Lower School FAQs

Why introduce a second language at the lower school level?

The lower school language program serves as the world language foundation for middle and upper school language learning. The program’s intent is to expose young students to the sounds and structure of a language other than English as soon as possible. Brain research supports second language exposure as soons as possible. Youngsters who learn a language in the early years usually develop near native pronunciation of the new language as well as learning about other cultures.

Students in EC through grade two have a semester of Mandarin and a semester of Spanish. In third grade, students choose either Mandarin or Spanish for a full year study of the language through fifth grade. A language selection helps students begin a more intensive study. We do all we can to meet the student’s first choice; however, sometimes there is more demand for one language over the other and we need to balance the language classes. Students can make a language choice again in the middle school.

I see “Responsive Classroom” referred to frequently on the website. What is it?

Responsive Classroom is a model that teaches students how to take positive ownership of their classroom and their school. Students are taught to work together as a group. Each classroom begins its day coming together for Morning Meeting, which is a vital part of the program. By being a Responsive Classroom school, we support the notion that the more we learn about each other, the greater the mutual respect. This character education plan fosters students’ ability to solve problems and understand and resolve conflicts peacefully. The program teaches social skills that will serve students throughout their school careers and supports our mission statement and our vision of MVS students.

What is Math in Focus?

The most important goals of any math program are higher order thinking and developing critical thinking skills. We use the Math in Focus/Singapore Math in the lower school to meet those goals. This program centers around problem-solving skills and concepts taught with a concrete–pictorial–abstract learning progression through real-world, hands-on experiences.

Do you use a reading textbook?

We have a balanced literacy program in the lower school. This might include alphabet, phonics, guided reading, trade books, literacy circles, reading workshop, reader's theater and more. We maintain a commitment to offering students large chunks of time to engage in reading books—ones of their own choosing, when possible, and always ones that allow fluency, accuracy, and comprehension. Assessment is a big part of keeping a record of the students’ success and learning how to best support the specific needs of the student. Students are expected to read in school and at home every night for a given time according to grade, and all lower school teachers read aloud to students. We have a devoted literacy leader who works with students in the lower grades.

When does community service begin?

MVS integrates volunteerism and community service during the school day beginning in EC. It is a graduated process that begins with students exploring their identities in relation to others outside the home (society), to how they can help solve societal problems in their immediate communities and beyond.

In the lower school, service projects are facilitated through the classroom. Each classroom identifies an agency or cause for the year to explore and volunteer. The group also has an opportunity to visit an agency to learn and serve.

What is differentiated learning/teaching?

Differentiated learning/teaching means that we instruct according to the skill levels of our students. In an effort to engage students’ varied interests and encourage student-directed learning, we differentiate in content, process, products, and learning environments. While we attempt to meet individual academic needs while not tracking students, we do maintain clusters around skill development that are flexible and based on ongoing assessments. We provide differentiated instruction in the lower school whenever possible and appropriate.

What is the communication between school and home?

The following are ways in which we communicate with our families:

  • PIN (Parent Information Night): Early in the school year parents are invited to view their child’s classroom and hear from teachers regarding program and classroom procedures.
  • Ramifications: Each week the lower school director writes a blurb about life in the lower school, including upcoming important dates and events.
  • Classroom Teacher Blogs: These occur weekly and the kind and amount of information varies according to teacher.
  • Parent/Teacher Conferences: Conferences are scheduled at set times, usually at the midterm of each semester ( in October and April).
  • Progress Reports: Formal written reports are submitted to parents online twice a year. Primary students do not receive letter grades; rather, teachers make comments regarding class standing and and indicate whether the student is at the beginning, developing, or secure degree of skill development. Second and third grades use a scale of one through four to indicate the level of skill development. Grades four and five give letter grades.
  • Parent Coffees: Each year, the Parent Association hosts two lower school coffees with the lower school director. These informal gatherings allow parents to get deeper insight into overarching goals of the lower school and its program.
  • Intermittent Meetings: When appropriate, teachers call parents, e-mail, or request a face-to-face meetings to discuss changes in behavior or academic standing, or to discuss an improvement or accomplishment. Additionally, parents can initiate these meetings.

What is connected learning?

This is a model of teaching that introduces the same or similar topics across the curriculum. The more our students see materials from different perspectives, the more they embrace learning. This type of instruction helps to create a safe environment in which students feel comfortable taking risks, exploring, connecting, and sharing.

