Essential Questions: These four questions drive all of the social studies units for a two-year looping curriculum that introduces children to cultural and historic study of people in different times and places.
The year begins with an expansion of the local community study that began in kindergarten. Children consider the ways that they can meet their needs, adapt to their environment, and build a community at the Foote School. They continue to identify ways in which they are alike and different, and they embrace their roles as contributors to the larger community outside their classroom.
Students’ concept of “community” soon expands to include the New Haven area, with local treks and explorations to investigate the features of our city. Standing at the top of East Rock on a fall day, they consider the view of our city while also thinking about how the location might have looked in the past. Their aerial perspective helps to inform the beginnings of their studies of maps, distances, and landforms.
With this foundation, the children embark on a comprehensive cultural or historic study. In alternating years, the focus is either an African community or the indigenous people of the northeast woodlands. Embedded in these units are lessons and activities related to geography, family structure, social roles, natural resources, and the environment.
First and second grade children approach the world through a multicultural and multidisciplinary lens, with the science and social studies programs providing the structure around which writing, art, music, drama, and literature are developed in the classroom. Reading and mathematical skills are integrated into the curriculum, and field trips are arranged to coincide with units of study. Science and social studies are often organized in parallel. Specific science topics include organisms and their habitats, air and weather, soils, liquids and solids, and balance and motion. Individual and group research projects occur frequently. Classroom investigations and local ecological explorations develop the children's abilities to observe, classify, question, experiment, record, and analyze, as well as to increase their environmental awareness.
First graders continue to build on the foundational numeracy skills introduced in Kindergarten. In order to make the math “come alive,” our curriculum includes many opportunities for children to handle materials, manipulate shapes and objects, and observe mathematics in daily activities. They work with increasingly complex patterns and begin to explore numerical sequences. Students begin to develop problem-solving strategies for accurately and efficiently recalling basic addition and subtraction facts. As they gain comfort with quantities, our first graders investigate “big numbers” with place values through the hundreds and apply their work with basic facts to compute double-digit addition and subtraction problems without regrouping. First graders begin to learn to tell time to the nearest hour and half hour, count collections of coins less than a dollar, and explore 2- and 3-dimensional shapes.
Oral and written language arts continue to be a major focus of instruction throughout the day in our first grade classrooms. During morning meetings, children talk together about ideas, thoughts, feelings, and plans for the day's work, or about events taking place in and out of school. One of the highlights of our
language arts program in first and second grades is a focus on visual literacy. Using beautiful images from the Yale Center for British Art, our students consider the ways in which a picture can really “paint a thousand words.” Read-aloud time is an important daily activity in each classroom. Reading instruction occurs in both individual and small group formats. Teachers make careful choices to help the children gain independence in reading “just-right” books. All the children have a daily quiet book time, and silent reading is encouraged. Children write and share stories based on their interests and personal experiences. They explore a variety of genres in their writing, including personal narratives, short stories, poetry, and informational writing. We encourage children to employ a variety of words in their writing; at this age, unfamiliar words are often spelled phonetically as the students gradually learn conventional spelling rules. Their editing focuses on basic sentence structure, correct punctuation, upper and lower case letters, and correct spelling.
In second grade, students gain a great deal of independence in their reading. While continuing to reinforce decoding and phonics skills, our classes focus on comprehension and meaning. We continue with small reading groups that balance skill instruction and oral expression. One of the components of our language arts program, begun in first grade, is a focus on visual literacy. Using beautiful images from the Yale Center for British Art, our students consider the ways in which a picture can really “paint a thousand words.” Reading groups focus on comprehension skills through sharing ideas and making connections to their own lives. Read-alouds often include longer chapter books that are shared over many days, an experience that helps build stamina and memory strategies. Children’s writing also extends for longer periods and includes more opportunities for revision and editing. In second grade, students use non-fiction books for research and prepare reports to share what they have learned from these investigations. Vocabulary and word choices become even more sophisticated, as teachers encourage the children to use words they have learned from books and content-area lessons. Folk tales and traditional literature are
highlights of the curriculum, offering the children a chance to explore literary elements as well as cultural themes.
In first grade, children are introduced to Spanish, with emphasis on listening and pronunciation as the keystones of language study. Students learn vocabulary and culture by exploring Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico, Bolivia and Spain. In each country, children discover new things and look at maps and photographs. In Mexico, for example, students may learn about the art of Frida Kahlo and El Parque Chapultepec. Students learn about family and birthday traditions in Mexico and make comparisons to their own traditional celebrations in the United States. In Bolivia, students learn about El Gran Mercado andCarnaval and discuss traditional clothing and colors. They talk about living in a city or town and make connections to their own living arrangements incorporating vocabulary related to the house. In Spain, students visit Madrid and learn about and dance the Flamenco. They hear the guitarra seis and play an authentic cajón drum. Nursery rhymes, songs, stories, role-playing, art projects and games are also used to teach elementary vocabulary such as days of the week, animals, family, seasons, weather and numbers. Children are encouraged to speak in full sentences, and are exposed to simple grammar.
In second grade, children are introduced to the sounds of Mandarin Chinese experientially, just as native-speaker children naturally acquire their first words. Chinese classes are often full of rhymes and kinesthetic activities that require children to understand and produce the language orally. During the course of the year, children learn to greet others, introduce themselves, and learn about everyday topics such as numbers, family, colors, sports, body parts and fruit. The goal is for children to use vocabulary words from each thematic unit in meaningful sentences.
Writing of Chinese characters is introduced in order for students to experience the unique Chinese writing system.
Major Chinese holidays are celebrated through hands-on activities that are a part of traditional Chinese culture.
At Foote, we believe in nurturing our students’ physical health and growth as well as their academic progress. With that philosophy as a guiding force, our physical education program is designed to support students’ self-image, build sportsmanship, and provide a basis for a healthy lifelong attitude toward fitness. Our curriculum is carefully sequenced to match the stages of physical, social, and emotional development from year to year. In addition to athletic skills, our program encourages creative expression, builds social concepts such as sportsmanship, cooperation, and fair play, offers opportunities for leadership, encourages children to take risks, and fosters a sense of well-being in a non-competitive setting.
All children at Foote School are members of either the Maroon or Grey sports teams. Spirit is high on our annual Field Day, when students participate in a variety of fun and competitive events between the Maroon and the Grey. Kindergarteners take part only in the morning, competing in a fun run, a scoop relay, and a shuttle relay. All the other students participate in a full day of events, culminating in an all-school relay race around the entire field, featuring the day’s winners of the 60-yard dash from each grade.
The Lower School physical education program provides opportunities for students to express themselves through movement. In the primary grades, classes focus on fine and gross motor skills, balance, spatial awareness, flexibility, endurance, strength and coordination. Activities are lively and fun, making use of a wide variety of equipment, ranging from bean bags to beach balls, whiffle bats, scoops, and foam paddles.
Competition is kept to a minimum and cooperative games are included in most lessons. The 3rd-5th grade program encourages students to build endurance through a gradually increasing running challenge, which culminates in a one-mile run. Also in these later elementary grades, team sports are introduced, along with the concept of rules and sport-specific skills.
In Kindergarten through fifth grade, all three sections of the class participate in gym together, allowing the teachers to divide the group into different configurations. Kindergarteners have gym three times in each six-day cycle; 1st and 2nd graders three times; and third through fifth have gym four times in each cycle.