Our Programs

Lower School Program of Studies

    • Lower School Curriculum


2023-2024 Lower School & Preschool Curriculum

Below are overviews for each area of study in the lower school. Teachers coordinate in their planning on particular units and topics in their projects and instruction when possible to deepen learning for students. 

List of 11 items.

  • Mathematics

    In kindergarten, we use the Developing Roots curriculum which is aligned with the Common Core standards and incorporates guiding principles from NCTM. Lessons begin with an initial task (anchor task) which is designed to be open-ended to allow for multiple solutions and entry points for student exploration before formal discussion. Concept practice occurs through games, physical materials and prepared work. Students also have a reflection journal to record their thinking.

    In grades 1-5, we use a “Singapore Math” based curriculum, think!Mathematics, which was designed using various educational learning theories and with content aligned to the Common Core Standards. The “Singapore Math” approach is grounded in problem solving and emphasizes the development of strong number sense, excellent mental math skills, and a deep understanding of place value. Conceptual understanding is heavily emphasized in all topics presented. When approaching fluency instruction (basic fact fluency, broader computational fluency, or procedural fluency), we work with students to be efficient, flexible and accurate in their approach. 

    think!Mathematics lessons at all grade levels begin with an anchor task to introduce a given concept, a low-floor, high ceiling problem/task designed to provide opportunities for a range of student abilities. These anchor tasks provide access to a student beginning to understand a concept while simultaneously providing more advanced students an opportunity to explore more challenging solutions or approaches to the same problem. Students are allowed ample time to explore solutions to an anchor task informally and are encouraged to consider multiple solutions before formalized discussion begins. 

    In addition to anchor tasks, some other key instructional strategies include:

    • Using the Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract or C-P-A approach to introduce concepts with concrete manipulatives, pictorial representations and lastly an abstract algorithm or representation. This progression gives students a solid understanding of basic mathematical concepts and relationships before they start working at an abstract level. 
    • Using visualization constructs such as ten-frames, number bonds and bar-modeling, a visual approach to solving word problems that emphasizes making representative drawings of a word problem before solving it. This helps students organize information and solve problems in a step-by-step manner.
    • Providing opportunities for students to monitor their own thinking to encourage metacognition and develop attitudes of perseverance and confidence. You will often hear teachers asking students, “Are you sure; how do you know?” Whether an answer is correct or incorrect, students are encouraged to demonstrate and articulate their thinking verbally and through writing.

    For assessments, we use a variety of formal and informal assessments to guide curriculum and instruction. Those include but are not limited to Renaissance products, ERB, and unit assessments that accompany our math programs.

    Math is also experienced and applied beyond “math class,” often in computer science and in science activities which create additional opportunities for students to apply math in real-world situations. Teachers in these disciplines work with homebase teachers to use common language and approaches.
  • Language Arts

    Our lower school students engage in the expressive skills of writing and speaking and the receptive skills of listening and reading on a daily basis through an integrated approach. Students progress from learning to read in grades K-3, to reading to learn in grades 3-5. Our focus is on building skills in receptive and expressive language by enhancing students'  conceptual understanding which allows for inference, prediction, and questioning on an increasingly abstract level. Throughout the program, students are immersed in a literature- and language-rich environment, exploring different genres, and learning to appreciate a variety of cultures and traditions through reading and research. Challenging students to meet high standards, while developing an enthusiasm for learning and a lifelong love of reading, are key objectives of the program.
    We seek to provide students with a variety of skills and opportunities for self-expression that will allow for their fullest possible participation in the learning process and in the school and broader communities. In the language arts program, students are supported in expressing their ideas, feelings, and observations openly, effectively, and appropriately in both written and oral forms. Again, expectations rise steadily throughout the program, with high standards in the development and organization of ideas, the use of strong word choice and clear sentence structure, and the application of proper grammar and mechanics. Encouraging students to feel confident in expressing themselves and in presenting their work is also of great importance.

    We acquire core materials that support the philosophy and objectives of our program, and that are aligned with Common Core State Standards and The Science of Reading research. As an innovative school, our curriculum and classroom tools are not limited to published materials. We value teacher-created materials aligned with best-practice in language-arts research and instruction. In language arts, our materials include but are not limited to: Wilson Language Program, Renaissance products, Megawords, Wordly Wise Vocabulary Program, and Words Their Way.

