Lower School Curriculum
By Grade Level 


At Highland, we understand that children are active learners who come to understand a range of concepts by interacting with their teachers, their environments, and other children. Through constant observation, our experienced educational specialists determine the level of complexity and challenge appropriate for each individual and work as a team to design activities that meet a range of abilities, skill levels, and interests. 

Core academic skills and experiential education
We recognize the importance of laying a strong foundation in core academic skills and augment this with an experiential approach to learning. We also emphasize character development, which is guided by the 'Responsive Classroom' philosophy for our Lower School students. 

To learn more about our Lower School curriculum by grade level, click on any of the expanding boxes: 

Early Childhood (Pre-K 2, Pre-K 3/4 and Pre-K 4/5)

Welcome to our Pre-Kindergarten village!
The Highland educational adventure for our youngest little Hawks begins with our Pre-Kindergarten programs. They are state-licensed and taught by experienced teachers and assistants. Visitors will find the curriculum for all three age groups is designed for promoting creativity, decision-making and choice. Each child is encouraged to express his or her individuality while also learning to function as a member of a peer group. All students work on the socialization concepts of sharing, listening, following directions, taking turns, and being considerate of others.

Introducing our Pre-K2 program
Our newest Pre-K 2 class, which opened in September 2015, is specifically geared toward bright and curious two year-olds. Students develop socially, emotionally and academically in a warm, supportive learning environment, where sensory exploration is foremost.

Pre-K3/4 program
The Pre-K 3/4 program's focus is on stories, songs, finger play and dramatizations. Students are introduced to phonemic awareness and phonics activities. They also participate in hands-on math centers for concept understanding. In addition to core subjects, the three and four year-olds have classes in Music, Physical Education, Library and Spanish.

Academic foundation in Pre-K4/5 program
In addition to a Language Arts program that includes phonemic awareness and phonics activities, the Pre-K 4/5 students are exposed to language experiences through journals, big books and quality children’s literature. Math for PK 4/5 students includes free exploration of math manipulatives, counting, sorting, classification, graphing, problem solving, one-to-one correspondence, sequencing and patterning. In addition, they have classes in Music, PE, Spanish, Computer and Library.

Introduction to specialty instruction 
Science for the two older Pre-K groups is a hands-on approach to learning and discovery. Social Studies focuses on basic historical facts, current events and developing an awareness of individuality.

Highland's youngest students learn to love being on stage! 
Pre-K 3/4 and PK 4/5 students make their stage debuts in the Winter Holiday and Grandparents Day programs. They team up with Grades 2 and 3 Reading Buddies once a week and with Parent Buddy Readers as well.


Kindergarten in Highland's Lower School
In the Lower School, we realize that children are active learners who come to understand a range of concepts by interacting with their teachers, their learning environments, and other children. Through continual observation, our experienced educational specialists determine the complexity and challenge appropriate for each individual, and work as a team to design lessons that meet a range of abilities, skill levels, and interests. 

Our program balances strong academics and enriching special area offerings, fine and performing arts opportunities and community service endeavors. Through Responsive Classroom teachings, students build upon their skills to become respectful members of the school community.

Curriculum Overview

Kindergarten students are assessed for letter/sound knowledge at the beginning and end of the year. The CTOPP is administered to all Kindergarteners at mid-year to assess phonological awareness and pre-reading skills. 

Developmentally sound and enriched program
Phonemic awareness activities
Phonics-based reading program/Daily Five
Journal writing/Step Up To Writing
‘Handwriting Without Tears’
‘Math Their Way’/Singapore Math program
Hands-on math centers
Science and Social Studies units
Once a week to science lab – inquiry-based FOSS kits
Extended Day options for students participating in the full-day program (8:00a.m. to 3:00p.m.)

Grade 1

Independent learning starts at a young age in the Lower School
First grade at Highland is all about students learning to function independently. The child-centered atmosphere and secure learning environment give students the confidence they need to investigate and take risks while they discover through hands-on activities. Each child’s individuality is appreciated and celebrated.

At this level, the 'Daily 5' approach to Language Arts is implemented to give students a love of reading, writing, and working independently. By choosing Read to Self, Work on Writing, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading and Word Work principles, students are engaged and develop a love of literacy. The core curriculum includes phonics work in conjunction with the Words their Way word study program and Singapore Math. Step Up to Writing continues throughout first grade, as does Handwriting Without Tears.

