Academics

Primary Division

At The School at Columbia, our Kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2 students are learning about themselves, their families and their community. The Primary Division program focuses on building a strong foundation for all aspects of learning, and developing skills necessary for school success. We teach literacy and math within a context of a conceptual, integrated, multi-disciplinary curriculum. The commitment to nurturing the young child is reflected in small classes with two teachers per class. Getting to know each child well is a priority for teachers in this division. Before the first day of school, each child is visited by her/his teachers at home or is invited to the classroom for a visit.

The school year begins with activities that help students build classroom routines and structures, while achieving a sense of community with their classmates and environment. Teachers build relationships with students a variety of ways, getting to know their interests, personalities, family dynamics, and learning styles in addition to their academic skills through individual assessments of literacy and math. At several points throughout the year, teachers collect data on each student in order to differentiate instruction of foundational academic skills for a diverse range of learning styles and backgrounds. Learning objectives for each grade level that are appropriate for the developmental needs of the age are a mainstay of the Primary Division.

We celebrate friendship every day and look forward to buddy time with our older class partners. We buddy skate in Central Park, buddy read in each other’s classrooms, and host the Grade 4-8 students to celebrate the 100th day of school. Our children are devoted to community service. We harvest pennies in the fall, collect food for the soup kitchen, plant flowers in the spring and participate in family service day with our friends and families. We have a K-2 roundtable where young philanthropists consider carefully where to donate harvest funds. Being in the Primary Division is like being part of one large extended family where each member is recognized and appreciated every day.

Kathryn Kaiser

Primary Division Director


Academics: Primary Division

Kindergarten

List of 12 items.

  • Library

    Kindergarten students use their library time to familiarize themselves with the concept of a lending library, and to practice strategies for being responsible users of a shared community resource. Kindergarten library time begins with a shared story. Students are challenged to apply their growing knowledge of patterns to discover and discuss patterns within and between the stories we read. The second portion of library class is set aside for book selection. Kindergarteners are given a wide selection of age-appropriate materials to browse and are encouraged to make independent choices, allowing them to explore their interests through books, and begin to take ownership of their identities as readers.
  • Literacy

    This semester Kindergarten students explore patterns in symbols, sounds, words and literature in order to strengthen phonemic awareness and build foundational reading and writing skills. Through in-depth explorations of Wordless Picture Books, Environmental Print and Concept Books, children notice both explicit and more abstract patterns in literature such as connections between pictures and words, rhymes, repeating words and phrases, layout and structure, and author style. Our young readers use this knowledge to read new words and to make predictions about the content of books, while as writers they use mentor texts to learn the important craft lessons of well-planned pictures and/or words to express their ideas, staying focused on a topic and adding details to their work.
  • Mathematics

    Mathematical investigations in Kindergarten focus on the concepts of quantity, number and pattern. Beginning with questioning how many in a variety of authentic contexts, the children explore quantity through counting and sorting efficiently by developing strategies for keeping track. Number strings and models such as the ten and twenty frame are introduced to classroom routines to help children develop fluency in finding and communicating their understanding of quantity. Classroom investigations extend beyond quantity and into number where our young mathematicians examine attributes by paying close attention to the lines and curves in forming numbers. In the latter part of the semester children make connections by investigating patterns and relationships. From comparing quantities to understanding how numbers are related to each other, the children have opportunities to share their mathematical thinking with their classmates and teachers.
  • Performing Arts: Dance

    Grounded in the Kindergarten theme of “Self,” dance classes offer students the opportunity to learn all about themselves as safe and creative movers. Students are introduced to basic movement skills such as freeze, levels, direction and tempo changes, safety while still and traveling, and personal and relational spatial awareness. Students develop listening and observational skills during “Listening Circle” when the study theme of the day is introduced. During our unit on “Pattern,” students learn to recognize, repeat, invent, predict, and execute shapes and rhythmic movement phrases in simple and more complex repeatable patterns. They learn to perform basic choreographies to a wide variety of themes, musical styles, and song. Students practice safe and careful behavior while freely expressing themselves during dance activities such as “A-B-C Dancing," “Story Dance,” and the “Animal/Letter Adventure Trail.”
  • Performing Arts: Music

