Lower School Curriculum Overview

Designed to support the development of foundational skills while nurturing a love of learning, Shipley’s Lower School curriculum is academically rigorous, intellectually challenging and engaging yet flexible to address the individual needs of children. Strengthened through the resources and experience of a pre-K through 12th grade school, the curriculum emphasizes deeply rooted learning, harnessing children’s natural curiosity and creativity, cultivating risk-taking and fostering confidence. At Shipley, the Lower School curriculum is purposely forward looking, as we integrate new educational research, continually examine what we define as best practice, and actively participate in the world beyond the school.

List of 10 items.

  • Early Childhood Education Program Overview (Pre Kindergarten and Kindergarten)

    Shipley's Early Childhood (Pre-K and Kindergarten) program reflects our innovative approach to learning anchored in a curriculum that is research-based and foundational, attending to children’s intellectual, social, emotional and physical development. The Pre-K and Kindergarten curriculum integrates joyful, child-centered play, structured with a clear educational and developmental purpose, alongside academic challenge, emphasizing the development of emergent literacy and mathematical concepts and skills. Beyond the classroom, the Early Childhood program encompasses a rich and broad educational experience as children participate in a variety of specials including: Science, Spanish, Art, Music, Physical Education, and SEED classes (Social, Emotional, and Ethical Development). With the purpose of enhancing learning, technology is integrated into the classroom where iPads are utilized both as a tool to develop skills and a vehicle for the creative expression of ideas. Consistent with Shipley’s educational philosophy, learning is anchored in the teacher-child relationship, meaning small classes and high student –teacher ratios, with each Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms staffed by a lead and second teacher. 

    The Early Childhood program is an integral part of Shipley – a school focused on academic excellence and dynamic interactions between students and teachers.
  • Language Arts in Lower School

    The Shipley Lower School language arts program emphasizes expressive, receptive, and written language concepts and skills across the curriculum. Our goal is for children to develop the confidence to express and explore their ideas through oral and written language while critically analyzing and integrating through readings and discussion the perspectives and ideas of others. Public speaking is a critical component of classroom life as children actively participate in daily meetings and discussions: debating ideas, responding to stories, and negotiating the community norms and expectations. Opportunities for public speaking are woven into the curriculum through oral presentations, performances, and the sharing of work, as well as into the cultural life of the school through assemblies and leadership opportunities. At Shipley, we see public speaking as integral to children’s ownership over learning and an important characteristic of their membership within the school community.

    The Pre-K language arts curriculum is designed to nurture children’s love of literacy and storytelling, while developing an understanding of alphabetic principals and print concepts. Combining a whole language and skills based approach, the Pre-K classroom constitutes a language rich environment enhanced through the use of the Blueprint for Literacy program, built around 130 award-winning children’s book and developed by the Children’s Literacy Initiative. In Pre-K, writing is experimental, sound-based, and incorporated into children’s play, social studies activities, and the daily routines of classroom life.

    The language arts curriculum in Kindergarten through second grade focuses on developing and strengthening foundational literacy concepts and skills, as children enter into the world of readers and writers. We implement the Wilson Fundations program, a research-based phonological/phonemic awareness, phonics and spelling program that promotes critical thinking, speaking and listening skills as well as develops children’s vocabulary. Children also participate in guided reading groups that combine whole language, balanced literacy, and skill-based instruction. Consistent with Shipley’s educational philosophy, these groups are ability-based but incorporate flexible grouping to account for the individual progression of each child as she or he learns to read. Along with guided reading, time is set aside for reading books aloud to the whole class, as well as for children to explore books independently and with their friends. Beginning in second grade independent reading is introduced as a daily routine in the classroom. Process writing, introduced in Kindergarten, takes children through the stages of planning, writing, editing, and publishing their written work. Research and expository writing is introduced in second grade. In conjunction with the Fundations program, first grade students begin the transition from sound spelling to more conventional spelling as they focus each week on mastering particular phonics patterns, while cursive handwriting practice begins in second grade.
    In third through fifth grade, the language arts curriculum is built around literary genres including realistic fiction, poetry, biography, fantasy, and mystery, as well as non-fiction content-focused texts associated with social studies and science curriculum. Literature response journals are introduced as vehicles for children to demonstrate literal, inferential, and evaluative levels of comprehension. Regular book discussions, written responses, artistic interpretations, and drama, offer diverse opportunities for children to deepen and demonstrate their comprehension skills as well as nurture an appreciation of literature and reading. In fourth grade historical fiction relating to their yearlong study of early American history takes center stage. While in fifth grade the focus shifts to early adolescent fiction, exploring ethical and moral dilemmas. In both grades, specific skills covered include recalling details and main ideas, sequencing, summarizing, drawing conclusions, making inferences, determining cause and effect, and identifying themes.
    In third through fifth grade, children continue to explore creative and expository writing using the process writing approach as they experiment with different forms of writing, such as narrative, informational and expository, report and procedural, descriptive, and persuasive. Conventional spelling, language use, and grammar skills are taught within the context of reading and writing. In fifth grade, children consolidate the reading and writing skills necessary for success in middle school.
  • Math in Lower School

