It’s always fun for students to learn outside of the classroom. It’s more fun to study animal classification through a zoo trip, or learn South Carolina History by visiting the statehouse in Columbia and meeting your representatives, or learn about our South Carolina marine life and shore by spending a few days at Barrier Island, or see with your own eyes where the Civil War began in Charleston. These are just a few of the trips our Lower School students take to learn and have fun.
A solid foundation in Math is critical. Students who are weak in Math can almost always trace it back to a weak beginning. Lower school students build on the skills taught in kindergarten from the Saxon Math curriculum. Saxon Math uses repetition and review to practice the math skills taught in daily lessons. No skill is left behind and a student continues to see problems from previous lessons in each day’s daily problem set assignment. Students use grade-appropriate applications and manipulatives to reinforce skills. To be successful in Middle School Math, students must have a mastery of their multiplication tables before leaving Lower School. Math is a huge component of the SAT and ACT and skills range from those that began in Lower School to Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry and Statistics. Students who major in Math in South Carolina colleges and universities also receive extra state scholarship dollars.
One of the ways Lower School students improve their comprehension skills and begin their college test preparation is with Vocabulary Workshop by Oxford-Saddler. Each week students study twenty words in their vocabulary workbook and spend the week learning the spelling, part of speech, definition, synonyms, and antonyms of each word. Students are immersed in exercises that use the words in different ways. Evaluations are done weekly, at the end of units and at year-end. Additional lessons cover important Latin and Greek roots and reading comprehension using the vocabulary word in context. Words from previous grades appear in exercises so a student will see the word over and over again from year to year. In Lower School a student will actively study thousands of words.
Lower School students practice their handwriting using A Reason For® Handwriting. “This curriculum provides a fun, meaningful approach to developing effective handwriting skills. Each lesson is built around a Scripture verse chosen not only for proper letter combinations, but also inspirational content. Transition from print to cursive begins in second grade. Scripture Border Sheets encourage children Verse of the Week on a sheet chosen from the back of their workbooks, then use their creative talents to color and decorate it.”
World of Language by Silver Burdett & Ginn is the curriculum used in Lower School to teach English. Traditional English grammar lessons begin with parts of a sentence to parts of speech and mechanics. Students spend time writing the simple sentence to five-sentence paragraphs. The Writing Process is introduced from prewriting through publishing and students produce simple paragraphs to narratives. Since the addition of the Writing section on the SAT and ACT it is even more important for college entrance to be able to express ideas, support opinions and write a paper that flows with a beginning, middle and end. We believe traditional drill and practice in grammar leading to writing is the best foundation for future writing success. We require that all grades incorporate questions on daily work, homework and tests that require written responses, not just fill-in-the-blank, true/false and multiple choice.
Lower School students in first though fifth grade continue from kindergarten their phonics based Open Court Reading program by SRA. Students begin first grade reading decodable stories and each story increases with difficulty. By Christmas, all first graders are reading fluently and are ready to move into their first reader. Second grade begins with a six-week phonics review before moving into their readers. In addition to Open Court, students also participate in the Accelerated Readers Program by Renaissance Learning. A student reads a book, takes a multiple-choice test to measure reading comprehension and is awarded a number of points. Each grade sets requirements for the number of books/points that must be earned each grading period. Students are recognized throughout the year for their progress. In addition to Open Court in third through fifth grades, students are immersed in multidisciplinary literature units using award-winning children’s novels.
Social Studies involves geography, history, culture and important dates and people. The Lower School units for first and second grade come from the Core Knowledge curriculum. Students are actively immersed in the cultures of today’s world and from past centuries around the world. Perhaps the favorite unit for these students is studying the ancient cultures of Egypt and Greece. Hands-on activities and games, indoors and out, bring these cultures to life. Core Knowledge gives the student “something to hang his/her hat on” for later advanced learning when classes encompass more textbook, lecture and research. However, the Core Knowledge curriculum allows students to possess knowledge of facts and ideas normally reserved for the older student or adult and this builds self-esteem and the desire to learn more. Students in third through fifth grade add History and Geography, a Pearson Learning textbook, that correlates to the Core Knowledge curriculum. Students love the in-depth studies of American history, like the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and Westward Expansion, along with culture studies of other countries, like Mexico and Japan. A day these lower school students always look forward to is Core Knowledge Day when they get to dress up and show off all of the projects they have accumulated throughout their study and share them with the rest of the student body. Being a knight, a king or queen, a jester or a maiden at the medieval feast is an exciting way to culminate a unit on the Middle Ages! Dressing in a toga and riding in a chariot, competing in our own ancient Olympic games, or reenacting the Underground Railroad during the Civil war makes history fun. Parents and teachers are always amazed at what all of our lower school students remember from these hands-on Core Knowledge units for years to come.
Learning to spell involves practice, repetition and believing that spelling is an important part of a student’s education. Lower School students in second through fifth grade use the Working Words in Spelling curriculum by Houghton-Mifflin. Extra spelling practice comes from the Vocabulary Workshop. Exercises are practiced weekly leading to the weekly spelling test. Students also use their spelling list to practice their keyboarding skills in computer lab. Every year students in grades three through five also prepare to send two students per grade to the regional SCISA Spelling Bee. It is very exciting to have winners that move on to represent Laurens Academy in the SCISA State Spelling Bee. We incorporate an emphasis in correct spelling and word usage, including use of homophones and homonyms, by evaluating these skills across the curriculum. Spelling is a component of literacy and it is important for students to possess the rules and strategies for correct spelling and word usage in their everyday writing.
Units for science come from the Core Knowledge curriculum. Lower School students learn and discover through hands-on activities, not textbooks. Studying the body systems, such as the skeletal, digestive and respiratory systems help students discover how our bodies work. Animal and plant classifications, matter and electricity, weather, geology, and life cycles are more of the interesting units found in Lower School Science. Edventure in Columbia and guest speakers, like representatives from Laurens Electric Co-Op are culminating activities that provide hands-on experiences. Another important component in science is studying the accomplishments of important people in science. In Lower School we are educating the doctors and nurses, medical technicians, scientists and inventors of the future. Many students will develop the desire to pursue these types of science vocations while they are in Lower School. Students in South Carolina are rewarded for choosing science majors in college with extra state scholarship dollars. The Core Knowledge philosophy is that new learning is built on previous learning. The science units in Lower School are designed to create the background and curiosity to encourage students to pursue more in-depth study.