Small class sizes allow our lower school teachers the opportunity to challenge students just beyond their individual comfort zones, while also providing the support and encouragement necessary for each child to find success.
The atmosphere in the lower school is one of exuberance. It is our goal for each child to feel loved, celebrated, respected and excited to engage in the act of discovery when they walk through the door each day.
Lower grades are fairly self-contained to allow for flexibility in the schedule. Generally, each class devotes two periods a day to language arts and one period to math, with additional “math moments” incorporated into the daily routines and social studies, history or geography two to three times a week. Students head to the lower school science room for science classes using the project-based FOSS system for hands-on learning, led by our dedicated lower school science teacher, and to the Spanish classroom for Spanish twice weekly with our dedicated Lower School spanish teacher.
Smartboards in each classroom, laptop carts available for classroom use, the technology lab and the “green screen room” make the integration of technology seamless in the Lower School, and basic skills such as keyboarding, word processing and image manipulation are instilled through projects that support the curriculum at each grade level.
Art class in the Visual Arts Center weekly allows students to interact with curricular themes from the right brain. Exposure to a wide variety of media, techniques, art history and thematic projects offers opportunities for self-expression, self-awareness, and creative play.
With music class weekly, Lower Schoolers gain an increasingly sophisticated understanding of rhythm, beat, reading notes, following direction and synchronization culminating in the fourth grade with students using recorders for the first time.
Using the project-based FOSS system, our dedicated Lower School science teacher guides students through a truly hands-on science curriculum in the lower school science lab twice weekly.
Recess twice daily on the lower school playground and PE once a day offer plenty of time to run and play outside for a breath of fresh air – a welcome refresher for better focus in the classroom.
In first grade children are immersed in oral and written language and all areas of the curriculum are used to teach language arts, including science and social studies. Surrounded by books in a warm and welcoming classroom, a major portion of instruction in reading, writing and spelling is done in small groups based on each student’s developmental level.
Mathematics is taught using the My Math curriculum, the main objective of which is to engage students in making sense of mathematical ideas as they think, speak and do math. Students work towards mastery of computational skills and a strong understanding of mathemetical concepts as they advance their skills in counting, seeing patterns, solving word problems, adding, subtracting and estimating.
First grade science units include a study of health and the human body, natural resources, magnets and biomes.
In addition to these academic priorities, students also learn D’Nealian handwriting as a preparation for cursive handwriting in second grade, and students take a turn on stage for their annual class play and Declamation Day.
Building upon the foundation of skills laid in the first grade, Grymes second graders are busy developing reading, writing and math skills. Developing a love of books and reading is the goal!
Reading assessments help us tailor instruction to each student as they continue to set the foundation of decoding and comprehension skills through the basal reader. Students write daily through literature response, journaling and content area projects, and as the year progresses stories, poems and paragraphs with a topic sentence, supporting details and conclusion become increasingly sophisticated. A word study approach to spelling and Wordly Wise vocabulary are introduced to broaden students’ language.
Second grade uses the My Math curriculum for mathematics. With nine curriculum units that focus on computational fluency and reasoning with substantive work in rational numbers, geometry, measurement, data and early algebra, the math curriculum is designed to engage students in making connections in mathematical ideas. Daily math activities vary in organization from whole class, small group, partner pair or individual work , and a strong emphasis on learning through use of games and manipulatives allows children to model and solve problems, explain their thinking and deepen understanding.
Twice weekly, social studies is taught with an emphasis on world geography, landforms, continents and oceans. A study of maps, Native Americans, explorers and pioneers compares the past and present. Science in the Lower School lab is taught once a week by our dedicated lower school science teacher, covering a range of topics from the geosphere and hydrosphere to the nature of matter in physical science, and birds in life science. Second graders adopt a grandparent at a local nursing home, forming meaningful relationships with the elderly in our community that they will continue to build through the third grade. A class play and poetry declamations are a highlight of the year.
Third graders are immersed in the world of Virginia history. Beginning with an in-depth study of the three language groups of American Indians in Virginia prior to English settlement, the curriculum follows the sequence of the state’s history all the way up through the Civil War and Reconstruction. Adventures outside of the classroom throughout the year include trips to Jamestown, Montpelier, Monticello, the Virginia Historical Society and the Civil War Hospital in Gordonsville. Third graders learn by experience as they dress as colonists and celebrate Colonial Christmas in Virginia with games, food and crafts from the period. Students eat hardtack as soldiers did during the Civil War, and they defend their right to vote as a former slave during Reconstruction or a woman during the suffrage movement.
The language arts curriculum includes reading, grammar, written composition, spelling, vocabulary, oral communication and handwriting. Students read books from a variety of genres and learn strategies to respond thoughtfully to their reading in small groups based on skill level. Writing grows in sophistication with a focus on letter writing as well as creative and expository writing. Third graders learn about the author’s process as they write, edit and ultimately publish their own class book. Past titles have included What’s Up, USA? and And Then What Happened, Grymes Memorial School?
Using the My Math program, the math curriculum encourages students to focus on computational fluency with whole numbers with extensive investigation of rational numbers, geometry, measurement, data, and early algebra. Third grade science is a look into the animal kingdom, weather, trees and conservation. Students learn about classification, life cycles, habitats and adaptations in a wide range of flora and fauna. The year in science finishes with a water study and an investigation of how land use affects water bodies, the causes and effects of erosion and the impacts on the Chesapeake Bay.
The fourth grade at Grymes is an exciting and challenging year of transition. Students take on more responsibility in their study skills, time management and organization as they prepare for the big jump into Upper School.
Fourth graders play the role of “big buddy” for the first time, as they are paired with a partner in Junior Kindergarten and take the responsibility very seriously. Students dive into reading with such titles as Frindle, Maniac McGee and The Big Wave. In literature circles they improve their small group discussion skills and share personal reactions with thoughtful writing of poetry, personal narratives, character sketches, factual reports and fictional stories. Fourth graders continue to broaden their vocabularies with a continuation of the “Vocabulary In Action” curriculum, and spelling groups work with specialized lists each week.
Applying the My Math curriculum, math continues to guide students in creative, logical and inquisitive mathematical thinking. Fourth graders work extensively with decimals and fractions, numerical patterns, data analysis and probability. The curriculum supports a wide range of learners, both on different levels and with different learning styles.
Fourth grade science begins with a study of plants and birds in the fall, continues into motion, machines and the human body in the winter, and culminates with a study of the planets and solar system in the Spring. Students become globally conscious with an intensive study of world geography, studying each continent, learning its physical and cultural geography, countries, states and capitals. Numerous hands-on creative projects encourage students to think as global citizens.