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The Lower School curriculum expands young minds while supporting their sense of wonder through
• Language Arts
• Mathematics
• Science
• Social Studies
• Physical Education
• Fine and Performing Arts

While a rich, exciting, and intentional day-to-day program is our foundation, the Wheeler Lower School also believes in culminating moments in each grade – “ta-da!” or “wow” events – that draw the threads of the curriculum together in a way that a child will remember forever. Through Aerie, (see link at right) many of these traditional events happen.  

Elementary grade students have the entire campus at their disposal, using the new DIB Lab and Gilder Center for the Arts, with dedicated classroom spaces for music and theater, science and the Prescott Library, to name a few, and technology at their fingertips through iPads and Chromebooks.  

As the "big kids" in Lower School, elementary grade students help lead the weekly Community Meeting and many of the community service opportunities available to the division. They become role models for the Early Childhood students and seek their own role models from the Middle and Upper School divisions, who come often to the classroom for "buddy" projects.

Elementary Grades Curriculum

List of 12 items.

  • Academic Support

    The Lower School academic support teacher provides both reading support in grades one through five and guidance and consultation to all grade-level teachers. In addition, this teacher monitors the learning needs of students and attends meetings with parents to review neuro-psychological, psycho-educational and/or speech and language evaluations completed by professionals in the community.

    The faculty in Lower School believes that children learn in different ways, use different modalities as active learners, and reach developmental and academic milestones at varying times. The goals of the academic support provided by the entire Lower School faculty are for students to begin to understand their own learning styles, for parents to understand their children’s learning styles, and set realistic goals and expectations for their children’s academic, emotional, and social life.
  • Aerie

    Twice each week, Aerie staff work with classroom teachers and students in Kindergarten through Fifth Grade classrooms to enhance curriculum units. Most activities are designed with a hands-on, interactive focus. There are three or four projects in each grade per year. Units typically culminate with exhibitions of student achievement. Examples include “India Day” in First Grade; the Kenyan Safari at the Wheeler Farm (Second Grade); the Medieval Feast (Third); the Ellis Island Immigration Simulation (Fourth); and the Invention Convention (Fifth).

    Electives are offered for students in Grades 3-5, meeting weekly. Students select mini-courses based upon interest. Typical offerings include chess, dance, woodworking, newspaper, and filmmaking. Brown University interns provide much of the instruction in this program.

    Aerie also schedules regular assembly programs and classroom visits by performers and special guests. Student requests have led to lunchtime math and computer clubs, and individual needs are met through special programming in languages, math, or independent study projects when appropriate.
  • Art

    As a school founded by an artist and educator, Mary C. Wheeler, the art program in the Lower School has the special opportunity and responsibility of beginning a process of growth that develops the creative strengths of all its students. Starting with its youngest learners in Nursery, students are exposed to a wide variety of art experiences that use both two and three-dimensional media. Among the many offerings are ceramics, printmaking, painting, drawing, and mixed media sculpture. 

    All classes are divided into small groups with a class size ranging from 8-12 students, making possible individual attention and accommodation of different learning styles.

    The curriculum considers the developmental level of its students while being based on a spiral that repeats and refines the skills necessary for students to plan, create, and evaluate their work with increasing independence.

    To reach this goal we strive for the following:
    • Students will develop their motor and perceptual skills using a rich variety of art making tools. 
    • Students will stretch their imaginations and powers of self-expression by working on a series of projects that stimulate problem-solving skills and decision making.
    • We will work to create an atmosphere that will encourage new ideas and risk-taking. Helping students to go beyond obvious solutions, while at the same time making them feel safe in their efforts, will be a priority. 
    • In addition to increasing skills in self-expression, students will relate the function and role of art to the larger world through use of interdisciplinary links with classroom study.
  • Language Arts

    In first grade there is a strong emphasis on learning to read and spell using systematic and explicit instruction. Students are introduced to phonics, spelling generalizations, high-frequency words and vocabulary in an integrated approach through a comprehensive phonics program. Students enjoy reading phonetically appropriate texts as well as listening to rich literature. Comprehension is emphasized through discussions, written responses, and art projects. Children practice their writing skills in formal writing periods during which they answer specific prompts, free write, or build their own stories using a graphic organizer.

    In the second grade curriculum, writing is a major focus. We nurture the students’ confidence in expressing and sharing their ideas, while focusing on structuring complete and complex sentences. We continue to use a systematic and explicit spelling program. The students work on crafting well-organized personal narratives which focus on plot development, vocabulary, and sequencing. Reading in second grade explores a variety of genres, and the students learn the value of reading for knowledge as well as for pleasure. Daily reading lessons emphasize comprehension, fluency, decoding, and sight vocabulary.

