Lower School Grades 1-5
Following our Primary Program
Doane Academy’s Lower School provides a warm and supportive learning environment for children during their most formative school years, from first through fifth grade.
Our small class sizes and low student-faculty ratio allow our gifted and dedicated teachers to form close, trusting relationships with students and parents. Teachers communicate with parents on a regular basis (formally and informally) to form a working relationship in the education of the student. Student-teacher relationships are special, as small class sizes allow teachers to recognize each student’s unique learning style and personality.
Teachers take advantage of every opportunity for their students to experience success through a curriculum that encourages creativity, builds academic, social and physical skills, nurtures character development and enhances self-esteem. In Doane’s safe and supportive environment, children feel secure and become more willing to discover new ideas and take risks to explore them.
Students in grades 1 through 3 concentrate on the acquisition and mastery of the basic skills in the core subject areas. In traditional self-contained classrooms, teachers lead their students through explorations and studies in mathematics, language arts, science, and social studies. In addition, students study Spanish each day, building a foundation that will help them develop language fluency as they continue their studies in later years.
In addition to a strong academic program, our teachers nurture the development of the whole child and work to build esteem by valuing each child’s unique qualities. It is the goal of every teacher that each child leaves their classroom a confident, responsible and successful person ready to accept the challenges ahead.
Doane offers 4th and 5th grade students a dynamic and academically challenging program. Building upon the skills and strong foundation established in the lower grades, the 4th and 5th grade curriculum stresses the development of oral and written expression, critical thinking, and organizational skills. While computers are present in all Lower School classrooms, it is in 4th and 5th grades that students start to integrate the use of technology into the different subject areas.
Throughout the Lower School, Doane provides students with a safe, diverse, innovative, academically inspiring environment that encourages a lifetime love of learning in its students. We look forward to sharing more details about our program when you visit.
- Grades 1st - 3rd
- Grades 4th and 5th
- Reading (Grades 1-3)
- Social Studies
Students in grades 1st–3rd concentrate on the acquisition and mastery of the basic skills in the core subject areas. In traditional self-contained classrooms, our talented and dedicated teachers lead their students through explorations and studies in mathematics, language arts, science, and social studies. In addition to a strong academic program, our teachers nurture the development of the whole child and work to build esteem by valuing each child’s uniqueness. It is the goal of every teacher that each child leaves their classroom a confident, responsible and successful person ready to accept the challenges ahead.
Doane Academy offers 4th and 5th grade students a dynamic and academically challenging program. Building upon the skills and strong foundation established in the lower grades, the 4th and 5th grade curriculum stresses the development of oral and written expression, critical thinking, and organizational skills. While computers are present in all Lower School classrooms, it is in the 4th and 5th grades that students start to integrate the use of technology into the different subject areas.
- Respects individual learning styles
- Develops academic skills in reading, writing, English, math, social studies, science, and Spanish
- Designed to promote a love of learning
- Includes classes with specialists in visual art, music, physical education, and Spanish language
- Mastery of basic skills
- Development of oral and written expression
- Critical thinking
- Organizational skills
- Leadership skills
- Cross cultural awareness and understanding
Doane Academy uses the math series Math In Focus in grades 1-5. This series presents math using the very successful approach developed and referred to as Singapore Math. This approach is especially strong in developing conceptual understanding. It is aligned with the NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) standards…the math standards that prevail in the United States. However, unlike most programs aligned with the NCTM standards, it does not try to teach every concept every year. Instead, it focuses on fewer topics but teaches them thoroughly so they need not be retaught continually. A major focus is upon preparing students for success in algebra. Consequently, algebraic thinking and expressions are introduced early and used frequently throughout each of the years.
In each of the grade levels, concepts are taught moving through a sequence of concrete to pictorial to abstract. Concrete learning happens through hands-on activities with manipulatives such as counters, coins, or number lines. Pictorial learning uses pictures in student books, drawings, or other forms that illustrate the concept with something more than abstract numbers. The abstract stage is the more familiar way most math problems are taught and practiced with numbers and symbols. Manipulatives are used throughout all levels, but they are used much more frequently in younger levels than in older.
Lessons at all levels follow the same progression. A lesson begins with the teaching presentation. Next, the teacher walks students through guided practice. Then students do independent practice. In each grade level, students, and their parents, have access to an online math program entitled , Math Buddies, which enables students to practice or review independently. This online program also has tutorials which are helpful to students as they review what has been presented in the classroom, but parents find it extremely helpful, since many of the approaches being taught are not following the traditional algorithms with which parents are familiar.
