Academic Curriculum

Academic Curriculum

Children need opportunities to explore concepts in depth, so they can relate these ideas to other academic disciplines and apply them to real life situations. In order for learning to be active, engaging and challenging, the BWS curriculum is child centered and developmentally appropriate. Our teachers create hands-on engaging curriculum and integrate established, research-based curricula to complete a well-rounded learning experience.

Reading & Language Arts

Our language arts program stresses reading and oral and written communication. Students’ literacy skills are developed through shared language and reading experiences throughout the day - in the classroom, at Chapel and at After-School. BWS has adopted the Journey's Curriculum as the back bone of our Reading and Language Arts curriculum. 

Kindergarten and first grade receive reading instruction in individual, small group and whole class lessons. Phonics and phonemic awareness skills are emphasized; students also learn basic spelling patterns, recognize sight words, and develop formal handwriting. While building these foundational literacy skills, children are actively reading daily. Teachers are able to select a variety of children’s literature that will engage boys' interests while developing their ability to read independently and fluently.

In second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grades, students are no longer learning to read but are reading to learn. Reading instruction in the upper grades places even greater emphasis on comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary. Small group instruction is key, as teachers are able to focus on reinforcing skills and students are able to develop their critical thinking through guided reading discussions. BWS also uses Fountas and Pinnell to track students progress throughout the year.

At BWS, writing instruction is a core component of our language arts curriculum. Students in all grades have Writers' Workshop. Writers' Workshop is a writing program designed to build children's' writing skills through discrete lessons, predictable feedback, sharing, and daily writing. At the end of each workshop and several times throughout the year, students share their work with their peers, families, and special visitors via authors' celebrations, Sharing builds a strong sense of pride and accomplishment in their writing, and students approach writing with enthusiasm because they are writing for an audience.


The Bishop Walker School uses Math in Focus (Singapore Math).  Math in Focus  is designed to get students to think critically about the world using mathematical concepts. The hallmark of the Math in Focus is giving students opportunities to solve problems in the concrete, pictorial, and abstract frameworks. Most math curriculum only focus on the abstract (symbols and numbers, and using algorithms). Math in Focus challenges students to draw pictures (pictorial) of solutions after having exposure to manipulatives (concrete). Research shows when students are able to navigate the concrete, pictorial, abstract, and abstract thinking of mathematics, they become better problem solvers in all subjects. 

Social Studies and Science

It is important that children understand themselves and their cultural background as well as other cultures, history, and the natural world. Each social studies and science unit is designed by BWS faculty to foster critical thinking and engagement with critical cultural concepts. Instead of planning for children to memorize information, instructors use essential questions beginning with “How?” and “Why?” to encourage creativity and deeper understanding.

Our social curriculum, described in detail below, is the first point of entry for each student into our social studies curriculum. After the school year begins with a unit on how to be a gentleman, subsequent units of study engage a variety of topics that challenge students to examine and interact with the world around them. Kindergarteners learn about families, fairytales and the Washington National Cathedral and the life of Bishop Walker; first graders study neighborhoods and transform their classroom into an urban neighborhood. Second graders explore their own city, Washington D.C. In third grade, students study the States of the Union, Branches of the Federal Government, U.S. land formations and Ancient Greece; fourth grade units of study include Colonial America and pre-Columbian cultures; and fifth grade students study the Revolutionary War, westward expansion and the Civil War.

Science units similarly encourage inquiry. Teachers create a series of firsthand experiences for students, who are required to demonstrate scientific understanding through observations, investigations and experimentation involving the world of nature.  Kindergarten studies dinosaurs and gardening; first grade studies things that fly; second grade studies water and the Anacostia River; third grade studies the structure of life; fourth grade studies the human body and magnetism; and fifth grade studies mixtures and solutions and weather on Earth.

Art, Music, and Movement

In the pursuit of educating the whole child, our visual and performing arts and physical education curriculum is critical to the development of our students. Students enjoy music, art and movement classes twice weekly. Music is taught through singing, movement, and games. Throughout the school year, students display their musical prowess at a number of community programs including our Evensong Service, Christmas and Black History Month programs and Family and Friends celebration.

The art curriculum is designed to encourage children’s individual creative expression. Art projects involve drawing, painting, creating collages, and sculpting. Students learn about color, lines, shapes, patterns and dimensions and are increasingly exposed to a variety of artistic techniques and materials in order to foster each student’s unique abilities. Lead teachers also incorporate art projects into their core curriculum. Children create beautiful art when given the freedom and encouragement to express themselves, and BWS students’ art work is proudly displayed throughout the school.

For movement, BWS students develop their large and fine motor skills and coordination through activities such as running, skipping, throwing, and catching. Children achieve balance and awareness of boundaries through the use of scooters, parachutes, hula hoops and bean bags. Through noncompetitive games, good sportsmanship and cooperative play are developed. Movement classes are not an additional recess; movement teachers create a space in which students learn to hone their physical skills and maximize the benefits of movement by focusing on strengthening peer relationships, building self-confidence and experiencing setting and achieving goals.

Religious Education

As an Episcopal school, the Bishop Walker School welcomes boys of all faith traditions. Our chaplain incorporates children’s curiosity and questioning into twice-weekly classes on the foundations of Christianity and the life of Jesus. Religion is studied through the lens of biblical stories and the observance of the church calendar, with a strong emphasis on the personal application of morals. Children deepen their religious understanding through storytelling, art projects and games. Complemented by weekly chapel services, BWS students receive a rich spiritual foundation for the development of strong moral character.