    The Shipley Lower School math program emphasizes mathematical thinking, application and problem solving alongside the development of mathematical concepts, computational skills and processes. The focus on thinking, or metacognition, is evident in the simple questions teachers routinely ask children: “how do you know that;” “can you show it to me;” and “can you prove it to me.” This approach reinforces deeply rooted learning, while nurturing in children the development of a positive attitude towards math and corresponding sense of confidence and competency.
    In Pre-K the curriculum explores foundational mathematical skills and concepts as children develop an understanding of quantity, number sense, and numerical relationships. Math is integrated into the classroom, through materials such as blocks, puzzles and manipulatives, and mathematical thinking is nurtured through children’s play and classroom activities.  The math curriculum is further enhanced through the implantation of the Every Day Counts program, which integrates math into the daily classroom routines, creating ample opportunities for children to practice and develop the requisite mathematical skills.
    In Kindergarten through fifth grade, we implement the Math In Focus: Singapore Math program. This research-based, innovative curriculum combines a focus on drill and practice ensuring mastery of facts, computation and problem solving skills alongside a pedagogical approach that harnesses peer interaction to stimulate and foster critical, inquiry-based and creative thinking. In the classroom, teachers model mathematical concepts, with the goal of leading students to make lasting connections between concrete materials, visual representation and abstract algorithms. Instruction encompasses whole group direct instruction and modeling, small group cooperative learning and practice, and independent work. Through the skillful use of questioning, flexible grouping, individual support, and the use of various targeted workbooks, teachers are able to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of a range of learners. The Math In Focus curriculum is designed to teach to mastery, with fewer topics in each grade the focus is on deeply rooted learning and the teaching of concepts at higher and higher levels as children progress through each grade. The curriculum is also organized around big ideas, such as number sense and place value, ensuring that children not only learn the algorithms related to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, but also understand why and how individual algorithms work. For more specific information regarding the scope and sequence check out the MIF website at http://www.hmhco.com/~/media/sites/home/education/global/pdf/scope-and-sequence/mathematics/elementary/math-in-focus/MIF_GradeK-5_Scope_and_Sequence.pdf
  • Social Studies in Lower School

