The Lower School Visual Arts program at Durham Academy is designed to provide students a variety of art experiences with the intention of fostering an appreciation of art and the value of personal expression. The acquisition of knowledge through the arts is viewed as a valuable component and complement to the core curriculum as well as daily life. Curriculum content encompasses skill development, art history, art appreciation and connections between the visual arts and other subject areas. Weekly lessons are intended to encourage divergent thinking skills, develop artistic exploration and encourage students to take creative risk in a safe environment through active learning. The visual art curriculum for first through fourth grade continually focus and build upon the concepts of the elements of art (line, shape, space, color, value, texture and form) and principles of design (contrast rhythm, unity, emphasis, pattern, movement and balance).
Drama is important for developing confidence, expressiveness and creativity in each child using movement, dialogue, pantomime and improvisation. Students learn about creating, designing, playwriting, directing and acting through a variety of literature choices and theater exercises. A combination of independent and small group work helps to develop intrapersonal skills used in creative drama. Each grade works on projects that teach them skills not only for the stage, but for confidence in everyday life.
As students develop proficiency in number patterns, number sense, money, time, fractions and geometry, they explore mathematics in a variety of ways. Teachers create opportunities for students to learn through use of technology, hands-on math manipulative tools, and guided instruction. First-grade students work independently and in small groups to develop the skills needed for mathematical flexibility. Many resources are used to facilitate mathematics instruction, to include enVisionMath, Investigations, Everyday Counts calendar activities and teacher-created lessons. These young scholars are supported as mathematical thinkers and learn to share their thinking through Math Talks, journals, open dialogue, and meaningful math tasks. The critical learning phases of counting, comparing, changing one number to another, learning parts of numbers, and the structure of two-digit numbers are paramount in first grade.
Reading is all-important in first grade. Language is growing and developing at an amazing rate. Reading encompasses many things: learning to decode; making text sound smooth and fluent; and reading and thinking simultaneously, thoughtfully and with good understanding. Above all, reading is the experience of falling in love with books and words.
The program in first grade is built around the workshop model to instruction. Readers are given direct, explicit instruction in the skills and strategies of proficient readers. Students are actively involved in their reading. They learn to choose “Just Right Books” from a wide range of reading materials and learn to set goals for themselves. Students spend time reading with partners and are given opportunities to talk in response to texts.
Explicit instruction is given during a mini-lesson. After which, students are provided long stretches of time to read. During this stretch of time, teachers conference with students individually or work with small groups to maximize their potential as readers. Teaching is consistently responsive to the needs of the students.
Our balanced approach to literacy instruction provides children with the structure needed to become well rounded and accomplished independent readers. This structure includes phonics and word study, read alouds, and the 7 Comprehension Strategies: Using and Creating Schema, Asking Questions, Visualizing, Inferring, Determining Importance, Synthesizing Information, and Monitoring for Meaning/Using Fix-Up Strategies.
Our ultimate goal for our readers is to guide them to create a reading life of their own and to inspire them to become life-long readers.
Writing instruction is organized around four units of study. First-grade students begin with the unit Small Moments: Writing with Focus, Detail, and Dialogue. In this unit students take the everyday events of their young lives and make them into focused, well-structured stories through pictures and gradually through writing. In Unit 2, Nonfiction Chapter Books, students enter the world of informational writing as they combine pictures and charts with domain-specific vocabulary and craft moves to create engaging teaching texts. In Unit 3, Writing Reviews, students create persuasive book reviews that hook the reader, clearly express the writer’s opinion, and support their arguments in convincing ways. In the final unit of grade one, From Scenes to Series: Writing Fiction, students learn how to “show, not tell” and use action, dialogue, and feelings to create a whole series of fiction books modeled after the Henry and Mudge series.
The writing program is built around the workshop model to instruction. Writers are given direct, explicit instruction in the skills and strategies of proficient writers. Students are actively involved in their writing. They spend time collaborating with writing partners. Writers are given opportunities to talk and respond to each others work. As thoughtful and skillful writers, they learn to set goals for themselves.
Explicit instruction is given during a mini-lesson. After which, students are provided long stretches of time to write. During this stretch of time, teachers conference with students individually or work with small groups to maximize their potential as writers. Teaching is consistently responsive to the needs of the students.
Emphasis is placed upon the 7 Traits of Writing: Ideas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Conventions, and Presentation. These traits are an important support structure for fluent and thoughtful writers.
At Durham Academy students become musicians, singers and movers in a very active way. The philosophy for music and movement education for our students is rooted in the Orff Schulwerk creative process of learning music. Orff Schulwerk uses poems, rhymes, games, songs and dances as vehicles to actively learn the elements of music. Students explore rhythm, melody, harmony, form and expressive qualities through singing, speaking, moving, playing instruments, listening, reading and notating. A unique aspect of this approach is an emphasis on developing a student's creativity and the opportunities to improvise in many ways. Students create their own rhythms, dramatizations, lyrics/words, instrument parts and melodies for sections of many pieces. Their own work is encouraged and valued. Through this process, students gain a deep understanding and love of music as they develop their creative potential.
The Physical Education Program at Durham Academy emphasizes active living through participation in a balanced variety of movement experiences. We want to enable all students the opportunity to enhance their quality of life through active living and healthy decisions. Movement and play are focal points of children's lives, critical to all aspects of their growth and development. Our physical education program provides opportunities for all students in the Lower School to be physically active on a daily basis and to develop an appreciation for and enjoyment of movement. Students' active participation and success in a variety of activities is stressed over competition. Our health and wellness program uses hands on, active application on a broad range of topics and may include instruction on bones and muscles, nutrition, first aid and injury prevention.
First-grade science is a hand-on, experiential enrichment. Topics include science discovery, brain and nervous system, symmetry, measurement, desert, grasslands, polar regions rainforest and woodlands.
Topics include units on self and family and ways in which families and communities express their heritage through dance, literature, art and music. Map and globe skills are taught through African country studies as each first grade class learns about a specific country in Africa. Positive character traits are recognized and discussed as historical leaders such as Ruby Bridges, Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln are introduced.
First-grade students focus on using the technology tools available at school and producing documents with original artwork. Students learn how to log in and out of a computer using their unique username, open and close software programs and multimedia resources, save documents to the appropriate places on the network and print to the desired printer. Students also work to become acquainted with online learning resources such as EducationCity, TumbleBooks and PebbleGo. The projects the students work on allow them to use a mouse and a keyboard and the tools and features of publishing software. The first grade year culminates in a research project that is a collaboration between the classroom, library and computer. Students conduct research on a topic, draft a report, draw a picture on the computer, and publish a final project by importing their original artwork and typing the report onto a document.