Primary

Our primary school includes preschool, kindergarten, and grades 1 and 2, and is located at 133 Hancock Street in Dorchester.

Our primary ELA curriculum launches students on a life-long love of books and of reading as they discover and experience the many reasons to read and to write. Our standards-based, balanced literacy approach includes:

FUNdations: Kindergarten through Grade 2 use the research-based Wilson FUNdations program to teach foundational literacy skills, including phonological and phonemic awareness, phonics, and spelling.

Guided Reading: Kindergarten through Grade 2 teachers provide support for small groups of readers as they learn to use reading strategies such as context clues, letter and sound relationships, and word structure while reading appropriately leveled books. Students focus on the meaning of the text, and apply various reading strategies to problem solve roadblocks.

Reading Workshop: Kindergarten through Grade 2 use Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study for Teaching Reading to engage students with stories and informational text. Students learn to ask questions, make connections to prior knowledge and previously read texts, and ask questions to clarify and correct errors in comprehension. The workshop includes peer and teacher conferences, while supporting students’ independence to become successful readers outside of the classroom.  

Read Alouds: Critical thinking, comprehension, and speaking and listening skills are practiced during daily story time activities.

Shared Reading: Teachers read aloud oversized books (Big Books) with enlarged print and illustrations that students can see and track. This Shared Reading experience teaches and reinforces concepts of print, sight word vocabulary, decoding skills, and comprehension strategies.

Writing Workshop: Kindergarten to grade 2 utilize Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study for Teaching Writing, along with other standards based curriculum. Writing Workshop incorporates the stages of the writing process, including a scaffolded critique protocol in which students receive meaningful feedback from their peers and teachers before revising and editing their writing for publication. The yearlong writing curriculum at each grade level is aligned to Massachusetts Common Core State Standards to give students the opportunity to practice and master writing in various modes and genres, including narrative writing, poetry, informative/explanatory writing, and opinion writing.

Other aspects of our balanced literacy approach include Independent Reading, Reading Conferences, Shared Writing, and Interactive Writing.

Teachers use a variety of interactive math materials, curricula, and texts from carefully selected math resources to craft lessons that provide a high level of rigor, meet Massachusetts Common Core State Standards, prepare students for proficiency on the PARCC exam, and ensure that instruction is differentiated to fit each student’s needs. Lessons emphasizes rigorous reasoning, practice, and reflection through solving real-world problems.

Primary school students progressively build an understanding of community, expanding outward from their classroom and school in pre-K and kindergarten to their neighborhood and city in grades 1 and 2. Each learning expedition is infused with music—from kindergarteners performing original songs about the school’s Crew qualities to second graders listening to and learning songs from their families’ cultural traditions.

Core social studies practices promote critical thinking skills used by social scientists and historians. Our social studies curriculum introduces these practices in a development sequence across the grades to help students develop a functioning understanding of their world—of time, of place, and of their individual roles in their communities.

  1. Geographic Reasoning: Students gain new perspectives on the communities they are investigating through reading and using maps. Mapping skills in each grade build upon each other, progressively introducing map tools and concepts such as directionality, compass rose, keys, legends, and scales.
  2. Chronological Reasoning and Causation: In the early grades, personal and family timelines lay a foundation for understanding the passage of time.
  1. Perspective Taking (Point of View): Understanding and comparing points of view are critical to understanding our diverse histories. Preschoolers express their own point of view as they represent themselves in self-portraits. Kindergarteners begin to form a group perspective by identifying with the culture, character, and mission of our school. First graders develop perspective-taking skills as they interview community helpers in the school neighborhood. Second graders expand their perspectives by investigating how culture and ethnicity shape who we are.
  2. Research: Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence: Research skills and tools are introduced systematically in the lower grades, where students work with a variety of primary and secondary sources to investigate their own questions and to answer the question: How do you know what you know? Beginning in preschool, students learn to gather evidence through their senses by actively observing and listening, by asking questions, and by seeking answers to those questions.
  3. Civic Engagement: Community participation and service are cornerstones of learning expeditions. In the lower grades, students develop an increasing awareness of their individual roles within the communities of the classroom, the school, the neighborhood, and the city.

Music-integration. During social studies learning expeditions, students listen to, learn about, and perform musical traditions and genres from the historical periods they are studying. Through music, they begin to have a conversation with history, connecting major political and cultural events and movements through song. For example, fourth graders enliven their investigation of the American Revolution by listening to and singing broadside ballads about the conflicts and events that shaped this pivotal period in the founding of our nation.

Our science curriculum features in-depth interdisciplinary science expeditions that build students’ sense of themselves as young scientists and engineers as they practice the scientific method and the engineering design process. Core practices, based on Massachusetts Next Generation Science Standards, promote essential problem-solving and critical thinking skills used by scientists and engineers. Our science curriculum introduces these practices in a developmental sequence to deepen students’ understanding of their world and to scaffold their ability to design solutions that serve a need.

  1. Ask Questions (Science) and Identify Problems (Engineering): The scientific method begins with asking questions; the engineering process begins with identifying a problem. As students ask questions, they build the tools they need to create hypotheses, design experiments, test variables, and draw scientific conclusions. As students identify a problem, they take the first step in the engineering design process to address a real need.
  2. Develop and Use Models: Scientists and engineers develop models to communicate their ideas and plans to others. Models represent a situation or problem and help develop questions, construct explanations, and generate data to make predictions. Students evaluate and modify their models through testing, drafting, constructive peer critique, and feedback.
  3. Plan and Carry Out Investigations: Science investigations emerge from students’ questions and are structured and guided by the teacher. Each investigation identifies a question or problem, predicts a possible outcome, and plans a controlled course of action to collect data to answer the question or solve the problem.
  4. Collect, Analyze, and Interpret Data: Data is a scientist’s strongest tool to confirm or deny questions and claims. Student scientists carefully collect data through observation and fieldwork, and record data by drawing and note-taking in science notebooks and fieldwork journals. They interpret the data in relation to their question or problem and analyze what the results mean.
  5. Construct Explanations and Design Solutions: The goal of science practice is to construct explanations for why things occur. An engineer’s goal is to create a workable solution to an identified problem. Critical thinking skills and mathematical reasoning allow young scientists to use their observations and data to construct a reasonable answer to their original question and to design a workable solution to meet a real need.
  6. Gather and Communicate Information: Science and engineering rely on the communication of ideas to fuel new discoveries. Communicating ideas, evidence, and information is accomplished through diagrams, graphs, posters, models, writing, and teacher-scaffolded science talks. Our students are motivated at an early age to produce products that communicate information and ideas to a real audience. As a music school, we have nurtured creative ways for students to communicate scientific information, such as a musical theater performance highlighting the engineering design process and a music video with a conservationist message about snakes.
  7. Serve the Community: Scientists help us to better understand how the natural world works; engineers design solutions to improve our lives. At Conservatory Lab, service learning integrates meaningful community engagement with science and engineering investigation