Lower School

As you walk into our Lower School classrooms, you will see engaged and excited learners! The Wesley Lower School fosters "whole child" learning for a range of learning styles. To enable our staff to meet student needs, our model features:

1:8 ratio of adults to children in kindergarten through 2nd grade - two teachers and two teaching assistants
1:11 ratio of adults to children in grades 3rd through 5th - two teachers and one teaching assistant
Special teachers in art, music, PE, technology, Spanish, and library

The above ratios are supported by the addition of two full-time student support teachers: Lee Siwek, our Director of Student Support, and Diane Pullano, our resource teacher. Student support teachers work directly with students in the classroom, pull out students for special help, and work with teachers to differentiate instruction. Our continuous professional development sustains our school culture of differentiated instruction, application of current research on brain physiology and learning, and implementation of knowledge of social thinking skills.

Curriculum Instruction
Lower School curriculum and instruction display best practices in education. Our approach combines:

knowledge of stages of child development
processes of social emotional development
constructivist learning pedagogy
standards of learning in disciplinary areas

Constructivism is a theory of learning based on scientific research that explains how learners actively create their own knowledge. People construct understanding and knowledge of the world through experience and reflection. Learning is an active process; we continuously ask questions, explore, and assess what we know.

The Wesley School creates a strong school identity of learning as curricular goals weave easily both through the classroom and through important community and cultural events in daily school life.

Teaching & Learning
People learn most easily when they feel a sense of belonging. Classroom teachers and staff create a warm and engaging environment for learning in math, English language arts, science, social studies, study skills, and social thinking skills. A wide range of resources complements formal programs in key subject areas to maintain flexibility and integration of disciplines:

Math - Everyday Math, published by University of Chicago, provides online and textbook structure for math learning in K through 5th grade. A supplemental Singapore math model drawing project supports problem solving throughout the school year. Students learn math through memorizing key concepts that are applied in increasingly complex contexts. Games, challenging problems, and curriculum integration of disciplines generate classroom engagement and a love of math.

Reading and Writing - All elementary teachers attend Columbia University’s Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop training. Workshop approaches individualize instruction in reading and writing, beginning with assessment of student level; teachers direct instruction at the level which will best meet the learner's needs, while establishing grade level performance objectives. Our strong writers eagerly share their voices with increasing skill as they move into middle school prepared for formal essay writing, literature analysis, and research.

Science - The Next Generation Science Standards provide rich options for content development as well as the “8 practices of science and engineering." Both Science: a Closer Look and FOSS kits are among the resources available to teachers, and our school gardens increasingly foster scientific investigations integrated with outdoor learning.

Our students ask questions and define problems, develop and use models, plan and carry out investigation, analyze and interpret data, use math and computational thinking, construct explanations and solutions, engage in arguments based on evidence, and obtain, evaluate, and share information.

Specials:

Spanish is taught in Kindergarten through 5th grade and in the middle school. Early second language instruction increases flexibility of thinking and appreciation for diversity as well as provides a foundation for later foreign language learning. Aligned with best practices for second language acquisition, children in the younger grades participate in oral language lessons. When students have mastered reading and writing in English, 3rd through 5th grade students begin adding writing and reading skills to prepare for Middle School Spanish instruction. We welcome native Spanish speakers and adjust our instruction to celebrate their expertise.

Technology is a tool for learning. Students receive weekly instruction from a dedicated technology teacher who also helps teachers integrate technology use in the classrooms. Our Lower School music program features digital keyboards and composition for 4th and 5th grade. The 4th and 5th grade students also utilize iPads to enhance their learning.

Art instruction both integrates within classroom lessons as well as holds a unique spot in weekly study. Students' lessons include drawing, perspective, line and color studies, and other art fundamentals through projects that stand alone and/or support classroom learning.

Our Lower School Music program features two teachers, one for the lower primary and one for the upper grades. Students in kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade learn songs that support curriculum and school routines as well as enjoy choral adventures and movement that culminate in performances in our chapel. Our 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students learn choral skills as well as aspects of music theory, and 4th and 5th grade students begin study of electronic keyboards and digital composition.

Physical Education and Sports are important aspects of The Wesley Lower School program. All students have PE three times per week. Our PE staff implements the SPARK curriculum for kindergarten through 3rd grade (http://www.sparkpe.org/), beginning to incorporate the rules and skills for development of team sports starting in 3rd grade. Competitive athletic team participation begins in 4th grade, and all students are eligible for participation. Our sports program is based on fun for all as they learn skills and strategies, and it provides competitive opportunities with other schools.

Service Learning expresses our commitment to local and global community identity. All Wesley Lower School classrooms participate in individual service learning projects that augment our all-school service projects led by Student Council and that feature field trips into the community.

Signature Projects provide an opportunity for students to share what they have learned with the entire school community. Each year students and teachers select a unit of study to highlight, combining a rich array of discplines, and culminating in a short-version chapel presentation to the school community and a longer version for parents.

Our 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders participate in Outdoor Education. 3rd graders participate in a local full day trip and 4th and 5th grade students engage in overnight learning experiences.

Grade by Grade
Our small school and multi-aged programs (chapel, PRIDE, buddies, school celebrations) facilitate familiarity within our community, but each grade level provides uniquely memorable experiences. An essential question guides each grade level’s learning, providing a context from which students and teachers view distinct lessons.

Kindergarten
Students explore the essential question: "Who am I?”

