3rd-5th Grade Curriculum

In third through fifth grades, students learn through a dynamic, collaborative curriculum that nurtures and challenges children to learn and grow as individuals and community members.


Students begin and end each day with their Cluster Teacher, who supports the child's intellectual, social and emotional growth. In the course of a week, students study Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science, Spanish, Physical Education, Art, Theater, Music, Library, Media Arts, Woodshop and for fifth graders, Life/Study Skills.

We invite you to explore examples of what progressive education looks like and how our students are “Learning by Doing”; and how students and alumni answer the question, Why Calhoun? For the latest happenings at Calhoun, see our News Mashup and Calhoun Chronicle.

Language Arts & Library

3rd Grade

In third grade, students continue to develop their engagement in reading through independent book selections, assigned readings and author studies. Students meet regularly with the Language Arts teacher to conference about their independent reading. These sessions focus on comprehension strategies such as retelling of the story, predicting and making personal connections to the text. Students are also asked to reflect on author’s intention, character development.

Students also work to solidify ownership of the writing process: from brainstorming to drafting, editing and revising, and ultimately publishing. Throughout the writing process, students work independently, with peers and one-on-one with a teacher to refine their work. Students are exposed to and work with various genres of writing including fiction, non-fiction, expository writing and poetry. Throughout the year, both through the writing process and in explicit lessons, students focus on grammar, punctuation, spelling strategies, vocabulary study, and handwriting instruction. Students also begin learning keyboarding skills with a goal to composing directly on the computer. Published work is displayed regularly throughout the school. At the end of third grade we have a culminating Language Arts celebration where students display all their 'published' work from the entire year for their friends and family to see and appreciate.
Poetry is a major focus in our third grade Language Arts program. Time is spent exploring different forms of poetry from the structured to the free flowing spoken word. Students dissect poems for syllabic rhythm as well as rhyme and rhythm patterns. Then they are asked to create their own poems. Students look at how poetry, spoken word and song lyrics can be a catalyst for discourse about social justice and change in our world. Ultimately, the students take on the responsibility of being writers with a message.

4th Grade

Fourth graders approach reading in a variety of ways. Most are independent readers who choose books that interest them. They also receive guidance from their peers, teachers, and the Lower School Librarian. There is a wide selection of books in both the classroom and library. Students are read to on a regular basis, participate in a variety of reading comprehension activities, and engage in a yearlong author study of Patricia Polacco. Students are encouraged to ask questions, analyze the text and engage in debate with classmates.
Students write in a variety of forms, such as story writing, book reviews and persuasive writing. Students are encouraged to draw from their own experiences, express themselves creatively, and present a point of view. They keep trip journals where they detail their experiences from the many field trips they take. Additionally, poetry is an integral part of the fourth grade Language Arts experience. Students read, share and write poetry regularly. Throughout the year, there is a strong emphasis on the editing process. Students understand the purpose of writing a multitude of drafts. They see first drafts as blue prints, which they flesh out by adding detail and descriptive language. Special attention is paid to the importance of composing a strong beginning, middle and end. Students write in longhand and Microsoft Word. 
Students spend a great deal of time studying the fundamentals of grammar. They focus on the anatomy of a sentence, including complete subject and complete predicate and parts of speech. They also review the proper use of punctuation and capitalization. As they grasp these grammar concepts they are better able to implement them into their writing. Students also spend a considerable amount of time on spelling and vocabulary.

5th Grade

Fifth graders follow the reading trajectory they pursued in fourth grade. In addition to choosing books independently, they will also experience class novels. They are challenged to summarize what they are reading, as well as identify main ideas and themes, discover cause and effect, make inferences, predict outcomes, and, ultimately, ascertain what the purpose of the text is. The students also become critical readers. They respond to reading formally and informally through class discussions and writing assignment, and they develop interpretations that exhibit careful reading and understanding. Reading and critiquing both narrative and expository texts is an important component of the program.

Developing sound writing skills is a major goal of the fifth grade language arts curriculum. The students explore many forms of writing, such as creative, analytical, persuasive, and expository. Regardless of the genre, there is an emphasis on clear, concise, and organized writing. In addition to strengthening their writing skills, fifth graders work toward exhibiting a strong and identifiable voice. These skills, along with planning, revising, editing, and publishing, are continuously emphasized. Children are encouraged to share their finished work with classmates, whereby peers provide thoughtful and constructive critique. Throughout the writing process, grammar rules, spelling strategies and vocabulary lessons are addressed, reviewed, and reinforced.


The mission of the Calhoun School Library is to ensure that students become lifelong readers and effective users of ideas and information. The library curriculum prepares students in basic library skills, while also introducing literature at all levels. We integrate the library class lessons with the various curriculum areas of the Lower School. To help accomplish this mission, the library is geared for students and teachers to use and enjoy.

We strive to instill a love for reading, an appreciation of books, and an understanding of the vast information resources available to students. Each week, children will spend a designated class period in the library. They start with learning the basics—how a library is organized, the components of a book, and how to select a book that is right for them. As students progress, they learn about different authors and illustrators and explore various types of literature (e.g., fiction, non-fiction, fables, poetry, mysteries, etc.). Resources available for research skills (e.g., the dictionary, encyclopedias, atlas and almanac) are introduced and used throughout the library curriculum as well.
The library is an inviting and comfortable place for students. They are always welcome—whether to find help with locating the right material for a research project or to simply find the perfect book to read.


