The Lower School curriculum is designed to provide interest, challenge and achievement as we strive to help students develop individual abilities in a safe and nurturing environment. Differentiated instruction is incorporated in the classroom setting to address students' individual needs and learning styles.
Students in prekindergarten through third grade work in self-contained classrooms for the core subjects. They attend classes with resource teachers for music, physical education, library, religion, technology, science, art and Spanish. Prekindergarten and kindergarten classrooms have assistant teachers. The Lower School chaplain leads chapel services while the religion teacher teaches religion classes. Fourth and fifth grade students are introduced to departmentalization as they rotate through the core subjects, and they attend resource classes in music, physical education, religion, technology, science, art, library and Spanish. Homeroom remains the focal point for their co-curricular activities.
Pre-K at St. Martin’s means hands-on fun, learning, and exploring. Our whole child philosophy in Pre-K encourages the growth of each child intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. This philosophy is integrated in the teachings of the various Pre-K units with our highlight being Community Day. Our Pre-K is a literature rich, challenging, and developmental program with emphasis on the importance of play. We concentrate on reading readiness skills which include phonological and phonemic awareness to teach the alphabet and letter sounds. Application of this skill is executed through dictated stories and journal writing. Handwriting is also taught with focus on left to right correspondence, proper pencil grip, and top to bottom letter formation. Age-appropriate fine motor skills are further developed through multi-sensory activities and experiences. Mathematical concepts are introduced through a variety of experiences using manipulatives and other hands-on activities to help strengthen each child's conceptual knowledge of numbers. Practice in counting, patterning, sorting, graphing, simple addition and subtraction and measurement are embedded within our many units of study.
The kindergarten curriculum places emphasis on social emotional development. We want our students to cooperate, use manners, problem solve and develop skills to aid in conflict-resolution. We work with our students to compromise and exercise patience with their peers.
We work with students through meaningful hands-on activities in math and language arts striving for independence and understanding. Children practice letter sounds, rhyming, invented spelling, and blending skills. They are introduced to high-frequency words as we also practice comprehension and cause and effect. Through child-centered games, activities, and manipulatives children practice sequencing, one-to-one correspondence, number sense and beginning addition and subtraction skills. Included in this curriculum are number writing, solving number stories, measurement and an introduction to money.
In first grade, the emphasis is on learning word attack and decoding skills, word recognition, basic comprehension skills and reading fluency using the “Reading Street” curriculum. Spelling is an integral part of our language arts curriculum. In addition, the students have increased opportunities for expressive language experiences and creative writing through the Step Up to Writing program.
The first grade math curriculum includes basic addition and subtraction skills with an emphasis of mastering addition facts using the newly adopted math series “Math in Focus”. Students learn one-to-one correspondence, graphing, fractions, word problems, simple geometry, measurement, time and the value of coins and currency. All of these skills are reinforced using the “Everyday Counts Calendar Math” program.
In the first grade, children learn about self-esteem, develop an understanding for the need for rules and their responsibility within the family and the school environment and learn about the world around them. They study the lives of the Pilgrims culminating with a Pilgrim's Day celebration. Students “travel the world” through a Flat Stanley unit of study. The students study and follow mushers in the Iditarod race while learning about Alaska. We end the year with an emphasis on the French culture. Students enjoy learning about the connections between our state and France.
In our reading units, we introduce new vocabulary, develop reading fluency and build comprehension skills. We discuss the main idea, characters, and setting of a story. We introduce the plot of a story and drawing conclusions. We learn the differences in fantasy and realism. We use Accelerated Reader to further build comprehension skills while giving the students the opportunity to choose their reading material.
In our writing units, we write weekly journal entries and creative writings. We explore Haiku poems, acrostic poems, rhyming poems, rebus poems, and listing poems. We use the Step Up to Writing program to further build the students writing skills. The students are taught how to organize a paragraph using a topic sentence, details, examples and a closing sentence. Transitions words are introduced and used by midyear. Students are taught how to write and use an outline. By the end of the year, a second grade student understands proper paragraph format includes a topic sentence, details, transitions and a closing sentence.
