Academics

Lower School (Grades 1-4)

Welcome to Renbrook's Lower School!

We are a community of learners in grades one through four. As a faculty and staff, we are grateful each and every day to spend our time in the company of children who love learning, sharing their thinking, and helping one another. 

Our division serves as a bridge between our students' early childhood schooling and their middle school years. We are housed in the Nelson Building on campus, which provides learning spaces and classrooms designed specifically for this age group. Our classrooms are spacious, allowing for flexible seating and learning centers. Teachers and students utilize many outdoor spaces as pop-up classrooms providing opportunities for outdoor learning, fresh air, and movement.  

Grade level teachers in the Lower School work to develop positive and sincere relationships with their students and families. We believe the rapport between teacher and student and teacher and parent plays a vital role in supporting young children's growth and development.  

Each morning grade-level classes begin with Morning Meeting intentionally designed to provide opportunities for our students to build community, confidence, self-regulation, and joy. As the school day progresses, students engage in their core academic subjects and various special area subjects such as library, Spanish, PE, art, STEAM, and music. Daily recess for all Lower School classes is a priority allowing our students an opportunity to freely play among one another and build cooperation, self-regulation, sportsmanship, and fitness. 

Community is truly at the heart of our Lower School program. As students work together learning new ideas and building skills, they read for pleasure and meaning, write with purpose and to entertain, debate with passion, question with curiosity, and apply new knowledge in thoughtful ways. I feel so very fortunate to be a member of the Renbrook Community and work alongside such talented teachers and amazing kids. Every day is full of adventure and wonder here in the Lower School!

Julie Schlossinger
Lower School Head

Learn More about Each Grade Level Curriculum

List of 7 items.

  • First Grade

    Literacy
    Reading - Grade One readers at Renbrook are supported through systematic instruction of critical early reading skills. Teachers use Fundations® which is a program that teaches reading, spelling, and handwriting skills in a multisensory and fun way. The following concepts and skills are covered in Grade One:
    • letter formation
    • phonological and phonemic awareness
    • sound mastery
    • phonics
    • irregular (trick) words
    • vocabulary
    • fluency
    • comprehension
    • spelling
    • handwriting
    In addition, Grade One teachers use reading and writing curriculum resources from Lucy Calkins out of Columbia Teachers College. The Units of Study for Teaching Reading in Grade One are:
    • Building Good Reading Habits which taps into the social power of peers working together to help each other become more strategic as readers.
    • Learning About the World: Reading Nonfiction which connects to children's natural curiosity as they explore nonfiction. Instruction focuses on comprehension strategies, word solving, vocabulary, fluency, and the author's craft.
    • Meeting Characters and Learning Lessons: A Study of Story Elements which spotlights story elements and the skills that are foundational to literal and inferential comprehension, including empathy, imagination, envisioning, prediction, character study, and interpretation.
    The Units of Study for Teaching Writing in Grade One are:
    • Small Moments: Writing with Focus, Detail, and Dialogue which shows students how to take everyday events and craft them into focused, well-structured stories, bringing characters alive through the use of dialog and description.  
    • Nonfiction Chapter Books introduces students into the world of informational writing as they combine pictures and charts with vocabulary and craft engaging "teaching" texts.
    • Writing Reviews helps students create persuasive reviews of a variety of subjects and activities such as restaurants, movies, ice cream flavors, and books. Students are taught how to hook their readers, express their opinion, and bolster their arguments.  
    • From Scenes to Series: Writing Fiction teaches students to “show, not tell” through the use of action, dialogue, and feelings.  
    Math
    Grade One students are taught mathematics using Math In Focus®Singapore Math®. The approach to instruction in Singapore math focuses on conceptual understanding, skill development, strategies for solving problems, attitudes toward math, and metacognition.
    Grade One math concepts are as follows:
    • Numbers to 120
    • Number Bonds
    • Addition Facts to 10
    • Subtraction Facts to 10
    • Shapes and Patterns
    • Ordinal Numbers and Position
    • Addition and Subtraction Facts to 100
    • Weight
    • Picture Graphs and Bar Graphs
    • Mental Math Strategies
    • Calendar and Time
    • Money
    Social Studies
    Grade One students investigate the big idea of how people find order in their lives by working and living together in a community. Students learn the basics of geography, economics, and citizenship in the context of expanding their view to include the local community. Primary source documents, project-based learning, and field trips provide students authentic and meaningful experiences that truly bring learning to life. Grade One students explore:
    • similarities and differences between and among various kinds of communities (urban, rural, suburban)
    • characteristics of particular communities and community helpers
    • rules needed in the classroom and laws in school communities
    • ways to be a good citizen
    • our responsibility to protect environments
    • uniqueness of individuals
     