3rd Grade

Third grade math continues to be a very hands-on curriculum where students are asked to problem solve and demonstrate their understanding of mathematical concepts by physically constructing their answers with math manipulatives.  Open-ended explorations and collaborative assignments foster peer-to-peer learning opportunities where students are asked to articulate their thinking and strategies to their classmates. Through the use of Cuisenaire Rods, third graders develop a deeper understanding of place value by playing games and participating in challenges that promote the construction of numbers that best illustrate our base-ten number system. Students actively estimate, measure and calculate sum by solving the perimeter of classroom objects. Students are encouraged to make numbers work for them by changing equations into friendlier alternatives through sophisticated skills such as compensation and constant difference. Subtraction is closely studied as the space between two numbers and students actively model their thinking through the use of number lines and other mathematical tools. Multiplication is also studied during the third grade year through the lens of the columns and rows embedded within rectangles. Students build robots out of grid paper, create recipes for their designs and challenge one another to reconstruct the machines. The culminating "How Much Is A Million?" project challenges their thinking by having them call upon all of their mathematical understanding as they collaborate as a grade to realize the construction of a cube of one million cubic centimeter units!

Students investigate the connection between addition, subtraction and multiplication, and look for patterns within numbers. They explore myriad ways to tackle the same problem in an effort to address the various learning styles and developmental readiness of each individual learner. The small class sizes at Calhoun afford the time and opportunity to intimately know each individual learner and provide access and opportunity to develop each student’s skills at his/her own rate. Students making quick connections with presented material are challenged with extensions to class assignments as well as opportunities to go deeper into concepts.

4th Grade

Fourth grade students construct mathematical knowledge by using hands-on manipulatives, drawing and building models, practicing algorithms, and developing mental calculation strategies. Through these processes, students build a conceptual understanding of arithmetic as well as computational fluency. While more emphasis is placed on multiplication, division and fractions, students also continue to explore a variety of addition and subtraction techniques in fourth grade. More specifically, students work on internalizing single-digit multiplication facts and use a variety of strategies to approach multi-digit multiplication (particular importance is placed on understanding the distributive property). For division, fourth graders use estimation techniques to build the foundation for long division. While mastery is not the end goal, students are exposed to the latter using single-digit divisors and practice calculating remainders as fractions and decimals. This provides an opportunity to investigate the connection between a fraction and its equivalent decimal value. Additionally, students use fractions to express part to whole relationships as well as the probability of certain events. They are also introduced to adding and subtracting fractions—both with like and unlike denominators. In conjunction with building arithmetic competency with whole numbers, students investigate place value, number patterns, measurement, graphing, averaging, and basic geometry and number theory. Many projects throughout the year give students the opportunity to showcase their knowledge of these concepts—including creating posters, designing three-dimensional models, and making presentations for their classmates. Fourth graders also experience mathematics through a variety of real and fictitious contexts; story problems and real-life scenarios challenge students to apply their mathematical knowledge in meaningful ways. Furthermore, games are an integral part of the fourth grade math experience. Dice, card and computer games not only create fun opportunities to improve arithmetic skills, but many also serve as an introduction to statistics and probability.

5th Grade

Fifth grade math continues to rely on hands-on practices and context-based investigations to provide young mathematicians a chance to construct new ideas for themselves. Students develop computational fluidity by comparing algorithms, both traditional and new. Computational strategies for multiplication and division feature heavily in fifth grade. Decomposing numbers into factor strings and combining to make partial products helps students see a broader picture of number. Using real contexts to solve actual problems is the goal each day. Being able to read a story and extract relevant mathematical information is a crucial life skill. To that end, students further explore the ideas of early algebra with questions like “How many more will I need?” and “How much longer will this take?” Students model their individual thinking with diagrams and use pictures to make sense of complicated contexts.

More formally, our goal for students is to help them construct for themselves instinctive understanding of the commutative, associative and distributive properties as they relate to modifying problems, to make them more approachable. While efficient strategies for finding results is implicit in our daily activities, we also want students able and willing to articulate strategies of solution to their peers. All of these skills permeate and influence a deeper understanding of fractions and decimals and their interchangeability.

Students also have an opportunity to explore one of the hidden gems of mathematics: probability and data analysis. Students are asked how probable or improbable events are. They analyze trends in data not just to see underlying functions and patterns but also to make predictions about what is likely to happen next. Finally, students continue solidifying their basics in two- and three-dimensional geometric shapes and solids and their properties. We examine how to describe them, group them and utilize what we know about them to solve problems.

Students are expected to cooperate and collaborate, working in a safe space to explore. They begin every class prepared to make both mistakes and powerful discoveries. We work in a respectful problem-solving environment where real growth and mathematical development happen each day.


3rd Grade

Third grade students continue to express themselves through movement, speech, singing and instrument playing, spiraling up from the foundation laid in second grade. In movement, students continue responding to music using high, middle and low levels, moving in all directions with varied qualities. They are building a repertoire of movements to create solo, duet and group dances. The culmination of dance in third grade is the Maypole. Students learn this ancient tradition, which is a visual of cooperation, awareness, etiquette and teamwork. Students continue their quest to develop their voices in a virtuosic manner and consider themselves true singers. Students use vocal warm ups to learn legato, practice breath support, posture, facial expression in preparation for quality children’s choral literature in many languages. Communicating the meaning of the lyrics is a focus in the process of singing expressively. Examples from the best children’s choirs around the world are studied and imitated. 