In our grammar units, we review proper sentence structure and the different types of sentences. We introduce nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns and comma usage.
In handwriting, we review all of the manuscript letters. The students learn all of the cursive letters and begin writing in cursive the last two months of school.
In math, students are expected to have mastery of their addition and subtraction facts by the end of second grade. The students begin the year exploring numbers to 1,000 and place value. The students learn 3-digit addition and subtraction with and without regrouping, and we introduce multiplication and division. The students expand their knowledge of patterns and explore functions. The students learn linear measurement, mass, and volume using metric and customary units. The students learn how to estimate to the nearest 10’s. The students explore money, time, fractions, and geometry.
In social studies, the students learn about current events each week when reading Time for Kids magazine. The students are introduced to mapping skills and learn how to properly read a map. In the spring, the students complete a Louisiana unit including state symbols, major cities and bodies of water, bordering states, and wildlife. The culminating activity is Louisiana Day where the students put on a fais-do-do, cook Louisiana cuisine, and the Audubon Zoo Wetlands Express brings native animals and artifacts.
The third grade curriculum cultivates learners who take responsibility and accountability for their personal academic success. In reading and language arts, we focus on building comprehension through novel and text discussions, summary writing, and fluency. Students integrate cross-curriculum learning to enhance and develop skills and ensure understanding. Spelling, vocabulary, and grammar are incorporated into writing with the guidance of writing curriculum, Step Up with Writing. Emphasis in social studies is placed on understanding the regions through effective outlining, working collaboratively in teams, and presenting content learned. Mathematics is taught with a Singapore approach, Math in Focus. Students continue to develop conceptual understanding in math. Concepts are taught through concrete, pictorial, and abstract learning. Algebraic thinking and expressions are introduced early on and used frequently to prepare students as they transition out of lower school and into middle.
Emphasis is placed on developing critical thinking, comprehension, and fluency. The curriculum centers around the Reading Street basal reader and selected novels such as In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, Tuck Everlasting, Number the Stars, and Esperanza Rising. Independent reading is encouraged both in school and at home.
Children learn to write complex sentences using descriptive phrases. They organize and develop coherent paragraphs with topic sentences and descriptive details. Children write book reports, descriptive, expository, persuasive, and creative compositions. The Step up to Writing program is the foundation of the writing program in the lower school.
Grammar lessons reinforce and extend the skills taught in third grade. By the end of the year, students will be able to demonstrate a working knowledge of the eight parts of speech. Students will also learn to use both quotation marks correctly and commas in direct address, in series, and in compound and complex sentences.
High frequency words and words commonly misspelled in student writing are emphasized. Vocabulary Workshop is the basis for the vocabulary curriculum as well as important vocabulary terms taken from novels read in class.
Using the Math in focus curriculum, children review number operations and place value with whole numbers and decimals as well as review multiplication and division of greater numbers. Students also further explore fractions. Problem solving skills and practical applications are emphasized throughout the year.
History focuses on North America with its primary emphasis on early American history. Students learn about Native American tribes, early European settlements, and the founding of the United States using The Early Years text by Houghton Mifflin.
The enrichment program for lower school offers many age-appropriate activities for our students. Activities center around fine arts and music, also offering language arts and movement activities. We have also developed activities based in science, technology, and math. New classes are offered each semester and families have the opportunity to find something to fit their child’s interests and schedule.
The Lower School Learning Center at St. Martin's Episcopal School provides support to students Pre-k through Fifth grade. Our academic resource specialists monitor students' progress throughout the school year and provide individual and small group support in Reading as warranted. The specialists collaborate with teachers to develop instructional strategies to meet students individual needs. In addition, our specialists make referrals for psychological/educational/language testing as well as referrals for additional outside support (such as occupational therapy and speech-language therapy). The specialists facilitate appropriate accommodations for students with psychological/academic/language evaluations and coordinate extended time for standardized testing.