  • Fourth Grade

    Literacy
    Reading - Grade Four teachers use reading and writing curriculum resources from Lucy Calkins out of Columbia Teachers College. The Units of Study for Teaching Reading in Grade Four are:
    • Interpreting Characters: The Heart of the Story where students study the complexity of characters and explore themes while developing skills such as inference and interpretation.
    • Reading the Weather, Reading the World is a unit that puts students into research teams to delve into topics about extreme weather and natural disasters while developing their skills in cross-text synthesis, practicing close reading, comparing and contrasting, and evaluating sources to determine credibility.
    • Reading History has students study multiple points of view, support a position with reasons and evidence, tackle complex texts, and learn strategies for using new domain-specific words for a specific historical event such as
    • Historical Fiction Clubs help students practice reading analytically, synthesizing complicated narratives, comparing themes, and incorporating nonfiction research into their reading.
     
    The Units of Study for Teaching Writing in Grade Four are:
    • The Arc of Story: Writing Realistic Fiction is a unit where students learn that the lenses they bring to reading fiction can also be brought to writing fiction, as they develop believable characters with struggles and motivations and rich stories to tell.
    • Boxes and Bullets: Personal and Persuasive Essays teaches students about the value of organization and form as they gather evidence to support and express an opinion on topics they know well.
    • Bringing History to Life students are ready to tackle historical research in which they collect evidence and use details to vividly describe people and events long ago and far away.
    • The Literary Essay: Writing About Fiction builds on their learning of essay writing and has students apply their new skills with increasing sophistication to a unit on literary essays.
    Math
    Grade Four students are taught mathematics using Math In Focus®Singapore Math®. The approach to instruction in Singapore math focuses on conceptual understanding, skill development, strategies for solving problems, attitudes toward math, and metacognition.
    Grade Four math concepts are as follows:
    • Working with Whole Numbers to 100,000
    • Estimation & Number Theory
    • Whole Number Multiplication & Division
    • Tables & Line Graphs
    • Data & Probability
    • Fractions & Mixed-Numbers
    • Decimals
    • Adding & Subtracting Decimals
    • Angles
    • Perpendicular & Parallel Line Segments
    • Squares & Rectangles
    • Conversion of Measurements
    • Area & Perimeter
    • Symmetry
    • Tessellations
    Social Studies
    Grade Four students study geography to understand the concepts of location, place, movement, and region. They research and report on a country where the ultimate learning goal is to help them understand that despite facing different geographic and political situations, people all over the world are more similar than different. Students also learn about the United Nations. They discover that cultures are affected by location, resources, religions, and people. Students explore global issues/goals, basic human rights, and what active participation in global citizenship means.
  • Third Grade

    Literacy
    Reading - Grade Three readers at Renbrook
    In addition, Grade Three teachers use reading and writing curriculum resources from Lucy Calkins out of Columbia Teachers College. The Units of Study for Teaching Reading in Grade Three are:
    • Building a Reading Life which transitions students from learning to read to reading to learn. They are immersed in fiction while working on word solving, vocabulary development, inferring, and prediction. 
    • Reading to Learn: Grasping Main Ideas and Text Structures focuses on the skills needed to read expository nonfiction, such as main idea, text infrastructure, comparing texts, and thinking critically.
    • Character Studies shifts back to fiction books where students are taught how to closely observe characters, make predictions, and sharpen their skills of interpretation.
    • Research Clubs: Elephants, Penguins, and Frogs, Oh My! helps students understand that text can serve as a teacher. They work in clubs to gather, synthesize, and organize information about animals, and then use the information to identify solutions to real-world problems.
     
    The Units of Study for Teaching Writing in Grade Three are:
    • Crafting True Stories extends students’ work with personal narrative while engaging them more fully in the complete writing process, with increasing emphasis on drafting and revising their work. 
    • The Art of Information Writing teaches students how to write chapter books that synthesize a wide variety of information. They also learn how to section topics into subtopics. They write about topics they have firsthand, personal knowledge of such as dogs or soccer.
    • Changing the World: Persuasive Speeches, Petitions, and Editorials inspires students  to use their newfound abilities to gather and organize information to persuade people about causes they believe matter such as stopping bullying, recycling, or saving dogs at a shelter.
    • Once Upon a Time: Adapting and Writing Fairy Tales uses fairy tales to explore the techniques of fiction writing such as writing scenes, omniscient narrators that orient readers, story structure that creates tension, and figurative language to convey mood.
     
