Classroom Structure

In junior kindergarten and kindergarten, there are two teachers in each section of about 16 children. Each first grade class is taught by a head teacher and two shared associate teachers. An occupational therapist visits regularly and is on call for advice and consultation. A speech screening is conducted for every kindergarten student. A school psychologist visits the classrooms on a regular basis and is available for parent meetings. Reading specialists lead reading groups in first grade and are available to offer extra support in all classrooms.

Curriculum in the Classroom

Language Arts
Our youngest students already have a considerable listening vocabulary and a foundational comprehension of spoken language and its underlying grammar. The school's goal is to help students expand their knowledge and strengthen their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills.    

Children in Early Childhood learn by doing. They expand their receptive and expressive language skills by telling stories and engaging in conversations and class discussions with teachers and peers. Teachers read to children every day, and books are carefully chosen to represent children of all races and diverse family structures. 

Students develop letter recognition through games and stories. In a developmentally appropriate progression, they practice handwriting and begin composing stories using their developing phonemic awareness as they focus on expressing themselves through words and narratives. With the understanding that children are individuals and learn to read at different times and in different ways, teachers emphasize the joy of reading, providing junior kindergarten and kindergarten students with reading readiness tools. Additionally, starting in junior kindergarten, teachers create thoughtfully designed classroom spaces that encourage phonemic awareness skills and build upon students’ imaginations. Formal reading instruction begins in the first grade with weekly phonics lessons and games and small reading groups led by the teachers and reading specialists. A variety of classroom activities provide the basis for the acquisition of these skills. 

Teachers incorporate math into lessons during dedicated math periods and as part of other classroom activities. Children learn math concepts through counting games, manipulatives, and interactive problem-solving. Math is a critical component of the daily Morning Meeting, which helps to ground students and set the tone for the day. 

Starting in junior kindergarten, students learn skills that create a foundation for future math study, such as patterning, numeracy, classification, and sorting. Through hands-on guided exploration, students become problem solvers using basic skills, including adding, subtracting, measuring, and estimating. In kindergarten, students count the days of school and mark the 100th day with “Kindergarten 100 Days,” a special event when children and their parents explore the math curriculum through shared games and activities. First graders create graphs in the fall and host a Graph Breakfast, during which they share their project with their families. In the spring, they study games played throughout the world as a means of solidifying math skills. The Bridges math curriculum is used extensively throughout Early Childhood, and a math specialist visits each classroom regularly to offer additional enrichment and support.

Social Studies
The study of a developmentally-appropriate social studies curriculum begins with our youngest learners as students in junior kindergarten learn to articulate themselves, listen to their peers, and contribute to the consistent routines of, and responsibilities within, the classroom. 

Kindergarten students study New York City, beginning with the school’s surrounding neighborhood followed by the larger city. They take a variety of field trips including a spring voyage on the Circle Line. First graders take a trip around the world by visiting all seven continents. They learn how children around the world live at home, go to school, eat, and play. First graders take field trips to supplement their study of the world, including the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art and the Brooklyn Museum for their collection of Egyptian artifacts. 

In conjunction with their studies, Early Childhood children develop a sense of self in their own family, school, and community, while celebrating their similarities and differences within the classroom and beyond. Children begin to name and appreciate the differences that make us all unique as well as the fundamental human needs that unite us.

The Early Childhood curriculum is intentionally designed to make the most of this formative time, when young students begin to apply foundational skills both individually and as part of the classroom community. Teachers approach instruction with a deep appreciation of each child’s learning style and strengths to ensure that everyone has the necessary resources and support to master the curriculum and grow into confident, life-long learners.
© 2022 Grace Church School
Grace Church School is a co-educational independent school in downtown Manhattan, New York City providing instruction for nearly 800 students in Junior Kindergarten through Grade 12.