Curriculum and Methods

Pre-Kindergarten

The Pre-K program is designed to provide children with a nurturing environment and a stimulating and enriching first school experience, emphasizing hands-on instruction while preparing them fully for Kindergarten. The program sees each child as a unique individual and provides experiences to foster the growth of each child’s developmental domains, which include social/emotional, motor, language/communication, and cognition. Through guided play, projects, and group activities, students receive age-appropriate instruction in reading/writing, math, religion, social studies, science, art, music, gym, and library.

Children are naturally curious and interested in their surroundings. They learn through directly manipulating and exploring their environment. Through structured and guided experimentation, our Pre-K program allows children’s critical thinking and problem- solving skills to develop. Through social interactions, children become aware of others’ feelings and opinions and are given the opportunities to express their own in a familiar and accepting environment. This helps to build confidence and good self-esteem. Through religious instruction, children begin to learn about our Catholic faith and are introduced to Jesus, the Holy Family, and the moral teachings of God.

Since learning is an ongoing process, the experiences that children receive in our Pre-K program are the building blocks for success in future academic and life experiences, and help to foster a true love of learning.

Kindergarten

Religion
The basic concept taught in Kindergarten is that God made everyone special and unique and that God loves us. Children learn about Jesus, Mother Mary, and Joseph, as well as the Church, saints, and special religious holidays. In addition, every month each teacher selects a child to be the All around Christian Example.

English Language Arts/Reading
Kindergarteners are taught letter recognition, phonemic awareness and words beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Weekly activities focus on developing the students’ knowledge of letters and sounds. The curriculum also focuses on teaching many high-frequency (sight) words through stories and related literacy-based activities. Children learn how to sound out simple words and read simple sentences and stories, which incorporate many of the learned high-frequency sight words. Listening to stories and responding to them through journaling is also an integral part of the students’ literacy development. Learning to print all letters of the alphabet correctly is also strongly emphasized.

Math
Basic math terms and concepts are introduced in Kindergarten. Students work with numbers 0-31, with greater emphasis on numbers 0-20. Children learn to count sets, identify numbers by sight, and print the numbers correctly. They also learn to classify and categorize objects, work with shapes, do patterning, do measurement using non-standard units of measure, are introduced to fractions, learn about money, and learn to tell time on the hour. They learn to do simple addition and subtraction. Students use various math manipulatives throughout the year.

Science
Kindergarteners study the living environment through the study of daily weather, temperature, and seasonal effects and changes. Seasonal effects on plants and animals are discussed. Students take part in experiments with water and learn about evaporation and what makes objects sink or float. Planting and parts of a flower are studied and students grow their own plants to witness the growing process. Students also learn about animal life cycles and raise and release butterflies. A general respect of the environment is instilled through teaching about recycling and how we can help keep our world clean.

Social Studies
In Kindergarten, the main focus is on the child’s roles and responsibilities in his/her family and community. Children also learn about important historical events and people, as well as holidays.

Play
Students take part in organized group play in centers where children develop social skills and learn to share and cooperate.

Primary Grades

Religion
First graders begin to explore their Catholic faith. They continue to learn about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Family. They become more knowledgeable about the Mass and its importance to our faith. The liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent are explored as ways to become more responsible and caring children of God. The second grade reviews prayers already learned and learns new ones in preparation for Holy Communion. They also learn about the Mass and Scripture. The third grade learns about Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the sacraments, and focuses on the Church as a community.

Every month each teacher selects a child to be the All around Christian Example. In the primary grades, children learn appropriate prayers and each grade prepares and hosts a monthly Liturgy for the school community.

English Language Arts/Reading
First graders are taught decoding skills, sight word recognition, and spelling patterns. Word usage and sentence structure are taught, and writing is practiced. In second grade, children learn the importance and basics of reading, listening, writing, and speaking.
The third grade uses the steps in the writing process and further develops writing skills. Comprehension continues to be emphasized through various reading strategies. Grammar is reinforced.

The importance of reading is valued in the primary grades. Language skills are taught and utilized to develop proficient writers. Handwriting is an integral part of the primary curriculum. Each class has a weekly library period.

Math
First grade students develop number skills such as addition, subtraction, and problem- solving strategies. Students also practice measurement, mathematical reasoning, as well as explore uncertainty and probability. In second grade, children learn how to present, interpret, communicate, and connect mathematical information and relationships. The third grade learns multiplication and division while reinforcing basic math concepts.

All primary grades use manipulatives to help teach and reinforce math concepts and skills.

Science
First grade studies include life science, earth science, and physical science. Children learn through the use of simple research skills, group projects, and experimentation. They are encouraged to question, observe, and expand in their scientific knowledge. The second grade studies the living environment – plants and animals and their interdependence as well as the physical setting – air, water, land, and energy. The third grade life science curriculum focuses on life cycles. Energy and matter are included in physical science.

All primary grades use manipulatives and experimentation to explore and learn about the world around them.

Social Studies
First grade concentrates on the importance of family, citizenship, community pride, and civic awareness. Students work on developing a sense of pride in themselves as they become more responsible within their own school community. Second grade focuses on communities – their history, economics, geography, and citizenship. The third grade focus is on communities around the world. Map skills are reinforced.