    Math
    Grade Three students are taught mathematics using Math In Focus®Singapore Math®. The approach to instruction in Singapore math focuses on conceptual understanding, skill development, strategies for solving problems, attitudes toward math, and metacognition.
    Grade Three math concepts are as follows:
    • Numbers to 10,000
    • Mental Math & Estimation
    • Addition Up To 10,000
    • Subtraction Up To 10,000
    • Using Bar Models: Addition & Subtraction
    • Multiplication Tables of 6, 7, 8, & 9
    • Multiplication
    • Division
    • Using Bar Models: Multiplication & Division
    • Money
    • Metric Length, Mass, & Volume
    • Real-World Problems: Measurement
    • Bar Graphs & Line Plots
    • Customary Length, Weight, & Capacity
    • Time & Temperature
    • Area & Perimeter
    • Fractions
    • Angles & Lines
    • Two-Dimensional Shapes
    Social Studies
    Grade Three students participate in three units of study that focus on people, places, and change. They learn about the history surrounding how and why people moved west during the period of Westward Expansion and immigrated through Ellis Island. In addition, they learn about how, when, and why territories were admitted to the Union with specific focus on geography, civics, and economics
  • Second Grade

    Literacy
    Reading - Grade Two readers at Renbrook progress further into the study of word structure. Teachers use Fundations®, a program that teaches reading, spelling, and handwriting skills in a multisensory and fun way. The following concepts and skills are covered in Grade Two:
    • parts of words (syllables, basewords, suffixes)
    • six syllable types: closed, vowel-consonant-e, open, r-controlled, vowel digraph/diphthong, and consonant-le
    • high frequency words including irregular words
    • synonyms
    • dictionary skills
    • correct writing position and pencil grip
    • clear, legible manuscript
    • punctuation (period, question mark, exclamation point)
    • capitalization rules for beginning of sentences and names of people
    • fluency
    • retell recounting key ideas and details
    • prefixes
    • characterization
    • theme
    • main idea
    • adjectives
    • adverbs
     
    In addition, Grade Two teachers use reading and writing curriculum resources from Lucy Calkins out of Columbia Teachers College. The Units of Study for Teaching Reading in Grade Two are:
    • Second-Grade Reading Growth Spurt helps students learn how to make decisions regarding their own reading, to apply all they have learned to decode harder, multisyllabic words, what authors do as writers, and how to develop their thoughts when reading.
    • Becoming Experts: Reading Nonfiction supports students as they work on word solving, vocabulary development, and comparing information across texts.
    • Bigger Books Mean Amping Up Reading Power where students learn new strategies for fluency, figurative language, and comprehension.
    • Series Book Clubs places students in book clubs where they study author’s craft to understand ways authors use word choice, figurative language, punctuation, and patterns to construct a series and evoke feelings in readers.
    The Units of Study for Teaching Writing in Grade Two are:
    • Lessons from the Masters: Improving Narrative Writing where students learn how to craft engaging narratives by stretching out small moments and writing in greater detail.
    • Lab Reports and Science Books uses inspirational nonfiction texts to help students design and write about experiments and other scientific information.
    • Writing About Reading has students read closely and gather evidence from texts to craft persuasive arguments.
    • Poetry: Big Thoughts in Small Packages helps students explore and appreciate language. They learn to use line breaks to express the meaning and rhythm they intend and use visualization and figures of speech to make their writing more clear and powerful.
    Math
    Grade Two students are taught mathematics using Math In Focus®Singapore Math®. The approach to instruction in Singapore math focuses on conceptual understanding, skill development, strategies for solving problems, attitudes toward math, and metacognition.
    Grade Two math concepts are as follows:
    • Numbers to 1,000
    • Addition Up To 1,000
    • Subtraction Up To 1,000
    • Using Bar Models: Addition and Subtraction
    • Multiplication
    • Multiplication Tables of 2, 5, & 10
    • Metric Measurements of Length
    • Mental Math & Estimation
    • Money
    • Customary Measurement of Length
    • Time
    • Picture Graphs
    • Lines & Surfaces
    • Shapes & Patterns
    Social Studies
    Grade Two students develop map skills as they learn about their home state of Connecticut. They explore Connecticut state symbols and then the Connecticut River where they discover and explore the natural environment and human experiences along its 410 miles. Students are also taught about the concept of changemakers as they learn about many people in history and today that serve as changemakers, those who identify a specific problem or opportunity to tackle and get to work.
  • Physical Education