Hands-on learning in the science lab
It is all about hands-on when students visit the science lab, where they gain interactive experiences with the inquiry-based FOSS kits. In addition to exposure to various social studies topics, first graders enjoy visits to the computer lab and Library, as well as instruction in Physical Education, Spanish, Art and Music.

Learning outside the classroom
First graders love their annual field studies to the Aquarium in Baltimore, the Pumpkin Patch in the fall, and the Science Discovery Museum. They are eager to perform at the weekly Lower School assemblies, at the Winter Holiday and Grandparents Day programs and of course, in their annual play production.

Grade 2

Second grade at Highland School 
Our Highland second graders portray “Famous People,” write their own books, learn about mushroom cultivation and choose and cut a “Mitten Tree” each year.  These are but a few of the hands-on activities that bring the core curriculum to life in second grade.

Carefully selected programs support student-centered learning
At this level, the second grade curriculum includes phonics work in conjunction with the 'Words Their Way' word study program. They continue using 'Handwriting Without Tears' and have flexible reading and Singapore math groups. The 'Step Up to Writing' program supports students in their creative writing, journal entries and research. Science and social studies are implemented through workshop activities and a weekly visit to the Science lab. The inquiry-based FOSS kits are used in science. Second graders visit the computer lab, have Library classes, as well as Physical Education, Music, Spanish and Art.

Second graders star in a play production each year in addition to participating in weekly Lower School assemblies, Holiday Programs and Grandparents Day.

Grade 3

Students transitioning to more independence
At Highland, third graders have transitioned into confident students and the world has become their oyster! They eagerly receive their school team assignments for either the Blue or Gold teams, a long-standing Highland tradition for healthy competition. Just a few of their highlights during the year include a visit to the National Gallery of Art, an opportunity for leadership and contributing to improvements to the school and greater community through service on the Director’s Council, a formal poetry recital, creating their own Tall Tales and dressing for the part and an all-day trip to Historic Stratford Hall on Virginia’s Northern Neck.

Reading and writing are the foundation
Core curriculum for third graders includes a literature and novel-based reading program and word study using the 'Words Their Way' spelling program. 'Step Up to Writing' continues as the focus for daily writing, journals, reading responses and grammar. Handwriting instruction is supported by 'Handwriting Without Tears' and 'WordMasters,' a Language Arts competition that encourages growth in vocabulary and verbal reasoning, is introduced.

Opportunities to explore new interests
Third grade math includes flexible math groups, as well as Accelerated Math. Students study the regions of the United States in Social Studies and visit the science lab four times a week where they continue with the FOSS program. Other classes include Music, Spanish, Art, Library, Technology and Physical Education.

Grade 4

Highland's oldest Lower School students make their marks
Fourth graders reach a milestone in their Highland educational journey when they travel to Historic Jamestown for their first overnight field studies trip! Social Studies is centered around the study of Virginia and the end-of-the-year sojourn gives them a firsthand look at history. They also visit the Waterford One Room School to participate in an 1880’s living history program. They dress in period costumes and experience a day in the life of a school child at that time.

Language Arts continues with a literature and novel-based reading program and word study using 'Words Their Way' for spelling. The 'Step Up to Writing' program continues as the writing focus for daily writing, journals, reading responses and grammar. Handwriting Without Tears and the WordMasters Challenge are all part of the program.

FOSS kits facilitate learning in the science lab and students continue with Spanish, Art, Library, Technology, Physical Education and Music. A Strings program option is offered to fourth graders in Music.

Participation by fourth graders in weekly assemblies continues, as do leadership opportunities in the Director’s Council. The class produces an annual play and performs in Holiday productions and in Grandparents Day.

Download our Lower School curriculum guide
Interested in learning more about the courses of study in our Lower School? Click here to download our Lower School course of study that ranges from our Pre-K2 program through Grade 4. 


Highland School is a Pre-K to Grade 12 independent school located in Warrenton, Virginia.

At Highland, we know that every child is unique. Our students get the tools they need to find themselves and the world around them in an academically challenging yet supportive, engaging, and friendly environment. LEARN MORE

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