    Since young children are innately musical, the Kindergarten concept of Pattern connects naturally to the music curriculum. Through performing musical patterns with their feet, their bodies, the instruments and their voices, they develop their musicianship as they reinforce the concepts of rhythm, tempo, melody and form. They discover their singing voice, experience the steady beat, explore musical instruments, and engage in musical dramatic play. In addition to instruction in the music room, all teachers and students gather once a week for a Kindergarten sing-along.
  • Science

    In Kindergarten, the children are learning scientific skills and developing scientific attitudes through the concept of Pattern. They are learning to gather evidence, ask and answer questions, make predictions, find patterns, and communicate their ideas. Their focus is on how scientists gather evidence using their senses as well as use tools to extend the senses. The children explore with magnifying lenses, pipettes, pH strips, and measure length using cubes, mass using a balance, volume with a graduated cylinder, and temperature with a thermometer. They make and share their discoveries as Kindergarten scientists throughout the semester.
  • Social Emotional Learning

    In Kindergarten, social emotional learning skills and objectives are woven into the children’s study of pattern. Students learn to recognize patterns throughout their day: in their daily routines, their interactions with others, and their own emotional responses. As their conceptual understanding deepens, they acquire a more nuanced sense of both their own unique qualities and of how they fit into the larger worlds of classroom and home. In the first semester, children are also expected to master specific skills, including recognizing and naming their own feelings and the feelings of others, and employing self-calming techniques when they become upset.
  • Social Studies

    Kindergarten students are exploring the theme of Self. They learn about themselves and each other through class discussions, read alouds and hands on projects. This semester, students create “I am statements” (ex. I am a sister. I am a New Yorker.) to label different parts of their identities. Students also engage in activities that allow them to identify commonalities and differences between their classmates and themselves. They also explore this concept in a broader sense as they connect with other schools around the world thorough the use of technology.
  • Spanish Language/Literacy

    The Kindergarten Spanish Curriculum exposes students to the world of second language learning through active, multi-sensory lessons in a safe and engaging learning environment. Students learn a variety of Spanish songs and games that become a part of their Spanish routine. This semester kindergartners connect to our study of Pattern by learning basic phrases and expressions in Spanish. Students learn the names of colors, numbers and shapes to explore and create patterns. They also learn to express likes and dislikes and to identify parts of the body. They practice this new vocabulary through a variety of activities ranging from artistic and musical to kinesthetic.
  • Technology

    Students in Kindergarten are learning how to use an iterative approach to solving problems and testing ideas through coding. Using their personally assigned world wide web accessible code.org accounts, students learn how patterns are used to create algorithms to solve puzzles and mazes. Creating loops, sequences and variables allow students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills; a skill set that we hope transfers to all their disciplines. Students will continue to explore these themes by programming robots like the Bee-Bot, a tool for teaching sequencing, measurement and estimation. In addition to coding, Kindergarten students continue to use technology to extend, reflect upon and display their understanding of learning content areas. Apps like Book Creator, SMART Notebook and LetterSchool are a few examples of applications students use to support learning in Kindergarten.
  • Visual Arts

    In the art studio, the kindergartners have been developing basic artistic skills and learning studio routines. The students engaged in a rich study of collage, learning the variety of ways that paper can be cut, torn, arranged and overlapped. The kindergartners then moved on to discover the exciting possibilities of paint. Students explored how the primary colors can be mixed to create new colors and discovered ways to make marks with a paintbrush. In connection with the integrated curriculum, students also investigated the concept of pattern through beading.
  • Wellness

    In Kindergarten Wellness, the students are learning and practicing the 8 basic locomotor skills: walking, running, hopping, jumping, skipping, galloping, side-sliding, and leaping. In addition to this, students also learn the four major pathways, straight diagonal, curved, and zig-zagged, while reinforcing their locomotor skills. The students learn about personal space and how to maintain it as well as general space and how to effectively work within general space. They participate in discussions about self-control and how it can help them to stay in their personal space. Kindergarteners work in small groups and in partnerships to develop cooperative learning skills.