How do you assess students?

Assessment takes on many forms in the lower school. Classroom teachers use an array of methods—both traditional and nontraditional—to assess student progress. The literacy leader, math leader, and classroom teachers use both formal and informal assessments to measure reading growth or specific needs around skill development.

Students in grades three through five have standardized assessments once a year in the spring. We use the OLSAT (Otis Lennon) to measure school ability and the Stanford Achievement to measure academic growth in specific academic areas.

The school nurse does a hearing and screening assessment.

Consultants from Centerville City School District is available to do speech and language assessments.

Why so many field trips?

Lower school students are involved in field trips plus some form of outdoor education in all grades. Field trips are an extension of our Immersion Method approach. Field trips involve preparation for the trip, activities around the theme, and follow up once the trip is completed. This hands-on form of learning involves many kinds of trips that range from a morning away from school for a trip to the apple orchard in the lower grades to several days in Williamsburg, Virginia as part of immersion learning in fifth grade. Some field trips are done in a series like the fourth grade trips around topology.

What are co-curricular classes?

Co-curricular classes are areas of content that enrich and enhance the core curriculum. In the lower school co-curricular classes include: world language, performing arts, science, physical education, and visual arts. They are taught by specialized teachers in those subject areas. Students learn skills and vocabulary in each co-curricular subject, often integrating these concepts in their classroom work.

How do clubs work in the lower school?

Clubs are offered during the fall, winter, and spring and at other times during the year. They may meet weekly or bi-weekly for 30-90 minutes and may vary each term since each club is designed by individual adults from the community. There is a fee for most clubs.

How do you use technology in the classroom?

Classroom teachers utilize technology to enhance instruction across the curriculum. Online resources are used to explore and gather data when working on research projects. Technology is used to support learning by providing additional enrichment activities during math, language arts, and social studies instruction. The use of technology also enables teachers to differentiate instruction and provide level-appropriate and individualized skills practice. Students have access to iPads, Chromebooks and laptops and utilize Google docs for collaboration.

How can I volunteer?

So glad you’re interested! To volunteer, parents can email or call the lower school administrative assistant and ask how they can help. Parents can also go directly to classroom teachers to volunteer their services. On PIN night and on other occasions, the Parent’s Association offers opportunities to assist.

Will you be able to meet my child’s individual needs?

The lower school strives to meet the needs of every student we admit. Our small class sizes allow teachers to support the individual needs of most of our students through whole group and small group instruction. In our effort to differentiate, we do meet the needs of the vast majority of our students.

What is the dress code?

From our Lower School Student Handbook, the dress guidelines are as follows:

  • The school expects cooperation from both parents and students in maintaining an appearance that is conducive to carrying out the essential purpose of the school. The dress code is as follows:
  • General appearance must be neat and presentable. Girls may wear dresses or shirts with collars, round necklines that follow the base of the neck (jeweled neckline), or MVS or college t-shirt or sweatshirt.
  • Boys must wear a collared shirt, turtleneck shirt, MVS or college t-shirt or sweatshirt. They may also wear dress sweaters without a collar.
  • Pants, skorts or shorts may be patterned or printed. Shorts/skorts must be fingertip length.
  • Clothing must be worn in a manner such that undergarments are not visible.
  • No athletic pants or shorts are permitted.
  • Shoes must be well-fitting and non-skid, and provide secure support and safety both inside and outside. Shoes with closed toes and heels are recommended. Shoes should not have heels higher than one inch.
  • Gym shoes (sneakers/tennis shoes) are required for P.E. classes.
  • Hats should not be worn indoors.
  • The only writing on clothing should be the MVS logo or school name.

What is the thinking behind having a dress code?

We believe neat and clean attire for school is important to being ready to learn. Our guidelines are in no way severe and offer our students many options regarding attire.

What methods of classroom management do you use?

We have an experienced faculty, and our students are well-behaved youngsters who are supported by parents and schooled in the ideals of self management and integrity. As educators, we believe in building an environment of respect and nurturing relationships with our students by using Love and Logic. Love & Logic is designed to be used in a positive setting, before a behavior becomes an issue. As educators, we make every effort to pause and think through the individual student's problem and present logical consequences for mistakes.