Academics
Lower School

Program

In Lower School we believe in providing our students with the best possible educational experience so that they will be successful long after they leave us.
That means that we extend beyond the exceptional cutting-edge academic program and task ourselves also with teaching our young charges to behave ethically, compassionately and responsibly. Ours is a modern curriculum map through which a thread of civility and character are woven. Every child deserves not only to learn how to read and count, but also how to think critically, to communicate clearly, to work well with others for a common goal, to problem solve and to be a contributing citizen of his world.

The profile of a student leaving the Lower School is complex. There are obviously many academic skills that he has mastered. Additionally, he is respectful of others; he is compassionate; he is honorable; he presents himself well and can speak before a group; he is mannerly in speech and deed; he is a good steward of his community; and he is loyal and dedicated to his school, Nansemond-Suffolk Academy.

Program Descriptions

List of 6 items.

  • Kindergarten

    The Kindergarten experience in the Lower School is a developmentally appropriate blend of learning, which is interactive and play-oriented, and learning which is laying the foundational blocks for a rigorous independent school education. Learning takes place through centers and through whole-group, small-groups and independent activities.

    Since young children learn through doing, emphasis is placed on hands-on experiences in all academic areas. The language arts program focuses on phonemic awareness, spelling and vocabulary, oral language, writing and reading comprehension. Language arts instruction incorporates whole-group and small-group lessons, word study, guided reading, the use of leveled readers and a basal series, vocabulary development and the Six-Traits writing program.

    The Lower School uses Math in Focus, an American edition of the Singapore Math program. Students are exposed to a rich curriculum that enhances the acquisition of a solid sense of numbers, their relationships and also place value. Based on Piaget’s stages of development in which children begin learning with concrete objects, manipulatives are used extensively for early learners. Students next encounter pictorial representations of problems, and finally reach the level of abstract reasoning and understanding. The program stresses mental math and problem-solving skills, using “bar modeling” as a visual representation for word problems. Developing strong computational skills is a primary objective in Math in Focus.
     
    Social science topics covered in Kindergarten include the five senses, nutrition, magnets, an investigation of the properties of objects, the characteristics of living things, an investigation of the sun, moon and shadows, conservation of resources, famous people and holidays, comparisons of changes in our lives through the years, awareness of maps and globes, characteristics of a good citizen, careers and communities.In addition, students have instruction in library and media skills, Spanish, music, art, physical education and technology education.
  • First Grade

    The development of a child mentally, physically and socially continues in first grade. The four primary academic areas throughout the Lower School years are language arts, mathematics and the social sciences comprised of science and social studies.
     
    In language arts, students participate in whole-group lessons and also work in small groups for guided reading instruction. A basal series, leveled readers and supplemental reading books are used for learning. Small group activities may include a focus on word study or an oral reading session. Components of language arts incorporated throughout the year are phonemic awareness, spelling and word study, vocabulary, oral reading, independent reading, reading comprehension skills and the development of writing skills through Six Traits writing lessons.

    The Lower School uses Math in Focus, an American edition of the Singapore Math program. Students are exposed to a rich curriculum that enhances the acquisition of a solid sense of numbers, their relationships and also place value. Based on Piaget’s stages of development in which children begin learning with concrete objects, manipulatives are used extensively for early learners. Students next encounter pictorial representations of problems, and finally reach the level of abstract reasoning and understanding. The program stresses mental math and problem-solving skills, using “bar modeling” as a visual representation for word problems. Developing strong computational skills is a primary objective in Math in Focus.

    Social science topics covered in first grade include an investigation of the sun and the earth’s rotation and revolution, an investigation of matter, observations of physical properties using senses, classification of attributes and properties, an investigation of simple machines and investigations using  Lego WeDo Educational Kits, an investigation of goods and services and how people make choices, the uniqueness of individuals and appreciation of differences, holidays and customs, characteristics of good citizens, introduction to maps - their importance and how to construct one, and responsible personal and social behavior in a community.

    All first graders have instruction in library and media skills, Spanish, music, art, physical education and technology education.
  • Second Grade

    The second grade year builds on the foundation laid in first grade in all academic areas and the development of independence in each student is a year-long goal of second grade. Children are encouraged to assume increasing personal responsibility for their assignments and their materials, as well as for establishing continuity in their home/school communication and interpersonal relationships.  

    In Language Arts, students read a variety of print material as they participate in shared reading, group reading and independent reading. A basal series, leveled readers, fiction and non-fiction books and poetry are just a few of the materials used. Instruction concentrates on phonemic awareness, spelling and vocabulary, oral language, writing, grammar, usage and mechanics, reading comprehension and information, and study skills. A wide variety of instructional strategies are employed including word sorts, flip books, poetry, phonics readers, original sentence writing, Daily Language Review, Drops in a Bucket, phonics centers and word work.