On the recorder, students warm up with the C Major scale and a variety of rhythmic exercises. A collection of repertoire called Recorder Tae Kwon Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do lets students explore note identification and music concepts at their own pace. Sixteenth, eighth, quarter, dotted quarter, half, dotted half, and whole notes and the corresponding rests are explored. Accidentals, key signatures and reading pitch notation from middle C to the G on top of the treble clef staff are also a focus. These concepts are also transferred to the voice, xylophones and recorder. Students combine singing, movement and instrument playing with pitched percussion Orff instruments (xylophones, metallophones and glockenspiels), along with many unpitched percussion instruments to accompany folk melodies and orchestra stories. Students prepare for musical programs through the year. These include: the Hauntcert, Winter and Spring Sings and MLK assembly. Students joyfully create music together four times during the six-day cycle in a unique way at Calhoun: two classes as a cluster, a grade-level sing-along and a Lower School Assembly.

4th Grade

Fourth grade students continue to express themselves through movement, speech, singing and instrument playing, spiraling up from the foundation laid in second and third grade. Fourth grade students begin playing the alto recorder in addition to the soprano recorder. Students learn different fingerings for each instrument, in preparation for band and string instruments in different keys. The D Major scale is added to warm-ups. The Link Up program at Carnegie Hall with the St. Luke’s Orchestra dictates the soprano recorder repertoire for the year. It is a dynamic fieldtrip to one of New York’s iconic performance spaces. The program always includes singing, playing, movement and listening with a visual feast on projected onto the wall behind the orchestra.

Another highlight trip is visiting a dress rehearsal of an opera at the Metropolitan Opera. Students delight in learning about the characters and their story before attending. Becoming a good audience is an important part of music here at Calhoun and part of our legacy to the future of the arts. Students continue their quest to develop their voices in a virtuosic manner and consider themselves true singers. Singing in canon, partner songs, two-part and three-part harmony are explored. Fourth graders have the strongest voices in the lower school, singing on pitch with ease, consistently and with a wider vocal range. Students use vocal warm ups to learn legato, practice breath support, posture, facial expression in preparation for quality children’s choral literature in many languages. 

Drumming is a focus in fourth grade. Whether leading with a steady beat on the cowbell or drumming contrapuntal rhythms based on speech, students work together getting into the groove. Drumming develops unity and community. Movement culminates in creating a new version of the Sword Dance for the Spring Sing. This dance has become a tradition and rites of passage for fourth grade students at Calhoun. Students prepare for several musical programs throughout the year. These include: the Hauntcert, Winter and Spring Sings, MLK assembly, Carnegie Hall and the Fourth Grade Moving Up Ceremony. Unique to fourth grade are cluster teachers accompanying on the guitar and assisting in all the musical programs. Students combine singing, movement and instrument playing with pitched percussion Orff instruments, xylophones, metallophones and glockenspiels, along with many unpitched percussion instruments to accompany folk melodies and orchestra stories. Students use vocal warm ups to learn legato, correct breath support, posture, facial expression in preparation for quality children’s choral literature in many languages. Examples from the best children’s choirs around the world are studied and imitated. Students joyfully create music together four times during the six-day cycle in a unique way at Calhoun: two classes as a cluster, a grade-level sing-along and a Lower School Assembly.

5th Grade

In fifth grade, students can choose to sing in chorus, play a woodwind or brass instrument in wind ensemble, or play a string instrument in the string orchestra. Instruments offered are flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, baritone horn, violin, viola, cello, and string bass. Students work with teachers specializing in their specific instrument throughout the year in separate groups (i.e. all clarinets or all cellos) and gradually spend more time with different instrumental groups as a large ensemble (band or orchestra). Chorus, wind ensemble, and string orchestra all perform at least once a year in concerts during the school day as well as in the evening. 

Physical Education

3rd Grade

The third grade physical education class focuses on fitness, skill development, confidence, sportsmanship and wellness. In line with Calhoun’s mission, students are challenged to be active and engaged while experiencing and learning new games, activities and drills. Students participate in a combination of cooperative and competitive games, which provide them with confidence and skills they will utilize in all aspects of life. The focus in the third grade is to offer students the opportunity to explore and experience physical skills and good sportsmanship through physical activity. Students participate in fitness assessments gauging cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and endurance and flexibility. With these results, students are able to set realistic personal fitness goals and work diligently towards attaining these goals. They begin to build upon basic skills while adding a combination of locomotor movements, as well as engage in competitive small-sided game play. Students are encouraged to learn and follow rules, work together and develop strategies.

4th Grade

The fourth grade physical education classes focus on fitness, skill development, confidence, sportsmanship and wellness. In line with Calhoun’s mission, students are challenged to be active and engaged while experiencing and learning new games, activities and drills. Students participate in a combination of cooperative and competitive games, which provide them with confidence and skills they will utilize in all aspects of life. The focus in the fourth grade is to continue to build on the fundamental movement concepts learned in previous years. At the beginning of the year, students focus on fitness and fitness evaluations. Students are encouraged to set and work towards realistic goals that will be reevaluated at the middle and end of the year. Offensive and defensive strategies are more thoroughly explored in our small-sided gameplay. Students are encouraged to learn and follow rules, work together and develop strategies.

