Lower School Academic Programs
Language Arts/Social Studies
Westminster’s highly effective, phonics-based reading program provides kindergarteners with strong linguistic and “decoding” skills, enabling all kindergarteners to read at an impressive level before the end of the academic year. Even for those children who are already reading, Westminster’s program strengthens understanding of the structure of language, ensuring their continued progress as they encounter more difficult material.
The Social Studies program for kindergarten is based on the understanding that children at this age are beginning to reach beyond themselves toward an understanding of their environment. Activities help students focus on themselves, their families, school, community, and nation. Students learn about Native Americans and Pilgrims in early U.S. history, and are introduced to the concept of laws and government.
The first-grade program builds on this strong foundation, developing the relationships of sound-spellings to words, words to sentences, and sentences to paragraphs. Emphasis is placed on reading comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, and penmanship. Expository and creative writing are developed.
As well as continuing studies of family and community, first-graders explore the idea of country through the basic symbols and structure of government in the United States. Discussion and activities based on international holidays encourage awareness of other nations and cultures. Appreciation is nurtured for outstanding contributions made by individuals throughout history.
Spelling, phonics, grammar, mechanics, vocabulary, and penmanship are integrated into the second-grade language arts program. Through reading, class discussion, and the writing process, this accelerated program arouses curiosity, stimulates imagination, and develops reading and writing fluency. In second grade, Westminster students read chapter books together and independently.
The second-grade history curriculum broadens students’ understanding of life in America and the world. Through use of a timeline, historical figures and events are introduced and discussed. Along with factual recall, emphasis is placed on the reasons why historical events took place. Students are encouraged to understand their own importance in contributing to and sustaining the America of the future.
In kindergarten, the mathematics curriculum anchors abstract concepts to the “real world” via sight, hearing, speech, and touch. The program stresses thinking skills, problem-solving strategies, mental arithmetic, estimation, measurement, time, and money concepts. Children learn to solve arithmetic equations using manipulatives, rods, number lines, and memory.
The kindergarten science curriculum introduces students to the processes of observation and systematic analysis of the natural world. Through discussion, class work, creative projects, and many hands-on activities, the students are guided to discover, explore, question, and reflect on different aspects of their everyday surroundings.
The first-grade mathematics curriculum increases children’s familiarity with an expanded group of numbers, and strengthens their understanding of the concepts represented by numbers and arithmetic algorithms. Problem-solving skills are emphasized. Extensive and varied use of manipulatives helps solidify abstract concepts, and word problems relate math to the real world and highlight the importance of math skills.
The first-grade science curriculum is organized into three broad categories: physical science, earth/environmental science, and life/nature science. Investigative activities, supported by reading, allow the children to actively explore their immediate world. Each topic of study is carefully selected and presented to capture the children’s interest and nurture in them the analytical skills and attitudes appropriate to the scientific approach.
In second-grade math, earlier skills are developed to a more sophisticated level, and several new number concepts are introduced. The program hones arithmetic skills, with an emphasis on solving real-life, practical problems. Students also learn and practice measurement, using both metric and traditional systems; use math-related tools, such as the thermometer, calendar, and clock; and are introduced to simple geometric concepts.
Second-grade science continues to explore the areas of life science, nutrition and health, earth science, space science, and physical science. The students enjoy myriad opportunities to practice the scientific method, by observing, comparing and contrasting, classifying, measuring, recording and inferring.
In kindergarten, students are introduced to the French language and culture through regular interaction with a French-speaking teacher who visits their classroom. Through the use of simple conversations, songs, games, and holiday-related activities, children begin to acquire a basic vocabulary and correct pronunciation, and experience language learning as enjoyable.
Expanding on earlier concepts and skills, first-grade students are introduced to a variety of stories and songs in themed units of study, which give them more opportunities to communicate in French, increase vocabulary, and learn about French culture
In the second grade, the students continue to practice reading, writing, and speaking French. Grammar concepts are reinforced, and vocabulary is expanded to allow the student to relate in French to his or her immediate environment. The children enjoy learning more about French culture in a variety of French-speaking countries.