In the first through fifth grades, we focus on developing core academic skills. In math, arithmetic and problem solving are taught with Everyday Math, complemented by the use of manipulatives, games, and problem-solving exercises. We emphasize both speed and accuracy as we teach basic math facts. From creative writing to research reports, Charles Wright emphasizes spelling, vocabulary, and grammar in reading and writing. Students practice handwriting and typing their work. They are exposed to a wide breadth of literature, and independent reading is encouraged. They are also taught to read expressively out loud. Charles Wright teachers find the Lucy Calkins approach to teaching language arts especially effective. Research is also a core skill. Information integration and analysis are emphasized in both the humanities and the sciences. Students learn where to find information, how to evaluate it, and how to use it effectively in reports, projects, and presentations.
Spanish and music are offered two or three times per week, and fitness is offered three or four times per week. Classes in the library, chapel (an interfaith course on core values), visual art studio, and science lab are all taught once a week. Students in first through third grade also have a weekly technology class. Every student has recess twice a day and snack time.
Each grade level’s curriculum focuses on a different theme:
First Grade: Become an author! Research is introduced in first grade. Students study dinosaurs, tropical rainforest animals, and ocean animals. With guidance, they write fiction and nonfiction books, then read them out loud to parents and classmates during five Authors’ Teas. In math, students develop number sense and learn addition and subtraction.
Second Grade: Travel the world! Second graders explore world geography, culture, and history. They learn to research, organize, sort, and categorize information. They develop report writing and presentation skills. Students host six project fairs and a wax museum of historical characters. They learn to add and subtract with speed and accuracy and to devise and use strategies for multi-digit addition and subtraction problems. Teachers introduce place value, measuring, area, and fractions. Students solve simple multiplication and division stories.
Third Grade: Explore Northwest ecosystems! Third graders spend the year exploring the cultural and ecological diversity of the Nisqually Watershed from a glacier on Mount Rainier to Puget Sound. They delve deeply into the processes of writing, reading, and thinking mathematically. Students approach challenges from a variety of perspectives and learn that patience and thought are required to build understanding.
Fourth Grade: Learn how you learn! Habits of the Mind, a “thinking curriculum,” is the focus of fourth grade. Students learn to analyze and develop their skills and abilities, and to become independent and self-directed learners. Students learn to evaluate their work time and begin to understand how their choices and decisions relate to learning or practicing the basics in reading, writing, or math. They learn to be persistent and problem solve inside and outside of the classroom. The role of the teacher is to help children learn to reflect and evaluate their thinking. The class devotes significant time to mastering math facts and developing a variety of higher-order problem-solving skills.
Fifth Grade: Get to know our country! Early American history is the focus in fifth grade. Students study pre-Colonial history, Colonial history, and the Revolutionary War through examination of nonfiction text, artifacts, primary source documents, and historical fiction. Themes are explored through multiple points of view with an emphasis on thinking critically about cause and effect and the diverse points of view that mold the story: women caring for their homes and businesses while husbands are away at war, slaves with hopes that the Declaration of Independence will provide their freedom, Native American tribes attempting to maintain their lands and traditions, and children growing up across all 13 colonies. In math, students dig deeper into fractions, decimals, and percentages and practice multiplication and division math facts.