5th Grade

The fifth grade physical education classes focus on fitness, wellness, skill development, confidence, sportsmanship, team building and competition. In line with Calhoun’s mission, students are challenged to be active and engaged while experiencing and learning new games, activities and drills. Students participate in a combination of cooperative and competitive games, which provide them with confidence and skills they will utilize in all aspects of life. The focus in the fifth grade is to continue to build on previous learned skills, apply them to game situations, and develop leadership skills. At the beginning of the year, students focus on fitness and fitness evaluations. Students are encouraged to set and work towards obtainable goals that will be reevaluated at the middle and end of the year. Complex offensive and defensive strategies will be explored during gameplay. Students will learn and follow rules, work together and develop strategies necessary for successful team building.


3rd Grade

The third grade science curriculum takes a closer look at the human body.  After reviewing basic science process skills, students embark on activities that engage them in inquiry and thoughtful questions about the form and function of a most remarkable machine, their own bodies. Third graders perform investigations on topics that include skeleton, muscles, brain and nervous system, the sensory organs, heart, blood, lungs, digestion and elimination, teeth, skin, nails, hair, endocrine systems, germs, diseases and parasites, fighting diseases, growth and nutrition. This study is enriched by extensive use of the classroom and school libraries and web-based resources. Students learn about general functions, body systems that carry out these functions, and basic factors of healthy growth and development. Health and nutrition professionals like our school nurse, gym teachers and our kitchen staff are invited to speak to our third grade class about pertinent human body topics and activities.  The Calhoun Green Roof becomes a lab in the fall, and a place to transplant the healthy vegetable seedlings that students grow in our Greenhouse in the Spring.

4th Grade

In fourth grade, students examine and practice how scientists do their work. Students manipulate materials, use tools, work in cooperative groups, and communicate ideas orally, visually and in writing. 
The curriculum is devoted to the study of water as a unique material and an important natural resource. The conservation-oriented program engages students in an aquatic habitat study, makes them appreciate water resources, helps them understand ecosystem connectivity and hopefully foster an awareness of and sensitivity to water resources. Students will review the life cycle of trout and do simple dissections of the fish to look into form and function of parts that make the fish survive in its habitat.
Raising trout from fertilized eggs that students collect from the Cold Spring Harbor trout hatchery highlights the study of freshwater habitats. This exciting and demanding project will have the students closely monitor water quality in the 75 gallon refrigerated tank in the classroom to ensure the trout’s survival. An overnight trip to Black Rock Forest is the culmination of the freshwater habitat unit. Students perform water tests and a freshwater macro-invertebrate survey, before they release trout fingerlings in the streams.
Through mini-investigations, demonstrations and model building students learn about the distribution of water, the water cycle, water habitats, watersheds, human use of water, connections between water and human health. This leads to the focus on food webs and energy transfer within the ecosystems, particularly marine habitats like coral reefs, open ocean, midnight zone, estuaries and kelp forest. A unit is devoted to studying ocean life, particularly marine habitats and life forms found in them. Students, either individually or in pairs, do a research project on an ocean habitat of their choice.  They share their work with their peers through poster presentation. 

5th Grade

Introduction to Astronomy and Earth Science
Fifth graders begin the year learning about astronomy by identifying different phases of the moon. They keep a monthly calendar and note the phases of the moon each night and then participate in numerous investigations to understand how the moon's gravity affects their own activities here on earth. Through readings and projects, the students explore the idea of space and time travel. During spring semester, they study weather and climate and examine various weather instruments to see how each one functions. The students learn how to identify clouds, understand the types of weather associated with each one, and how to read and interpret weather maps.

Social Studies

3rd Grade

In Social Studies, third graders learn about mapping, mapmaking and geography through an exploration of the United States of America. Throughout each piece of the curriculum students are developing their critical thinking skills through teacher-guided explorations, research, hands-on projects and field trips, when applicable. Additionally, students further their understanding of Social Studies concepts through interdisciplinary projects in woodshop, music, science and art classes.
Students start their third grade year with an intensive study of mapping and mapmaking. Throughout the mapping unit students investigate various kinds of maps and create maps of their own. After learning about mapping and mapmaking, students embark on a vocabulary rich geography journey and create a third grade wall-sized physical map of the United States, which is labeled with all the major waterways and landforms that exist in the United States of America. After students have gained a better understanding of United States geography, they investigate the idea of a region and uncover the features that make each region unique. Students assemble United States puzzles and play games to help them identify states and capitals on a wall-sized political map. When students have developed a broad understanding of the United States, each student becomes an expert on one state. They document their research findings in a state journal where they write questions and information and create detailed pictures of features in their state. Students explore both traditional and non-traditional resources to find out a variety of information about their chosen states. The students showcase their findings at a United States Fair.
After answering the question, “What is history?” and a review of United States geography, students explore several Native American tribes. Each of the tribes studied live in different regions of the United States, with different geographical features and climates that dictated how each group lived. Each cluster picks one tribe that has been studied to create a model of the dwellings, geographical features of the land and tools used by their chosen tribe.
Throughout the year students explore what it is to be a good citizen and how to stand up for what you believe in through an ethics and social justice class. Students start the year by learning about citizenship, friendship and empathy through a variety of picture books, visual media and projects. After they have developed a foundation of what it means to be a good citizen, students begin to explore the concept of social justice. Using notable people and events from historical and contemporary times, students start to learn about greater social issues and the steps that people have taken to solve them.

