Lower School


The kindergarten experience is about developing a foundation of skills in an environment that is nurturing, stimulating, and developmentally appropriate for young students. We provide students with that environment. Kindergarteners explore emergent literacy concepts and acquire knowledge of math, science, and social studies through participation in visual, auditory, and kinesthetic activities. As very social learners, our students enjoy large and small group projects. The classroom is organized with tables and large floor spaces to promote this collaborative learning. We understand that each child learns at her own pace and in her own style. We respect and encourage individuality and independence and strive to create a classroom environment that celebrates and supports each student during her Kindergarten year.

The kindergarten curriculum is designed to provide active, innovative learning experiences for all students. Students are guided and supported as they expand their knowledge in the areas of reading, writing, math, science, and social studies and develop skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and adaptability. Faculty use a broad range of instructional strategies and differentiated activities that engage students in authentic learning at their level of readiness. Technology is used throughout the curriculum and learning is connected across subject areas. Kindergartn students collaborate in small and large groups to solve problems using real-world data and apply their knowledge in meaningful ways.

The Curriculum

List of 10 items.

  • Art

    Our Kindergarten artists begin to establish an art vocabulary, starting with learning that art can be created with the fingertips or the whole body! The girls will learn about diverse artists from Vincent Van Gogh to Jonathan Green, and make their own art highly personal as they explore how to incorporate their own thoughts and preferences. Our art students will critique their work and the work of others, including the masterpieces of famous artists.

    • Origami paper design
    • Clay bells
    • Chalk self-portraits
    • Van Gogh acrylic paintings
    • Acrylic landscapes inspired by Jonathan Green
    • Weaving
    • Clay animals
    • Plaster masks
    • Perspective studies - cities
    • Marker action studies

  • Computer Education

    The goal of the Lower School computer program is to empower girls to make informed use of technology, manipulating computers and other digital resources as responsive tools to meet their specific needs. Confidence and independent thinking grow as Lower School students learn to manipulate hardware and software, preparing them for the use of computers as learning resources as they approach the academic challenges of Middle and Upper School.

    There are eighteen computers in the lab, and every child is assigned her own computer for use throughout the school year. The girls use software and the Internet for computer projects and as reinforcement of the topics covered in their math, reading, science, and social studies classes. Unscheduled time in the computer lab and classroom computers allow teachers to fully integrate technology with their curricula. We also have twenty iPads for use during computer class.

    Kindergartners will have Computer Education once a week for a total of 40 minutes. The class will be divided into smaller groups to allow for more individualized attention.

    Goals for Kindergarten computer learning
    This is a stage when students are introduced to computers and begin to develop a familiarity with their components and function. Confidence and independence are encouraged as the primary concepts of computers are introduced. Basic terminology and beginning skills are emphasized. The software and Internet sites used with the Kindergartners cover areas in:
    • Language arts: sight word recognition, phonics skills
    • Math: sorting by attribute, numbers, addition, subtraction, time
    • Science
    • Computer skills: mouse control, use of the internal microphone, basic keyboarding
    • Computer function: properly turning on/shutting down, logging on/off, restarting, clicking on hyperlinks, opening documents and folders, loading software
  • Health

    Lower School health classes meet eight times per year. These forty-minute periods include presentations and activities geared toward helping girls to think critically and make informed decisions about issues affecting their health and well-being. In addition to the eight periods with the health teacher, health-related topics will be covered in other academic areas, such as computer education, physical education, social studies, and science. 

    Kindergarten Health Topics
    • Dental Health
    • Home Safety
    • Understanding Emotions
    • Hygiene
    • Stranger Danger
    • Food as Fuel
  • Language Arts

    The Kindergarten language arts program encompasses writing, phonics, and guided reading instruction. The girls are actively involved in writing, reading, listening, and speaking activities. Writing is taught as a process, with opportunities for individual conferencing with teachers. Students compare books written by various authors and use them as mentor texts for their own writing. In phonics, students develop their knowledge of letter sounds, syllables, and word family patterns. In guided reading classes, attention is placed on the development of reading readiness skills and strategies to use as students begin to read. Building on each child’s familiarity and fluency with oral language, our language arts program provides meaningful learning opportunities for each child at her level of competency. 

