McLean’s Lower School offers a full-day Kindergarten through Grade 4 program to a broad range of students who are eager to discover how they learn best. Classrooms provide a risk-free environment where children with varied learning abilities, needs, and strengths can learn to advocate for themselves. Teachers use a variety of approaches and strategies to address the strengths and weaknesses of their students. A typical day in the Lower School might include a hands-on math class, a re-energizing brain-walk, and a word study review presented in a game show format.
In some areas of study, students are grouped on a continuum, according to skill level and learning style. Movement from group to group within each grade level is facilitated by scheduling reading, word study and math periods at the same time of day. The academic strengths and needs of each student are best met in this manner. The groups remain fluid throughout the school year.
In addition to core academics, students enjoy physical education every day and library classes once a week. Art, computer and science classes are scheduled twice weekly. Students in kindergarten through Grade 2 attend general music class twice weekly. Students in Grades 3 and 4 attend one weekly general music class and one weekly class in Chorus or String Ensemble. Spanish classes are offered once a week for kindergarten through Grade 2 and twice a week for grades 3 and 4.
Technologically, the Lower School works on the PC platform with Internet access in every classroom. A separate computer lab is used for technology instruction, as well as other services that enhance the curriculum. Additional computers are available for students’ use during writing and math lab activities. SMART Board interactive technology is employed in the Grade 2, 3 and 4 classrooms. The Kindergarten and Grade 1 classes utilize an interactive SMART Table. The Lower School sponsors periodic newscasts on WMSM (W-McLean School of Maryland). Grade 4 students write, report, and broadcast the division’s current events.
Additional support services for grades Kindergarten through 4 include a learning specialist, two speech-language pathologists, an occupational therapist, a math specialist, a reading coach and a counselor. Supporting students and faculty in and out of the classroom, these services are also a great resource for parents. The learning specialist works closely with teachers, families, administrators and outside service providers to ensure comprehensive academic programs for Lower School students. The learning specialist works with teachers and administrators to understand each child’s Student Learning Profile™ and implement appropriate and effective accommodations and learning strategies. She also coordinates standardized testing and fall and spring assessments that facilitate the planning of instruction.
The speech-language pathologists assist classroom teachers by screening the speech and language abilities of Lower and Middle School students. Based on these screenings and other available testing, they make recommendations to teachers for the use of classroom strategies, and provide in-class support, as needed, to address language-based learning and reading issues. The speech-language pathologists may also make recommendations to families for individual speech-language and/or reading intervention. They team with the Lower School learning specialist and counselor to teach pragmatics-developmentally appropriate social language skills, in each of the Lower School classes. The senior speech-language pathologist assists teachers with the implementation of the SPELL-links to Reading and Writing word study curriculum.
The occupational therapist assists classroom teachers by screening the fine motor and visual motor abilities of Lower School students. Based on these screenings and other available testing, she makes recommendations to teachers for the use of classroom strategies. The occupational therapist offers in-class and small group support to address fine motor, handwriting and keyboarding concerns, as well as assistance with student self-regulation, motor proficiency and visual perception. The occupational therapist trains and assists teachers with the implementation of the Handwriting Without Tears program.
The math specialist assists classroom teachers with the effective implementation of the math curriculum. She serves as a resource for curriculum enhancement, including hands-on activities, games, software, online resources and supplemental materials. The math specialist works to ensure the progression of a sequential math curriculum throughout Lower School by working with classroom teachers and members of McLean’s Math Department. She leads math clubs and other special math events designed to boost skills and the enjoyment of mathematics.
Lower School students follow guidelines for good citizenship and learn to be responsible members of McLean School who promote the safety and welfare of the entire community. Throughout the year, students in Kindergarten through Grade 4 can earn Golden Awards that recognize acts of citizenship and kindness, and demonstrations of effort and responsibility. At the end of each quarter, a Grade 4 student from each class is selected by teachers to receive The Citizenship Award—a special recognition for consistently exemplifying the guidelines for good citizenship. Students and their teachers take a Golden Hand Pledge daily to affirm their commitment to maintaining a safe and supportive school environment.
The Lower School at McLean is a nurturing community that stimulates growth and knowledge. In partnership with families, the faculty works to understand the whole child. Students blossom academically and socially as they acquire the self-advocacy skills that ensure personal success. Lower School students learn lifelong strategies needed to become productive, contributing members of society. This strong foundation begins an educational journey toward the increased independence that students will earn in McLean’s Middle and Upper Schools.