Lower School

Small classes and devoted teachers challenge students to stretch beyond their comfort zones, knowing they are supported and encouraged to develop their unique talents and voices.

The atmosphere in the lower school is one of exuberance as children excitedly walk through the door each day to engage in new acts of discovery. Lower School classes generally devote two periods per day to language arts and one period to math, with social studies, history or geography, science, and Spanish classes all happening two to three times a week. Smartboards, laptop carts, a technology lab, and a “green screen room” enhance our classrooms, and basic technology skills such as keyboarding, word processing, and image manipulation are developed through projects that support the curriculum at each grade level.


Lower School is where Grymes students develop the foundations of learning. Reading and math are taught within structured programs that build knowledge and skills from one grade to the next. Students practice communication, collaboration, and hands-on problem solving throughout the day as they grow into increasingly active and engaged learners and community members.


Structured Literacy

Strong reading skills are central to a Grymes education. Students advance through an evidence-based systematic program beginning with explicit instruction in phonics, decoding, spelling, fluency, and comprehension.


Singapore Math

The math program is built on a progression from concrete to pictorial to abstract representation of mathematics concepts, developing students’ conceptual understanding, and problem-solving.
Writing & Speaking


Writing & Speaking

Individual communication skills are developed across the curriculum. Writing instruction builds mastery of sentence mechanics, penmanship including cursive, and persuasive writing, while speaking skills are developed in class presentations, plays, and declamations.


Learning by Doing

Students engage in creative, dynamic learning from hands-on science and engineering projects to special history days to experiential learning through field trips and community service.
Arts & Music


Arts & Music

Creative expression is incorporated into every student’s week with a focus on exploration and discovery followed by more focused instruction in foundational skills and techniques in visual and musical arts.


Physical Activity

Daily recesses and physical education classes ensure that students have ample opportunities to play and exercise, and movement is routinely incorporated into classroom activities.

In first grade children are immersed in oral and written language, and all areas of the curriculum are used to teach language arts, social studies, and science. Surrounded by books in a warm and welcoming classroom, a major portion of instruction in reading, writing, and spelling is done in small groups based on each student’s developmental level. Our structured literacy program, based on the multisensory Orton-Gillingham method of early reading instruction, provides students with a systematic, explicit introduction to phonics and foundational literacy skills.

Mathematics is taught using the Singapore Math method supported by think! Mathematics, an engaging program that fosters strong number sense through a concrete-pictorial-conceptual approach and develops critical thinking by encouraging multiple methods for problem-solving. Students work towards mastery of computational skills and a deep understanding of mathematical concepts as they advance their skills in counting, seeing patterns, solving word problems, adding, subtracting, and estimating.

First grade science units include a study of health and the human body, natural resources, magnets, and biomes, and the class studies the Pilgrims, Famous Americans, maps, the rain forest, and Ancient Egypt in social studies. Regular Spanish, art, music, and P.E. classes round out the curriculum.

In addition to these academic priorities, students also learn D’Nealian handwriting as a preparation for cursive handwriting in second grade, and students take a turn on stage for their annual class play and Declamation Day. The first-grade year also includes community service and field trips, including recognition of first-grade family veterans at a school-wide Veterans Day assembly, a book collection in support of the local Head Start program, and a visit to Ferry Farm and Kenmore in Fredericksburg.

Building upon the foundation of skills laid in first grade, Grymes second graders develop reading, writing, and math skills as well as grow in knowledge across a range of subjects.

Explicit, systematic phonics instruction continues through the multisensory Orton-Gillingham approach. Phonetic readers tied to new concepts allows students to practice the phonetic concepts and high frequency words in their individual reading and reading groups. Vocabulary is a natural component of language lessons as students define words in context and learn to use a dictionary to clarify their understanding.

In second grade, students explore writing in a variety of genres: narrative writing, informative writing, opinion writing, letter writing, and poetry while working through the writing process and understanding the “writer’s craft.” They also begin learning to write in cursive.