Grade 1

List of 12 items.

  • Library

    First grade students enjoy use their library class time to choose books from an increasingly broad collection of titles, exploring new types of books. First grade library time is also used to share and discuss books about change and life cycles, encouraging students to draw connections and correlations between the changes they’re observing in their classroom projects involving butterflies and chickens. At the end of the year, students are given an introduction to the basic organizational principals of the library, and begin to become increasingly independent and responsible library users.
  • Literacy

    The study of Change provided opportunities for the first grade students to explore both concrete and complex changes in literature. Beginning with an Eric Carle Author Study, the students explore the difference between fact and fiction while continuing their work on problem and solution from earlier in the year. Through an in-depth study of nonfiction, the students learn about various text features and practice activating prior knowledge before reading a text. They worked on making deeper connections and reading for a specific purpose. As writers, they thought about their purpose: to inform, instruct or persuade and craft pieces to get the desired point across. A Poetry unit allowed the children time to hone their observational skills in order to write poetry that describes objects, events and big feelings. Spelling, vocabulary, decoding and grammatical skills were strengthened as the students continued their exploration of word structure, word meaning and sentence structure.​
  • Mathematics

    Students in Grade 1 dove into investigations of number, geometry, and measurement. The beginning of the year launched an in-depth study of clocks and time. They also explored the structure and patterns of the calendar and learn how to use it as a tool. Their knowledge of doubles, near doubles, ten’s plus, and “ways to make ten” facts become “Helper Facts” for solving more challenging problems. The closed number line and other models, such as the hundred chart, also play an important role in supporting students in their understanding of money and recognizing the relationship between addition and subtraction. An exploration into 3D geometry invites students to examine attributes by identifying, sorting, and classifying objects in their surroundings. The end of the year culminates in an integrated unit allowing students the opportunity to estimate, calculate and apply their understanding of standard and nonstandard tools and units of measurement. They also had opportunities to engage in authentic problem solving situations on a regular basis. Within each investigation, students further developed their mathematical vocabulary and communication skills by working independently and collaboratively with peers.
  • Performing Arts: Dance

    In Dance classes, first grade students solidified their understanding and execution of basic movement skills such as freeze, levels, musicality, directional changes, locomotor movements, safety while still and traveling, and personal and relational spatial awareness. Students continued to develop their abilities in listening, observation, and cooperation while they practiced more refined performance skills such as changes in energy levels, rhythmic patterns, and movement qualities. They learned to relate what they are studying in other disciplines, to all the activities they explored in dance, such as Lines, Shapes, and Feelings, Traveling Trios, and Dance the Connections. During the units of study on Family and Connection, students formulated connections on physical, emotional, and intellectual levels. They learned to work with a partner and an ensemble while creating their own movement interpretations of nature, of lines and pathways, of their personal narrative writing about their family experiences, and of their museum experiences. During the museum dance project, each student choreographed, titles, and rehearses his or her own museum dance. These pieces are videoed and posted on TSC’s “The Tube,” for students and families to view.
  • Performing Arts: Music

    In first grade music class, the students worked on recognizing and performing a steady beat using a variety of means such as movement, body percussion, and instrumental playing. Instrumental playing included the use of un-pitched percussion instruments and barred instruments; xylophones, glockenspiels and metallophones. Movement and instrumental improvisation are explored through games and stories, which supported the overall theme of Family and the concept of Connection. The semester culminated with a Family Concert, featuring songs and dances that reflect our diverse community. Preparing for this concert offered the students the opportunity to develop their singing skills and musical memories, while expanding on their song and dance repertoire. Students strengthened their musicianship and community ties, along with learning about performance etiquette through this joyous experience.
  • Science

    In the kitchen science unit, children learned that chemical and physical changes connect different substances in predictable ways. Experiments included dissolving various solvents in water, growing salt crystals, making butter and creating simple chromatograms. In a series of yeast experiments, children investigated how changing one variable at a time affected the outcome. All of these experiences helped students develop the scientific skills of asking questions, making predictions, noticing patterns, recording observations and communicating their ideas.
  • Social Emotional Learning