    The Shipley Lower School social studies program is designed to help children develop the skills of a social scientist while nurturing an increasing awareness of self, others, society and the surrounding world, in the present as well as the past. Across the curriculum, the skills and concepts related to the social sciences, including primary research in the form of observations and interviews, text and web-based research, and the recording, analyzing and presenting of data, are emphasized. Interdisciplinary in design, social studies at Shipley incorporates the arts, geography, history, science, math, music, technology, and Spanish. Consistent with the school’s philosophy and mission, SEED (social, emotional and ethical development) is an integral component of the social studies curriculum. 
    In Pre-K through second grade, the social studies curriculum encompasses an increasing circle beginning with family and the classroom and moving out to the school, local community, and those beyond. Families, culture and traditions, the classroom and school take the center stage in Pre-K, Kindergarten and first grade as children learn through hands-on activities and through their interactions with people and the environment in and around the school. In second grade, the concept of history, past and present, and location, near and far, are explored through a yearlong study of Native Americans across the different regions of the United States. Historical and geographical aspects as well as the concepts of exploration and change, culture and tradition, transportation, shelter, food, animals, and vegetation are introduced. Through this study, second graders also learn developmentally appropriate study and research skills, which they use to gather information for research projects.
    In third through fifth grade, history, geography, politics and culture take center stage, explored respectively through yearlong studies centering on immigration, early American history and ancient civilizations. In third grade, the focus on immigration introduces students to the myriad ways in which immigration has historically shaped America leading to the creation of a more diverse and democratic society. Immigration is presented as individual journeys and as the movement of people both voluntary and forced. Students research their own family histories developing personal connections to the narratives they read in textbooks. Throughout the study, students are encouraged to view immigration through a critical and empathetic lens, questioning both the human costs while appreciating the immigrants’ hope and desire for a better life. The study of immigration serves as a vehicle for introducing world geography and map reading skills. The study culminates in a powerful experiential stimulation of the immigrant entry into Ellis Island followed by a field trip to Ellis Island. The year long focus on early American history in fourth grade introduces children to the thirteen colonies with an emphasis on Pennsylvania, the Revolutionary War, the Constitution and the U.S. government, westward expansion, and the Civil War. Utilizing social studies texts, written and primary source visual materials, and fiction, children are encouraged to think critically, pose questions, and engage in debate, as they learn basic skills, including summarizing, outlining, note taking, and test preparation. Taking advantage of our location in and around multiple historical sites, field trips take a prominent role, offering unique opportunities for children to make real-life connections to American history. Field trips include Valley Forge Park, Independence Hall and The Liberty Bell, historic houses of worship, Gettysburg, and Lancaster. The science of archaeology and the study of ancient civilizations is the focus of fifth grade, framed around the related questions of what defines a civilization and what are the common elements of all cultures, both ancient and modern. Geography focuses on the themes of topography, human interaction with the environment, and the interaction among different populations and cultures. Historical facts are presented and discussed along with the means by which this information was discovered by archaeologists. To help children understand the work of archaeologists, at the beginning of the year students participate in a half-day conference exploring the field then participate in a simulated “dig” collecting artifacts, which they analyze to discern their use and what they say about the culture. The social studies program is designed to help students understand common elements of all cultures, appreciate the accomplishments and contributions of ancient civilizations, and develop a sense of historical perspective, while widening their view of the world through history.
  • Science in Lower School

    The Shipley Lower School science program incorporates a spiral curriculum exploring topics in the physical, life and earth sciences. Particular attention is paid to the study of nature and issues of sustainability anchored in the natural environs in and around the Lower School Campus. Hands on activities, experiments and observations of the natural world are at the core of the curriculum, harnessing children’s inherent curiosity and inquisitiveness as they explore natural phenomena, discover scientific principles, and develop an appreciation of nature. Children concurrently explore what it means to be a scientist, internalizing the basic science process skills of observation, classification, measurement, prediction, testing, forming a hypothesis, theory building, and recording and sharing information.
    The Pre-K through second grade curriculum covers various topics including: air, water, and soil; seasons and weather; astronomy and the solar system; food chains, plant anatomy and animals; and magnets, sound, color and light. In first grade, the focus on the environment and sustainability underlie a study of native trees on Shipley’s campus as well as an extensive unit on honeybees and other pollinators, with leaf and tree walks and a field trip to the beehives at Jenkins Arboretum. In second grade, children conduct investigations in water chemistry, and study rocks and minerals, as they learn to collect, record and analyze data.
    In third through fifth grade, an engineering strand is added to the curriculum as children deepen their exploration of themes developed in earlier grades. Third graders design and build a working sail, windmill, and tinfoil boat that can be loaded with pennies. Fourth graders compete to design the slowest parachute and create an electrical invention using Little Bits sets. Fifth graders design and construct simple machines, use an Xpult catapult to test four different variables, and create their own inventions. Ecology and sustainability are the focus of overnight field trips in fourth grade and fifth grade. In fourth grade, children visit the Horsham Outdoor School, which prepares them to take on responsibility for the rain garden outside the fourth grade classrooms. In fifth grade, children visit the Echo Hill Outdoor School, which intersects with a yearlong study of the nearby stream in Ashbridge Park in partnership with the Lower Merion Conservancy. Both overnight trips include team and community building activities. More specific information about the second through fifth grade science curriculum can be found on the blog GatorScience www.gatorscience.wordpress.com
  • Spanish in Lower School

