The Montessori Method in Upper Elementary classrooms literally helps students “learn how to learn.” We encourage them to think for themselves, conduct research, analyze what they find and reach their own conclusions.
The Upper Elementary classroom provides a true community atmosphere in which students meet superior academic standards. In this environment they develop a strong sense of being part of something larger than themselves. The goal is to help these students become independent, confident, and disciplined through self-discovery and self-development opportunities.
Mixed age grouping provides the opportunity for older students to act as role models for younger students. Students frequently work in pairs or in teams. By collaborating with others of different abilities and ages, students learn to accomplish a goal cooperatively. The process of group learning encourages the children to contribute ideas, listen to others, and learn to compromise. They learn to resolve conflicts peacefully, to encourage and acknowledge each other’s accomplishments, to follow, and eventually, to lead.
The ability to practice daily task management and later develop project management skills, enables upper elementary students to face the school community with confidence. They stretch these abilities out into the larger world through community service and projects that connect them to students around the globe.
Elements of Westwood
Upper Elementary Classrooms
- Literature: It is through the exploration of literary ideas in books, short stories, plays, and Socratic discussions that our students learn to love literature. They are able to read, recite, understand, and perform Shakespeare plays by 4th grade. During this three-year cycle, students read literary classics, such as Sounder, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of Anne Frank, Fahrenheit 451, April Morning, and many others. Exposure to how protagonists handle difficult situations allows students to begin to consider life’s larger questions. Learn more about Westwood’s Shakespeare University.
- Language Arts: Emphasis in this area is on enjoyment of the writing process, development of strong mechanics in composition and creative writing, as well as the study of formal grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. The SRA and RFU programs are used to hone skills in reading comprehension.
- Mathematics: Students work in small groups with three-dimensional Montessori materials and other materials made available in the classroom from an individualized work plan. These resources “weave” the material in a spiraling technique so as to refresh basic concepts with recently learned ideas. Rapid retrieval of math facts provides a foundation that culminates three years later in pre-algebra exercises.
- Geometry: Small group and individual work with three-dimensional models helps students grasp geometric concepts. They research mathematicians and follow the paths taken to discover various theorems.
- Science: The general objective of our science program is to present, in a meaningful way, biological and physical concepts from the atom to the universe. Students work in groups and individually to ask questions, observe systematically, collect specimens, gather and analyze data, and conduct experiments. This formal introduction to the Scientific Method helps develop good scientific habits via hands-on practice and research.
- Geography: The Upper Elementary curriculum is focused on physical geography as well as the customs, history, economics, and culture of countries around the world. As we strive to develop a global perspective, our study of geography is closely aligned with the study of history. The five themes of geography are incorporated: location, region, movement, human-environmental interaction, and place. Students study countries in-depth and truly begin to understand other cultures. They also correspond with students from other countries, fostering an enthusiasm for learning about someone else’s world. Participation in the National Geographic Bee allows students to demonstrate their understanding of the complicated factors that create and limit each culture.
- History: Our goal is to enable students to see history as a discipline that has meaning in their lives and to understand their own place in history. Through projects, lectures, research, and Socratic discussion, students learn how civilizations handled problems through the ages. They are then able to perceive their current world in a framework that is connected to what has previously transpired. They learn that Greek and Roman building blocks are the foundations of their own civilization; that the same types of challenges that assailed governments thousands of years ago are those they hear about daily. They learn what is unique to their country and their state and how America grew from “Sea to Shining Sea.” Finally, they study the many triumphs and failures of America at War.
- Latin: The study of Latin is important for the expansion of English vocabulary and the understanding of English grammar. It is widely used in science nomenclature, literary references, and law. Therefore, our sixth through eighth grades study Latin using four major areas to develop advanced vocabulary skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
- Field Trips and Classroom Visitors: Trips to the symphony, plays, opera, ballet, museums, and area businesses help students realize the richness of their world. Visitors from the Shakespeare Festival, Dallas Opera, and chamber music ensembles, as well as local historians and parents, bring a wealth of new experiences to the classroom.
- Service to the Community: Through projects such as the Halloween Carnival, students learn how to provide service to our school community. Other projects, such as the Waffle Breakfast, raise funds to underwrite the Shakespeare production. Each year students decide on Enterprise projects for the classroom to raise money for charities. Recent projects provided gifts for soldiers, food for local families in need, and supplies for orphanages and schools in other parts of the world.
Studios offered to Westwood Upper Elementary Students
Studios provide enrichment in physical education, Spanish, Mandarin, art, music, and computer technology.
- Physical Education: By this age, students have acquired the basic fitness and skills to play sports. In Upper Elementary, they begin to develop a personal program of lifelong exercise, recreation, and health management. Students are taught the fundamentals of a variety of games and skill-building exercises. They are then able to participate in after-school athletics such as volleyball, basketball, and cheerleading.
- Spanish: Acquisition of a second language is an absolute necessity in today’s world. Students at this level practice their skills through games, music, written exercises, and stories. It is only through speaking the language that they will become fluent; these classes challenge them to translate and interpret prompts.
- Mandarin: Studying Chinese culture and Chinese vocabulary helps students to grasp a language different from western languages.
- Art: Each student learns about his or her common artistic heritage and develops skills that challenge them to add creative images to the world, expressing ideas and emotions that cannot occur with language alone. Students also come to recognize how world cultures have been shaped and influenced by the arts. They develop methods to evaluate the success and effectiveness of their own work, to become responsible critics, and to understand ways in which the arts contribute to contemporary life.
- Music: Music at this level continues the general study of theoretical aspects of music and their applications. Reading music and introduction to instruments (recorders and xylophones), as well as participation in a choir, enhance the student’s appreciation of the role music plays in our lives.
- Computer Technology: By the time students have reached Upper Elementary, they are familiar with basic word processing, research, and publishing capabilities of computers. Our goal is to expand student familiarization with programs such as PowerPoint, Excel, and website basics.