    For assessments, we use a variety of formal and informal assessments to guide curriculum and instruction. Those include but are not limited to Renaissance products, Amplify, ERB, and unit assessments that accompany our language arts programs.
  • Science

    Lower School Science is an inquiry-based program that fosters all aspects of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and 21st century learning using the Next Generation Science Standards as a guide to student learning.  Our program focuses on the three dimensions of science education: scientific and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts. Through hands-on, collaborative learning, all students engage in the science and engineering design processes. The science process utilizes children’s natural curiosity. They are encouraged to ask questions, explore, and investigate to find the answers to their questions. Each year, students are exposed to a variety of topics across all science disciplines including life, earth, and physical sciences. The engineering design process focuses on the application of science concepts, critical thinking, and problem solving. Students look to identify a problem, ask questions, imagine, plan, and create solutions to the problem. Our science program uses a “spiral” approach in which concepts and skills are continually refined, strengthened, and expanded upon in successive grades.
    These explorations benefit from facilities including a “traditional” science lab and the STEM Lab. The traditional science lab is equipped with materials, lab tables, and stools that provide students a more formal setting to study biology and chemistry topics. The STEM Lab provides students in Prekindergarten through 2nd grade with materials and space to explore physical science and engineering topics. For example, first grade students may use the loft in the STEM lab as a platform to drop parachutes they design and build. The more traditional science lab is utilized by 3rd and 4th grade students providing them with age appropriate space and materials. Both labs have SMART Boards, and the STEM Lab also has a SMART Table that allows students to interact and collaborate with each other.

    Many science topics are part of cross-curricular units. In the past, some of these units have been “Beans” in pre-kindergarten, “Structures” in kindergarten, and “Monarch Butterflies” in first grade. These units were taught in collaboration with science, Spanish, art, and the homebase teacher.
  • Computer Science

    The computer science curriculum is a critical thinking and problem-solving course designed to encourage active learning, creativity, and exploration. It is presented through the following five strands: computational thinking; collaboration; computing practice and programming; computers and communication devices; and community, global, and ethical impacts. Our curriculum is based on the National Standards set by the Computer Science Teachers Association. Beginning in fourth grade (and through 12th grade), students have school-issued laptops, as part of the “one-to-one” technology program at Friends.
    Computational thinking is an approach to defining and then solving problems in ways that can be implemented with a computer. Our students experience collaboration most often in pair programming activities and in the collection and analysis of data. Computing practice and programming involve exploring the use of programming to solve problems. Topics under computers and communication devices include teaching about computing devices in everyday life and how to troubleshoot commonly encountered software and hardware issues. Whenever a new technology is introduced to students, we engage them in discussion around the impacts of that technology.
  • Social Studies

    In pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, the social studies curriculum is centered in the homebase classroom, coordinated with work in specials. Students study physical geography, culture, biographies, and history. The curriculum expands from the students’ own experiences (self, family) to larger communities of which they are members and in which they have responsibilities (school, city, state, country), with global connections throughout the progression. Skills in research and presentation are emphasized with increasing expectations at each level, with both teacher-directed and student-selected topics. In fifth grade, social studies is taught by one of the fifth grade teachers to all students in the grade; it is a regular rotation along with science and reading. In all of our social studies units, we view social studies through the lens of diversity and allow the Quaker principles of stewardship, peace, integrity, community, equality and simplicity to provide a foundation for our learning.
  • Spanish

    The Spanish program is designed to introduce students to the Spanish language and to Hispanic cultures, both for their inherent value and to lay the foundation for future language learning and a lasting appreciation for diversity. Given demographic trends in our country, familiarity with this language and culture is especially valuable to students. The program revisits prior material to ensure that skills are reinforced annually, while new content is added to provide more variety and depth as students progress through the program. Students engage in activities that generate enthusiasm for the study of language and culture while learning basic communication skills in the target language. The program focuses on developing strong oral-aural skills while gradually introducing reading and writing in Spanish. 
  • Library Media Center/Information Literacy

