K-4 Curriculum - Lower School - McDonogh School

K-4 Curriculum

Children come to McDonogh with a natural curiosity, a desire to learn, and a variety of experience and background. The Lower School helps each child grow toward his or her full potential intellectually, artistically, physically, socially, and emotionally. Our creative and coordinated academic program provides the stimulation and direction necessary to challenge eager young minds; our safe and supportive environment allows children to take intellectual risks and permits them to make mistakes.

Students at each grade level, prekindergarten through four, are grouped heterogeneously into homeroom sections of approximately 16 students each. Homeroom teachers are responsible for instructing students in reading, writing, language arts, math, and social studies. Special subject teachers instruct students in science, world languages, visual arts, performing arts, physical education, technology, and library/media.


Using Columbia University’s Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop programs, which include state-of-the-art teaching tools and methods, performance assessments, and learning progressions to accelerate progress, students learn to read and write with skill, comfort, and delight. The literacy program combines instruction in phonics and word study with a deep immersion in fiction and nonfiction materials. As a result, students develop a passion for literacy in all its forms. 


In Lower School math, students learn the "why" behind the "how" which results in deeper mathematical thinking far beyond rote procedural fluency. This learning model asks students to first develop their mathematical reasoning before connecting their understanding to concepts and skills. Through a hands-on and collaborative approach using the Into Math program from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, students see the importance of math in everyday life and learn growth mindset strategies that encourage resilience, critical thinking, and problem solving. 

Social Studies

Social Studies introduce students to the many communities of which they are a part and what it means to be a responsible member of each. Students look at history and issues from a variety of perspectives, confront ambiguity, and consider contrasting points of view.

Science and Engineering

Science and engineering in the Lower School build upon students’ most-asked question: “Why?” The experiential, hands-on program stimulates their innate curiosity and introduces them to the fundamentals of the scientific method. Children learn to problem-solve by observing, predicting, processing, and analyzing data about the world around them.

World Languages

The primary goal of the Lower School world languages program is to awaken global awareness in young children. Exploring other cultures and celebrating differences are crucial in raising kind, resilient learners and thoughtful, aware citizens.

Beginning in the fall 2022, all PK-4 students will study the Spanish language, which has been taught in the Lower School for 30 years and is the second most spoken language in Maryland and the United States. 

World language teachers offer engaging ways to build student comprehension of the target languages. In addition to listening, speaking, and beginning reading and writing skills, teachers use age-appropriate, multisensory activities such as dance, song, movement, and games.

Performing Arts

Performing arts immerses students in the “doing” of music, movement, and drama. Students develop innate talents while also discovering previously unknown abilities. Ensemble activities in the classroom as well as participation in choir, bell choir, strings, and drama provide students with opportunities to increase their skills and confidence as performing artists.

Visual Arts

“Use your imagination” is the most frequently offered advice in the art room. Students are inspired to think in divergent ways as they become familiar with a variety of materials and techniques. They strengthen their problem-solving skills as they practice the elements and principles of design. As a result, they discover their own capacity for visual expression.

Physical Education

The goal of physical education is to engage students in physical activity while encouraging collaboration, perseverance, sportsmanship, and team building. The Lower School program also helps students develop and refine gross and fine motor skills. Swimming and horseback riding lessons are included for students in prefirst and grades one through four as well. Games and activities encourage active listening, sharing, working together, and having fun!


In a bright and inviting library space, students develop a deep appreciation for reading through storytime, book talks, and engaging research projects. All grade levels have regularly scheduled class times, but students may check out books anytime. Students are also introduced to the traditional and technological resources that put them in touch with the vast world of information surrounding them.