All primary grades discuss current events, civic awareness, and national holidays.

Intermediate Grades

Religion
The fourth graders study Creation, the Trinity, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Beatitudes, and the Ten Commandments. They do crafts such as windsocks for Lent, and Easter stained glass windows. The fifth graders’ basic teachings are the mystery of God, Creation, and Jesus, the Word made flesh who lived, suffered, died to free us, and redeem us by drawing us to God in love. They also study the Seven Sacraments with special emphasis on the celebration of the Eucharist. They learn the Beatitudes, Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, reflections on the lives of the Saints, special feast days, Marks of the Church, and the Liturgical year. Sacred Scripture is integrated in all lessons. The sixth grade program focuses on Salvation History as presented in the Hebrew Scriptures culminating in Jesus’ coming. The students are encouraged to develop a personal relationship with God and the Church community through His Son, Jesus. The program includes a variety of prayer forms and an active participation in the liturgy. There is also an emphasis on the various seasons of the Liturgical Year. Above all, the aim is to awaken an awareness within students that God has given them the Holy Spirit and the freedom to choose good and avoid evil. It centers on God’s abiding presence with them on their journey to His Kingdom.

In the intermediate grades the students review familiar prayers and learn new prayers. Each grade organizes a monthly Liturgy of the school community. In addition, student from each class is selected every month as the All around Christian Example.

English Language Arts/Reading
The fourth graders develop and build their writing skills to prepare for the NYS English Language Arts Test. Reading emphasizes comprehension strategies, vocabulary, and literary elements. Listening skills are also developed and reinforced. The fifth graders learn grammar and writing skills. Spelling is integrated in all subjects. Narratives, letter writing, summaries, descriptions, and comparisons are all included in writing skills. Listening skills include group discussions, oral reports, dictations, and overall instructions. Fifth grade reading follows the NYS standards with a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction subject content. The sixth grade English Language Arts program reinforces and expands upon English grammar, usage and mechanics. Creative writing is built around different styles and steps in the writing process. Vocabulary, spelling, and sentence structure are stressed. Sixth grade reading deals with fiction and nonfiction and a wide variety of reading and writing experiences that will enhance the student’s overall ELA education.

ELA in the intermediate grades focuses on developing the student’s reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. Literature appreciation is emphasized throughout the intermediate grades.

Math
Math concepts stressed in the fourth grade are place value, operations, two-step word problems, geometry, fractions, decimals, long division, graphs, and measurement. Manipulatives are used throughout the year to reinforce concepts. As a result the fourth graders, are well prepared for the NYS Math Test. The fifth grade math curriculum follows the NYS Math Standards beginning with number concepts to operations involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Fractions, decimals, ratios, proportion, and percents are all taught at the grade level. Also, measurement, uncertainty and probability are dealt with on a fifth-grade level. The sixth grade reviews and strengthens previous or acquired skills as well as cultivating new ones. Sixth graders develop strategies for solving word problems, reinforce skills in computation, and get familiar with organizing data into a wide variety of graphs, tables, and diagrams. Topics include drawing and measuring angles, properties of different polygons, operations and applications with fractions and decimals, and other areas in measurement, uncertainty, probability, patterns, and functions are also covered. Manipulatives are implemented to strengthen skills.

In the intermediate grades, the curriculum sets a strong foundation anchored in the standards of problem solving/reasoning, numbers and numeration, operations, measurement, geometry, uncertainty, and patterns and functions. The students are provided with a solid basis for math in the junior high levels.

Science
Fourth grade science curriculum includes process skills, animals and plants, the human body, electricity, magnets, and personal health. Students use manipulatives throughout the year to help prepare for the hands-on section of the NYS Science Test. Fifth grade science is concerned with both the living and physical environments. Topics of Life Study include: recognizing the similarities/differences of living things; understanding that organisms and species change over time; understanding how plants and animals depend on the physical environment and how they change the environment, and recognizing the interconnectedness of all living things. Physical Setting topics include: understanding that much of what happens on earth involves interactions among air, water and land; understanding that matter is made up of particles which determine its characteristics; understanding that energy exists in many forms, and recognizing that energy and matter interact through forces that result in change. The sixth-grade curriculum focuses on Physical Science. Students learn about the physical world around them with experiments, demonstrations, and hands-on activities. Topics include the atomic theory, properties of matter and the different states of matter, motion, forces, energy, and solutions. Students learn the role of these things in the physical world as well as the living environment. Sixth graders use the science lab to conduct experiments and to get acquainted with proper lab procedures.

Social Studies
Fourth graders learn about the history and geography of New York State and New York City. They study the resources and people of colonial New York City and State up until the 1900s. The fourth graders discuss current events each week using newspaper articles and an end-of-year project on their favorite topic in social studies. The fourth graders are well prepared for the fifth grade NYS Social Studies test. The fifth graders learn about America’s turning points; colonization and pre- and post-American Revolution by focusing on exploration, encounter, migration, and urbanization. They also study contemporary life in North and South America including the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The sixth grade curriculum covers the Eastern Hemisphere. Students gain insight into the history, geography, and cultures of Asia, Africa, and Europe, from the River Civilizations through the Middle Ages to the present.