    The Lower School uses Math in Focus, an American edition of the Singapore Math program. Students are exposed to a rich curriculum that enhances the acquisition of a solid sense of numbers, their relationships and also place value. Based on Piaget’s stages of development in which children begin learning with concrete objects, manipulatives are used extensively for early learners. Students next encounter pictorial representations of problems, and finally reach the level of abstract reasoning and understanding. The program stresses mental math and problem-solving skills, using “bar modeling” as a visual representation for word problems. Developing strong computational skills is a primary objective in Math in Focus.

    In science, second graders investigate topics such as weather data, where they gather and record observations of weather patterns, magnets and their characteristics and properties, the properties for solids, liquids and gasses and how they change from one state to another, how some animals go through distinct changes during their life cycles while others generally resemble their parents, the changes that affect habitats over time, rocks, weathering and erosion.  During these units, students are called upon to compare and contrast, demonstrate, examine and describe, identify, measure, predict and interpret. Students also plant and care for a garden and study how plants grow from seeds and what is necessary for plants to thrive.
     
    In social studies, topics of study include a comparison of natural resources and capital resources, including making choices when resources are limited, responsibilities involved in citizenship, famous Americans who improved the lives of others, customs, traditions and characteristics of North American Indian tribes and where they live, mapwork identifying the continents, oceans and where the student lives.  Second graders also learn from each other by sharing current events.

    In addition, all second graders have instruction in library, technology education, Spanish, music, art and physical education.
  • Third Grade

    The third grade curriculum builds on a solid foundation and offers an array of enrichment activities to promote inferential thinking, reasoning and creativity in students. Students are exposed to cooperative learning, as well as whole class and small group instruction and discussion.

    In Language Arts, a balanced literacy approach to learning to read continues to be utilized. Students read a variety of print material as they participate in shared reading, group reading and independent reading. A basal series, leveled readers, fiction and non-fiction books and poetry are just a few of the materials used. Instruction concentrates on phonemic awareness, spelling and vocabulary, oral language, writing, grammar, usage and mechanics, reading comprehension and information and study skills. A wide variety of instructional strategies are employed including word sorts, flip books, poetry, phonics readers, original sentence writing, Daily Language Review, Drops in a Bucket, phonics centers and word work.

    The Lower School uses Math in Focus, an American edition of the Singapore Math program. Students are exposed to a rich curriculum that enhances the acquisition of a solid sense of numbers, their relationships and also place value. Based on Piaget’s stages of development in which children begin learning with concrete objects, manipulatives are used extensively for early learners. Students next encounter pictorial representations of problems, and finally reach the level of abstract reasoning and understanding. The program stresses mental math and problem-solving skills, using “bar modeling” as a visual representation for word problems. Developing strong computational skills is a primary objective in Math in Focus.

    In 3rd grade, students explore the following science topics: the components of soil, conservation, the composition and layers of the earth’s crust; simple machines -- their functions and uses, how they work together to form complex machines incorporating Lego WeDo Educational Kits which create machines which are programmed with drag and drop software to move; behavioral and physical adaptations which allow animals to respond to life needs; the unique properties of Earth as a planet and as a part of the solar system; the relationships among organisms in aquatic and terrestrial food chains; and how water-related environments support a diversity of plants and animals that share limited resources.

    In Social Studies, students investigate the similarities and differences among communities, how the climate, geography and natural resources of the southwest United States affected the life of the Anasazi Indians, how natural and human resources aided the Pilgrims in starting Plymouth colony, and how and why the city of Suffolk began as a community dependent on the river and railroad lines.

    In both Science and Social Studies, students gather, chart and graph data, classify objects into sets and sub-sets, make and communicate predictions of outcomes, and make inferences and draw conclusions.

    In addition, all third graders have instruction in library, technology education, Spanish, music, art and physical education.
  • Fourth Grade

    The fourth grade year offers many activities and experiences that begin to prepare students for Middle School and the transition to a departmentalized program. Students spend their days working as a whole class, in small groups or independently completing assignments.

    In Language Arts, both textbooks and novels are used to teach skills. Novels are used to complement the integrated curriculum  in social studies and science. Students use textbooks, their academic area book, as well as reading basal texts to practice reading for information. Within language arts, areas of study are phonemic awareness, reading comprehension, spelling and vocabulary, listening and speaking, grammar, usage and mechanics and writing incorporating the Six Traits writing program.

