Lower school students enjoy stories and build literacy skills in all areas: reading, listening, speaking and writing. Teachers provide a holistic, balanced approach including whole-language instruction, phonics, and sight word acquisition. We rely on developmentally appropriate practices to guide our instruction and pay close attention to the pace and progression of skills in each individual student. Students participate in book groups, read aloud, reading conferences, independent reading, and receive literacy mini-lessons every week. Grades 1 and 2 incorporate parts of Fountas & Pinnell, Wired for Reading, Handwriting Without Tears, and a variety of phonics and spelling programs into literacy lessons.
Our comprehensive math program builds a foundation in all areas of elementary math and aligns with Common Core standards. Grades 1–5 follow the Bridges 2nd Edition math curriculum. In all grades, there is focus on communicating math thinking and strategies in addition to accurate computation and the application of new concepts and skills. Students learn math through a variety of methods including exploration, whole-class lessons, math games, flexible small-group instruction and application. Students in all grades also participate in Math Club every week which provides all students with a weekly choice of challenging, creative math activities in mixed-age groups.
Valley School students explore the world around them, ask questions, and conduct experiments. Every year students are exposed to topics from three branches of science: earth, life and physical. Each unit connects to thematic units in the classroom. Our science curriculum utilizes the philosophies in next generation science standards (NGSS), ambitious science teaching (AST), and multicultural education to create a program that engages and excites all students in scientific learning. In our science lab, students have the opportunity to think like scientists as they are exposed to the language and process of the scientific method. Students in all grades engage in sustainability and stewardship practices, including time working in our school gardens and completing citizen science projects on our campus and in our community. Typical units are listed for each grade level, but there is also room for student inquiry and emergent topics.
Social Studies units integrate skills and knowledge from many disciplines. Students explore topics through literature, research, music, art, plays, field trips, celebrations and discussions. Units frequently end with an interactive culminating project or experience, such as a classroom museum or play. Students also participate in and often design their own community service project. Typical units are listed for each grade level, but some topics emerge from inquiry and student interest.
In grades 3–5, students become more independent readers and transition from learning to read to reading to learn. They engage in Reader’s Workshop and Writer’s Workshop. Through participation in read aloud, literature discussions, shared reading, independent reading, and small, flexible reading groups, students build strong reading comprehension strategies and read a variety of texts fluently. As writers, they engage in the entire writing process and practice narrative, expository and persuasive writing. Students participate in Word/Language Study to learn about spelling patterns, grammar, Latin roots and vocabulary. They learn cursive and keyboarding as well.
The math program in grades 3–5 also follows the Bridges 2nd Edition curriculum and strengthens competency in all areas of elementary math including: Counting & Cardinality, Operations and Algebraic Thinking, Number and Operations in Base Ten, Measurement & Data and Geometry. Students are introduced to content areas through a variety of methods including exploration, whole-class lessons, math games, flexible small-group instruction and application. They build computational fluency, strengthen their ability to communicate their math thinking and to problem solve. Students also participate in Math Club every week where they are encouraged to pick from a range of challenging, creative math activities to investigate in mixed-age groups.
Students are exposed to three science topics a year: life science, earth science and physical science. In addition to these units, students spend time outdoors learning about nature and our connection to it through environmental science topics, citizen science, and stewardship work. There is also room for student inquiry and emergent topics. In the upper grades, there is increased focus on application of the scientific method and content that is specific to each science topic.
Social Studies themes relate to other areas of study in the classroom. In grades 3–5, students learn about Washington State, Seattle, early U.S. history, and important local and global issues. Some topics emerge from student interest. Students transition from simply learning about a topic to becoming problem solvers, advocates and leaders. They explore topics through literature, research, music, art, plays, re-enactments, field trips, celebrations, discussions, and guest speakers. Units frequently end in an interactive, culminating project. Students also participate, and often design their own community service work. Students practice critical-thinking, mapping, and research skills through these topics.