Elementary (TK-5th Grade) Curriculum Overview

Curriculum Components
The college preparatory curriculum of Woodland Hills Private School is designed to nurture and encourage emotional and social growth, while building academic and cognitive awareness and strength.  Our program incorporates all aspects of human development - social, intellectual, physical, artistic and moral - and strives to integrate learning by guiding students to be curious about and develop an appreciation of all that the world has to offer.
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The course of study involves an inquiry-based process of learning and is concerned with the development of the whole child and the preservation of each student's unique strengths and interests. In addition to the enriched academic program, the curriculum supports the development of self-confidence and self-assurance, cooperative learning skills, community awareness and involvement, leadership skills, and the application of cognitive skills to real life situations.

Elementary classes have an average 12:1 student-teacher ratio. This enables us to provide individualized attention, challenge and support support to students while also creating the perfect size social group. Our team teaching model also enables us to run innovative developmental programs, such as the Balanced Literacy model pioneered at Columbia University Teachers College. Instruction is individualized to help children progress along a learning continuum, or progression of skills. The combination of our team teaching model, 12:1 student to teacher ratio, and developmental curriculum makes Woodland Hills Private School a school where all children succeed!

All areas of the curriculum areas meet or exceed the California State Frameworks and the National Education Standards.

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 Language Arts

We utilize the Balanced Literacy approach that was developed at Columbia University Teachers College. Balanced Literacy recognizes that a “one size fits all” curriculum does not meet the needs of all students, particularly children with an advanced or gifted learning profile. 

When you walk into a Woodland Hills Private School classroom at any given moment, you’ll see instruction that is designed to:

  • Meet children's individual learning needs.
  • Explicitly teach strategies students will use not only the day they are taught, but can continually apply in the future.
  • Support small-group work and 1:1 conferring, with multiple opportunities for personalized instruction.
  • Tap into the power of a learning community as a way to bring all learners along.
  • Build choice and assessment-based learning into the design of the curriculum.
  • Help students work with high levels of engagement so that teachers are able to coach individuals and lead small groups.

Reading

Begins with familiar words and sounds and teacher-directed activities, then moves on to stories that are diverse and challenging. Instruction is done with small groups of students who are on the same level and includes a wide range of activities to promote phonics, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension skills, communication skills, and critical thinking.

In this approach, children are exposed to reading authentic literature (real books/authors) in a wide variety on genres. Reading and writing go hand in hand, as students are immersed in the tools great authors use and taught to apply these tools in their writing.

Writing

Writing is taught through a workshop approach. Children are exposed to a wide variety of genres (Opinion, Argument, Informational and Narrative). The writing program includes daily lessons and writing experiences to help students become proficient at expressing themselves through in all kinds of writing and learn to appreciate and critique the writing of others. Each unit of study concludes with a publishing celebration in which parents, friends and family are invited to come hear and celebrate the students' published work. 

 

Oral Language

Expressing ideas in a logical manner, discussing options, utilizing an expanding vocabulary, exploring new meanings, evaluating and responding, negotiating, and promoting common ground solutions lead to strong verbal skills for our students. Oral language exercises involve both formal and informal discussions, public speaking, role playing, leadership training, and decision making.

 

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Math

We utilize the Singapore math curriculum and methodology, which is focused on mastery and critical thinking, over rote practice. One of the key features of the approach is the emphasis on a CPA (Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract) progression. 

Each new skill is introduced with hands-on manipulatives or real life objects to help students develop a clear and accurate understanding. Before moving to the abstract concept (algorithm), Singapore Math introduces a pictorial representation, often referred to as the model approach or bar models. This interim visual step is typically missing from many curricula used in the U.S. Finally, once students demonstrate strong conceptual understanding, they are able to use the abstract (algorithm) approach. Instead of pushing through rote memorization, students learn to think mathematically and rely on the depth of knowledge gained in previous lessons. 

The curriculum is individualized based on students' learning levels, allowing advanced and gifted learners increased challenge and depth as well as acceleration. 

  • Numbers & Operations - Understanding numbers and operations is critical to mathematics. Singapore Math focuses on place value to provide a deep knowledge of numbers. As students work with and manipulate numbers, they develop fluency with mental math strategies.
  • Algebraic Thinking - Singapore Math introduces algebraic thinking as early as kindergarten. Often this is nuanced in the way problems are set up or how students are asked to find missing information. The approach equips students with a curious growth mindset and promotes critical thinking and problem solving.
  • Problem Solving - Another component of mastery is the ability to take what you already know and apply it in a new context. The heart of the Singapore Math curriculum is an emphasis on problem-solving. Critical thinking practice is incorporated throughout the curriculum, and it reinforces that there can be multiple ways to approach the same problem. While a correct answer is important, there is greater emphasis on students being able to show their thinking.

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Science

The best way to learn science is by doing science. Our science program is rooted in hands-on investigation, comparison, organization, inference, and application (scientific inquiry/scientific method).  The goals of the science curriculum include the attainment of rational and creative thinking processes, attainment of scientific knowledge, understanding the scientific process, using scientific tools and instruments, academic discourse and communication, and...having fun! 