    At Renbrook School, our Physical Education department strives to guide students towards finding a lifelong love of fitness, sports, exercise, health, and play. The Physical Education and Athletics programs offer various age-appropriate activities to meet each student’s physical, emotional, and cognitive development. The well-planned and sequential curriculum allows students to build individual skills, understand concepts, and learn about the importance of health and wellness. We emphasize cooperation, respect for self and others, teamwork, and competition.   

    The Physical Education faculty stresses safety, support for the emerging athlete, and a balance between competition and good sportsmanship. Two gymnasiums and an abundance of athletic fields, ropes course, and outdoor learning spaces are available to all students.  

    Grades 1-3
    Lower School students are introduced to skill-themed and movement concept units. Children work to problem solve individually, in pairs, and as a group. Social-emotional development is fostered during these years. Children begin to take ownership over their own learning and needs. 
    The curriculum is designed to meet the needs of each individual child through a guided discovery and movement education approach. Each lesson includes time to work on physical fitness, skill development, and learning concepts and strategies in modified game situations. Students are given opportunities to work on teamwork, collaboration, and cooperation. 
    In the Physical Education department, we aim to help students adopt a can-do attitude. Students are encouraged to develop a sense of achievement through their effort and perseverance.  
    Lower School students learn: 
    • The importance of exercise, health, and wellness 
    • Fitness and how muscles work 
    • Locomotor movements 
    • Hand-eye coordination 
    • Sport skills 
    • Cooperative behavior 
    • Social development 
    • What makes a good teammate  
    • Good sportsmanship and fair play  
    • Self-confidence 
    • To become a self-driven learner 
    • The joy of engaging in a lifetime of physical activity 
    Grade 4
    Fourth-grade Physical Education is a continuation in the pursuit of refinement of gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination with a movement towards sport-specific skills. 

    Students are introduced to units where they learn the basics of the sports they will play in the upper school. Core skills and sport-specific skills continue to be developed in a developmentally appropriate way using modified games. More complex sports concepts and strategies are practiced using drills and lead-up games.  

    Cognitive, psychomotor, and affective skill development are the pillars for each lesson and unit. Teamwork and sportsmanship are important parts of the curriculum, with opportunities presented in every class. 

    Fourth-grade students explore their individual fitness levels. Utilizing the FitnessGram, we measure student’s cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility. This gives students ownership over their own well-being and highlights the importance of health, wellness, and exercise.  

    In fourth grade, we teach students to take responsibility for personal property and educate them about locker room etiquette.  

    Students are exposed to a variety of different sports and activities, including: 
    • Field Hockey 
    • Football 
    • Soccer 
    • Baseball/ Softball 
    • Basketball 
    • Volleyball 
    • Gymnastics 
    • Project Adventure 
    • Tennis/ Badminton 
    • Fitness testing 
  • STEAM

    The  STEAM program is centered around the philosophy that in authentic environments, effective solutions often require the knowledge and skills from multiple content areas. We believe it is crucial that students learn how to fuse prior knowledge with new tools to think critically and problem-solve effectively. Students should be guided through the engineering and design process as they learn to goal set and plan. We believe there is more value in the learning process than the final product and emphasize the importance of questioning, exploring, and reflecting.

    Grades 1-2 
    Engineering design in the earliest grades introduces students to “problems” as situations that people want to change. They can use tools and materials to solve simple problems, use different representations to convey solutions, and compare different solutions to a problem and determine which is best. Students in all grade levels are not expected to come up with original solutions, although original solutions are always welcome. Emphasis is on thinking through the needs or goals that need to be met, and which solutions best meet those needs and goals. 

    Grade 1 STEAM - My Place in Space
    In first grade, we explore the question: To what extent do spatial relationships influence the relationship between and among organisms and places? We do this by exploring how our five senses help us make observations, discover new things, and ask questions about the world around us on planet Earth and beyond. We explore how the sun, moon, and stars change position in the sky and how this affects our daily lives; how sound and light can be used to communicate and solve problems; and we look at how plants and animals use their superpower senses and adaptations to survive in each of their environments.

