Laying a strong foundation for a lifetime love of learning begins in our Lower School.
As long as your children develop a lifelong love of learning at a very early age, we feel it's easier to keep them engaged through the more difficult Middle School years, and then into the challenging high school years that really count in trying to go to college." — Jennifer Neff (mother of Kate, '23, and Michael, '20)
LAYING THE FOUNDATION
Lower School teachers work to keep their students actively engaged in the process of learning by nurturing curiosity and a love for learning within the framework of a structured curriculum. Creative thinking and analytical reasoning are encouraged in this content-rich, classical, education.
The Lower School curriculum emphasizes mastery of academic skills and content, as well as the development of social skills in the context of character education. Teachers have the freedom to meet curricular goals using the medium they feel works best, and seek to balance developmental and academic readiness with rigor. Essential study skills like note taking and organization are woven into daily work and projects so students learn to apply these skills and are prepared to handle the work assigned. Teachers help mold these growing scholars into capable, ethical, and articulate citizens — a process that takes time but the results of which last a lifetime.
Our Lower School teachers are trained in the research- and evidence-based Responsive Classroom approach. This approach incorporates students' social and emotional growth into their academic learning. It stems from the belief that children learn best through social interaction and when they are purposefull taught social and emotional skills along with their academic lessons. The goal is to enable optimal student learning through the implementation and refining of classroom and school-wide practices. The Responsive Classroom approach has been shown to increase academic achievement in elementary school students, decrease negative behavior, improve social skills, and raise the quality of instruction.
The Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten classes emphasize hands-on and play-based learning. Teachers work closely to plan projects that carry through a child's journey from Junior Kindergarten and on to Kindergarten. Our Kindergarten graduates leave prepared to take the next step in their educational journey.
The co-curricular classes for Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten include Art, Music, World Languages, Physical Education, and Technology. Co-curricular classes complement and mirror what students are learning in their classrooms.
Wakefield's Lower School consists of first through fifth grades and is designed to provide engaging, meaningful preparation both across the curriculum and beyond it. In addition to laying a solid foundation for Middle School and beyond, the Lower School specifically focuses on awakening the curiosity, excitement, and confidence that fuel a love of learning.
In addition to the core subjects, Wakefield offers students exposure to a variety of co-curricular classes, in line with a classical education.
Co-curriculars complement what our students are learning in the classroom, and in many cases mirror or connect to the curriculum. Wakefield's Lower School co-curriculars include Art, World Languages, Music/Theatre, Physical Education, and Technology.
Wakefield's Virtues Program incorporates the character education central to Wakefield's mission into everyday school life. Throughout the year in the Lower School, the four cardinal virtues — prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude — are introduced and characteristics of each virtue are discussed in class on a regular basis to help students see the practical ways they can live these large ideals. Students are acknowledged in the community when they display these characteristics and virtues in their everyday behavior and decision-making, and are helped to see how practicing the cardinal virtues leads to a civil, friendly, supportive, and enjoyable community.
Courtesy: The Pre-School and Junior Kindergarten listened to a short book called Following the Rules and then answered questions about rules they need to follow at school and at home. In Kindergarten through third grades, the students heard the story The Bernstein Bears Forget Their Manners. The younger children then drew pictures of what showing courtesy at home and in school looks like. Students in the third through fifth grades were challenged to see if they could identify the 17 Wakefield Courtesies. These are the rules of etiquette all students in all grades follow on a daily basis.
Responsibility: In the youngest grades, children identified ways they behave responsibly in school and at home. The students talked about the household chores they perform, the jobs they do at school, and different ways they take care of themselves. In the older grades, students explored what it means to be a responsible student, family member, and friend. They identified how and where many of these responsibilities cross over one another.
Respect: Students discuss the meaning of respect: to show regard or appreciation for, or the condition of being esteemed or honored. They then explored the importance of respect for self, others, property, and rules and regulations. Given the upcoming celebration of Earth Day, many of the students thought about the importance of respecting “Mother Earth."
Honesty: Children in all grades identified reasons why being known as an honest person is something for which they strive. In Kindergarten through second grades, the students played with the idea of honesty being the "solid foundation" for each and every day. We discussed how building one's character as an honest person leads to people trusting you, being able to rely on you and respecting you. This, in turn, allows one to develop deeper friendships and gain more responsibilities.