    In third grade the students read both informational and fictional texts. Literal and inferential comprehension skills are focused on through a variety of genres, and students are formally introduced to identifying and understanding figurative language. Third graders explore the elements of a story in depth. The writing process continues in third grade and students respond to specific writing prompts, reflect on their learning, and create stories and poems. Graphic organizers and checklists guide the students’ written pieces. Additionally, our systematic spelling curriculum continues.

    Fourth graders read novels and nonfiction texts integrated with our social studies topics, focusing on literal, inferential, and critical thinking skills. We emphasize the literary elements of character, setting, plot, and conflict. Students prepare for bi-weekly spelling tests and learn vocabulary relevant to all content areas. In addition, they develop skill and voice in writing in a variety of genres, including personal narratives, creative fiction, poetry, and persuasive speeches.

    The fifth grade incorporates a process writing approach using specific graphic organizers. While there are opportunities for narrative work, our focus is on expository writing, specifically thesis-driven, five-paragraph essays. In fifth grade the formal reading curriculum includes fiction, non-fiction, and historical fiction. Through rich texts, students focus on higher-order comprehension skills, tracing character development, summarizing, as well as identifying and understanding figurative language. Students are required to write thoughtful and thorough responses to teacher-assigned questions and become comfortable incorporating text evidence to support their claims. Throughout the year, fifth graders are introduced to advanced vocabulary through a teacher-designed curriculum. We focus on grammar and spelling rules.
  • Library

    The mission of the Prescott Library (named in honor of the 6th Head of School) is to provide a safe, nurturing and intellectually stimulating environment for students, faculty, and staff, to take leadership in the academic program including but not limited to the literacies informed by digital access, and to ensure that students develop the essential skills needed to navigate the rapidly evolving information landscape of the 21st century.

    This mission reflects the value of the teaching library in the intellectual life of the School, and the essential role each Library faculty member contributes in helping students become lifelong readers, enthusiastic learners, and competent researchers who know how to find the information they need, use it ethically and foster
    • creativity through inquiry 
    • collaboration as a means of effectively synthesizing information,
    • communication using various mediated formats to demonstrate learning and new knowledge 
    • critical thinking: defining information needs to problem solve 
    • Promote reading, provide thoughtful, unbiased suggestions of materials, and encourage intellectual curiosity.
    • Collaborate in the teaching process and develop an information literacy curriculum that is integral to the classroom work of Wheeler faculty.
    • Participate in school-wide and multi-school events that connect students with literature and ideas.
  • Math

    The Lower School mathematics program, Math in Focus, has students exploring place value extensively, working with higher numbers at a younger age. It provides students with sophisticated multi-step problems and a focused understanding of place value concepts. 

    Our faculty likes the program's strong differentiated learning and assessment components that allow them to meet students' needs at their level of understanding. 

    The program offers clear, engaging visuals so regardless of language skills, students can focus on math instruction. The program's use of concrete models and visual representations fits Wheeler School's continuing philosophy that hands-on learning is best practice in mathematics. Students will move from concrete work with manipulatives, to pictorial models, and then to abstract understanding.
  • Modern Language

    The Lower School Spanish Program prepares students to understand and communicate in spoken Spanish at a novice level. The primary goal is to achieve familiarity and confidence with oral communication in Spanish. An emphasis is placed on learning specific word patterns so that expressions become automatic and natural for students.

    By the time students leave the 5th grade, we hope that they have a willingness and ability to comprehend spoken Spanish and show their understanding through language and physical response. Among the specific outcomes we seek are the ability to ask and reply in a variety of situations such as greetings, expressing one’s name and personal preferences and describing family, friends and daily surroundings.

    Cross-curricular units enhance the curriculum of each grade exploring topics such as animals in Africa, sea mammals and the rain forest in Spanish. Other units introduce the students to the Latino history and influence in the United States through which students acquire an understanding of different cultures and traditions. The skills these students learn during the study of Spanish will help them be successful in whatever language they choose to study in the Middle and Upper School.
  • Music

    Children explore and discover music by being young musicians. This is the philosophy of the Orff-Schulwerk approach taught in the Wheeler Lower School. Just as we learn to speak before we read and write, children learn to sing, move, dance, and improvise before they experience music reading and notation.

    All lower school children sing, dance, and play the Orff instruments. They experience patterns (ostinati) and rhythms and begin reading music through working with a giant floor staff; formal music notation is embedded throughout the grades.

    At all levels, Orff instruments used in classroom instruction are xylophones, glockenspiels, percussion, and even dulcimers which can be played with success by most without the technique and practice required for playing orchestral instruments. The resulting layers of sound are elemental music but often have a sophisticated sound.