    In the second half of Grade 1, social emotional learning is integrated into the study of Change. Children began to appreciate the ways in which their own hard work brings change in the form of increased competence in multiple areas. They began to set realistic goals for themselves, and to feel pride in mastering new skills. In their friendships, students practiced taking turns and sharing, as well as resolving conflicts and being flexible. Gradually, students developed an awareness of the ways in which their actions affect those around them and the ability they have to change situations for the better. As they moved toward second grade, the children also became more independent as learners. Grade 1 students grew in their understanding of the need to be responsible for their work and for their actions throughout the day. Students practiced making positive contributions to their classroom and the larger community.
  • Social Studies

    First grade students explored the theme Family and the concept of Connection during the first semester. They began by investigating connections that exist between their classmates. They made connection maps to exhibit their understanding. Towards the middle of the semester, the focus shifted to connections amongst and between different families. The students were challenged to create a family museum that highlights these connections. To start the process, the students used the research question, “what makes a museum a museum?” To guide the inquiry, the students visit several museums to gather information and look at the characteristics of highly engaging and high-quality exhibits. From there, the students engaged in several learning experiences that helped us narrow down our big ideas for the museum. Students worked collaboratively to synthesize the information they collect and design exhibits that teach museum visitors about the many connections first grade families have to each other.
  • Spanish Language/Literacy

    In first grade Spanish, students connected their knowledge of the language to the theme of Family as well as to their daily school life. Students made connections to others by learning how to describe themselves in Spanish and learning how those physical traits make us similar and different to other people. Students applied their language skills by practicing new and old vocabulary in Spanish through didactic activities, games and songs. Spanish classes were designed so that every student has the opportunity to listen to, speak, read and write key vocabulary in the target language. They also made literary connections while reading various books that highlight the theme of Family. Students were learning about families and cultures that have similarities and differences from their own. Throughout the semester, students discovered how we can create different types of connections to others and how that can change our perspective of the meaning of family. In first grade, we strive to continue building a love of language and cultural learning where students are eager to participate.
  • Technology

    Students in First Grade are becoming skilled at using technology learning tools in their classroom like laptops and iPads. Using their personally assigned iPad, students are developing routines, safety protocols, and understandings of symbols inherent in iPad applications. These understandings promote independent use across disciplines. In addition, first graders learn how to use an iterative approach to solving problems and testing ideas through coding. Using their personally assigned world wide web accessible code.org accounts, students learn how patterns are used to create algorithms to solve puzzles and mazes. Creating loops, sequences and variables allows students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills; a skill set that we hope transfers to all their disciplines. Students engage in the study of simple machines through the use of Lego Education WeDo kits. Students learn to construct simple machine models and program them to come to life. Through construction and programming, students reinforce ideas around problem solving, collaboration, design, and engineering. Students learn about motors, gears, pulleys, cams and continue to make real world connections. This unit culminates in the construction of each student's very own automaton constructed from everyday materials.
  • Visual Arts

    In the Art Studio the first graders developed their creative and problem-solving skills while learning how to work responsibly and respectfully in a collaborative space. As part of the first semester’s focus on the connection theme, students explored lines, shapes and colors through a variety of art mediums. First, they explored a various lines and shapes with drawing materials, and then they were introduced to create lines by sewing. The students learned about sewing materials and practiced to thread a needle, sew, and finished sewing by making double-knots at the end. During the following collage unit, they focus on cutting and combining various shapes to create works of art. The students completed a collage of person whom they care about as a final project.
  • Wellness

    The first grade students explore a variety of Wellness topics this year. They review and practice concepts of personal and general space, how to move safely in close proximity to others and further their mastery of locomotor movements. In addition, students gain an understanding of nutrition related topics and how to make conscious food choices based on a traffic light concept (red, yellow, and green light food categories). The students make the distinction between tossing and throwing techniques, while solidifying their catching skill set. The first graders continue to explore different types of equipment both independently and in small groups and also begin a study of balance, flexibility and strength.