    The Lower School uses Math in Focus, an American edition of the Singapore Math program. Students are exposed to a rich curriculum that enhances the acquisition of a solid sense of numbers, their relationships and also place value. Based on Piaget’s stages of development in which children begin learning with concrete objects, manipulatives are used extensively for early learners. Students next encounter pictorial representations of problems, and finally reach the level of abstract reasoning and understanding. The program stresses mental math and problem-solving skills, using “bar modeling” as a visual representation for word problems. Developing strong computational skills is a primary objective in Math in Focus.

    In science, the primary focus of the 4th grade curriculum is the watershed and oyster restoration projects. The Lower School science lab is used extensively as students explore and investigate area watersheds, including the area on our 100-acre campus. Technology is incorporated heavily in this study. Students also participate in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation oyster restoration project, raising oyster “spats” from fingernail-sized beings to the appropriate size to be replanted on oyster reefs in the Elizabeth River. Students assist with the replanting. Students visit the Elizabeth River Learning Barge to enhance their awareness of man’s affect on his environment and investigate ways that we can live more closely in concert with our surroundings. Students also explore magnets, electricity and circuits and weather.

    In social studies, students develop an understanding of the Native American population prior to the colonization of Virginia by English settlers.  Other areas of study include, Virginia’s resources and the relationship between them and the industries in Virginia, the geographic regions of Virginia and their physical features, the agricultural contributions of the state, Virginia's role in our national and local government, the form of government used in our state and its branches, the process by which a bill becomes a law, Virginia’s role in Colonial America, the Revolutionary War and the events leading up to the Civil War.

    Throughout the 4th grade year, students focus on work habits, organizational and study skills and time management.  The school counselor provides lessons on test-taking strategies and interpersonal relationships. All 4th graders receive instruction in music, art, Spanish, physical education, educational technology and library skills.
  • Fifth Grade

    The fifth grade year offers many activities and experiences that prepare students in their final year before Middle School and the transition to a fully departmentalized program. In fifth grade, students change classes and adjust to working with two teachers prior to moving to Middle School, where they will experience instruction from at least six teachers daily. Students spend their days working as a whole class, in small groups or independently receiving instruction and completing assignments.

    In Language Arts, both textbooks and novels are used to teach skills. Novels are used to complement the integrated curriculum in social studies and science. Students use textbooks and their academic area books, to practice reading for information. Within language arts, areas covered are reading comprehension, spelling and vocabulary, listening and speaking, grammar-usage and mechanics and writing incorporating the Six Traits Writing Program. In Reading, a theme is presented each month and carries students through major genres in literature. In addition, students complete a book project each quarter focusing on a theme covered during that quarter.

    The Lower School uses Math in Focus, an American edition of the Singapore Math program. Students are exposed to a rich curriculum that enhances the acquisition of a solid sense of numbers, their relationships and also place value. Based on Piaget’s stages of development in which children begin learning with concrete objects, manipulatives are used extensively for early learners. Students next encounter pictorial representations of problems, and finally reach the level of abstract reasoning and understanding. The program stresses mental math and problem-solving skills, using “bar modeling” as a visual representation for word problems. Developing strong computational skills is a primary objective in Math in Focus.
     
    In science, fifth graders study life science, physical science and earth science. In addition, fifth graders work collaboratively in a design challenge to build a buoy to hold a thermometer that will record water temperature. Students will test all buoys and select the one that will best meet the needs of the project. This will be used in the fourth grade oyster restoration project to monitor water temperature and its affect on the oysters’ morbidity in varying temperatures. Throughout the year students participate in ongoing study of conservation and wise utilization of natural resources. Other areas of study include cell biology, body systems, taxonomy, matter and energy, space, the solar system and stars. Every student completes a conservation project that is displayed at the annual Lower School Science Night. Students complete a variety of research projects to supplement classroom instruction on topics studied and share material through classroom presentations.

    In social studies, students develop an understanding of the exploration and settlement of North America, study the distinct characteristics of the individual regions of the United States and study U.S. history through the Civil War and Reconstruction. Many collaborative projects complement classroom instruction, and students are engaged routinely in hands-on activities.

    Throughout the fifth grade year, students focus on work habits, organization, study skills and time management. Students have a study period several days each week during which they may receive extra help from teachers, study, read or complete homework.

    All fifth graders also receive instruction in music, art, physical education, Spanish, technology education and library skills. The school counselor provides lessons on test-taking strategies and interpersonal relationship skills as well.
Nansemond-Suffolk Academy is a coeducational, college preparatory private school located in Suffolk, VA. Pre-kindergarten - Grade 12.