Lessons concentrate on a single concept rather than providing continual practice on previously-learned concepts. However, review is provided in the classroom as well as being available using the online program, Math Buddies. In addition, word problems, practical application problems, and critical thinking activities included throughout the lessons frequently draw on a wide range of mathematical knowledge. The goal is to teach concepts so thoroughly that frequent review is unnecessary.
The entire presentation in Math In Focus really challenges students to think much more deeply about mathematics than do most other programs. Students can’t just breeze through the lessons. Students who grasp concepts easily will likely do very well with this program. For students who struggle, using the concrete and pictorial lessons, plus guided practice, will enhance their learning.
Music is approached in Doane Academy’s Lower School as an artistic, holistic experience of body, mind and heart. All grades have an emphasis on singing, and repertoire is prepared for weekly chapel services as well as concerts both on and off campus. The repertoire includes sacred and secular music, and students study the text as poetry while also learning the music. As a class students discuss their emotional and experiential connection with music that is sung. All grades sing in multiple languages and learn music from their own and other cultures. Music is often chosen to make interdisciplinary connections with each grade level’s curriculum, and students learn to use music as an aid to memorization. Body percussion (clapping, drumming, stepping) is used at all grade levels to embody music rhythmically.
Students begin to read music from a printed page in first grade, as they are simultaneously developing basic reading skills. They learn to follow a score and to know their place in the music. Students learn pitch identification at all grade levels using scale degrees and hand signals. All grades practice vocal independence and singing in multiple parts. Students use the series Theory Time to learn elements of reading and writing music. Theory Time uses a keyboard approach to teaching music fundamentals, including pitch, rhythm, melody, and harmony in the treble and bass clefs and on a grand staff. Each year reinforces and builds on the previous year’s study, so the process is cumulative. Students practice theory fundamentals using electronic keyboards in the classroom. Vocal technique is taught through vocalizes and warm-ups as well as through rehearsing repertoire. Older grades use on-line ear-training programs (MusicTheory.net and Teoria.com) to develop their aural perception.
All Lower School students have the opportunity to have instruction in stringed instruments, and students in fourth and fifth grades may choose to learn a band instrument and play in the Lower School band. Older Lower School students learn to play tone chimes as part of music class. In addition to the keyboard orientation taught in class, students may also take private piano lessons during the school day.
At Doane Academy students in grades one through three engage in a balanced literacy approach to reading. Emphasis is placed equally on phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Students are immersed in learning skills to develop their habits as lifelong readers.
In first grade students are taught the foundation based components of reading. The students in first grade meet in small guided reading group lessons to learn high-frequency words, gain fluency, comprehension skill, and vocabulary strategies, mastering these important skills in preparation for the year that follow in Lower School. A strong foundation of phonics is built into this approach to reading, which allows students to flourish in decoding complex texts.
The emphasis in second grade moves toward a focus on learning to read across various genres. Students deepen their comprehension by learning and applying critical reading strategies, and begin to respond to texts in a variety of ways. Also beginning in second grade, independent reading is introduced, allowing students the necessary practice of these foundation based skills.
In third grade the emphasis shifts from learning to read to reading to learn. Students engage in a series of genre based units using an anchor novel for each unit. The students are also immersed in fluency and comprehension skills to develop the necessary strategies for thinking critically about the works read. The students work in flexible ability based small reading groups to master the skills necessary to prepare them for critically analyzing works in future grades.
The Primary through 5th grade Science curriculum at Doane Academy works to develop the students’ abilities to pursue scientific inquiry and engineering design opportunities through an integrated curriculum model based on Environmental Science, Sustainability, and the Delaware River. With a focus on experiential- and project-based learning, students work to develop the skills necessary for conducting investigative experiments, developing representative models, and creating unique solutions to design problems. The program emphasizes a hands-on approach which affords students numerous opportunities to explore concepts discussed in class through outdoor learning in our specifically-designed learning spaces, field trips, and laboratory experiments.
Students start in our Primary program learning how to make observations, record data, and ask questions based on what they’ve observed. By 2nd grade, they begin to develop hypotheses and test them through scientific experimentation and engineering design projects. They also learn to develop procedures for conducting investigations and constructing scientific argument. In 4th and 5th grades, the students learn how to analyze collected data and use that information in data-modelling projects. They are also challenged to develop self-designed experiments based on their research, and given the opportunity to pursue their own scientific interests through unit projects that include coursework in their other classes.
