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EXPLORE Our Programs

Lower School | TK-4

English/Language Arts
The curriculum in TK through second grade fosters students’ understanding and knowledge of concepts of print, the alphabet, phonics, word recognition, reading fluency, and writing. These skills are taught in a developmentally appropriate manner with small group lessons designed to meet children’s individual levels of readiness. Each student is given the time and support needed to become a confident and competent reader and writer. The Writing Workshop program empowers students to choose story topics and create authentic "published" books. Students see themselves as authors, as their letters and drawings on a page tell the exciting and important stories they have created. Writing instruction includes proper formation of letters, phonetic spelling, spelling rules and conventions, sentence and paragraph writing, practice with different writing genres (narrative, informative, persuasive, and creative), writing mechanics (capitalization and punctuation), and grammar. Writing proficiency is encouraged alongside of reading comprehension to demonstrate the interrelatedness of these skills. Rich language arts activities are integrated into all areas of the curriculum, building on students’ interests and fostering personal connections in literacy.

In third and fourth grade, the English curriculum empowers students to read and respond to a variety of literature and documents, including fiction and nonfiction. The focus is on reading for content and writing for accuracy. English instruction integrates the process of listening, speaking, reading, and writing in meaningful contexts. Students analyze texts and delve into them for explicit information. Writing is integrated into other areas of the curriculum through the format of Writing Workshop which includes prewriting, drafting, revising, copy editing, peer evaluation, teacher evaluation, and final drafts. The English program focuses on word study, sentence structure, grammar, paragraphing, editing and proofreading, descriptive language, note-taking, thesis writing, fiction and nonfiction compositions, and report writing. In addition, students write and publish persuasive, creative, narrative, and expository pieces throughout the year. Beginning in third grade, students are introduced to technology as a tool for learning. They practice keyboarding skills, compose and edit their written work, and research information. In third through eighth grade, media literacy is integrated into the curriculum to teach grade level appropriate research techniques, internet safety and etiquette, and presentation skills. 

In TK through second grade, math instruction is applied across the curriculum to better demonstrate real-life applications. Building a sequence of experiences in a gradually enlarging spiral, lessons encompass number sense, place value, arithmetic with the four math operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), problem solving, fractions, geometry, graphing, measurement, time, and money. The math program is structured to help students understand number relationships, practice logical thinking, and demonstrate problem solving strategies. Basic computation skills are taught and practiced on an ongoing basis. Through hands-on learning activities, ongoing assessment and review, and continuous practice of foundational skills, students leave second grade with a fluency in foundational skills and a strong conceptual understanding of basic math operations. 

In third through fourth grade, students move beyond the basics and begin applying math in more complex ways. Computational skills are still critical, but new areas of learning include multi-digit multiplication, long division, fractions, decimals, percents, ratios, function rules, interpretation of statistics using graphs, composite and inverse functions, negative numbers, geometric reasoning, and solid geometry. As students develop into fluent readers, word problems are regularly integrated into the curriculum as a way of applying the math concepts being studied. 

In TK through second grade science, instructional methods and strategies are designed to inspire awe for nature and the workings of the universe, curiosity for the amazing interplay of life, and critical thinking to deepen students’ understanding. Science lessons are part of thematic units integrated with literacy, history, math, art, and other subjects. Students discover, explore, manipulate, contemplate, and experience real science through hands-on activities that foster critical-thinking and problem-solving skills with real world connections. In addition to integrated science units in their homerooms, first and second graders also benefit from classes with the Lower School science specialist in the lab classroom and the school garden. 

Third grade units focus on seed saving, acids and bases, water around the world, optics, and scientific drawings. Students begin to discover new ways to seek information and how to validate their sources. Lab notebooks are used to record observations and experimental data for each unit. Cornell style notes are introduced as a method for documenting information.

Fourth grade science is an investigation of the natural world and its various elements. Students learn the fundamentals of ecosystem ecology seen through the lens of botany and mycology (plants and fungi). They learn the basics of mapping and topography as well as the erosive forces that change the surface of the planet. Students also investigate the basics of climate change, and analyze the impact we all have on the biosphere.

History/Social Studies 
The TK through second grade curriculum integrates and reinforces lessons from a variety of other subject areas. Kindergarten approaches social studies and history by focusing on hero figures from all walks of life, including women and men from a broad spectrum of cultures, countries, and ethnic backgrounds. The hero figure acts as a role model for integrity, selflessness, internal moral strength, and action in the world. First grade students compare and contrast ancient civilizations and cultures, including a study of geography and how the course of human history helped to expand our global community. Second grade integrates social studies, science, and other curricular areas in units about mapping, famous people and biographies, and an in-depth study of medieval times.

In third and fourth grades, the history program aims to broaden students' understanding of how they fit into society and how they can contribute to the future. Students explore ideas and beliefs, identify features of societies, describe the roles of individuals, and recognize how society has shaped the world we live in today. History instruction integrates the process of listening, speaking, reading, and writing in meaningful contexts. Lessons are deeply integrated into the language arts programs. Focus areas for the third grade curriculum are past and present day Sonoma County, Native American tribes in our area, and our local government and economy. Guest speakers and field trips into our community make real world connections to these units of study. In fourth grade, students’ examine the history of California in great depth, including the impact the Russians had on our state.

