Academics
Lower School

Curriculum

Lower School students begin to master the basic skills of academic study that will guide their education for the rest of their life.
Students in grades 1-5 hone their phonic awareness to improve reading, writing, and vocabulary. They tackle fundamentals of math, building number sense and preparing for more complex abstract thought. They learn the intricacies of the scientific method to begin making sense of the world around them. And they start to look at history and the social sciences as more than just facts and dates and people and places but as forces that shape their world. Our program not only focuses building the fundamental academic skills for success in school but on developing skills to help students adapt and thrive in an ever-changing world.

List of 5 items.

  • Math

    Problem solving is at the center of math learning, and in the Lower School, the concepts are taught with a concrete–pictorial–abstract learning progression through real-world, hands-on experiences. Students first investigate mathematical concepts through the use of hands-on manipulatives. They then move on to the pictorial stage in which pictures are used to model problems. Later, when students are more familiar with the ideas taught, they progress to the abstract stage in which only numbers, notations, and symbols are used. Instruction focuses on mathematical thinking and the application of skills to problem-solving. Students learn to understand the "how" and the "why" so they can tackle both routine and non-routine problems.

    In the Lower School, math lessons are taught in both whole group and small group settings. Teachers use this flexibility to best meet the needs of all their mathematical learners. In fourth and fifth grade, the teaching of math is departmentalized and a math specialist teaches all students in our upper elementary. Through on-going assessment, teachers are able to differentiate math instruction, adding additional support where required and providing challenges to stretch thinking where needed. Above all, it is important that all Lower School students not only see the importance of mathematics, but also see themselves as capable, confident mathematicians.
  • Reading

    In the Lower School, reading instruction is customized to target students’ strengths and needs in a developmentally appropriate manner. In the early grades, explicit phonics instruction builds a solid foundation for students in the areas of phonemic awareness, spelling patterns, and decoding. In first and second grade, the early elementary teachers utilize the CAFÉ and Daily 5 curricula for reading instruction that meets students’ specific reading levels. With a focus on teaching strategies in the areas of comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and vocabulary, first and second graders are exposed to short mini-lessons that target a number of specific reading skills. Additionally, first and second graders spend time each day engaged in the “daily five” – reading to self, reading to a classmate, working on writing, word-work, and listening to reading. These five activities are closely monitored and supported by teachers on a daily basis, and small groups are formed to target specific areas of need. Through one-on-one teacher-student conferencing, first and second grade teachers monitor each student’s reading progress and help students select books deemed “right fit” as well as stretch, or challenge, books.

    In third, fourth, and fifth grade, students engage in a reading workshop model that utilizes units of study based on latest research from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP). Our upper elementary approach to reading workshop provides a structure to the teaching of reading, one that has been especially designed to make sure that children are given the essentials they need to flourish as readers that we call the three Ts: time spent reading, using techniques that readers use, about diverse topics (genres) that matter to them. Through the workshop approach at each grade-level in the Lower School differs based on each child’s development as a reader, the Lower School reading curriculum is guided by TCRWP’s essentials of reading instruction which include:

    • Students need teachers who demonstrate what it means to live richly literate lives, wearing a love of reading on our sleeves.
    • Students need long stretches of time to read.
    • Students need opportunities to read high-interest, accessible books of their own choosing.
    • Students need explicit instruction in the process and skills of proficient reading.
    • Students need opportunities to talk in response to texts.
    • Students need assessment-based instruction, including feedback that is tailored specifically to them. Strugglers especially need instruction that is tailored to their specific strengths and needs, as well as extra time and extra help.
    • Students need teachers to read aloud.
    • Students need a balanced approach to language arts, one that includes a responsible approach to the teaching of writing as well as to reading.

    Finally, in fourth and fifth grade, the “40 Book Challenge” is designed specifically for our fourth and fifth graders to provide an additional aspect to the development of independent reading across a variety of genres.
  • Science

    In the Lower School, Walker students use a hands-on, inquiry-based science curriculum that provides students with experiences appropriate to the students' developmental levels. Students often work in collaborative groups as they use the scientific processes to explore a variety of content areas. At each grade level, the science content reflects the latest scientific research with a blend of physical, earth and space, and life sciences.

    In the early elementary, units of study within the FOSS curriculum provide diverse opportunities for investigation of scientific concepts. These units of study spiral to provide students with multiple exposures to concepts and include the following pedagogies:

    • Active investigation, including outdoor experiences
    • Recording in science notebooks to answer questions and reflect
    • Reading non-fiction materials to further investigate or understand
    • Formative and summative assessment measures to support and guide learning

    In the upper elementary, students explore the content areas of chemistry, zoology (vertebrate and invertebrate), botany, and ecology. The units of study are used as a basis for gaining awareness of the scientific methods of observing, comparing, organizing, relating and classifying, hypothesizing, drawing conclusions, and applying learned principles. Students integrate the scientific process with research and writing skills in preparation for upper-level science classes.
  • Social Studies

    Through the study of social studies and history, Lower School students gain greater understanding of people, culture, the nation, and the world around them. On this journey, students explore a variety of times and places. They are encouraged to explore how people relate to one another, to observe patterns of change, and to understand the reactions of people or groups of people to that change. Students are asked to make connections between current events and to those that occurred in the past. The exploration of history is based on the study of thematic units in first through third grade. The fourth and fifth grade study follows the formation and growth of the United States.

