Lower School

Lower School

Love for LearningAn 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.

HighlightsLower School

  • 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, writing, 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,

Q and ALower School Support

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 their present level and moving them 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 McLean's Learning Services Model
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℠, including teacher insights are shared with teachers and Learning Services team from grade to grade and division to division

What are some of the benefits of McLean's unique 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.