Hutch School Primary School Program — Grades K-3

Hutch School

Primary School — Grades K-3

Primary school students playing a game

Overview and Goals

Primary teacher: Melissa Walsh

Students in the Primary Class at Hutch School are engaged in a variety of activities that provide opportunities to grow emotionally, socially, cognitively and physically. The goals are to foster independence, confidence and a love of learning; to encourage unity, cooperation, compassion and kindness; to develop respect for diversity; to teach essential skills in reading, writing, mathematics, social studies, science and the arts; to use Seattle and the Pacific Northwest as our extended learning environment; and to build on and support each students’ unique gifts and challenges. 

Guiding Principles

  • Curriculum is integrated as much as possible.  Connections between content areas deepen understanding and strengthen skills.
  • Student interests determine what we study and how long we study it whenever possible.
  • A multi-age community allows students to approach assignments at their own level.  They have opportunities to take on greater challenge when ready.
  • Older students gain valuable leadership skills and confidence by mentoring younger students.  Younger students gain role models to emulate and an extended peer group.
  • Primary students need both clear and consistent structure and freedom to make age-appropriate choices.
  • Students learn best when they feel known and cared for by their teachers.
  • Curriculum should be flexible and responsive to changes in the student population.
  • Positive Discipline is used so that students feel belonging and significance.
  • Because all students have a patient in their family, we emphasize treating each other with extra kindness and compassion.
  • Families are vital partners who should be invited to participate as much as they are able. 
  • Parents with a patient in their family may not be able to fully advocate for their child’s educational needs. Understanding this, the staff of Hutch School dedicates extra time and energy towards advocacy, which may include increasing support available to a student while enrolled at Hutch School and/or working towards continuing that support when students go home.
  • As a temporary school, an essential part of our role is to work to ensure a smooth transition when students return to their school at home.


We use the Washington State Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) as a framework for determining what skills to teach. The EALRs are similar to and compatible with essential learning requirements established by other states, as well as national standards. The EALRs are also broken down into Grade Level Expectations (GLEs) for greater specificity. 

Examples of some of the EALRs we focus on in the Primary Class include:


  • The student understands and uses a writing process.
  • The student writes in a variety of forms for different audiences and purposes.


  • The student understands and uses different skills and strategies to read.
  • The student understands the meaning of what is read.


  • The student understands and applies the concepts and procedures of mathematics.
  • The student uses mathematics to define and solve problems.


When a new Primary student arrives at Hutch School, he or she is administered the CORE Phonics Survey within the first two days.  If a student is ready, he or she may also be assessed via a fluency reading passage and running record, and/or a list of common words. Kindergartners are also administered a math baseline assessment. The Primary School teacher frequently contacts the student’s teacher at home and the parents to gain more information. Assessments conducted while the student is enrolled include anecdotal observations, quizzes, informal assessment of daily assignments, conferencing with the teacher, rubrics, self-assessment and writing samples. Students are incorporated into the topics that are being taught as well as long-term projects, and ongoing instruction is also adapted to meet their needs. The progress of students and strategies for supporting them are discussed by the Hutch School team every week during our staff meeting, and whenever needed during the rest of the week. When a Primary student withdraws from Hutch School, the teacher writes a narrative report detailing topics studied, activities, strengths, areas for improvement and recommendations for support for the future as needed.

Content Areas

Students in the Primary Class are taught from all major content areas: Writing, Reading, Math, Social Studies, Science and Arts. Examples of curricula used include the Storypath social studies curriculum “Problems in the Park” and “Soup Company,” and GEMS science kits with topics such as “Honeybees,” “Liquids and Solids,” and “On Sandy Shores.” We also study salmon in the fall to prepare for a field trip to a salmon hatchery. We use a variety of math curricula including TERC Investigations and Everyday Math. Language arts curricula includes Time for Kids, Reading A to Z, First Steps, Scholastic Phonics Readers, CORE, Words Their Way and many other materials created by the teacher. 

Individualized Work/Group Work

Many lessons are taught to the whole group, with students completing assignments at their own present skill level. Examples of whole group lessons or activities are Writers’ Workshop, Science, Social Studies, Music, Arts, Physical Education, Wake-Up Work, Drama and Journal Writing. Math and Language Arts lessons and activities are typically done in small groups based on students’ grade level and/or abilities. The Assistant Primary Teacher and the Primary School Teacher work with small groups and individuals throughout the day. Volunteers work one-on-one with students during Silent Reading and other times of the day. Students who are ready may also pursue independent projects with the help of volunteers. If students have work from their school at home that they need to complete, we can support that. However, it is more typical and advantageous for Primary students to do Hutch School work rather than trying to bring work with them.

Structure of the School Day and Week

A typical day in the Primary classroom begins with independent seatwork (Wake-Up Work). Students then participate in calendar activities, discuss the schedule, sing songs and warm up with brain dance movements.  We do language arts in small groups for about an hour, and then students have snack, Choice Time and read-aloud. The final hour of the morning is usually spent on math. Then students have recess and lunch, followed by Silent Reading. The last hour of the day is focused on science, social studies, Writers’ Workshop, arts, thematic studies, or special projects. We wrap up the day with Journal Writing.

Every week students participate in Group with our social worker. This is an opportunity to talk about the patient in their family, focus on feelings, learn and practice social skills, and give and receive support.

A typical week may also include a field trip to a local museum, theatre, or attraction based on the theme being studied; working with guest artists, actors, poets or musicians; celebrating holidays from around the world; engaging in community service projects; enjoying special events like art shows and luncheons; welcoming new students and celebrating students who are returning to their homes.