4th Grade

The fourth grade Social Studies students engage in a wide variety of projects and investigations relating to the history of New York City. Pre-historical Native American Lenape Indian societies, The Dutch colonial experience in New Amsterdam, and a study of the civil rights period and its implications on community service are the three overarching units of study. 

The study of the Lenape Indians is an in-depth look into pre-historical life, culture and societal systems of Native Americans. Students read, write and create art projects relating to the Lost Boys myth from Lenape tradition and other tribal creation myth stories. Students then write and illustrate their own creation myths. In addition to many art projects, students play Native American games on the Green Roof or in Riverside Park to learn how the Lenape trained their children to hunt and think critically. Students use Lenape tribal words to write poetry and play word games. They create individual tribal names and cluster tribes. 

Fourth graders take many field trips throughout the year. The city provides an unlimited educational experience for all of the units and a trip to The Children’s Cultural Center of Native America and solidifies a great deal of learning that they have done in and around the classroom regarding the Lenape Indians. They experience additional firsthand learning from Native American educators about many of the important social themes they have been discussing in class. The culminating projects for this unit are building Lenape Indian villages and playing the Lenape Game of Life. The Lenape Game of Life strengthens knowledge relating to all of the societal processes that existed for Lenape Indians. There are many opportunities outside the classroom and school building to study nature through the lens of Native American culture. A variety are used regularly including life cycle study of trees, animal study as it relates to spiritual totems and discussions about the sun’s form and function in the world.
The beginning of the second unit of the year focuses on the study of European explorers into Africa, the Middle and Far East, and to the New World. Students learn about the ideas behind European Exploration, the motivation for the earliest world explorers, and the beginning of the world’s major migration movement. They also learn how the explorer’s culture often clashed with the Native cultures they met, and the extreme ramifications of these encounters. They take a field trip to Ellis Island to experience the feeling of the water and the view explorers and immigrants had sailing the oceans and eventually coming here to the Americas. As the unit progresses, students are continually engaged in a wide variety of projects and investigations relating to early European contact in Manhattan. The unit trains its focus on the study of European explorers into the New World, particularly the New York harbor area. Students learn about the objectives and ambitions behind European exploration in this particular area. They read biographies and write pieces about many of the European explorers. They then focus on the specific routes and travels of Henry Hudson. That segues well into the student’s study of the colony of New Amsterdam, with all its rich tradition and influence on modern day New York City. Students study extensively through reading, writing, video and primary source documents what life was like for the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. Students built a gigantic model of the colony with houses, Fort Amsterdam and many other colonial features. Use of existing Dutch architectural building styles in the school’s neighborhood provide students with opportunities to draw and recreate models and features based on direct observation. Field trips to the New York Historical Society, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and other intermittent exhibits give the students an even stronger primary experience into Dutch life and culture.

The final unit of the year gives students the ability to look at how to achieve change in a society. They identify problems in New York City, devise solutions and implement plans based on what they learn about the Civil Rights period in the city and country. The Civil Rights Era in New York City’s history is rich with personality and change. Students learn constructive ways to make local and larger scale social changes utilizing their voices in many of the ways the Civil Rights leaders taught the world. Students develop a stronger sense of justice and open their minds and hearts to the world around them.

5th Grade

2016 is a presidential election year! This year we have the opportunity to learn about the election process, current issues, how to make informed decisions, and the importance of voting in our country. At the beginning of the school year, students will follow the election and hold their own election in Lower School.

Fifth grade social studies takes students on a journey back in time, to experience immigration in the late 1800’s through the 1930’s. The program is designed to encourage active inquiry. Why do people leave their homes? What makes someone start a new life in a new country? How did people adapt to these new lives in new places? These are some of the questions students are asked to examine and think about critically.  Fifth graders learn what push and pull factors led immigrants to leave their homes by ship to Ellis Island, Castle Garden and Angel Island. They study what it means to be an immigrant, and the commonalities and differences of the immigrant experience based on culture and geography. While learning about some nationalities, such as, Irish, Italian and Chinese, students have the opportunity to explore their family’s history and family tree, and share stories about bravery, courage and resilience that course through their family’s history.  

After looking at immigration experiences in the late 19th century and early 20th century, the students are encouraged to look at the country they live in and consider why people might leave their homes and migrate to different parts of America. Why would someone start a new life in his or her country? What benefits would come of migrating from the South to the North? Fifth graders study the relocation of more than 6 million African Americans from the rural south to cities in the north, and discover the huge impact it had on life in cities such as Chicago and in Harlem.

While traveling through history, students are exposed to skills such as research, map reading, and note-taking. There are unlimited opportunities for artistic and creative projects, and field trips around New York City. From the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Ellis Island and The Statue Of Liberty, students develop awareness and sensitivity as they connect to the world around them. Fifth graders walk away with a better understanding of what it means to leave your home and start a new life! 