    The Shipley Lower School Spanish program follows a proficiency-based model that emphasizes the acquisition of receptive and expressive language skills. Built upon the philosophy of “learning through play,” the program incorporates rhythm and repetition alongside elements of the Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) pedagogy. As classes are conducted almost entirely in Spanish, following an immersion model, children become attune to the sound of the language, learn basic vocabulary and develop their receptive language skills.
    In pre-K through second grade, children become familiar with the sounds of the Spanish language as they learn to identify themselves and the members of their family, to count, and to name body parts, basic colors and shapes, and common foods and animals. Children also learn cultural greetings and explore how to express themselves, their likes and dislikes, in another language. The pre-K through second grade curriculum incorporates stories, songs, daily routines, artwork and dramatic role-play. In second grade, children participate in an interdisciplinary study of Monarch butterflies, combining science and Spanish.
    In third through fifth grade, the Spanish curriculum is anchored in authentic cultural traditions including cultural stories, practices, celebrations, and history. Units are often interdisciplinary, incorporating social studies themes related to shelter, food, clothing and literature, as well as art, music, and science. As children move into fourth and fifth grade, they begin engaging in more extended conversations as they discuss their feelings, the weather, various activities and the familiar classroom objects associated with these activities. In fourth and fifth grade, reading and writing is integrated into the curriculum and homework is assigned.
  • Technology in Lower School

    The Shipley Lower School technology program is fully integrated into the classroom with technology learning embedded in language arts, math, science, social studies, Spanish, and music content. Children learn through doing as new programs, technologies, and apps are introduced through specific curriculum units. Once introduced, these become part of an ever-expanding technology toolbox that teachers and children draw upon to enhance learning and demonstrate understanding. This approach offers opportunities for children to explore and develop competency with a variety of programs, technologies and apps. Our technology teacher acts as a facilitator, working in the classroom alongside and in collaboration with teachers. Situated in classrooms, the technology teacher is able to more effectively support students, combining whole group lessons with individualized instruction. At Shipley, MacBook laptops and iPads are used along with compatible technologies such as projectors and whiteboards, digital and document cameras, while we continually review software, upgrade hardware, and adapt new technologies. Digital Citizenship and Internet Safety are an integral component of the technology program in the Lower School beginning in Pre-K and continuing through fifth grade. Topics discussed include keeping personal information private, cyber-bullying, being kind online and net etiquette, and being a responsible digital citizen. For more detailed information and to see what’s currently happening in the Lower School check out the http://lower-school-learning.wikispaces.com/
    In Pre-K through first grade, children use iPads, learning their terminology, care, and navigation, as they are introduced to a variety of apps for practicing skills in language arts and math. Children use apps to record themselves reading books as a way of practicing their fluency, expression, and pace. Digital storytelling apps such as Pixie are also used for children to create stories and to narrate presentations. As they develop competency, children are given free access to the iPads to use to record and share ideas, and to document their learning,
    In second through fifth grade, children use MacBook laptops to develop and practice keyboarding skills, explore multimedia sites to demonstrate and share their learning, integrate graphic organizing applications to enhance their writing and presentations, and access various educational websites for practicing, enriching and extending learning in Math, Social Studies, Science and Language Arts. In third grade, children begin to use the Google Apps for Education’s word processing suite for writing, storing their work and files on the Shipley Drive, allowing them access to their work from anywhere as well as the ability to share and collaborate with peers and teachers. In fourth and fifth grade, children are assigned individual MacBook’s for use in the classroom as well as in special subject areas including Art, Science, and Spanish. ShipleyNet is introduced as a password-protected social learning network for children to access from anywhere classroom information including assignments. Children communicate with teachers through teachers using their Shipley email account. Children also begin coding in fourth grade using various software programs that develop logical thinking and problem-solving skills. The fourth and fifth-grade technology program, in particular, is designed to lead into the one-to-one laptop program in the Middle and Upper Schools.
  • Art in Lower School