Topics investigated in our program include:

Biological & Life Science - The study of plants, animals, human beings, ecosystems, and cells. These topics are explored in our unique Animal & Nature Studies program at the on-site Science & Nature Center (A.K.A. Our Barnyard). Topics addressed include:

  • Ecology
  • Animal Care & Husbandry
  • Animal Behavior
  • Evolution & Genetics

Earth Science - The study of astronomy, geology, natural resources, ecology, meteorology, and oceanography. This program culminates with our 4th/5th grade overnight trips to:

Physical Science - The study of matter, mechanics, and energy (light, heat, electricity, magnetism, and sound).

Health Science - Designed to help students make decisions that will promote personal health, healthful family living and the development of community health resources.  

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Social Studies

The Social Studies discipline includes history, geography, economics, political science, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and the humanities. The curriculum is designed to help students understand what's going on in the world today through many different lenses. 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion - By studying historical and current events and investigating differences and commonalities, students develop a respect for the dignity of all people and an understanding of different cultures and ways of life. The curriculum and inquiry-based approach builds on student interests through the study of historical and current events, geography, economics, ethics, and traditions. Many projects are designed to explore issues of bias and social justice. 

Leadership Committees Instead of Student Council (only a few students serve as leaders) we use a Student Leadership Committee model (every student can be a leader in an area of passion). All Upper Elementary (2nd-5th grade) students participate on a leadership committee.

Democratic Understanding & Civic Values - By studying the pluralistic, multi-cultural nature of our society and our nation's constitutional heritage, students begin the process of becoming responsible citizens.

Skills Attainment & Social Participation - By working in a group while maintaining their own individual ideas, students learn to define and clarify issues. The curriculum and inquiry-based approach teaches children to gather information, confirm its validity, reach reasoned conclusions based on evidence, and develop sound judgement.

Agree & Disagree Respectfully "Accountable Talk" - Because the program is rooted in the understanding that children learn best through social interaction, much emphasis is placed on teaching children strategies and protocols for respectful discourse. Students practice a variety of strategies for active listening as well as sharing opinions that they can back up with facts. 

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Music

We believe that music and movement – to speak, sing and play, to listen and understand, to move and create – should be an active and joyful experience. At the same time, we are committed to developing musical skills and music appreciation in our students. The music education program includes choral and instrumental music as well as several musical performances throughout the year. 

TK-2nd grade is a choral music program. Topics students learn about in our music program include:

  • Pattern, rhythm, pitch
  • Playing musical percussive instruments
  • Creating movement to demonstrate tempo, feeling, and steady beat
  • Reading, writing performing simple rhythmic notation patterns in music
  • Finding their singing voice and singing on pitch
  • Experiencing a wide variety of locomotor movements and create expressive ranges of movement and sound
  • Distinguishing a variety of instruments and have an understanding of music families
  • Learning cultural dances that are danced by children all over the world in their native countries
  • Concepts such as loud v. soft, fast v. slow, steady beat, singing v. chanting
  • AB form in music, introduction/verse/chorus, and rhythmic notation patterns
  • Identifying musical patterns
  • Exploring musical composition

3rd-5th grade is an instrumental music program. Each year, students learn to play a different instrument.

  • 3rd grade - Recorders
  • 4th grade - Tone Chimes
  • 5th Grade - Ukuleles and/or Keyboards

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Fine Arts

Art class takes place in the Art Studio. Students learn about: Aesthetics, Art Criticism, Art History and participate in Studio Production. Mediums include drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture and fibers. 

Among the topics students learn about:

  • Patterns 
  • Elements of art (line, shape/form/space, color/value/texture)
  • Principles of art (movement, rhythm, variety, emphasis, unity, proportion, balance)
  • Simple tools 
  • Vocabulary of art
  • Movement and rhythm in painting
  • Tints and shades
  • Foreground, middleground and background 
  • Representational and nonrepresentational art
  • Use of color to create a mood

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Physical Education

Students participate in warm up exercises to build strength and stamina, and engage in games to develop balance, agility, and coordination. We work on building skills for team sports including basketball and soccer.  Students develop cooperation and sportsmanship by participating with partners, in groups and on teams. They learn to give positive feedback and support by using verbal and nonverbal communication. We emphasize respect for themselves, others and the equipment during physical activity. Students are encouraged to develop positive habits and attitudes toward healthy living, hygiene and nutrition.  

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Spanish

Our Spanish program is designed to help students develop a strong foundation with Spanish language and cultures. Through songs, activities, visual media, and interactive notebooks (in Upper Elementary), students become conversational in Spanish. The Spanish program culminates with a novel study in 5th grade.

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Technology & Robotics

Technology is integrated across the curriculum, and our 4th and 5th graders are assigned their own mobile device each year that they will use for Google Docs, VEX IQ Robotics and various projects throughout the year. All students have specialized technology instruction in the Tech Lab. The space includes two 3D printers, our VEX IQ Robotics program, and mobile devices. Our curriculum follows the most recent (2016) International Society for Technology in Education Standards. Visit our Tech Lab website for more information. 

In some schools, robotics is an after-school club for some kids. We believe coding and robotics is non-negotiable, and we strive to provide the strongest foundation for all students. Coding is introduced in a developmentally appropriate way (through games and activities) as early as TK. 4th and 5th graders participate in the VEX IQ Robotics and Coding curriculum. Students work with partners to build robots and code them to take on increasingly complex tasks and even participate in competitions. 

 

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