    Students develop a wide range of skills throughout their studies. Students learn important local, national, and global geography as well as important note-taking and study skills. Walker students hone non-fiction reading skills through a variety of resources, including textbooks, primary sources, newspapers, magazines, and online databases. Critical thinking and the importance of asking questions are emphasized. The social studies program includes multicultural perspectives, hands-on experiences, field trips, and numerous opportunities to share student learning outside of the classroom. Technology skills are woven throughout the curriculum. Social studies units are integrated with other academic and co-curricular subjects when possible.
  • Writing

    The Lower School uses the Writing Workshop model to teach writing. It is based upon the Units of Study curriculum developed by Lucy Calkins and the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP). This approach to writing instruction is designed to provide students with a developmentally appropriate experience in which they write regularly. Students learn that both the process and product are important. Students write in a variety of genres and strengthen their understanding of craft and conventions through the examination mentor texts. Our elementary approach to writing workshop provides a structure to the teaching of writing, one that has been especially designed to make sure that children are given the essentials they need to flourish as writers. In the Lower School, we focus on the three Ts: time spent writing, using techniques that writers use, about diverse topics (genres) that matter to them.

    Writing skills develop incrementally, and the work that students do at one grade level provides the foundation for the learning to be done at the next. The Units of Study provide a clear scope and sequence that guides the writing skills and experiences. In first grade, students write non fiction chapter books and “small moment” stories, focusing on incorporating details. In second grade, students write lab reports and science books as well as poetry. Third grade students write persuasive essays and craft new and adapted fairy tales. In fourth grade, students write realistic fiction stories, drawing from their own experiences, and try their hands at writing a literary essay. In fifth grade, students are asked to consolidate all of the skills learned in previous grades to write narratives, biographies, and research-based argument essays.

    The writing process in the Lower School allows a student to brainstorm, write a rough draft, conference with a teacher, revise, share with peer writers, and publish a finished piece of writing. The children write in conjunction with all their subjects, expressing opinions and direct answers in paragraph and short essay form. They respond to literature through journals, reports, creative prose and poetry, and research. Mini-lessons which involve spelling rules and skills are taught, and students continue to focus on application of spelling skills in written work. Grammar is taught explicitly and is applied through various writing and speaking activities across the curriculum. Handwriting and word-processing applications are used to produce work.

Co-Curricular Classes

Co-curricular classes contribute to the development of well-rounded, confident students. Classes in art, media/technology, music, physical education, science, Spanish, and guidance provide students with additional opportunities to explore personal interests while challenging themselves in new ways. 

List of 7 items.

  • Art

    In the Lower School, the art program is designed to give first-fifth grade students an introduction to art which will prepare them for Middle and Upper School art classes. The curriculum offers well-rounded and varied art experiences in the Lower School Art Lab. Assignments and activities are planned as opportunities for problem-solving as the students work with a wide range of media and techniques, projects, and themes at each grade level. Students are encouraged to talk about their art work and that of professional artists as they become familiar with the Elements of Art. The year culminates with the Lower School Art Show, where hundreds of pieces of student are displayed.

    Studio art classes offer a unique learning environment where analytical and intuitive abilities can be developed. In the Lower School, children study art concepts through instruction in painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, and printmaking. Children are introduced to many materials, including watercolor, tempera, acrylic, clay, pastel, ink, papier-mâché and mixed media.
  • Library

    Lower School students, faculty, and staff are surrounded by nearly 20,000 volumes in the Winship LIbrary. Students proactively learn to locate, analyze, evaluate, and communicate information and ideas. From student search stations to a dynamic SmartBoard, our inviting two-level Reading Cottage and welcoming collaborative seating design, Winship Library boasts an ideal environment for students to grow into young scholars, readers, researchers, makers, thinkers, storyteller, and tinkerers. Winship Library seeks to foster a deep appreciation of literature and establish a lifelong love of reading.

    Students enjoy access to online newspapers, age-appropriate periodicals, and a variety of digital equipment thanks to our collaboration with the Media Tech Lab. A completely automated public access Destiny catalog provides author, title, subject, series, and keyword access to the print and non-print resources. The layout and organization of the space lends itself to child-led selection of content: from easy reader, easy picture, and Caldecott sections to a groundbreakers, biography, and a fully genrefied collection of fiction books. We strongly value reading for enjoyment; one will often find the room filled with the sounds of students reading for pleasure and sharing books with one another.