3rd Grade

In Spanish class, third graders began the year by reviewing and identifying words and expressions connected to topics from the curriculum: numbers to 100, colors, shapes, days of the week, months, foods, and body parts. This year however, students have begun to look at familiar vocabulary in a more critical way and use the language to communicate. In our family unit, for instance, third graders began to analyze the agreement in “gender and number” when working with Spanish nouns (masculine/feminine and singular/plural). Students also created a family book that provided them with opportunities to express themselves in full sentences and applied their increasing knowledge of the language. These experiences have reinforced and deepened their ability to increasingly communicate in Spanish.


Culture plays a significant role in our curriculum and is considered essential to the whole experience of learning another language. One of my goals is to prepare children to live and work in a multicultural society by exposing all students to the richness and diversity of cultures in both Spanish speaking countries and the US. Students experience Spanish and Latino cultures through authentic stories, arts, crafts, games, music, food, and projects. When children learn Spanish in a playful and integrated way, they easily acquire rich vocabulary and useful phrases. They are eager to use the words they know and to learn words that are important and relevant to their lives and interests.

4th Grade

In Spanish, fourth graders have a myriad of opportunities to strengthen their acquired knowledge and explore new vocabulary and concepts. Students use their knowledge base to begin examining verbal forms and expressing themselves in full sentences. As their culminating project, fourth graders research and produce books on their chosen Spanish-speaking countries.

5th Grade

This year-long course emphasizes and encourages listening comprehension and oral communication in Spanish. Fifth graders study Spanish grammatical structure in order to gain a basic understanding of and an ability to use the language.  Besides the emphasis on language skills, the course provides an understanding of the civilization, culture and customs of Spanish-speaking people. Cartoons, fairytales, and songs are some of the tools used to keep the students motivated while sharpening their comprehension, and enriching their vocabulary and conversational skills. Interdisciplinary art/Spanish activities help reinforce learning; an example is the annual Day of the Dead project, when students create, paint and decorate their own skulls for the holiday.

Media Arts

3rd Grade

In Media Arts we seek to explore the world around us and to express our creativity utilizing a variety of new media equipment and techniques. Students learn the parts of a camera as well as studying basic camera shots and angles. Various lenses are explored and students are exposed to such techniques and theories as depth of field and the rule of thirds. Students create a variety of short films throughout the year, rotating jobs and learning to work together as a film crew. They begin editing projects using Final Cut Pro X, and learn the craft of stop-motion animation using iStopMotion Pro. Final projects  include narrative shorts, documentaries, animated biographies and music videos.

4th Grade

Fourth Graders continue to explore the camera with an emphasis on manual control of equipment. The students create a variety of short films throughout the year, rotating jobs and learning to work together as a film crew. They are also introduced to screen writing, working together to create original scripts, and learn the art of editing to finish their works, using Final Cut Pro X. Final projects include narrative shorts, documentaries, animated biographies and music videos.

5th Grade

See Computer Technology


3rd Grade

The theme is 3rd grade Theater is Theater for Social Change. Students begin the year by acting out stories that delve deeper into the identity work done is 2nd grade, and begin to explore identity in the context of the world around us. They explore social justice through literature, poetry, real life news stories, and by sharing their own experiences with one another. Some of the essential questions that students explore through acting and storytelling are: Why do people stand up? Whose story is being told? How do you decide where you stand in a difficult situation? What factors help people decide how to act or what to do when faced with a conflict? With this understanding of self and the world, students create characters with greater depth. They are better able to identify stereotypes and work explicitly on creating a character in a genuine, authentic way. In 3rd grade, students also further their understanding of the foundations of theater. They work on vocal exercises to strengthen their ability to project, and learn to pay closer attention to staging choices. Through improvisation, theater games, and scripted stories, students work to make vocal and staging choices that help to tell a story. Mid-year, each cluster chooses an issue of social justice that is important to them. The clusters then work together to create a storyboard, character list, and scene list. They improvise scenes, which are scripted and turned into short plays. The culmination of this work is the 3rd grade play, performed in April, which includes four one-acts (one for each cluster).

4th Grade

In 4th Grade Theater, students examine personal narrative with the overall guiding question, "What is my experience?" We continue to explore identity through personal experience, using storytelling to get to know oneself and others better. 4th Graders are introduced to Meisner technique exercises, such as Repetition, in order to focus on moment-to-moment work and communications skill building. In addition, students continue to engage in improvisation games, small group work, and guided sense-memory activities in order to access emotions, make connections to characters, and focus on storytelling. We read from scripts more often in 4th Grade and learn how to analyze a scene as well, taking into consideration a character's personal identity and motivations. In 4th Grade, we delve into the components of how to successfully and clearly communicate a story. This includes voice and speech work, writing scenes with a clear beginning/middle/ending, staging, and character work. Students act out stories that require them to relate their own personal experiences to the character and situation, and are encouraged to reflect and share pieces of themselves as well. Some of the essential questions we explore throughout the year include, How does active listening help me to communicate with others? What is identity? What parts of my own identity are important to me? How can identity help to create a character? What is my story and how does it help me to understand others? How does my personal story help me to understand the motivation of a character?

5th Grade

Theater is a required class for all fifth graders.  The students begin by working individually and in small groups through a variety of guided theater exercises aimed at creating group cohesion and a basic understanding of acting technique. They are then guided through the process of building their own curriculum play, based on their Social Studies curriculum—first reading, adapting or writing, and then experimenting and rehearsing a dramatized narrative text.  The curriculum-based production is performed on stage for families.


