The Montessori Method in Upper Elementary classrooms literally helps students “learn how to learn.” Westwood faculty members encourage students 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. They 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. Students stretch these abilities out into the larger world through community service and projects that connect them to students around the globe.
It is through the exploration of literary ideas in books, short stories, plays, and Socratic discussions that our students learn to love literature. 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.
Emphasis is given to the 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. SRA Reading Laboratory and Reading for Understanding (RFU) programs are used to hone skills in reading comprehension.
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 in pre-algebra exercises during the later Upper Elementary years.
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.
The general objective of the Upper Elementary 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 lays the groundwork for future research and experimentation.
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 life around the world.
Westwood enables students to see history as a discipline that has meaning in their lives as they begin 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. The Greek and Roman foundation serve as the building blocks 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.
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, Grade 6 and Grade 7 students study Latin using four major areas to develop advanced vocabulary skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
Trips to the symphony, plays, opera, ballet, museums, and area businesses help students realize the richness of their world. Visitors from Dallas Musuem of Arts (DMA) chamber music ensembles, local historians international troupes, and parents, bring a wealth of new experiences to the classroom.
In Grade 6, students begin their participation in The Westwood School’s Adventure Leadership Program for Students (ALPS) with a two-night excursion to Sky Ranch.
Through projects like the Halloween Carnival for Lower School, students learn how to provide service to our school community. Other projects, such as the Benefit Dinner, raise funds for a local charitable organization selected by the students. Recent projects provided gifts for soldiers, food for local families in need, supplies for orphanages and schools in other parts of the world, and wildlife preserves.
Studios provide enrichment in Physical Education, Spanish, Mandarin, Art, Music, Computer Design and Technology, Science, History and Geography.
By this age, students have acquired the basic fitness and skills to play sports. In Upper Elementary, students 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, swim, and cheerleading.
Acquisition of a second language is an absolute necessity in today’s world. Students also 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.
Studying Chinese culture, music, food and art helps students to grasp a language different from western languages. They also practice Chinese writing and sentence structure as well as conversation.
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 at this level continues the general study of theoretical aspects of music and their applications as well as listening and interpreting. Reading music and introduction to instruments and participation in a choir, enhance the student’s appreciation of the role music plays in our lives.
Computer Design and Technology
By the time students have reached Upper Elementary, they are familiar with basic word processing, research, and publishing capabilities of computers. The goal of this course is to expand student familiarization with programs such as PowerPoint, Excel, Word, Publisher, and website basics.