    Students visit Winship for instruction on a fixed schedule for both literacy classes and checkout opportunities, though students are encouraged to visit the library to exchange books as often as needed. Stories, thematic studies, creative writing, and library skills instruction form part of the curriculum for each grade.


  • Music

    In the Lower School at Walker, musical instruction is an integral part of a child’s education as it develops collaborative teamwork, self-discipline, and an aesthetic sense of culture. Teamwork is essential as students collaborate by unifying multiple skills such as eye/hand coordination, breath control, and body movement as a whole unit within a class. Self-discipline is enhanced as students hone their skills to be showcased in front of an audience, and the study of music history provides insight into the lifestyle and values of most cultures throughout history.

    At Walker, the integration of musical instruction into a child’s academic and co-curricular curriculum makes for a well-versed individual. In the Lower School music classroom, students are exposed to multiple methods of instruction to learn musical concepts. The elements of music are rhythm, melody, harmony, dynamics, form, tempo, meter, and timbre, all of which spiral through the curriculum. In the elementary grades, strategies include solfegé with Kodály hands signs for singing and the Orff-Schulwerk methodology for instrument instruction to create well-rounded units of study. Technology is also highly integrated into the curriculum as today’s music students need the technological skills to thrive in an ever-changing society.
  • P.E.

    In the Lower School, the physical education program is designed to introduce students to basic physical fitness concepts, cooperative games, locomotor skills, spatial awareness, and sports development activities. An important priority of Walker’s physical education program is to teach skills and build self-confidence to enable students to embrace new challenges through enjoyable experiences that promote healthy, active lifestyles. The physical education program is a sequential curriculum that uses movement as a medium for growth and self-discovery. The diverse curriculum is designed to develop skills, fitness, and a lifetime commitment to wellness. Discussion of issues relating to health, nutrition and exercise permits students to critically analyze their lifestyles and make educated choices for their futures.

  • Spanish

    At Walker, our Lower School Spanish program is designed to support students as they develop lifelong skills to communicate effectively in the global world, to create more awareness of other cultures, and to increase appreciation and knowledge of world languages. The Lower School Spanish curriculum develops the skills of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and cultural competency through the use of hands-on activities, games, and teaching strategies using a method called TPR (Total Physical Response). Our teachers pair the learning of language with physical movement to aid in the retention of a new language.

    In class, students experience excitement and enthusiasm about learning Spanish. Spanish language is taught, and there are many other components that are also introduced such as culture, art, music, and cuisine. By creating a relaxed classroom atmosphere, students can still be challenged but not intimidated. Actively engaging students with cooperative and collaborative groups gives them the desire to learn more and tends to create a positive and enjoyable environment which motivates them to participate energetically in activities.
  • Technology

    In the Lower School, we believe that a solid understanding of technology is essential for students' success as 21st century learners. However, we do not believe that the use of technology can take the place of a teacher's important role in the classroom. Building the foundation for reading, writing, and number sense is of utmost importance in the elementary grades. Technology can bridge these fundamentals with the future. Although our students are often more comfortable with the use of technology than the adults around them, schools and parents have the important job of guiding how best to apply these powerful tools to complex learning and creative tasks.

    The Lower School technology curriculum has several main strands: Digital Citizenship, Word Processing & Keyboarding, Microsoft Office, Robotics, Programming, Technology Fluency & Research Skills, Photography, and Creativity & Collaboration. The Lower School campus is equipped with a dedicated computer and technology lab as well as four other mobile laptop/tablet carts. Students use a variety of software and different forms of technology to learn the basic skills needed to explore how word processing, spreadsheets, databases, web design, presentation tools, digital cameras, and subject-specific software enhance their educational experience in all areas of the curriculum. Students work individually or in small groups on structured assignments, activities and projects. Many of these integrate closely with the units they are studying in academic and other co-curricular classes. Most importantly, students learn to use technology in a respectful, responsible, safe manner.
  • Guidance

    The Lower School counseling program's mission is to:
    • provide specialized counsel, instruction, and interventions based on identified student needs,
    • maximize student potential and achievement by providing a comprehensive program addressing academic, career, and personal/social domains of the American School Counseling Association,
    • promote healthy character and life skill development to prepare students to be highly successful community members, and
    • advocate for student success by facilitating positive relationships between educators, families, and the community.
  • Main Campus

    700 Cobb Parkway North
    Marietta, GA 30062
    770.427.2689
  • Primary School

    830 Damar Road
    Marietta, GA 30062
    770.427.2689
The Walker School is a private, co-ed day school offering opportunities in academics, arts, and athletics for preschool, elementary, middle, and high school students in Metro Atlanta.