We offer a robust curricula for our Elementary School students, combining both Classical and Core Knowledge principles for a comprehensive elementary experience.
Balanced Literacy Program Using Guided Reading and Classical Literature
The school uses the Scholastic Guided Reading Program, whereby teachers support the student reader’s development of effective strategies for processing texts at increasingly challenging levels of difficulty. Additional reading curricula includes Phonics, Vocabulary and Word Study K-5, Grammar 1-5, Penmanship K-5, and Writing integrated in all subject areas. Classical Literature selections are introduced through the Core Knowledge Sequence in grades K – 5.
The Singapore Math curriculum was developed by the country of Singapore as introductory mathematics for kindergarten through sixth grade in the 1980’s. In this model, students learn fewer math concepts in much greater detail and they learn them in a three-step process. The first step is concrete learning, where students use hands-on objects such as disks or connecting cubes. The second step is pictorial. It involves drawing pictures as visual representations of math concepts, grounding the student in heuristic modeling. The third step is analytical in which students solve math problems in an abstract way by replacing those visual representations with numbers and symbols.
Similar to the classical trivium, Singapore math builds knowledge upon preceding levels of knowledge and skills, with students mastering broader concepts before moving on to new ones so they do not need to be retaught these skills at the next grade level. By the end of Fifth Grade, Singapore math students have already mastered multiplication and division of fractions and are comfortable doing difficult multi-step word problems. Singapore Math adds greater depth to math instruction and improves students’ mastery of basic math concepts such as number sense and operations. Children learn at their own level and progress at their own pace. Flexible grouping according to student performance levels enables teachers to work more closely with each individual student, and students are accountable for their own success.
National Geographic Science
The National Geographic Science curriculum is used for all students in Kindergarten through 5th grade. This sequence of study, from the highly regarded National Geographic Society, is strongly grounded in STEM education – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Through hands-on inquiry based activities students explore Earth, Life and Physical Sciences with technology integration. This includes live Skype sessions with National Geographic Explorers in their field of study. Using technology in the sciences supports making connections to real word science exploration and research with experts in multiple disciplines that impact the world in which we live.
Why do we use this curriculum?
- It immerses students in the nature of science and inquiry.
- It unlocks the big ideas of science for all learners.
- It builds scientific and content literacy.
- It promotes STEM inquiry and skills development.
Core Knowledge holds that early elementary education is the best time to introduce the study of language structures. Language structures, in turn, serve as the foundation for understanding the increasingly complex vocabulary, concepts, and paradigms of more advanced studies. Latin instruction is taught all grades at SHPA, including Kindergarten, as part of students’ studies in Classical Education. Our Latin program is content rich, drawing from the cultural influences, texts, and history which shaped the language.
Music and Visual Arts
Music and the arts are essential complements to both our greater school vision for educating the whole person through study of the liberal arts and the Core Knowledge Scope and Sequence. An early introduction to the arts provides students with opportunities to sing, dance, listen, express, draw, create, and act in an atmosphere that encourages self-confidence, personal expression, greater participation and assists with skills development, and subject mastery. Our music and visual arts programs impact the academic achievement, high level thinking, and well-rounded nature of SHPA students.
SHPA student have physical education regularly. Our PE program is designed to reflect National Standards for growth and development in the areas of physical fitness and nutrition, social and emotional health, motor skill acquisition, and intellectual skill and concept development. The body’s response to physical exercise improves student performance and success in the classroom by stimulating brain function, visual and physical acuity, improving physical, mental, and social health.
SHPA integrates technology in teaching and learning. All classrooms are equipped with projectors, document cameras, and an iPad to enhance student learning and engagement. Technology furthers class instruction through use of videos, WebQuests, interactive lessons, research projects, and academic interventions for struggling learners. More specifically, technology is used in the following ways for each subject:
Math — Online virtual manipulatives, websites, and iPad apps to reinforce, extend and enrich their learning (Website examples: Think Central, IXL, sumdog.com)
Social Studies — Educational videos to highlight key concepts from the unit (Website examples: BrainPop and BrainPop Jr., virtual tours, webquests)
Science — Educational videos to highlight key concepts from the unit (BrainPop and BrainPop Jr. and other science videos, and skyping with National Geographic scientists)
We also teach basic technology skills to all our students. They receive weekly instruction from our Media Specialist in different computer programs, iPad applications, and typing. Additionally, online learning resources are part of class assignments. Laptop carts are available for checkout by teachers to use with all students in Grades Kindergarten through Third. All Fourth and Fifth Grade students have daily access to laptops in their classrooms for completing assignments, projects, research, etc., and to prepare to take the state’s online Science tests.
In the 21st Century, some call this skill old fashioned and argue that it is no longer necessary in a computer age. We disagree. There are many excellent reasons why we still teach cursive writing. These are developmental, functional, educational, cultural, and practical.
Writing in cursive requires specific functions from parts of the brain that are different from those used for printing or keyboarding. By teaching our students to write in cursive at an appropriate time in their cognitive growth, we are developing these separate parts of the brain. Cursive writing also offers a second chance for those students who struggle with printing because cursive letter formation is taught at an older age – at a developmental stage when students are able to understand differences in letter formation and manage more complex dexterity skills.
There are several other benefits to learning cursive writing:
- Cursive is a basic form of writing the English language for all English-speaking nations. We expect all our students to be literate in all forms of our language.
- Cursive writing is part of our Classical curriculum and connects students to the past. Knowing how to write well remains the hallmark of an educated person.
- This writing form is a skill for life. As our students become adults, signatures are a critical component for legally binding commitments. Without a signature, we cannot fully participate in these relationships or fully engage in our responsibilities as citizens.
- Cursive writing develops hand muscles and manual dexterity skills.
- Cursive is faster than printing as alignment and spacing require less lifting of the pen or pencil, saving both time and work.
- Cursive writing is an important form of self-expression. Our own signatures are unique to us and are immediately recognizable as ours by others.