Lower School

An Essential Foundation

Here begins the work of learning how to learn! Kindergarten through Grade 4 are formative years, a time when attitudes about school and self begin to take shape. We value a balanced approach to support the integrity of our curriculum while fostering a play-based learning environment. McLean’s program incorporates daily PE, gardening, and clubs, and our innovative approach ensures academic achievement while building a strong understanding of self-advocacy. We create a Student Learning Profile℠ for each child, and tailor teaching strategies for various subject areas. 

McLean’s educational experts—teachers, coordinator of learning services, speech-language pathologist, math specialist, reading specialist, occupational therapists, and counselor—work together seamlessly, focusing on each individual child to identify strengths and challenges while providing guidance to help students achieve their goals. At McLean, we are committed to maintaining an inclusive, respectful, and caring school environment whereby all children feel welcomed, safe, and supported.

Lower School Highlights

  • Co-teaching teams collaborate to cultivate confident learners by scaffolding a progression of conceptual knowledge and critical thinking skills.
  • Teachers and specialists strategically facilitate small groups with similar learning strengths and needs in reading, language arts, word study, and math, which allows children to make progress.
  • Interactive and engaging activities inspire exploration, innovation, and creativity.
  • Instructional research-based programs, including: Orton-Gillingham (multisensory approach  to reading), Marilyn Burns’s Do the Math (flexible instruction for building numerical reasoning and confidence), John Mighton’s JUMP Math (developing number sense and strong conceptual basis), The Writing Process and Being a Writer (research-based workshop model and direct instruction related to written expression), Handwriting Without Tears (innovative, hands-on approach to creating legibility and fluency). 
  • A character curriculum that celebrates acts of kindness, effort, and responsibility on a daily basis. 

“I believe deeply in the mission of McLean. This is a wonder-filled place where children are kind to their peers, where everyone is motivated intrinsically to work hard, and where each individual’s gifts are recognized and celebrated. It’s an honor to be part of a child’s educational experiences during this period of self-discovery, and I take the responsibility seriously while making sure that learning itself is fun and playful.” - Dr. Mary Dickerson, Head of Lower School


Lower School Support Q & A

List of 8 frequently asked questions.

  • What academic support is provided in the Lower School?

    • 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
    • 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?

    • Consistent attention to the Lower School Pledge program: Be Safe, Be Kind, Be Responsible
    • Integrated Communications lessons into the curriculum to cover topics related to social problem-solving, conflict resolution, and perspective-taking
    • Daily division-wide goals reinforce safety, kindness, and responsibility
    • Cumulative Pledge Points awarded throughout the day as positive reinforcement
    • Collaboration between Counselor and the classroom teachers work to support and nurture each child
  • How is the model for the Learning Services team unique in the Lower School?

    • Integrated, push-in support
    • Work with students in peer groups 
    • Support students during their regularly scheduled academic periods 
    • Collaboration between Learning Services team and teachers for a comprehensive approach
    • Weekly team meetings with teachers and Learning Services team to share insights, observations, and to develop strategies
  • What is the difference between a traditional learning specialist model and the learning services team model at McLean?

    Traditional Learning Specialist Model
    Integrated Dynamic Learning Services Team Approach
    Pulls students out of the classroom 1:1
    Works with students in peer groups 
    Only works with students with disabilities
    Works collaboratively with teachers to support all students
    Pulls students during “specials”
    Supports during regularly scheduled academic tasks
    Serves as the “expert” of LD on the team
    Collaborates with highly skilled teachers, Specialists, and families in a partnership
    Focuses on remediation and catching a student up to grade-level
    Focuses on working with the team to meet students where they are, and move them forward
    Sole person collecting information about a student’s needs and documenting support in a file
    Student Learning Profiles (SM), including teacher insights are shared with teachers and Learning Services team from grade to grade and division to division
  • What are the benefits of integrated support?

    • Increased students’ self esteem
    • Encouragement for students to advocate, collaborate and learn from each other
    • Increased students’ self-awareness over their own learning profiles 
    • Sets the tone for celebrating diversity of learning strengths
    • Helps generalize skills rather than learning in isolation
    • Increased collaboration between teachers and Learning Services team
  • What support do the Art, Music, STEM, and PE teachers provide?

    • Increased self-esteem and self-discovery as students explore their interests
    • Opportunities for self-expression
    • Kinesthetic experiences
    • 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 OTs also serve as consultants to classroom teachers in meeting students’ sensory-motor and fine-motor needs. All new students in Kindergarten through grade 4 are screened for OT needs.
  • What support can the Speech-Language Pathologist provide for my child?

    Our Speech-Language Pathologist provides fee-for-service on an individual basis to students needing individual intervention.  The Speech-Language Pathologist also serves as a consultant to the classroom teachers. All new students in Kindergarten through grade 4 are screened for speech and language needs.
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  admission@mcleanschool.org