All intermediate grades include the NYS Standards of citizenship, government, economics, history, and geography.

Junior High

Religion
Seventh grade’s main focus is on preparation for the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation integrating the life of Jesus, His miracles, His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. They study in depth the Sacred Scripture and Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The curriculum for the eighth grade focuses on promoting the ideals of a meaningful Christian Catholic life, the Church as a mystery of God’s love, and the study of Church history. Through encouraging participation in liturgy, reception of the Sacraments, reading scripture, and the service and support of others, a good foundation of Christian values is instilled.

English Language Arts/Reading
The seventh grade students read, a wide and varied, selection of short stories, poems, and excerpts from novels, plays, and nonfiction works from two textbook readers. Students read and analyze different types of writing, including samples of newspaper articles, journals, essays, and advertisements. For their vocabulary component, students study Greek and Latin roots and morphemes, and words in context. Students use diagrams to increase their understanding of the structure of English, and analyze and edit their own and each other’s writing. Students study and practice various types of writing, which may include editorials, drama scripts, comedy skits, persuasive essays, narratives, interviews, song lyrics, and short stories. Students engage in creative writing to foster fluency and enjoyment. For their speech component, students act, recite, debate, and converse. All activities are designed to increase skills, foster creativity, and nurture a love for the English language.

The eighth grade language arts curriculum aims at an integrated study of reading and writing skills. A literature-based text enables the students to read a variety of genres and exhibit their comprehension by their written and spoken responses. They are encouraged to go beyond the factual text to interpret and analyze material. To enable them to express their responses clearly, they are instructed in grammatical and compositional study, organizational skills of essay writing using proper format, sentence variety, vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. All materials in reading and writing follow the standards set forth by the state to prepare students for the NYS ELA Test. Speeches, oral reports, and poetry develop their speaking skills. Through assigned book reports and various reading from their textbook many written and oral standards are covered.

Math
In junior high, students continue to practice and sharpen the skills mastered in previous years. Previous material is reviewed and applied to more challenging areas of study. Such areas include problem solving, number concepts, operations, analyzing and organizing data in graphs and tables, geometry, graphing, uncertainty and probability, measurement, and functions. Algebra skills are developed and honed and trigonometric ratios and concepts are introduced in eighth grade.

Emphasis is placed on preparation for the eighth grade NYS Math Test as well as giving the students a strong foundation for math in high school.

Science
Seventh grade studies Life Science. Topics include: understanding the life processes common to all living things; recognizing that traits of living things are inherited and acquired or learned; recognizing that there is genetic continuity between generations; appreciating how the differences within a species may give individuals an advantage in surviving and reproducing; understanding the major life stages in the life cycle of plants and animals; recognizing the factors that help promote good health and growth of living things, especially humans; understanding how plants and animals depend on each other and the nonliving environment; how the nonliving environment is changed by living things; and understanding that the sun is a source of energy for living and nonliving cycles.

Eighth grade students study Earth Science. Topics include: understanding that celestial events can be described by the principles of relative motion and perspective; describing the unique features of the planets of our solar system; recognizing that many of the phenomena we observe on Earth involves interactions among components of air, water, and land; understanding that matter is made up of particles whose properties determine its characteristics; describing the properties used to identify minerals; describing the characteristics of types of rocks; understanding how fossil evidence is used to infer information about past life; recognizing that energy and matter interact through forces that result in change. In addition to this curriculum, we also review science topics from past years (5th-7th grades) in preparation for the NYS Science Test.

Science classes are complemented by lab experiments, activities, and demonstrations according to subject matter. Videos, music, posters, models, maps, outside magazines, articles, and computer software/websites are used wherever appropriate.

Social Studies
Seventh grade curriculum focuses on native peoples of the Americas from the Ice Age immigration to European settlements. It continues with the formulation and governing practices of the United States, and the growth and division of the country. Eighth grade curriculum continues the study of the United States, picking up with the reunion of states; the economic, social, and political developments of the country; and its position as the world power and leader of the free world.

Use of lecture, reading, audio-visuals, simulations, projects, dramatization, group work, research, examination and analysis of documents and artifacts, and discussion of current events, civics, and economic topics help prepare students for the NYS Social Studies Test taken at the end of eighth grade.

Lesson development

At St. Thomas the Apostle School, we set clear expectation from both the faculty, students and parents in order to create a collaborative learning environment.

The School is commited to providing a SAFE environment but this is a group effort.

The teacher will:
– Provide an introduction to the lesson.
– Provide students with handouts or manipulatives.
– Guide students through lesson.
– Provide ongoing support and examples.

The students will:
– Engage and interact with teacher during lessons and discussions.
– Use handouts or manipulatives to complete their project.
– Use other resources for completing projects/lessons.
– Ask questions as needed.

The parents will:
– Send student prepared for the day’s learning.
– Schedule time for homework.
– Monitor your child’s work but remember you are not the one going to school.
– Set goals and standards that are realistic.