    Grade 2 STEAM - The Building Blocks of Life
    In second grade, we explore the question: How can examining cause and effect help us understand relationships between organisms, land, and water, and changes in matter? We do this through questioning and observing how water can reshape the earth's surface; diving deep into the dirt and discovering how vital soil is to our existence; exploring how a material's properties have a direct effect on its function; examining the many factors that can contribute to a plant's survival; and studying the many cause and effect relationships within animal species and their habitats.

    Grades 3 – 4 
    At the upper elementary grades, engineering design engages students in more formalized problem-solving. Students define a problem using criteria for success and constraints or limits of possible solutions. Students research and consider multiple possible solutions to a given problem. Generating and testing solutions also becomes more rigorous as the students learn to optimize solutions by revising them several times to obtain the best possible design. 

    Grade 3 STEAM- Change and Human Impact
    In third grade, we explore the question: To what extent can studying evidence from the past help us make predictions, prevent future problems, and make decisions that will affect the future? We do this through investigating how clouds are formed and creating arguments using evidence about weather predictions; analyzing the history of the earth's climate and identifying problems that have arisen due to rising temperatures; identifying the relationship between changes in the environment and the survival of organisms that live there; discovering how pollination works and studying how humans continue to make food plants even more useful; and lastly, studying how force changes form and how this allows us to have a larger impact on the world around us.

    Grade 4 STEAM- Transformative Systems
    In fourth grade, we explore the question: How can the understanding of transformations be used to impact our role in the larger system? We do this through building models of different body parts and determine how we can transform the information collected into information coded for robots; investigating the ways land transforms and using that to analyze patterns in land and rock; discovering how sound works and connecting it to how our ears sense vibrations and transform sounds; and lastly, designing systems to observe how energy transforms from one form to another and using that information to design a chain reaction.
    Signature Projects:
      • Design a Knee Brace: students study how the leg works and design and test a knee brace.
      • Create a Petroglyph: students study rock properties and types to create a replica of a cave drawing.
      • Rube Goldberg Machine: students study how energy transforms and design a Rube Goldberg Machine.
  • Visual Arts

    The Lower School Art Program exposes students to a variety of techniques such as printmaking, painting, ceramics, drawing, sculpture, and mixed-media work as well. Students become familiar with a wide range of materials including clay, oil pastels, tempera, and watercolor paint, Paper Mache, and wire. Emphasis is placed on observation, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. Many of our projects revolve around the study of Art History, the Elements of Design, and Multi-Cultural Art. The Lower School Art Studio is a large, light-filled space equipped with a kiln, expansive storage areas, multiple work surfaces, and a smart TV. Classes meet weekly throughout the school year and student work is displayed throughout the school creating a yearlong art show for all to enjoy.

    The First and Second Grade Visual Arts Curriculum continues to build upon the foundations established in a student’s Early Learning Center Art experience. Lessons draw from a rich and varied framework. Projects throughout the year are inspired by the natural world, art history, and children’s literature. Artwork is inspired by these sources and reflects the child's interpretation of a central theme, which can include, friendship, inclusion, cultural awareness, and kindness. A more formal introduction to the Elements of Design (Line, Space, Shape, Color, Value, Texture, and Form) is also a vital part of the student’s learning in the first and second-grade art experience.
    The Third and Fourth Grade Visual Arts Curriculum is centered around an interdisciplinary approach that works to connect learning taking place in a student's classroom with a meaningful art component. Major units of study in third grade will inspire student’s art in a way that will both enhance their learning as well as introduce them to a variety of art materials and techniques. Topics that are covered include the study of the Hudson River School and how their work was influenced by Western Expansion, a closer look at artists throughout history who immigrated and why, and using the National Parks as a source of visual discovery. Fourth-grade artists spend much of their year studying the cultural diversity found in art which is aligned with their classroom global studies focus. By opening our students' eyes to the world of art around them, students make connections to other cultures with a sense of inclusion and compassion.
Julie Schlossinger is the Head of Lower School at Renbrook. She has worked as a preschool, kindergarten, grade four teacher, and administrator for over twenty-five years. Julie earned a BA in Writing and Child Development from East Carolina University, an MSEd in Educational Leadership from Bank Street College of Education, and is currently working on her dissertation for a doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of Hartford. Julie believes all students can learn at a high level when provided a school setting that prioritizes positive student-teacher relationships, places equal emphasis on social-emotional development and academics, gives students choice in their learning, and where a cohesive team of relationships is built among parents, teachers, and administrators in support of each child.

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