    Writing Workshop
    • Literature chosen to support writing
    • Books by various authors that serve as mentor texts
    • Individual conferences and sharing opportunities

    Theme Writing
    • Class Books
    • Communication: letters, personal notes, opinions, lists
    • Exposure to different genres: poetry, narrative stories, nonfiction
    • Journals

    • Differentiated Instruction
    • Small Groups
    • Introduction to Word Families
    • Word wall words
    • Handwriting practice

    Guided Reading
    • Differentiated Instruction
    • Multiple small groups
    • Leveled books
    • Decoding strategies
    • Comprehension (reading for meaning) strategies
    • Comparing and contrasting texts

    Read Aloud/Independent Reading
    • Book baskets
    • “Just Right” Books
    • Chapter book series
    • Literature in math, science, social studies
  • Library

    Kindergarten students are introduced to the library through weekly 40-minute class periods. Students are taught simple library procedures so that they can navigate their way through the library and through the process of selecting books. Most class periods at this age level center around storytime.

    • To encourage a love of reading
    • To teach students how to use the library
    • To promote listening skills
    • To instill in students as awareness of personal responsibility
    • To introduce students to different genres
    Organizing information
    Library citizenship
    Literature appreciation
  • Math

    The Kindergarten math program allows students to investigate major mathematical concepts in depth and to form solid foundations on which to build. Kindergartners develop their critical thinking abilities as they apply math concepts in real-world situations. Math classes provide opportunities for collaborative learning, such as “math talk” discussions when students explain their work and reflect on their learning. As they work collaboratively, the kindergartners also develop their communication skills, sharpen their mathematical reasoning, and increase their social awareness. 

    Math classes are inquiry environments where students are encouraged to explore, question, and share ideas with partners and in small groups. Classes are structured to provide visual and linguistic support as students continually develop new understandings. Opportunities are available for students to practice concepts during open-ended math centers and project activities. The girls apply their skills in algebra, geometry, measurement, and graphing. Students also proceed at their own pace in Homework and Remembering workbooks during morning table time. When new concepts are introduced, letters are sent home to parents with suggestions of ways to extend their Kindergartner’s math learning at home. 

    Student assessments are performance based and provide useful information for teachers about student achievement. The knowledge gained from these assessments is helpful for teachers when planning differentiated math activities to meet the needs of all students.

    • Student leaders lead the class in quick practice activities
    • Daily routines provide ongoing visual practice with sequential numbers, counting, money values, and identification of two and three digit numbers
    • Math talk discussions provide for frequent exchange of mathematical ideas and problem solving strategies among students
    • Student pairs work together to solve problems, role play mathematical situations, and play math games
    • Scenario-based activities allow for students to act out mathematical situations in meaningful, real-life ways
    • Geometry concepts are embedded within each unit
    • Parents are kept informed of concepts through letters sent home
    • Formal assessments are completed at the end of each unit

    Unit 1: Understanding Numbers 1-10
    Unit 2: Explore 5-Groups
    Unit 3: Teen Numbers as Tens and Ones
    Unit 4: Partners, Problem Drawings, and Tens
    Unit 5: Consolidation of Concepts
    Unit 6: Money, Time, Measurement,and Numbers
  • Music

    Kindergarten students will explore sound through singing, moving, listening, creating, and playing instruments. In addition, they will have introductory experiences with verbalization and visualization of musical ideas. The music literature is of high quality and lasting value, including traditional children’s songs, folk songs, classical music, and music from a variety of cultures, styles, and time periods.

    • Folk songs Around the World
    • Vocal Performance, Lower School Musical 
    • Introduction to the Orchestra
    • Classroom Instruments:  Xylophones, percussion
    • Play Preparation
    • Vocal performance, Closing Exercises

  • Physical Education

    The Physical Education program at The Ellis School is dedicated to the principle of a “sound body, sound mind.” Through team and individual sports, fitness activities and movement experiences, students will be encouraged to develop leadership, character, teamwork, motor skills, personal fitness, and graceful movement. All students are strongly encouraged to make physical fitness and wellness an integral part of their lives and hopefully the lives of others around them.

    • To help every student become aware of the importance of physical fitness in acquiring and maintaining total wellness.
    • To help students achieve and improve basic motor skills in order to lead active lifestyles and increase fitness levels.
    • To encourage attitudes of teamwork, leadership, and good sportsmanship.
    • To understand that physical activity provides opportunities for enjoyment, challenge, and social interaction.
    • To learn new activities and movements that can be done outside of the classroom to maintain physical fitness.