    The Library Media Center (LMC) is an integral part of the lower school education program, fostering lifelong enthusiasm for the process of learning and for reading, developing an appreciation for different cultures through literature and non-fiction research, teaching specific learning skills, and developing students’ sense of responsibility in using a shared resource. We recognize that students retain skills best when our lessons are taught in the context of the classroom curriculum, so information-seeking strategies and other library-related skills are taught in various subject areas. Our program is based on the National Standards set by the American Association of School Librarians entitled Standards for the 21st Century Learner.
    Teaching units are planned closely with classroom teachers and lessons are integrated based on a unique combination of the Big Six Information Problem Solving Model as well as the I-Search model of inquiry. We have meshed the idea of the Big Six, which is a more linear approach to research, with I-Search to emphasize our interest in having students follow their interests. The Big Six addresses essential steps of research including task definition, locating and evaluating information, and presenting information. I-Search, originally developed by Macrorie for the collegiate level, has been successfully adapted to the elementary level and is an excellent construct for multi-disciplinary learning. I-Search is designed to recognize inquiry as a non-linear process. It spirals as learners adapt new perceptions and new queries. Students become immersed in the topic by constructing good questions. Students develop ownership of the topic because they choose it. They feel empowered and motivated to discover the answers. Journal writing is built into this model; students become more reflective and deepen their awareness of their topic and the process.
    WFS offers a distinctive model in which information literacy is interwoven with technology so that students are practicing their skills in the most meaningful way possible. Students are introduced to many ways of organizing and presenting their ideas, from programs like Inspiration and Microsoft Office to Web 2.0 tools like Voicethread, Glogster, and Google Docs. At age-appropriate levels, students are introduced to Internet safety and their role in becoming good digital citizens. We embrace opportunities to collaborate with other students as well as other communities and cultures with a firm belief that sharing increases opportunities for global learning.
    Additionally, the Library hosts author/illustrator visits to further appreciation of literature. We have hosted Newbery authors Grace Lin and Rita Garcia-Williams, as well as Nick Bruel, Nancy Carol Willis, Kevin O’Malley, Peter Catalanotto, and Kate Klise; we have Skyped with other classrooms as well as with poet/author Debbie Levy. The library contracts for speakers from the Delaware Humanities Council to enhance the classroom curriculum. The Library also coordinates interactive webcasts to connect students with authors and other experts.
  • Visual Arts

    All lower school students receive formal visual art instruction. Three art teachers lead the program at the lower school, teaching the core visual arts curriculum in an interdisciplinary fashion. The visual arts program is designed to be a vehicle for creative and personal discovery, in which students learn about themselves, their environment, world cultures, and the history of the visual arts. The program provides an ongoing exploration of concepts, techniques, and materials designed to develop each student’s ability to create innovative visual solutions. Students are encouraged to express themselves with joy, imagination, clarity, responsibility, and skill, and at all grade levels are encouraged to explore personal solutions to assignments.
  • Performing Arts

    Children’s play is the foundation of a performing arts education. Speech, song, movement, and dramatic play combine to actively engage learners with the elements of music, movement, and drama. As students create music by speaking, singing, playing instruments and moving, they learn 21st century skills such as creative expression, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.
    Through a sequential program encouraging active participation and self-expression, students develop musical understanding and appreciation. The music curriculum is coordinated with other classroom lessons⏤social science and geography studies, for example⏤so that students might learn music from cultural traditions they are studying, or so that composer biographies are timed to fit with other biographical studies. Skills in music are also related to other disciplines, such as the science of sound production and the math of musical notation.
    Opportunities to participate in dramatic performance and dramatic play are woven throughout the curriculum, further developing creativity and self-expression. Through lower school, students cultivate a sense of themselves as creative and expressive individuals with responsibilities to a larger community, grow increasingly comfortable with risk-taking, learn movement and drama skills, and develop critical and creative thinking skills.
    All students perform in winter and spring concerts, and individual classes have the opportunity for smaller musical and dramatic group performances throughout the year. Every fifth grade student performs in a spring musical theater production. Students in fourth and fifth grade may choose to participate (no audition required) in band and/or choir.
  • Physical Education

    The mission of the Physical Education Department at WFS is to promote lifelong learning through physical activity, exercise, and sport while supporting students in making health-conscious decisions, meeting challenges, and participating in mentally positive behaviors. The lower school physical education curriculum offers children the opportunity to develop their physical and social emotional skills. The program is spiraling and sequential, offering age-appropriate games, activities, and fitness opportunities. Effort, empathy, cooperation, communication, and healthy risk-taking are emphasized and are considered essential components of a student’s growth as an athlete and community member.
  • Human Dynamics and Development

    Human Dynamics and Development is a cross-divisional (lower, middle, and upper school) program at Wilmington Friends, encompassing social and emotional awareness, interpersonal relationships, and healthy living habits, including strategies and processes for making informed decisions. In lower school, the program has division objectives regarding the development of a child’s self-concept and relationships with others. Themes in lower school Human Dynamics and Development include treating others with respect, building community, peaceful resolution of conflict, appropriate expression of emotions, taking healthy risks, increasing independence and self-reliance, and making informed and healthy choices.

Grade-Specific Curriculum Descriptions

The tool below allows you to view the curriculum by grade level. Select any option for preschool (PS) or prekindergarten (PK).
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Wilmington Friends School admits students of any race, color, gender, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students of these schools. Wilmington Friends School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, national and ethnic origin in administration of their educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school administered programs.