Grade 2

List of 12 items.

  • Library

    During library class time, second grade students are encouraged to pursue their interests as they select books from an increasingly broad collection of picture books, chapter books, and non-fiction titles. In April, during National Poetry Month, second graders read and discuss poetry, focusing on narrative poems, and explore the library’s poetry section. As the year progresses, students are given more independence as they navigate the shared space and work towards becoming more effective and confident library users.
  • Literacy

    The second grade students continued to develop as readers and writers as they examined the structure and elements of narrative and informational nonfiction. Expanding on their previous narrative work, the students thoughtfully discussed authors’ uses of detail, description and dialogue. They read a variety of personal narrative texts, both as a class and individually, and participated in meaningful conversations while making interpretations about the more complex story elements of character development, plot, theme and point of view. They then incorporated these craft skills into their own piece. Integrated closely with their Community Study, the students then launched into an in-depth look at different forms of informational nonfiction writing. From books, to websites, to advertisements and signs, the students explored the ways writers use fact, opinion, persuasion and various formats depending on the audience and purpose of the piece, and begin to summarize and synthesize the information to deepen their understanding. While exploring the different structures in the community, they gathered information from print, interviews and observations, and then combined the facts, their opinions and the art of persuasion into carefully crafted pieces aimed for specific audiences. Spelling, decoding and grammatical skills were strengthened as students continue to explored word structure, sentence structure and story structure.

    A Poetry Study enabled the students to look at the world through a poet’s eye and experiment with different structural elements. Through careful examination of published poems, students learned the importance of word choice in clearly and effectively expressing one’s thoughts and ideas and notice how the line breaks, white space and purposeful use of punctuation affect the oral expression of the piece. They then applied these understandings as they collect meaningful and descriptive language about their experiences and craft and recite poetry. Throughout the semester, students learned and applied many literacy skills, such as word and sentence structure, vocabulary, and fluent and expressive reading. They then transferred this knowledge to books read aloud or independently and to writing in other contexts.
  • Mathematics

    Second grade students investigated organizational and physical structures both inside and outside of The School environment. With a critical eye, the children used a variety of addition and subtraction strategies and focus on efficiency by determining when to use each strategy in different problem solving situations. There was an emphasis on accuracy, flexibility, and efficiency with the support of models such as the open number line to represent their thinking. Children were encouraged to build problem solving habits of mind such as perseverance when working on more challenging problems. They recorded their process to communicate their thinking and were asked to notice mathematical situations in their everyday lives. Students applied their spatial reasoning skills to in-depth study of the properties and relationships between shapes and spaces and helps them better understand their three-dimensional world. The end of the year concluded with an integrated study involving measurement, 3D geometry, and problem solving which allowed students to estimate, calculate, and use logical reasoning skills to develop an understanding of standard tools and units within authentic contexts. Within each inquiry students further developed their mathematical vocabulary and communication skills while working collaboratively with peers.
  • Performing Arts: Dance

    Dance class was tightly woven into the second grade curriculum. The children had various creative movement opportunities based on picture books, poetry, nature and their own imaginations. They greatly enjoyed finding and creating structure through movement. Alongside all of this challenging work, dance technique skills were introduced and developed through the warm-up, stretch, and traveling sequences that are a part of every class. Each child’s social and emotional growth is nurtured by working in small groups and partnerships, sharing dances, playing the role of a good audience member, respecting each other, oneself and the studio, as well as being consistent, cooperative and enthusiastic participants in class.
  • Performing Arts: Music

    Music in second grade was an exciting time for students to express themselves through singing and moving. Second grade students studied rhythms and rhythmic notation (including half notes, quarter notes and eighth notes). Second grade students studied the structure of an orchestra including all the instrument families. During the structure unit second graders also studied the structure of a song including AB Form and Rondo Form, and were able to follow a listening map. Second grade students sang a varied repertoire of songs and will continue expressing themselves through music and movement in the upcoming semester
  • Science

