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 support, 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.

This year the Lower School will be enhanced as each homeroom will participate in a new year-long weekly Communications course.  We will welcome a Social Work Graduate student from the University of Maryland, who will collaborate with the Lower School Counselor, Sarah Havenstein, to deliver interactive small and whole group lessons. The goal will be to strengthen communication skills and dive into important topics to support the character development of our young children.  This addition to our program will further address the social/emotional development of our students, while building a strong sense of school community.
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 kind of support can McLean offer my child?

    In addition to the individualized attention afforded by the extremely small class sizes at McLean, Lower School students (with a ratio of 4 students to 1 teacher) benefit from the wide-ranging expertise of Lower School specialists.

    McLean is home to 13 full-time specialists, with a wide range of professional expertise. They include Learning Specialists, a Reading Specialist, a Writing Specialist, Math Specialists, Occupational Therapists, a Speech-Language Pathologist, an Academic Program Coordinator and an Academic Coach.

  • What support can the Math Specialist provide for my child?

    The Math Specialist  works with teachers and students to provide support as needed. She keeps abreast of best practices in mathematics instruction, as well as cutting edge approaches to maximize math achievement for students at, above, or below grade level.

  • What support can the Learning Specialist provide for my child?

    The Learning Specialist provides advice and support to teachers in understanding individual student strengths and areas of need, and designing appropriate, differentiated instruction to meet those needs and strengths. The Learning Specialist also works with teachers and students in the classrooms as needed to accelerate outcomes in all academic areas of need and giftedness.

  • What support can the Reading Specialist provide for my child?

    The Reading Specialist works with teachers and individual students to improve reading outcomes. The Reading Specialist works individually and with small groups of students to provide instruction in areas of phonemic awareness, decoding, vocabulary, spelling, and comprehension. 

  • What support can the Writing Specialist provide for my child?

    The Writing Specialist works with teachers and students in the areas of writing. She combines direct instruction with writing process procedures to improve writing outcomes for our students.

  • 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.

  • What support can the Counselor provide for my child?

    The Counselor  works with students, parents, and outside therapists (if appropriate) to provide support. The Counselor, in conjunction with our SLP, also conducts Pragmatics classes with all students. If a student requires additional tutoring in a particular area, fee-for-service tutors are also available at McLean during the school day.
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