Visual Arts & Woodworking

3rd Grade Art

Personal discovery, creative exploration and imaginative responses are nurtured as students expand their knowledge base in the art studio. Third grade students continue to build on a foundation of experience as well as learning new techniques. The year begins with paper weavings. Students work with a palette of warm and cool colors and use the watercolor-resist technique to embellish their work. As an introduction to figure drawing, students make sketches of artists’ manikins. Drawing what the artist “sees” rather than relying on iconic symbols for features is encouraged. Drawing activities include figure drawing from student models as well as observation drawings. Torn-paper self-portrait collages are created, challenging the students to use imprecise methods to achieve the desired shapes without scissors. Next, students proceed to explore Matisse’s concept of “drawing with scissors” by making cut paper collages. Papier-mâché mask-making is a favorite activity. Students follow the process from construction of the form, to the application of the papier-mâché medium to the finished work. Paint, feathers, beads and fabric are added as embellishments. The principles of design are informally introduced in the third grade. Students have activities exploring line shape, color and texture. They make colorful printed patterns using symmetry and balance. Students observe the simplicity of Mondrian’s grid paintings. They make original responses using Mondrian’s palette of primary colors, black, white and gray. Third graders also participate in a printmaking unit. They learn about AP (artist’s proof), numbering editions, techniques, vocabulary, “ghost” prints and process. Students become familiar with the work of Japanese printmaker Hokusai. They make styrofoam, sandpaper and stencil prints. Masterworks are introduced when relevant to the activity. When class work is complete, students continue to enjoy the opportunity to pursue personal interests such as drawing, stencil design, construction activities and cardboard loom weaving. The third grade year sets the stage for the culminating fourth grade experience in the Lower School.

4th Grade Art

The fourth grade year in the art studio marks the continuation of building confidence, developing skills, learning new techniques and creating a body of work. Emphasis is placed on the process. Students are encouraged to expand the limits of the materials, engage in discussions with peers, feel safe to take risks and make mistakes. Fourth graders begin the year by making “Memory Boxes” to store keepsakes, special objects and highlights of their year. They begin by covering a cardboard box with a tissue paper collage. Next, words and images of relevance are incorporated to personalize their work. The decoupage technique is used. Art students participate in two activities based on self-portraiture. The first experience is a self-portrait developed from memory using oil pastels. The second activity is an observation drawing using a mirror. Drawing what the artist “sees” rather than relying on iconic symbols for features is encouraged. Including details is emphasized. Sketchbook drawing constitutes an important ongoing activity in which specific themes and design challenges are sometimes assigned. Sketchbooks are used when classwork is complete providing students with opportunities to develop individual interests. The pointillism technique will be employed in response to a study of the work of artist, Georges Seurat. The elements of design: line, shape, color and texture will be approached through various activities. Students will make 3D plaster and wire sculptures. They may be figures inspired by Giacometti’s work. Students may also construct more abstract forms. Art history, masterworks and the lives of artists will be taught more formally in fourth grade. Students will choose an artist to research. In conjunction with the Social Studies unit on New Amsterdam, fourth grade artists will be introduced to the work of Johannes Vermeer. Students notice Delft tiles in Vermeer’s paintings. They paint a response on bisque fired ceramic tiles. Some artists replicate traditional designs while others create original images. The year ends with the much-anticipated wooden loom-weaving project. Fourth grade students may have experiences in drawing, painting, printmaking, weaving, design, research, sculpture, bookmaking, fiber arts and collage. Art is a journey of self-discovery. Often, surprises appear along the way as the work unfolds revealing unanticipated possibilities to the artist. 

5th Grade Art

Fifth graders start the year by designing and binding their own personal sketchbooks for drawing investigations. Each class begins with ten minutes of silent drawing. Using real specimens—such as insects, bones and shells—students create observational drawings in pen and ink, and complete an in-depth study using charcoal, pencil, graphite and conte crayons to investigate the subtle aspects of line, light and texture. Students also experiment with pen, brush and ink, looking at masterworks by classical artists to study the properties of lights/darks and ink washes. In addition to drawing, students explore painting and sculpture through various materials such as clay, wire and papier-mâché.  Many projects are interdisciplinary—connecting to the course of study in the Social Studies curriculum. This offers students the chance to consider aspects of other curricula through a cultural lens.

3rd Grade Woodworking
In third grade woodshop, safety practices and construction skills are reinforced. Students start the year off with the annual clock project. Original designs are cut by hand with coping saws, then sanded and painted before hands and motors are attached. Students also create other functional projects including note holders, plant tables and toothbrush holders. An interdisciplinary collaboration with social studies is a highlight—each student cuts out the shape of his/her state s/he has researched to form a complete wooden map of the United States. At the end of the year, students demonstrate their creative and problem solving skills through individual and group design challenges.

4th Grade Woodworking

Fourth grade students focus on design and creative problem solving in woodshop, while honing their skills with familiar tools and materials. The Pencil Holder Design Challenge starts the year off as a set number of objectives are met and attention to detail is emphasized. Collaborations with other classes are explored and building working windmill models while researching Dutch culture in social studies is an exciting interdisciplinary project. Other design challenge projects include picture frame stands and back scratchers. Partner and group work along with school community enhancement projects prepare students for middle school and round out the year.

