Lower School (PreK-Class 5)
Learning the Fundamentals
I believe in Dexter Southfield's strong foundational program and in our commitment that basics matter and that character matters. I love that we truly believe that being a good person when no one is looking is hugely important. Dr. Marlena Alex
Head of the Lower School
Students learn to identify written numbers from 1-10 and know some from 10-20. By year’s end, they can write most numbers from 1-10. They develop the ability to organize objects accurately and count with 1-to-1 correspondence. In addition, they come to understand patterns, identify shapes, and sort and classify objects in different ways. They are also able to use mathematical language appropriately to describe differences and similarities of objects (more/less, big/small, same/different).
Students recognize place value to the millions and are able to add and subtract multidigit numbers with regrouping and zeros. Students round to 10s, 100s, and 1000s, and manipulate and use coins and change correctly. They learn 0-12 multiplication and division facts. They know the difference between a.m. and p.m. and what hours are in each. They can solve for elapsed time intervals and understand different forms of measurement. They can recognize and read fractions as well as compare them. They understand mixed numbers and know the formulas for area and perimeter. They are able to recognize and understand bar graphs, circle/pie graphs, and pictographs. Given a set of numbers, they can find the mean, median, mode, and range.
Through practice, students are able to use a topic sentence and concluding sentence. They understand the structure of a paragraph and are able to write a 5-7 sentence paragraph. They are able to write different types of paragraphs: descriptive, persuasive, informational, creative, and entertaining. They also learn about plagiarism and how not to copy passages in their writing.
Students continue progressing in their fluency, pacing, and expression as they read orally. They are active readers who can connect, predict, question, visualize, evaluate, summarize, and infer. They are able to identify the main idea, recall facts, and locate details to answer directed questions. They learn about plot setting, characterization, symbolism, theme, and point of view. In public speaking, they memorize and present poetry. They build their vocabulary through the study of words and meanings.
The practice of writing expands to include the five-paragraph essay, effective notetaking, and research skills. Students learn to use PowerPoint and Microsoft Word templates. They practice varying their sentence structure with compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences. They learn to use quotations and dialogue correctly and to use transitional words, modifiers, and varied vocabulary to strengthen their writing.
- Health and Wellness
- Performing Arts
- Sports and Movement
- Visual Arts
The appropriate use of technology enriches students’ learning experience across the disciplines and promotes higher-order thinking skills. Computers and 3D printers are used as learning tools to support classroom curriculum, develop research skills, and design and build interdisciplinary projects. Students study and use a variety of creative content, authoring, and sharing applications. Skills such as keyboarding, coding, and navigating the Internet safely and effectively are taught. Multimedia projects are designed as interdisciplinary projects, and targeted curricular software provides instrumental reinforcement. Beginning in Class 4, each student is required to have a computer and technology is integrated into all classes.
The health curriculum is an age-appropriate, coordinated effort in which teachers and nurses work together. Our goal is for students to understand, appreciate, and learn the skills that enable them to achieve and maintain good mental and physical health throughout their lives. Social development is an integral part of the Lower School’s curriculum. Teachers use the social curriculum to help students develop strong social skills that will enable them to establish positive relationships.
The performing arts are rooted in hands-on music making, dance, and theater. Students at all grade levels participate in school performances throughout the year, which reinforces and sharpens concepts and technical skills. In the early grades, students learn general music literacy: scales, the musical alphabet, and musical notation. All students in Classes 4 and 5 participate in choir and ensemble, where they learn to sing in parts and play an instrument, respectively. Units in theatre allow students to build confidence and creativity while working with others.
The study of Spanish begins in PreK with songs and games. Students develop an ear for language acquisition and pronunciation by using phrases, idioms, and cultural rhythms. They gain an appreciation of culture by exploring the 21 Spanish-speaking countries, learning about Latin American artists, and taking part in interdisciplinary projects on the annual migration of the Monarch butterfly from the U.S. to Mexico.
Our sports program focuses on fundamental skill development through an intentional progression of age-appropriate activities. PreK students participate in a twice-weekly sports and movement class, which helps them develop gross motor skills. Beginning in Kindergarten, students also swim once per week in our on-campus pool. In Classes 1 and 2, students take part in a daily rotation of activities, which includes sports skills, swimming, tennis, and a learn-to-skate program. Students in Classes 3-5 benefit from our intramural sports program, which exposes students to 10 different sports during the year: soccer, field hockey or flag football, baseball or softball, hockey, squash, basketball, swimming, lacrosse, tennis, and track. Students in Classes 3-5 participate on teams – boys on either Maroon or Gray, and girls on either Blue or White – for friendly competition throughout the year, which teaches teamwork, personal best, character, leadership, confidence, humility, compassion, and self-improvement.
Our STEM programming offers a hands-on, project-based, multidisciplinary, iterative education that teaches data-based decision making, critical thinking, teamwork, and creativity. STEM activities in the Lower School include dedicated time in the Gui Innovation Lab, excursions in the Playscape; studying design in nature; a car project with upper school mentors; catapults, boats, and pulleys; an egg drop; board game design and construction; and continually evolving experience with the Rig-A-Ma-Jig. As students get older, the projects become more intricate: students begin to solve team engineering challenges, collaborate with the upper school engineering class to design cars, and begin learning code, among other projects.
The visual arts help students develop fine motor skills, build sensory awareness, and heighten creativity. Through the study of the elements and principles of design, students learn to work with a variety of materials in 2D and 3D. Brainstorming is introduced as a fun group exercise, and class discussions about “process” drive home the point that the end product is not always the ultimate goal. Storytelling is integrated into projects, and a nurturing environment encourages experimentation. All students participate in an annual all-school art exhibition.
Shop classes are designed to introduce students to using hand tools, improve their skills, demonstrate that there is a proper procedure and order of steps in the building process, and to have them appreciate craftsmanship and realize that craftmanship is within their ability. Beginning in Kindergarten, students start in woodworking by cutting out simple shapes with coping saws and learning the sequence of sawing, hammering, filing, and sanding. As they get older and more skilled, students also use cordless drills and electric sanders to complete projects.
An essential part of the Dexter Southfield experience, the Public Speaking program is designed to build character, confidence, and leadership.
Throughout their time in Lower School, students practice speaking in front of groups in different settings. Our youngest students begin by participating in a puppet show, presented to parents. As they progress, they deliver memorized prose of varying lengths. In addition to mastering the art of standing on stage with confidence, students also learn how to be good audience members.
Assemblies provide another platform for students to develop as excellent communicators.
A primary goal of music class for our youngest students is to help them discover that participation in song and dance activities is enriching and enjoyable.
Middle School students take risks, build greater self-confidence and independence, and learn how they learn best.