    The Shipley Lower School visual arts program follows the developmental progression of children through a sequentially planned curriculum focusing on the foundational skills and concepts related to the visual arts. The curriculum is designed to facilitate experimentation, personal expression and individual success. Projects allow students to work in a wide variety of two and three-dimensional media including painting, drawing, collage, clay, Paper Mache, and wood. While experimentation is encouraged and process is emphasized over product, the completion of projects helps children feel a sense of accomplishment as well as a sense of competency through the development of newfound skills. Interdisciplinary projects with other subject areas such as social studies and science take up about a third of the curriculum. Bulletin boards, special art exhibits, and Arts and Science Night showcase student work throughout the year.

    The Pre-K through second grade visual arts curriculum draws upon children’s inherent developmental desire to explore materials and express themselves through the arts. At the same time, the curriculum helps young children develop and master fine and gross motor skills, and coordination through continued use of a variety of tools and materials. More challenging projects utilizing new materials, tools, and techniques are introduced as children’s motor skills and competencies develop. Concepts explored include color, shape, texture, and line recognition, which encompass the basic elements of design. Children practice following a sequence of directions, develop good work habits, and learn the proper use and care of materials while appreciating their work as well as respecting the work of their peers. The curriculum encompasses opportunities for independent and cooperative work while incorporating both two- and three-dimensional projects.
    The third through fifth grade arts curriculum is designed to harness children’s burgeoning competency with materials, tools and techniques, and to respond to the emerging developmental shift as children move from concrete thinking to an ability to abstract. Process over product is still emphasized as children develop an increased ability to engage in critical conversations about their work with peers. Projects are designed as open-ended, encouraging creativity and risk-taking with multiple choices and answers embedded in each lesson. Emphasis is placed on using art as a means to create personal statements focusing on individual growth in the areas of conceptualizing, technical skills, creativity, and personal interest. Basic art elements continue to serve as the building blocks of the curriculum, but with more emphasis on mastering the media as children are beginning to understand the relationship between 2-D and 3-D space. Art history is introduced, providing a venue for learning how art elements are used and to introduce ways to look, talk about, appreciate and consider the purpose of art now and in the past.
  • Music in Lower School

    The Shipley Lower School music program is designed to nurture a love and appreciation of music as children learn to see themselves as music makers. The curriculum focuses on the development of vocal, instrumental, and literacy skills through singing, listening, playing, and reading activities. Areas of conceptual development include rhythm, melody, dynamics, tempo, meter, notation, form, and part work. Individual musicianship and creativity are fostered through utilization of pitch-matching exercises, solo-singing, game songs, improvisation, and ensemble work on barred and small percussion instruments. Many different musical styles, genres, and cultures are represented in the listening and vocal repertoires. Songs are oriented toward the seasons and holidays, and can be integrated into other subject areas through curriculum, plays and projects.
    In Pre-K through third grade children develop a love of singing and an appreciation for music as they master new musical concepts and skills. Meter, form, and the musical phrase are taught using creative movement, singing, playing classroom instruments, and conducting. Curriculum integration in math, social studies, language arts, and science enables children to make connections with the world around them. Computer programs such as Music Ace, Professor Piccolo, and Menlo the Frog reinforce the music curriculum. In second grade and third grades, children are introduced to both recorder and Orff instruments with opportunities to create melodies and ostinato patterns. Through a variety of activities emphasizing exposure to many types of music and mastery of certain basic skills and concepts, each child's inherent musicality and creativity are encouraged. Performing opportunities throughout the year include Friday assemblies, all-school assemblies, a winter and spring concert, and classroom plays.
    With an eye towards the Middle and Upper School, the music program shifts in fourth and fifth grade as children participate in various ensembles. In fourth grade, children rotate spending a third of the year with winds, a third with strings and a third with chorus. Once familiar with the different ensembles, each child commits in fifth grade to a single ensemble for the entire year. As well as learning their instruments, within the ensembles the music curriculum continues to build on five areas of conceptual development: melody, meter/tempo, notation, form, and part work. In addition to learning how to notate simple melodies and rhythm patterns, the children refine their skills by playing Orff, recorder, and other classroom instruments. Once in fifth grade, children are challenged to read and write music fluently. The computer programs Music Ace and Making More Music reinforce the music curriculum
    Interdisciplinary opportunities include the fourth grade study of Colonial America, the Revolutionary War and the westward expansion as the instruments and songs of the early settlers provide great insight into the hearts of our forefathers. As part of their study of China, fifth graders compose their own pentatonic scales and pieces, as they review and study Chinese instruments, songs, and dances. An overview of the musical contributions of the Ancient Greek civilization correlates with the fifth grade study of Greece. In both fourth and fifth grade, children are encouraged to appreciate music of the great composers as they are introduced to different periods of music history. Friday assemblies, all-school assemblies, winter and spring choral concerts, advanced vocal ensemble, a recorder ensemble and string ensembles complete the curriculum and performance opportunities. Along with the ensembles, which meet during the school day, children have the option in fourth and fifth grade of joining a recorder ensemble and advanced chorus both of which meet in the mornings before school and offer multiple performance opportunities. Private individual music lessons are also available.
  • Physical Education in Lower School

