mathematic processes work, which enables students to encounter math in a meaningful way and translate mathematical skills from the concrete to the abstract. It is important that students learn to reason through word problems and solve them logically rather than relying on step-by-step procedures.

Supported by their previous training, students in grade four demonstrate automaticity with the basic facts of mathematics. The students apply their understanding of place value to develop and use graphs.

  • Multistep story problem solving with bar graphs
  • Fractions and decimals
  • Fluency with multiples and factor pairs
  • Factors to division notations
  • Recognition of prime and composite numbers
  • Symmetry and congruence, including line and rotational symmetry 

Our science lab hosts lessons for fourth-grade students four times per week.

With a focus on hands-on, inquiry-based learning, students explore food chemistry, microorganisms and microscopes, the fungi kingdom, and land and water. They learn how to write a complete lab report, analyze results and draw their own conclusions, graph results, use a microscope and make their own slides, and use a stream table.

In grade four, Spanish instruction continues three times a week with the program Descubre el español con Santillana - Level E. Topics discussed include shopping in Paraguay, farm animals in Costa Rica and weather patterns in Chile. As they visit each country, students learn new Spanish vocabulary and grammar, presented in common expressions and appropriate context. The general goals of this course are to accelerate the students' use of conversational Spanish and augment their writing skills in the language. The course also focuses on communication, cultural appreciation and connections to various aspects of the school curriculum. Written quizzes are introduced, and grades are given for the first time at this level.