The Holland Hall Primary School is a division that also includes our PreSchool program, so we maintain continuity in the curriculum’s rich traditions, content, and learning celebrations as students move from the PreS and through our kindergarten, first, second, and third grade programs. Holland Hall teachers understand that learning is much more than basic skills and subject matter. It’s also about attention, temporal/sequential/spatial ordering, memory, language, neuromotor functioning, social cognition, and higher order critical thinking skills.
There are many aspects to a balanced literacy program: basic handwriting instruction, phonological awareness, phonetic instruction, sight word acquisition, reading workshop, interactive read-aloud, and writing workshop. Teachers in the kindergarten through third grades have attended Columbia University Teachers College to learn about the reading and writing workshop approach to instruction. This approach allows students to be introduced to and independently practice learning strategies that allow them to become more independent learners. At the same time, they are working with instructional material that is appropriate for their individual skill levels. Because the program’s implementation is consistent and predictable, its design allows for both collaboration and independent work during an instructional period. Students are invested in their reading or writing and begin to identify a personal purpose for their work. This, in turn creates an atmosphere that is goal oriented, self-motivated, and acknowledges each student’s effort and progress.
The Primary School adopted a revised philosophy statement for math instruction in February, 2007, after a thoughtful examination of curriculum best practices based on educational research into the brain’s learning functions. “The Holland Hall Primary School’s math instruction combines active discovery with explicit instruction resulting in the understanding of concepts and processes and fluency in skills. Math concepts include: numeration and order, operations, measurement patterning, data and chance, and geometry and spatial sense. Math processes include: problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, connections, and representations.” A nationally known math consultant is working yearly with teaching teams and individual teachers to support our math philosophy and enhance our instructional practices. Our students are learning to explore concepts through the use of concrete math tools. Then they move to a symbolic level where they sketch and label their understanding of a concept or process. As their developmental thinking moves to a more abstract level, students are able to manipulate algorithms and value multiple problem solving approaches, solution methods, and thinking strategies.
Science instruction moves from an exploration and observation of a kindergartener’s environment using the five senses to the introduction of the scientific method in first grade. Imagine dissecting an owl pellet with a Middle School work partner and sorting and classifying the bones you’ve found. Through the study of Monarch butterflies, bats, spiders, Alaska and inventions, our second grade students learn about life sciences, geology, and the physical sciences. By the time our students are in third grade, they’ve sufficient experience with the scientific method to communicate detailed scientific observations both orally and in written form.
Our social studies curriculum engages students in discussions and demonstrations of civic, geographical, and historical literacy. Through a variety of unit studies in each grade level, primary grade students are exposed to a wide range of cultures, customs, and traditions. In general, the social studies curriculum is integrated across the content areas and enhanced by special guest speakers and field trips. During third grade’s study of Oklahoma history, the students begin to understand the similarities and differences in how people conduct their lives and how human differences can result in conflict. They also engage in a more personal study of interpersonal relationships and problem solving during a unit of study devoted to developing empathy and conflict resolution skills – very important social and emotional learning for students about to embark upon the journey through early adolescence.