    The Shipley Lower School physical education program is designed to develop healthy, responsible, physical fit children who find success, enjoyment and develop a positive self-image through physical activities. A healthy attitude towards competition, sportsmanship, collaboration, self-discipline, and leadership are integrated into the curriculum as children develop competence in various sports, dance, recreational, and physical fitness activities. Knowledge of the relationship between proper nutrition and a consistent fitness regimen, and SEED (social, emotional, and ethical development) educational themes are similarly interwoven into the program. The physical education program utilizes three spaces on the Lower School Campus. The small gym is solely dedicated to ABC Fitness, an advanced research based program focusing on agility, balance and coordination. The turf field and large gym are used for developing team sports skills including ball and stick handling. During the course of the semester beginning in first grade, classes rotate through all three spaces.
    The Pre-K through second grade physical education curriculum focuses on helping children develop basic locomotion skills, body control and spatial awareness, agility, and coordination in a safe, fun and challenging environment. Also emphasized are basic manipulative skills including throwing, catching, bouncing and dribbling using both hands and feet. As children move into first and second grade, the program shifts from independent practice in which children interact with the environment and equipment, to cooperative activities and games where children explore movement patterns with a partner. Movement patterns include learning to move in different directions at varying speeds utilizing improved hand and eye, foot and eye, and perceptual/motor coordination. Throughout the curriculum, emphasis is placed on learning skills correctly through continuous repetition. All activities are designed to promote cooperation, creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and problem solving in the context of class challenges.
    The third through fifth grade curriculum continues to help children develop foundational motor skills, spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination. As reaction times increases, children practice sequencing movement skills and creating patterns that demonstrate continuity and change. Techniques and qualities of accuracy and speed moves beyond simple object manipulation (throwing and kicking balls) are emphasized. Team and group activities, as well as sports and sport-related activities are incorporated into the curriculum involving peer acceptance, sportsmanship, independence, and recognition. During the fitness component of the curriculum, children are evaluated and tested to measure the level of their fitness and skills compared to other students their age. They learn how to use pedometers and discuss why movement is an important part of physical fitness.

Meet the Team

List of 3 members.

  • Photo of Timothy Lightman

    Timothy Lightman 

    Head of Lower School
    Phone/Extension: 4704
    Columbia University - EdD
    Bank Street College - MEd
    Bank Street College - MS
    New York University - BA
  • Photo of Saburah Posner

    Saburah Posner 

    Assistant Head of Lower School
    Phone/Extension: 4745
    Cabrini College - MA
    Goucher College - BA
  • Photo of Catherine Mallam

    Catherine Mallam 

    Lower School Director of Student Support
    Phone/Extension: 4753
    University of Pennsylvania - MSEd
    William Smith College - BA
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.