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"The River School is in a class of its own. My children have developed a deep love of learning and gained confidence in themselves as scientists, writers, mathematicians, explorers, readers, learners, and tinkerers! River's incredible teaching teams have empowered them to explore their own curiosities about their world and to engage as thoughtful citizens. We are excited about River's Upper Elementary and being a part of the first Grade 4 class in fall of 2022!" — Louisa Imperiale

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Contact Megan Campbell in Admissions to learn more. Email or call 202.380.9206.

Grades 4-5 at The River School

Our Upper Elementary Program Launched in Fall 2022

The River School’s Upper Elementary Program (Grades 4-5), officially launched with a Grade 4 class in Fall 2022. We’ve developed a spectacular curriculum, and are building one of the most progressive and experiential Upper Elementary Programs in the Washington DC area!

Grades 4-5 Key Features:

  • Individualized, multi-curricular progressive model that:
    • Responds to student inquiries to direct flow of classroom experience
    • Integrates Arts & Sciences into core subject areas
    • Emphasizes Social Emotional Learning
    • Evolves based on current best practices
    • Balances the teacher as a guide, facilitator and learner
    • Challenges students to be active participants in the learning process (not simply “taught to”)
  • Co-teaching team, consisting of a master’s level educator and speech-language pathologist (cornerstone of River’s other programs)
  • Project-based, inquiry-driven learning approach
  • Unique Immersive Block System with extended periods of time to allow for deeper thinking, collaboration, problem solving and research
  • Faculty with expertise in technology and world languages, in addition to Arts & Sciences
  • Blend of one-on-one, small-group and whole-class lessons, with daily opportunities for direct instruction and coaching with the teaching team
  • End-of-year culminating project stemming from students’ individual interests, providing an opportunity to apply the skills mastered from the curriculum to a passion project
  • Student-directed clubs and leadership development opportunities
  • Weekly experiential trips to connect immersive projects with real-world applications

Programmatic Approach

River remains true to its one-of-a-kind inclusion model in the Upper Elementary Program. Children with hearing loss learn alongside their hearing peers as they embark on this next stage of learning and development together.

In Grades 4-5, the speech-language pathologists focus on these critical areas:

  • Developing and strengthening written language skills especially: writing for various audiences, fine-tuning specific language and terminology when completing assignments, applying techniques for writing crafts
  • Building and strengthening communication skills for social interactions and debate skills
  • Identifying when to talk; when to stop and listen

Programmatic Structure

River’s Grades 4-5 Program follows Project-Based Learning (PBL) tenets closely.* (PBL) is a progressive approach where teachers and students work closely together in a collaborative environment. Content and mastery goals are taught in a meaningful way, with an emphasis on real-world application. PBL requires effective communication, thoughtful integration of concepts and ideas, and deeper critical thinking skills. Student voice and choice anchor the projects, while teachers analyze the content-area academic goals carefully, and imbed them accordingly. This model builds in time for exploration, risk-taking, failure, design thinking, reflection and creation.


Measuring Skill Mastery

Mastery of skills are measured across all academic content areas regularly. This is achieved through ongoing objective assessments, anecdotal evidence, daily discussions and check-ins to monitor comprehension, unit rubrics and clearly delineated guidelines. Evaluations and progress are shared with the student's parents regularly, in order to encourage ongoing collaboration and communication between River and home. This information is also documented and shared through our narrative summaries and portfolios.

Utilization of Standardized Programs/Curricula

River prides itself on employing a blended curricular approach. We do not subscribe to any one set program because we know that responsive teaching empowers children to develop strategies and gain mastery over content-area skills. We will continue to rely on best practices, grounded in research-based approaches and programs, and our unique curriculum will continually evolve. Across all domains Social Emotional development and well-being remains at the core of what we do.

Several programs anchor our comprehensive curriculum.

Foundational Skills & Essential Life Skills

Foundational Skills, what one traditionally viewed as content-area subjects, and Essential Life Skills are equally valued in and critical components of our Upper Elementary Program.

Sports & Recess

Whether at Recess, during P.E. or on a nature walk, daily movement opportunities, along with an After School Intramural Athletics Program, take place in the Upper Elementary Program. They have exposure to several sports.

World Languages

Students learn Spanish language and culture through the research-based language instructional method, TPRS (teaching proficiency through reading and storytelling). TPRS leads with high-frequency words to build fluency by engaging and exposing students to Spanish through an interactive, fun and supportive learning environment.

Arts & Sciences

Arts & Sciences classes have longer periods of learning time and integration of subject matter (achieved through Immersive Learning blocks).

Social Justice & Global Citizenship

Civic learning involving students’ active participation in projects that address a broad range of global issues (social, environmental, economic, etc.) is an integral component of River’s Upper Elementary Program. We believe that ‘others’ are in fact us — it’s all us — and an understanding of our connection to one another has always been and will always be at the heart of what River teaches. We aim to empower and inspire our children to make the world a more peaceful, tolerant and sustainable place and to cultivate their instincts to be kind, thoughtful and deliberate thinkers and communicators.

Health & Wellness

We designed an age-appropriate Health & Wellness curriculum that addresses changing bodies, consent, boundary setting, and safe and healthy choices. We rely on parent partnership and share language and discussion points for this sensitive, yet critical, topic area.

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