5th Grade Woodworking

Woodshop is a required course for fifth and sixth graders. Students engage in a thorough exploration of wood and the thought processes necessary to manipulate, build and create. A high degree of safety, responsibility, awareness, patience and respect is consistently demanded of the students at all levels while they develop the skills necessary to accomplish personally satisfying results. In addition to the immediate goal of creating well-crafted projects from wood, there are more global learning goals—to encourage problem-solving, taking risks, learning how to “consider every angle” and then dealing with the inevitable errors. The shop offers a pause from the high stakes world students live in by allowing them to greet those mistakes—and themselves—first with kindness, followed by an analysis of what happened in order to learn as much as possible from the error.  Student woodworkers know they are gaining skills and confidence as the quality of their work improves and their errors diminish. 

The fifth grade woodworking class is the foundation for all of the subsequent woodworking the students will engage in during the course of their Middle School career.  Areas of focus address:

  • What is wood, where does our lumber come from, and what does it mean to be a woodworker?
  • Careful measuring, accurate marking and an introduction to exploring options.
  • Introduction to a wide array of hand tools, a more limited selection of power tools and how to choose between them.
  • Using a pattern to build; introduction to finishing a project (surface preparation, surface treatment and the differences between them)
  • Following plans and an introduction to creating plans of one’s own
  • Introduction to more advanced woodworking techniques, including shaping and basic joinery

5th Grade Computer Technology

The goal of Computer Technology is to familiarize students with both the basics of a computer's operating system as well as a number of software programs that the students will use throughout their education. Students learn about the internal workings of the computer, use of the keyboard, and how to organize files. Software programs tthat are introduced include Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Adobe Photoshop.

The goal of the program is to have self-sufficient students who are able to create reports and presentations.

Life Skills 5

5th Grade

The fifth grade Life Skills class meets once during each six-day cycle, is divided into two components—academic and social/emotional—and is team-taught by the Learning Specialist and Middle School Counselor.

The class helps the students explore their emotions during this important time in their development, and to learn strategies for expressing their feelings in healthy ways. They learn how to “talk out” a problem and how “body language” can be a great indicator of how someone might be feeling… or a source of great misunderstanding.

Given the importance of friendship, fifth graders learn about “empathy,” “social recognition” and “social aggression.” They have a chance to talk about conflicts, feelings of belonging (or not belonging) and how to deal with those feelings. Finally, students discuss their role in the Lower School community and at Calhoun.

5th Grade Study Skills

5th Grade

The first semester of fifth grade Study Skills is designed to help build a foundation to support the students throughout their school careers and lives. We explore best practices for using planners and calendars to find and keep track of their assignments, obligations and priorities, both inside and outside school. Through questionnaires, students learn about their individual learning styles and explore visual, auditory and tactile/kinesthetic learning. We subsequently test different ways to support each student’s auditory learning and create better listening skills. Through periodic reflection and check-ins, fifth graders survey the organization of their personal backpacks, lockers and binders, sharing both positive and negative findings during class. With these reflections, we hope students gain more independence and organizational skills when it comes to keeping their belongings in order and devising systems that work.

The course also introduces students to note-taking skills. We spend much time discussing and practicing how to decide what information is important to highlight, whether presented orally or in writing. Students are taught that deciding what information is worthy of attention is a skill that comes with time and practice.  

The final semester of fifth grade Study Skills includes several units during which students continue to practice highlighting and note-taking, with an emphasis on paraphrasing, summarizing and determining the main idea of a particular text.  Students also practice making inferences and “reading between the lines,” skills which will be repeated with greater emphasis in sixth grade.  As a conclusion to the year, fifth graders are asked to write an essay about their experiences in fifth grade, using their understanding of the writing process to draft, revise, edit and submit a final draft.

5th Grade Health

5th Grade

Students are encouraged to raise their awareness, change their attitudes and increase their knowledge and skills while taking responsibility and control of their own health, their family’s health, and their community’s health. The course approaches health studies from three different perspectives: physical health, mental/emotional health and social health.

The first semester focuses on our bodies and how they grow and work. Students learn about the skeletal system, the integumentary system and the endocrine system—all topics that lead the class into discussions on puberty. During this unit of study, boys and girl learn in single-gendered classes about their own bodies—how they are going to change physically, as well as the mental/emotional and social aspects of those changes. 

During second semester, the class focuses on the mental/emotional and social aspects of health.  Students discuss bullying and its impact, how to be “active upstanders,” and effective ways to help someone stand up to a bully. Cyber bullying and how to talk safely on-line are part of the conversation, with students examining safe and unsafe on-line conversations and techniques.

Returning to the physical aspects of health, the course turns to a unit on street safety, followed by a look at nutrition, when students learn about digestion, food groups and how food is used by our bodies. Special guest Chef Bobo explains how our food service team develops our meal plan based on healthy eating. The year concludes with a unit on lifetime physical fitness and the importance of staying active throughout our lives. We examine different sports and activities and explore how martial arts and Tai Chi can be a lifetime activity.

Baelee's Way

Fourth grader discovers a new way to multiply by six by studying patterns.

Main Building 3rd - 12th Grades 433 West End Avenue New York, NY 10024 212.497.6500

Robert L. Beir Lower School Building 2.8 Years - 2nd Grade 160 West 74th Street New York, NY 10023 212.497.6550

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