As students explore their families, cultures, and world through their senses, and learn about insects and bugs, they reflect on who they are in relation to their experiences.

“Kinderland” houses our two kindergarten classrooms and a large yard evolving to incorporate a certified outdoor education classroom. A work in progress, Kinderland is designed for outdoor learning, physical skill development, and problem solving for social emotional learning. Kindergarten students are taught through a range of individual, small group, and large group instruction with a differentiated curriculum to meet the needs of individual students. Ongoing informal and formal assessments guide our instruction.

Kindergarten language arts instruction helps students develop a love for reading as well as specific skills in phonics and comprehension. Students engage their own voices in writing as they publish books they have written. Math instruction begins with the children’s perspective of the world view and incorporates hands-on lessons with manipulative objects.

Our strong social emotional curriculum implemented by our skilled kindergarten teachers results in emotional readiness, increased independence and social maturity as the students enter 1st grade.

1st Grade
Students explore the essential question: "Where do I fit in the circle of life?"

Students in 1st grade engage in “must do/may do” demonstrating their ability to make decisions and develop skills in planning. Social emotional skills get a boost as teachers implement Social Thinking concepts such as “just me thinking” or “group thinking” and monitor levels of reaction to situations.

Reading is central to 1st grade, and our students blossom as readers through Reading Workshop, allowing them to read books at their own level and respond to literature with thoughtfulness. Student writing is fostered through Writing Workshop with mini-lessons about specific writing skills and continues to build their voices as writers. Teachers work with students in small groups and individually as they implement Everyday Math and begin exposure to weekly problem solving using the Singapore Math model drawing. The arts and poetry are important in 1st grade culture, and students share the spoken word in their Poetry Jam. The end of year project about endangered animals unifies all curriculum and creates an opportunity for students to share their learning with family and friends through a Signature Project.

2nd Grade
Students explore the essential question: "What is my place in the World?"

Students in 2nd grade demonstrate their increasing independence in many ways. Students vote each year to determine their service learning project, after long and thoughtful discussions. For several years, students have collected books for Bookends, developing skills in organization and social development, managing hundreds of books, while meeting new friends in a school in need of a library.

As 2nd grade students explore their essential question, they study the immigration patterns of family members coming to Los Angeles and learn about their city from first-hand exploration on field trips. Students also begin a study of famous people and how they influenced our world, providing strong role models for the children. Students begin to develop an awareness of the map of the United States and world geography. Science includes a look at weather and its effect on humans, and they begin to learn about how their bodies work through a study of nutrition and health.

Learning is always fun in 2nd grade. Students learn the continents and values of money through chants and songs, and role playing famous people concludes a study of biographies generated through non-fiction reading in Reading Workshop. Our 2nd graders grow as writers, and Writing Workshop becomes a time of collaborative evaluation of each other’s work. Math begins with Everyday Math curriculum and also includes problem solving with the Singapore Math Model Drawing and math in real life experiences. Our Social Thinking curriculum is evident as students become more able to generate solutions to problems and plan for successes.

3rd Grade
Students explore the essential question: "How does environment shape life?"

Students in 3rd grade learn science through our school vegetable garden. Life Lab resources, among others, provides a framework for incorporating science standards through learning about plants, soil, tools, and small creatures. The garden also provides students with opportunities to develop perseverance and to appreciate the fruits of their labors.

As a culminating activity as part of our outdoor education program, 3rd graders participate in a full day of study out in the local environment. As students grow attuned to the natural environment, they lay the foundation for their signature project, a research study of indigenous peoples of the United States.

4th Grade
Students explore the essential question: "How do different points of view contribute to common experience?"

Eureka! The 4th grade is characterized by the study of California: missions, the gold rush, and earthquakes, learning about the complex cultures and events that led to modern California. Students spill out onto our courtyard, designing models to re-create life during the 1840’s, later acting as docents for other lower school students and for their parents to help them engage with the 4th grade signature project.

In science students learn about electro-magnetism, rocks, and processes that form the earth. As students become increasingly skilled at reading, writing, and research, laptop computers and iPads are common fixtures in the classroom. Parents and students work with our technology consultant, Lori Getz, to learn about internet safety and netiquette.

Students in 4th and 5th grade participate in an overnight trip to Astro Camp to support team building and their science learning.

Younger children benefit from the leadership provided by 4th and 5th grade buddies, sitting with them at chapel and participating in guided activities.

5th Grade
Students explore the essential question: "How does change affect people and places?"

The 5th grade is a year of change and consolidation. We know that students have matured much since 4th grade - intellectually, socially, and physically. This is a year of challenge, as students become able to tackle more complex and difficult work and begin to connect with their outer world.

The classroom supports sophisticated discussions and student inspired work as they revisit indigenous America with and begin to understand the concept of social justice. Our 5th grade students study the forming of the 13 colonies and early years of the United States, always exploring the complexities of cultural perspectives and change.

Science instruction includes a focus on chemistry, weather systems, and human physiology. As we increasingly encompass the Next Generation science standards, engineering and technology become important science curricular components.

Our Lower School culminates with the 5th grade, and 5th graders demonstrate increasing responsibilities and skills, preparing students for our middle school program. Younger children benefit from the leadership provided by 4th and 5th grade buddies, sitting with them at chapel and participating in guided activities.

Along with 4th grade students, parents and students work with our technology consultant, Lori Getz to learn about internet safety and netiquette. Our 5th grade students also learn about substance abuse and decision-making through Miles to Go, and they begin to learn about puberty.

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