    Orff-Schulwerk is joyful and ideally involves the whole child and the whole brain. The music curriculum often integrates with or complements classroom studies, and a culminating event may include songs, folk tales, and dances relating to a culture or country studied.
  • Physical Education

    Fun, fitness, cooperation and learning new skills are key the components to our Lower School physical education program. Our students enjoy a wide range of activities from parachute play, fun tag activities to age appropriate competitive sport lead-up games all the while working on sportsmanship and good behavior. We also include many multi-cultural activities throughout the year giving the students the opportunities to explore, learn and appreciate other cultures.

    We feel physical education is an important part of a child’s learning experience and have scheduled each student the opportunity to participate in physical education classes 3 times per week.
  • Science

    In the Lower School, science is a lively, often surprising, sometimes messy endeavor. The curriculum is “hands on, minds on.” It combines engaging activities with rigorous content in life science, physical science, earth science, engineering, and computer science. Whether the students are studying animals in first grade or electricity in third grade, they work with their own materials to build a personal critter terrarium or create their own circuits. Everyone experiences the joy of discovery for themselves.

    While learning science content, students also learn scientific habits of mind and learn to think like scientists and engineers. They record new ideas, measurements, and diagrams in their own science notebook. They work collaboratively with their classmates to solve problems. For instance, during the fourth grade computer science unit, they work shoulder to shoulder at a laptop to build Lego robots and write code to make them work. During the fifth grade engineering unit, students work in teams to build K’NEX vehicles and solve design challenges.
  • Social Studies

    The objectives of the Lower School social studies curriculum are to expose students to the Wheeler community and to the larger world, to develop an appreciation and understanding of different cultures, to look at history through a multicultural perspective, and to help students become facile with using geographic information. 

    The social studies curriculum is based on developmental considerations as the students progress from a sense of their individual place in one culture in the early grades, to an awareness and comparison of other cultures, and finally to a sense of historical perspective in the later grades. 

    Students in first grade are introduced to mapping activities, journal and writing assignments, and dramatic simulations in which they take on the personae of the characters they are studying. As they progress to fourth and fifth grade, they continue these activities and begin to develop skills of reading in the content area, preparing for tests, researching and writing short papers, and developing presentations. 

    Throughout the Lower School, the social studies curriculum is supported by interdisciplinary activities in art, music, library, computer, science, drama, and Aerie
    classes. Highlights from the Nursery through Fifth Grade social studies curriculum include, but are not limited to: 
    • Early Childhood Program: Exploring our feelings about family and friends, becoming historians through a study of paleontology, becoming experts about the school’s founder, Mary C. Wheeler;
    • Grades 1 & 2: Investigating the land and cultures of India and Kenya, culminating in India and Safari Days at the Wheeler Farm;
    • Grade 3: Studying the Middle Ages and enjoying a Medieval Feast
    • Grade 4: Learning about immigration to the United States in the early 20th century and becoming steerage passengers for the Immigration Simulation;
    • Grade 5: Discovering inventors and inventions throughout history and developing inventions to showcase at the Invention Convention.
  • Technology

    The Wheeler Lower School uses iPads and Chromebooks on a daily basis as a tool for productivity and creativity. Students in Nursery through Kindergarten have small groups of iPads that are used in activity stations a few times per week. Grades one through five has a 1-to-1 Chromebook program. Many classrooms also have Smartboards. Students in grades 2-5 use Google Apps for Education as a major tool for work and collaboration.

    The Hamilton Lower School has a 1-to-1 Chromebook program in grades 2-5. First graders use iPads. In addition to using some of the same tools as the Wheeler LS, the Hamilton LS adds assistive technology such as fluency programs, speech-to-text options, and audio books.
    All students in grades 1-5 at both Wheeler and Hamilton engage in a unit of study on coding.

    First graders are introduced to coding using small programmable robots called Bee Bots, to help them understand basic spatial directions used in coding. They then use Kodable on Chromebooks to learn more about object-based coding. Scratch Jr is used in grades two and three. Fourth graders code as part of their Lego robotics unit in science and fifth graders use the web version of Scratch to make more involved projects.

List of 2 members.

216 Hope Street
Providence, Rhode Island 02906-2246
Phone: (401) 421-8100
FAX: (401) 751-7674

Founded 1889

The Wheeler School is an independent coeducational college preparatory day school for Nursery, Pre-K, K-Grade 12 serving Providence, RI, Greater Providence and Greater Boston. The Hamilton School welcomes Grades 1-8 with language-based learning differences.