Self-Discipline: Students in our Early Childhood Center listened to Think Before You Act: Learning About Self-Discipline and Self-Control which illustrated that sometimes you have to work hard to do what you are supposed to do, even if it doesn’t match what you feel like doing, in order to get things done. The first through third grade students listened to and discussed the story Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday, by Judith Viorst. After the story, students illustrated some of the difficult decisions they might need to make in order to show self-discipline to reach their goals. The fourth graders spent time talking about what self-discipline means to them. Through shared experiences all the students learned that hard work, determination, and an unending ability to keep at something can lead to your future dreams becoming realities.
Generosity: The Lower School spends much of December exploring, discussing, and taking part in what it truly means to be generous. Donation boxes can be found all over the hallways collecting food for food banks, Toys for Tots, and gently used clothing and toys for folks in need. But giving of material things is only one of the ways students learn to display their own ability to be generous. As the Character Counts Program continues, the children focus on the deeper meaning of generosity: namely, generosity of spirit. Each grade hears and interprets the story The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein.
Commitment: We read I Wanna Iguana, about a boy named Alex and his plans to convince his mother he is ready to take care of an iguana in need of a home. Our students identified the different promises Alex made to his mother, and then explored what could get in the way of his commitments and how he could overcome these obstacles. We discussed how commitments are hard work and the best way to fulfill them is to only commit to things that are truly meaningful to you in some way.
Children in Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten spend much of their day at play. Through play, children learn to create, analyze, measure, and collaborate.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children emphasizes the importance of play in early childhood education. Children learn physical abilities, cognitive skills, social skills, and literacy skills. Play is complex and more than meets the eye. Play keeps kids active and reduces stress — especially outside play!
The NAEYC has many more resources on play's role in early childhood learning here.
Wakefield's daily schedule allows time for both structured lessons and unstructured play time. The object of the structured lessons is to provide even more fuel for students’ imagination while unstructured play time allows students the opportunity to absorb and integrate what they have learned into their ever expanding minds.
Homework is an opportunity for students to practice and reinforce some of the topics, skills and materials addressed during the school day. Setting aside a period of time to independently focus, think, explore, and engage in the work of the day allows children to extend and solidify their learning in a distraction-free environment.
In grades 1-3, students have approximately ten minutes of homework time per grade level (Grade 1=10 minutes total, Grade 2=20 minutes total, Grade 3=30 minutes total), plus additional time for independent or family reading. In Grades 4 and 5, students follow the same guidelines; however, the time is not necessarily balanced across the week. Students are learning to manage their time, and thus may need additional homework time to study for tests and complete projects.
The Wakefield School Learning Support Department is dedicated to helping students with learning differences realize their fullest academic and social potential within our community.
We provide the opportunity for students to appropriately exercise their creative aptitude and to experience the sense of accomplishment that comes from hard work leading to personal success. Additionally, we work with teachers throughout all Wakefield divisions in order to bring best practices to the classroom setting. We strongly believe that teachers and classrooms that are equipped to be inclusive and teach to a wide variety of learning styles best serve all students.
Students who receive direct services through a Learning Support Specialist must be admitted to the program through a formal process that usually includes comprehensive testing.
Parents should contact a member of the Learning Support Team in order to determine the specific process that is required as this process will differ by age and grade level. We automatically offer Learning Support services to any student who has sustained a diagnosed head injury or concussion. These services include classroom and testing accommodations.
Classroom support services that we offer include:
• Consultation with teachers regarding best practices, emerging pedagogical trends, learning differences, testing and assessment and head injury.
• Consultation with teachers regarding students who are enrolled in the Learning Support Program.
• Active communication with classroom teachers regarding student progress for students who are formally enrolled in the Learning Support Program.
• Classroom observations on an as-needed basis
• Active communication
Student services include:
• Provision of classroom accommodations
• Structured study time
• Organizational skills
• Test-taking strategies
• Study strategies
• Support and intervention for language based learning disabilities
• Support and intervention for students with executive functioning difficulties
• Management of testing accommodations
• A progressive, developmentally based program that encourages students to fully engage with their learning difference in order to learn active and reflective management of their own learning process.
Additionally, we interpret psychoeducational and neuropsychological reports for parents, facilitate communication between school and home, and work with parents to create academic break and summer plans for students. We do apply for accommodations for all College Board and ACT testing, and notify parents as early as possible regarding documentation needed for the application process. The Learning Support Team is also happy to provide a referral list for parents who are seeking neuropsychological or psychoeducational testing.