    • Balloons: striking skills
    • Locomotor movements: hopping, skipping, jumping, and galloping
    • Beanbag/Koosh: throwing and catching
    • Hopscotch: following rules and procedures, using balance and locomotor skills
    • Soccer: 2 on 2 game with introductory soccer skills
    • Jump rope: an introduction to individual and group jumping
    • Gymnastics: stretches, floor exercise, balance beam, focusing on motor development
    • Basketball: age-appropriate activities using basketball skills
    • Fitness: introduction to the meaning of being “fit,” how do we keep our muscles strong and hearts healthy, fitness stations with different focuses on balance, flexibility, strength
    • Home Run Ball: a beginner’s Kickball game stressing skills and strategy
    • Tag/Novelty games/Creative movement/Role play
    • Cup Speed Stacking: improves ambidexterity, concentration, and hand-eye coordination.
    • Football: throwing and catching
    Kindergarten will have a series of 8 health lessons taught by their classroom teachers and integratd into PE lessons.
  • Science / Social Studies

    In Kindergarten, science and social studies concepts and skills are integrated around topics chosen to engage students’ natural sense of wonder and curiosity about the world. We begin by asking the question, “What is a scientist?” As we explore how scientists use science process skills such as observation, investigation, and communication to study the natural world, we will encourage the students to envision themselves as scientists. What do they notice? What questions do they have? How can they find answers to their questions? We will study celebrated scientists such as Jane Goodall, Wangari Maathai, and Rachel Carson who explored the connections among people, animals, and the environment. In the process of looking at the scientific contributions made by these scientists, students will study life cycles and habitats as well as learn about different cultures and ways of life in different places around the globe. We will encourage students to understand that people all over the world have similarities that connect us and differences that make us unique individuals. Citizenship is incorporated into our science and social study program in various ways including looking to the scientists as role models of persistence and perseverance who used creative thinking and problem-solving skills to impact the world in positive ways.     

    • Use all five senses to make careful observations and raise questions about objects, organisms, and events
    • Explore materials, objects, and events by acting upon them and noticing what happens
    • Describe, compare, sort, classify, and order in terms of observable characteristics and properties
    • Use a variety of tools for measurement and to extend observations
    • Engage in simple investigations
    • Communicate observations, explanations, and ideas through multiple forms of representation
    • Work collaboratively with others
    • Develop an appreciation for and understanding of different cultures
    • Understand the relationships among people, animals, and the environment
  • Spanish

    FLES is an acronym that stands for Foreign Language in the Elementary School. It is an approach to language learning that allows students to develop basic communicative skills in a language while reinforcing and enriching content in other disciplines. The FLES model at Ellis provides kindergarten through grade three students with Spanish and grade four students with French language learning opportunities. Studies have shown that the early study of a second language results in cognitive benefits, gains in academic achievement, and increases in self-esteem, creativity, and positive attitudes toward diversity. Our experience has shown that students are not only able to learn but are also highly engaged in learning content through the target language.

    The FLES program is based on thematic units linked to all content area subjects taught in the regular classroom, i.e., health, science, math and social studies. In addition, the culture of the target language is integrated into instruction through music, art and dance.

    The girls are provided from 20-40 minutes of instruction two times per week. The focus of the proficiency-oriented instruction is on meaningful and purposeful communication. Students are encouraged first to understand and then to produce in the language, with emphasis given to developing near-native pronunciation. In the early grades, there is little focus on written language.

    The theme of Kindergarten Spanish is My Individual World. This theme integrates the necessary vocabulary and grammar for the student to perform the following skills:
    • Give one's name, age and birthdate
    • describe one's likes and dislikes
    • describe one's personality and physical features
    • describe one's feelings

Co-curricular Highlights

List of 3 items.

  • Author Day

    Each year Ellis invites a special author to visit students in Lower and Middle Schools. Students enjoy a special assembly, and then spend time with the author in smaller groups. Past authors have included Lisa Yee, Sarah Pennypacker, and Kathi Appelt. 
  • Candlelight Recital

    Two recitals are given every year in the Lower School, one in February and one in May. February’s Candlelight Recital has participants from grades two through four who study instrumental music, voice, or dance outside of the regular school day. May’s Candlelight Mini has participants from Pre-Kindergarten through grade one who study instrumental music or dance. Parents, grandparents, and special friends are invited to attend the Candlelight Recital.
  • Heritage Day

    Students in all divisions honor the cultures and heritages of their classmates on Heritage Day. Family traditions are shared and their histories discussed, and costumes and dress of each child’s heritage is worn. It is a day to look beyond the American culture to other countries around the world.