    Second grade students learned scientific skills and developed scientific attitudes through a study of organisms and their habitats. At the start of the semester, students visited Black Rock Forest to research and experience the forest habitat, then draw comparisons to city environs back at home. They then focused in on the world of birds, and students learned to be close observers, ask questions, and use their observations to develop scientific ideas. Student scientists studied nests, adaptations, and bird behavior. Learning about birds of prey and dissecting an owl pellet was a special treat to help strengthen an understanding of food chains. An important focus of second grade is expressing ideas; throughout the unit each student maintained a scientific folder where ideas, observations, scientific thinking, and questions were recorded.
  • Social Emotional Learning

    In the second half of Grade 2, social emotional learning skills and objectives were built into the children’s study of Structure and Community. Through lessons that addressed essential questions involving the ways in which physical and organizational structures are employed to meet the needs of people in a community, the children acquired a deeper understanding of the interdependence and mutual responsibilities of community members. Working in large and small groups, the children developed relationships and worked flexibly with diverse peers, became adept at using words to express a range of feelings, and understood the importance of taking responsibility for their own actions and attitudes.
  • Social Studies

    Grade 2 had a year-long theme of Community and focused on the concepts of Structure and Expression. Students came well prepared for the emphasis on independent and cooperative learning opportunities. We began with activities to build a grade level community filled with the collective strengths of the children. Students saw that they are each unique and together complete. They investigated how physical and organizational structures help the members of a community grow and prosper. They examined the ways families, The School, and other communities express their affiliation, and how these communities meet the needs of each member and help to make the groups within successful.
  • Spanish Language/Literacy

    This semester in Spanish, students connected the study of Structure to the concept of structure in the classroom with school and people at school. They learned key vocabulary to communicate, interact with their peers and understand their surroundings in Spanish. They explored the theme of Community by getting to know each other while making connections with people in the classroom, teachers and other people in the school. They compared some elements of cultural differences and commonalities with each other and the Spanish-speaking people working at the school. As part of their study, they looked at Spanish-speaking countries in The Caribbean. Students identified the differences and similarities between the countries to gain a deeper understanding of what Hispanic culture in New York City looks like, feels like, tastes like and sounds like. Students used the four essential language-learning skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing, in order to expand their vocabulary and grammar skills. Specific vocabulary units pertained to physical and personality traits, objects in the classroom, food, expressions, places in school and the Caribbean.
  • Technology

    In Grade 2, students learned Design Thinking, the process by which designers, engineers and scientist problem-solve. With a focus on arts, crafts, carpentry and engineering, students were introduced to the concept of “Making” and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) and Do-It-With-Others (DIWO) culture. Students collaborated to design, create a prototype and final iteration of a selected product. Skills sets that promote collaboration, decision-making, and self-directed learning were reinforced.
  • Visual Arts

    In the art studio this fall, as part of the first semester unit theme of "structure", the students began with a painting exploration. They explored color mixing and the expressive qualities of paint by making a wide range of colors with a limited palette of red, yellow, blue and white. Using this exploratory experience, each child made a collage with complementary colors of their choice. Students then discussed how the color wheel is organized and how that structure can help an artist create a composition. While studying works by professional artists such as Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, and Isamu Noguchi, in school and at the Storm King Art Center, students connected their experiences in the studio to the larger environment. They created three-dimensional constructions using a variety of materials. Using varying weights of paper each class built a city, each student created their own stable and steady construction. In clay, 2nd graders thought about their community and each choose someone to make out of clay, the goal was to make sure the bodies parts were connected well using the “3 S’s”. In addition, students continued to develop their creative problem-solving skills and ability to work successfully in a collaborative space.
  • Wellness

    In Wellness, students focused on important developmental physical skills while connecting to the theme of community and concept of structure. Students began this year by working on sportsmanship and teamwork through the use of cooperative games. Following cooperative games, the students dive into a study of the human body. The students worked on their understanding of how the skeletal and muscular system are structured and their interconnections with one another. They also studied the structure of the brain and how it can help us be better movers and learners. They incorporated fitness activities and a nutrition study on My Plate. Following the human body unit, the students work on their climbing skills on the bouldering wall.

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