Our curriculum has been carefully constructed to develop scientific literacy in key Physics, Chemistry, and Life Science topics. For example, Primary through 2nd grade students study monarch butterflies to explore the life cycle of living things, while 3rd through 5th grade students gain exposure to the anatomy and physiology of butterflies and pollinators. Similarly, students will study the Physics of flight while exploring raptors, the chemical composition of soil while examining the Delaware watershed, and how sound propagates through a medium when analyzing weather patterns.
Doane Academy’s Primary through 12th grade Science curriculum is dedicated to instilling a passion for learning about science in all of our students and to empowering them with the skills necessary to successfully “tinker” with scientific concepts in new, exciting ways. Students who complete our Lower School Science program will be ready to ask questions about the world around them and know how to tackle answering those questions.
At Doane Academy, students in grades 1-5 acquire a strong foundation in social studies in order to become knowledgeable, active, and lifelong participants in the culturally diverse and interdependent world around them.
To that end, we provide ongoing opportunities for students to explore an expanding idea of community – from families and neighborhoods, to state and nation, and finally the global community. Comprising various branches of social studies, including history, geography, economics, civics, and government, curriculum in grades 1-5 establishes the relationship between people and places, and introduces young learners to their role as civic participants. Study of the past helps to form an understanding of how present society has been shaped and provides students with the knowledge and skills needed to responsibly influence the future.
Interdisciplinary units in social studies, including collaborative problem-solving and decision-making skills, are taught through reading, writing, class discussion, and project-based learning. Connections and extensions to units of study are made across the curriculum. The grade 1 program teaches the enduring traditions that make our nation great and pays tribute to the noble values of our country, while also teaching the importance of family, communities, and citizenship. Students in grade 2 further explore communities and early economics, and learn about map skills and an introductory history of the US. In grade 3 students study the state of New Jersey and Native Americans, while grade 4 explores the regions of the US, with an emphasis on the geography, states, history, and Native Americans of each area. Grade 5 students gain a more in-depth understanding of US history, from the time of the 13 colonies up to the turn of the 20th century.
Acquiring a second language provides students with new language skills and broadens their understanding of the world via the cultural education that goes hand-in-hand with learning another language. Furthermore, the ability to communicate in more than one language is recognized to be a tool for enhancing overall student achievement. The lower school Spanish program at Doane Academy reflects the tenants of the National Standards for Learning Languages. Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities emphasize the application of learning a language beyond the instructional setting. The goal is to prepare students to apply the skills consistent with the standards to bring a global competence to their future experiences and careers. Students in primary through 5th grade have Spanish five times a week, and classes are in the target language. In the primary through 3rd grade the Communicative Approach and the Total Response Method highlight the program.
These approaches, in addition to Q-talk, which teaches students the fundamentals of the language by utilizing images to enhance memorization of vocabulary, expedite communication proficiency in the interpersonal, interpretative, and presentational mode. In 4th and 5th grades, students receive a letter grade. In addition to the primary approaches to activity-based learning, the four skills – reading, writing, speaking and listening - are essential components of language comprehension. Students are introduced to storytelling and read their first full novels in the Spanish language. Linguistic skills attained in Spanish are a valuable transferable asset to facilitate the study of many other foreign languages, such as Latin, which students may wish to elect starting in Middle School.
In grades 1-5, Doane Academy uses the general approach established in Writing Workshop/Writer’s Workshop to generate strong and creative writers. Right from the beginning, each student in the class is treated as a working author. The teacher is a writing professional and peer coach, guiding the budding authors as they explore their craft. Approximately one hour a day is spent on having students engaged in the writing process – writing, sharing work with their teacher and their classmates, peer conferencing and editing , collecting a wide variety of work in a writing folder, and eventually creating a portfolio. Studies have shown that this approach - having students write frequently for extended periods of time on topics of their own choosing - consistently develops students’ writing abilities while also producing students who enjoy the process of writing.
This approach in 1st grade has students learning to write daily through varied activities. The goal is to move emergent, early fluency readers into the writing process by guiding them to use phonetics to sound out words, copy and use sight words in meaningful ways, and create awareness of punctuation. In 2nd grade, the goals are to challenge students to expand their ideas, to create focus within a topic, and to foster confidence at a time when self-consciousness may begin to appear. 3rd grade brings a shift from writing for the activity itself and presenting the material to classmates to paying more attention to writing mechanics. In 4th and 5th grades, students are able to use writing mechanics comfortably and the shift in their cognitive abilities to higher order thinking allows them to develop a more sophisticated sense of what makes good writing.