Second-grade students continue to strengthen their problem-solving skills and number sense by solving problems multiple ways and using the concrete-pictorial-abstract approach outlined in think! Mathematics. Strategies using number bonds and bar modeling deepen students’ mathematical understanding. Emphasis is given to addition and subtraction within 1,000, basic understanding of multiplication and division, geometry, fractions, graphing, and telling time. Students also gain practice with mastering math facts, including all addition and subtraction facts to 20 as well as the times table.

Social studies is taught with an emphasis on world geography, landforms, continents, and oceans. A study of maps, Native Americans, explorers, and Ancient China allows students to compare the past and present. Science in the Lower School lab is taught twice a week by our dedicated Lower School science teacher, covering a range of topics from the geosphere and hydrosphere to the nature of matter in physical science and birds in life science.

As part of a two-year community service project, second graders adopt a grandparent at a local nursing home, forming meaningful relationships with the elderly in our community. A class play and poetry declamations are highlights of the year. Field trips include Wildrock, Luray Caverns, and Natural Bridge, and a “Poetry Café” is a fun second-grade tradition.

Third graders follow an inspiring curriculum that includes reading, language arts, writing, speaking, math, Virginia history, geography, science, Spanish, art, music, and P.E.

The language arts curriculum continues to build students’ skills in a range of areas: reading, grammar, composition, spelling, vocabulary, oral communication, and handwriting. Language arts is closely tied to history. Students learn how to gather information from textbooks and other non-fiction books and to respond thoughtfully to their reading. Writing grows in sophistication with a focus on descriptive, persuasive, and informative writing.

Third graders are immersed in the world of Virginia history. Using primary source documents and political cartoons of the time, students become detectives solving history mysteries, beginning with the colonial period and ending with the civil rights movement in Virginia. Special events and field trips help to make history come alive. Students use their research to create projects, which may include books, short videos, and Powerpoint presentations.

Using think! Mathematics with its Singapore Math approach, the math curriculum further develops students’ skills and understanding through its emphasis on creative problem-solving, journaling, and concrete-pictorial-conceptual methods. In third grade, students work towards mastery of math facts, multi-digit addition and subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, and basic geometry.

Third-grade science focuses on the animal kingdom, weather, trees and conservation. Students learn about classification, life cycles, habitats, and adaptations in a wide range of flora and fauna. The year in science finishes with a water study and an investigation of how land use affects water bodies, the causes and effects of erosion, and the impacts on the Chesapeake Bay.

Regular Spanish, art, music, and P.E. classes are important to the third-grade program, and all students participate in the class play and recite poems on Declamation Day.

Fourth grade at Grymes is an exciting and challenging year of transition. Students take on more responsibility in their study skills, time management, and organization as they prepare for the big jump into the Upper School.

Students dive into reading books such as James and the Giant Peach, Paddle to the Sea, and Jimmy Spoon and the Pony Express in addition to the Junior Great Readers and African folktales. In literature circles, they improve their small group discussion skills and share personal reactions with thoughtful writing of poetry, personal narratives, character sketches, factual reports, and fictional stories. Fourth graders continue to hone their grammar and usage skills through Exercises in English and broaden their vocabulary through the Vocabulary from Classical Roots series. Spelling groups work with specialized lists each week.

Using the think! Mathematics program, students continue to follow the Singapore Math approach to mathematics. Starting with an anchor task each day, they become capable problem solvers and develop their conceptual understanding and ability to journal clearly about their work. Fourth graders solidify their mastery of math facts and gain extensive practice with decimals and fractions, numerical patterns, data analysis, and probability.

Fourth grade science begins with a study of plants and birds in the fall, continues into motion, machines and the human body in the winter, and culminates with a study of the planets and solar system in the spring. Students become globally conscious with an intensive study of world geography, studying each continent, learning its physical and cultural geography, countries, states, and capitals.

Field trips, Spanish, art and music classes, regular library visits, and daily P.E. complete the fourth-grade schedule. These students play the role of “big buddy” for the first time, as they are paired with a partner in Junior Kindergarten. In addition, they perform in a class play and take the stage for Declamation Day.

Grymes just feels homey to me… Everyone is always so welcoming, and they take the time to get to know you individually. Our family isn’t just a number to them, and we value that tremendously.
Ashley Van Hoven
Lower School Parent and GPTA Co-President