Essential Foundation in Elementary School

Amid the lively activity in our Lower School, a vital process begins—the work of learning how to learn. The wonder-filled years of kindergarten through grade four shape attitudes that produce self-confidence and a joyful love of learning, while combined with a play-based model.  Our educational experts—teachers, coordinator of learning services, speech-language pathologist, math specialist, reading specialist, occupational therapists, and a counselor—come together to focus on each child, helping identify challenges and strengths while providing the structure children need to achieve goals.
The Lower School provides the foundation for success in our Middle and Upper Schools. Within the full-day academic program, daily PE, gardening and clubs, we use innovative strategies to ensure academic achievement, including a strong understanding of self-advocacy. We create a Student Learning Profile for each child and identify teaching strategies that work best in various subject areas.
In each grade level classroom K-4 we have two teachers. All of our classroom teachers are trained in the Orton- Gillingham multisensory approach to reading. We cultivate confident learners by scaffolding a progression of conceptual knowledge and critical thinking skills, including executive functioning. Teachers lead small groups of children with similar learning strengths and needs in reading, language arts, word study, and math, allowing children to progress at their appropriate pace. Learning software and hands-on activities inspires exploration, innovation, and creativity.

McLean School teachers operate from a firm understanding of Best Practices, such as Orton-Gillingham for direct, multi-sensory instruction in phonics, read-alouds to promote interaction with text and word-consciousness, researched-based Marilyn Burns' Do the Math and John Mighton’s JUMP Math curriculum to develop number sense and a strong conceptual basis for math. This common understanding allows teachers to use their individual creativity and problem-solving skills to design innovative and motivating activities to maximize individual student learning while also providing students with consistent instruction. The Grade 1-4 teachers all utilize The Writing Process and Being a Writer to teach writing. All classroom teachers are writing specialists and incorporate writing into their daily classes across subject areas. The occupational therapists teach handwriting through Handwriting Without Tears, which is a separate class.
Children in the Lower School feel welcomed, supported, and comfortable at school. Students and teachers are committed to maintaining a safe and supportive school environment, and acts of kindness, effort, and citizenship are acknowledged on a daily basis.  

Lower School Support Q & A

List of 8 frequently asked questions.

  • What academic support is provided in the Lower School?

    • Small, fluid academic groups 
    • Differentiation in each group to meet students’ learning profiles
    • Fluidity in small groups so that students are appropriately supported and challenged as progress is made
    • Focus on meeting each student at his/her present level and moving him/her forward
    • Integrated support from Learning Services team
    • Trained expert teachers with the skills to reach all types of learners
    • Interactive, meaningful, creative, and engaging lessons
    • Multi-sensory, multimodal approaches 
    • Flexibility in the curriculum to incorporate students’ interests and match learning strengths and challenges
  • What social/emotional support is provided in the Lower School?

    • Lower School Pledge program: Be Safe, Be Kind, Be Responsible
    • Counselor and Social Worker co-teach Communications classes to cover topics related to social problem-solving, conflict resolution, and perspective taking
    • Daily division-wide goals to reinforce safety, kindness, and responsibility
    • Cumulative Pledge Points are awarded throughout the day as positive reinforcement
    • Counselor-facilitated Lunch Bunches and small group discussions to help strengthen relationships
  • How is the model for the Learning Services team unique in the Lower School?

    • Integrated, push-in support
    • Work with students in peer groups 
    • Work with students during their regularly scheduled academic periods instead of causing them to miss “specials”
    • Serve as a resource to teachers and families
    • Collaboration with teachers for an all hands-on deck approach
    • Weekly team meetings with teachers and Learning Services team to share insights, observations, and come up with strategies
  • What is the difference between a traditional Learning Specialist and a Coordinator of Learning Services?

    Learning SpecialistCoordinator of Learning Services
    Pulls students out of the classroom 1:1Works with students in peer groups in the classroom
    Only works with students with disabilitiesWorks with all students
    Pulls students during “specials”Supports during regularly scheduled academic tasks
    Serves as the “expert” of LD on the teamCollaborates with highly skilled teachers, Specialists, and families in a partnership
    Is the sole provider of extra supportCommunicates and coordinates supports from team of providers (Learning Services team, outside supports, parents, teachers),
    Focuses on remediation and catching a student up to grade-levelFocuses on working with the team to meet students where they are, and moving them forward
    Sole person collecting information about a student’s needs and documenting support in a fileMonitors and updates digital Student Learning Profiles (SM), including teacher insights, which are shared with teachers and Learning Services team from grade to grade and division to division
  • What are the benefits of push-in support?

    • Increases students’ self esteem
    • Students learn alongside peers which encourages them learn with and from each other
    • Students learn in their natural learning environment where they are most comfortable
    • Students learn to collaborate with others and advocate for help from each other as they work together
    • Increases students’ self-awareness over their own learning profiles as they become comfortable discussing with peers
    • Sets the tone for celebrating diversity of learning
    • Helps generalize skills rather than learning in isolation
    • Decreases disruption to a student’s schedule
    • Increases collaboration between teachers and Learning Services team
  • What support do the Art, Music, STEM, and PE teachers provide?

    • Increase of self-esteem & self-discovery as they explore their interests
    • Opportunities for self-expression
    • Kinesthetic opportunities
    • Whole group collaboration
  • What support can the Occupational Therapist provide for my child?

    The Occupational Therapist (OT) provides fee-for-service individualized therapy for students who need OT services. The OT team also provides keyboarding support and instruction to all students in grades 3 and 4, as well as Adaptive PE for our youngest students in kindergarten. The OTs also serve as consultants to classroom teachers in meeting students’ sensory-motor and fine-motor needs. All new students in kindergarten through grade 6 are screened for OT needs.
  • What support can the Speech-Language Pathologist provide for my child?

    Our Speech-Language Pathologist in addition to providing fee-for-service on an individual basis to students needing individual intervention, also provides school-wide support to teachers in meeting students’ speech and language needs, as well as phonemic awareness instruction to all students in need of such remedial work. In addition to screening students for SLP needs, the SLP along with the Reading Specialist screens students for phonemic awareness intervention.
Have you seen the new Rhyme to Read beginning Reading app?
The co-author of the books is our very own educator, Sara Hines. Rhyme to Read is a beginning reading program for young children.

K-12 College Preparatory School Supporting Bright Students’ Individual Strengths and Challenges.

McLean School is an independent, co-educational, K-12 day school serving Maryland, Washington, and Virginia. McLean has for over sixty years been helping students realize their full potential by providing a comprehensive college preparatory program that emphasizes small classes and differentiated instruction. We embrace both traditional learners and ones with mild to moderate learning challenges – dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, and challenges related to anxiety and executive functioning. Many of our students excel in some areas while benefiting from support in others.
8224 Lochinver Lane, Potomac, Maryland 20854  301.299.8277