Lower School (Grades K-4)
Children need and deserve a strong, diverse academic foundation. Children also need to be kids and have fun with learning. Everything we do in our Lower School is designed to support both goals. Lessons are designed to be rigorous and flexible so that we meet the needs of different learning styles while laying the groundwork for all future academic endeavors.
Mason Prep uses tested and trusted pedagogical tools and programs to give each child the best start possible.
Reading & Comprehension: We use the SRA Open Court Reading program in grades K-2 because it is phonetically based and flexible enough to allow children with different learning styles to succeed. We then transition to the Reading Street program in grades 3 and 4 as it continues to apply strong phonetics skills and further strengthens our students’ comprehension and application skills.
Grammar: Students are introduced to the beginnings of a strong grammar foundation through our language arts curriculum with projects and assignments that include creative writing, spelling, book talks, journals, and pen pal correspondences.
Math: The Sadlier-Oxford math program introduces new foundational skills and concepts at each grade level. Along the way, students build a deep conceptual understanding of how math works as they refine their growing critical thinking and application skills. This system offers students multiple ways of solving a problem so they can choose a strategy that meshes with how they learn best.
[CALL OUT: Our kindergarten teachers establish a solid foundation for lower school learning. Content is communicated and mastered through fun activities — some independent and hands-on, some involving small groups and collaboration. As our littlest ones interact with older students through our pen pal and math buddies programs, they gain the confidence they need to feel comfortable and prepared for first grade.]
Intermediate School (Grades 5 & 6)
This is an exciting, transitional time for Mason Prep students. They’re no longer in lower school — now they’re switching classes and using lockers. Students begin to explore their individuality; grow more independent; and develop as critical thinkers and strong collaborators. These are also the years when students start mastering essential organizational and study skills, which is imperative for the demanding curricula of Middle School (those “binder checks” serve an important purpose!).
In math, students expand on the skills they learn in the lower grades and dive into fractions, negative numbers, and geometry. Students use variables to solve more complex equations and study logic puzzles. This prepares them for algebra in middle school. They also create budgets and find taxes and tips to understand how everyone uses math daily. In GVC, students are using and expanding their grammar skills as they write longer reports and research papers. Students delve into novels, poetry, and non-fiction in literature, engaging in classroom discussions where they share their understanding of the material with their peers.
Middle School (Grades 7 & 8)
Middle School is where it all comes together for Mason Prep students — they continue building on what they’ve learned and mastered and are ready to embrace their unique passions, explore leadership roles, and take on more challenging academics in preparation for high school and college.
The Middle School faculty encourages critical and creative thinking in an advanced curriculum that includes grammar, vocabulary, and composition; mathematics; pre-algebra; algebra; geography; history; civics; literature; science; innovation and design; physical education; technology; and a global language choice of French or Spanish. Eighth graders may earn high school credits in algebra and global language. Additionally, we’ve built an exploratory period into the school day to give students the freedom to explore non-academic areas and discover new interests.
Middle School is also when students establish their roles as leaders. As the most senior students on campus, our middle schoolers set the example for the younger classes. They take this responsibility seriously, and it helps give them the confidence and assurance needed for a successful high school experience. When MPS students leave us at graduation, they are ready – academically, socially, and emotionally – for the next step.
We strive to develop curious, lifelong learners who understand the importance of being thoughtfully involved citizens in their communities. Character development is not simply reinforcing good manners or doing community service projects (although those are both things we do at Mason Prep!). Mason Prep has a cohesive, school-wide Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program whose curriculum flows from year to year, building on the lessons learned in the previous grade. By the eighth grade, students have been taught the social and emotional skills they will need for success in the classroom and for life.
Mason Prep’s SEL program is overseen by Dean of Students and School and Clinical Child Psychologist, Dr. Jessica Anderson. Ms. Rollins Babb, one of Mason Prep’s Learning Specialists, focuses on the lower grade program. Says Dr. Anderson, “Having a comprehensive SEL program is so important for the success of our students. As a faculty, we are aware of the needs of our students, and we have built a solid program to address those.”
Grades Kindergarten - 4
Mason Prep uses a program called “Social Thinking” for grades K-3. The Social Thinking Methodology “provides evidence-based strategies to help [students] develop their social competencies, flexible thinking and social problem solving, and improve conversation and social connection, executive functioning, friendship and relationship development, perspective taking, [and] self-regulation.” (socialthinking.com)
One of the focuses of the Mason Prep program are the Social Thinking lessons around communication and connection. We all know that conversations – from small talk to discussions – can be difficult. Social Thinking “teaches social learners the why and how of developing meaningful connection with others through face-to-face conversations at home, school, in the workplace, and within their communities.” (socialthinking.com)
What does this look like put into practice in the classroom?
Students in grades K-3 have been learning:
- How to listen. We teach students that they cannot be successful unless they listen to the teacher and understand what they are being asked to do.
- How to keep their body "in the group" - maintaining a comfortable physical presence around others and physically showing interest in the group.
- How to recognize when they are becoming frustrated and use tools they learn in class to alleviate feelings of frustration.
- How to determine when they should say what they are thinking and what thoughts to keep to themselves.
As students transition away from the lower grades, they have learned how to be a part of a group. In grades 3-5, they begin to gain more of an understanding of themselves and how they can help others. In fourth grade, students also begin to prepare for lessons from The Social Institute (see below). While fourth graders do not yet participate fully in TSI, Dr. Anderson brings in elements of the program, teaching them in a developmentally appropriate format. For example, rather then interacting with the lessons on an iPad, fourth graders are given more hands-on activities so that they can move around and be more engaged mentally and physically.
Grades 5 – 8
Fifth-eighth graders are learning about:
- the balance between online and in-person communication
- limiting the distractions of devices so that they can be focused and attentive participants
- how to communicate their thoughts, needs, and opinions in a responsible way
- how respect the opinions of others
Students participate in lessons that use real-life scenarios through a program called The Social Institute, which Dr. Anderson introduced to Mason Prep. The Social Institute (TSI) is a national leader in curriculum designed to equip students to navigate the complex intersection of well-being, social media, and technology. Its comprehensive program reinforces strengths like character, empathy, and teamwork and inspires students to make positive, healthy, and high-character choices. The program also places importance on involving parents and provides resources for families so that lessons learned at school can be discussed at home.
The curriculum at every level is tailored to Mason Prep, and teacher feedback is extremely important to our SEL program. The program is meant to be flexible so that lessons can address specific challenges teachers are seeing or simply what is being expected of students at any given time. For example, if a teacher notices that students in her class are being exclusive and not letting someone play with the group, Ms. Babb and Dr. Anderson can pull in supplemental lessons that teach the importance of inclusivity. Or, ahead of exams, seventh graders would have a lesson focused on organization and how to prepare for studying.