World religion classes are a part of the history program in fourth and fifth grades at SCDS. This program fosters students’ understanding of religious diversity in local and global communities as well as an appreciation for beliefs that are different than their own. The study of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism are included in the fourth grade curriculum. 

Social and Emotional Learning
The social and emotional learning program in TK through second grade focuses on building an emotional vocabulary so students are better equipped to express their feelings and needs, as well as recognizing emotional states in others in order to adapt their interactions with them. Students begin using "I statements" and other positive communication techniques as a foundation for conflict resolution. They also learn to practice active listening while in academic and social situations. 

The social and emotional learning program in third and fourth grades concentrates on effective conflict resolution using the skills of active and reflective listening following a brief period of calming or "cooling off.” Students also learn the process of identifying goals and considering the steps needed to attain them. By using critical thinking to project possible outcomes and using introspection to more accurately recognize feelings, active decision making is strengthened. Also included are strategies for managing strong emotions, and the role that feelings play in daily interactions. 

World Languages 
All students in kindergarten through fourth grade receive instruction in both Spanish and Mandarin. Our TK students receive instruction in Spanish as they are still solidifying skills in English. Language acquisition in these early years builds on children’s natural curiosity and their motivation to have fun. Students are actively engaged through songs, games, dance, art, and thematic units integrated into the core curriculum. The teacher speaks in the target language (Spanish or Mandarin) as often as possible, supporting comprehension with actions, props, and developmentally appropriate activities. The emphasis is on listening to, understanding, and communicating common phrases and basic vocabulary.  

Visual Arts
In TK through fourth grade, the art program fosters the creative spirit of students by providing a safe environment where imagination, self discovery, exploration, problem solving, and self esteem flourish. Children learn the fundamentals of art—color, color theory, spatial balance, perspective, form, and design—through a variety of mediums including ceramics, drawing, painting, and sculpture. Cultural studies, history, science, literacy, and other subjects are interwoven into the curriculum.

Music in TK through fourth grade emphasizes the development of a strong singing voice, as this is the children’s primary instrument through the fourth grade. Students explore a repertoire of songs carefully chosen to illustrate musical concepts. Often, students accompany the songs playing multi-part orchestrations using the special Orff instrumentarium. These instruments include xylophones, metallophones, and unpitched hand percussions. Lessons are carefully sequenced to provide step-by-step development in both skill and understanding. Full participation in the musical experience is nurtured through a combination of aural, visual, and kinesthetic learning modes. The musical elements of steady beat, rhythm, melody, texture, form, color, and expression are experienced through exploration of a variety of media: speech, song, movement, games, and instruments. These experiences are carefully sequenced to provide step-by-step development in both skill and understanding. 

Library and Media 
Reading is a foundational skill for learning, personal growth, and enjoyment. The degree to which students can read and understand text in all formats (picture, video, print) and all contexts is a key indicator of success in school and in life. Consequently, the main focus of the library program in the lower grades is on story. Students are exposed to a broad pallet of literature, from classic to rhyming to multicultural tales, as well as folk and fairy tales, to expand their understanding of and appreciation for other cultures. Readings are frequently tied to the classroom curriculum, and students have opportunities to engage with narrative through puppets, readers theater, or writing and illustrating their own books. They learn about specific authors and illustrators while working on listening skills and the proper care of books. They learn basic organization in the library, including how to locate, select, and retrieve texts, and to identify favorite authors, titles, and characters. They begin to examine the constructs of narrative, and the significance of illustration to story, participating in comparative literature projects such as the California Young Reader award. They tell their own stories, listen to others, read to each other, watch storytellers, and participate in author visits, effectively engaging in story in all its forms and developing a strong literary foundation. 

Motor Skills and Physical Education 
The motor skills program in TK through second grade offers a caring environment that promotes physical activity, fitness and wellness, movement skills, and knowledge. Embedded in every lesson is a spirit of cooperation, supportive communication, and doing one’s best. Character education is an integral part of the lessons. Each week a different character trait is selected as an area of focus. Students are asked to observe this trait in others and themselves. Through practice, students learn about their bodies and how to be successful in a variety of physical activities.

The physical education program in third and fourth grades is an extension of the motor skills curriculum in earlier grades and is based on a developmentally appropriate scope and sequence for the growing child. Students are introduced to more complex activities that link multiple motor skills; they learn lead-up games that are used as precursors to organized team sports; and they participate in team-building challenges that require cooperation and problem solving. In this phase of the program students are exposed to longer sustained periods of physical activity. They participate in a variety of activities that encourage them to take risks physically and mentally and test their personal boundaries.

Sonoma Country Day School

4400 Day School Place
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
phone: 707.284.3200
fax: 707.284.3254
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We are…

The premier, fully accredited, independent TK-8 college preparatory school in Sonoma County. Located in northern Santa Rosa and proud home of The Jackson Theater, SCDS offers a challenging academic program rich in fine and performing arts, music, world languages, and social and emotional learning. For more than thirty years SCDS has been the school that brings learning to life.