Reading skills begin through continual exposure to oral, written, and print language using rich literature, influential modeling, and dramatic play in pre-kindergarten. The use of the Let’s Begin with the Letter People interdisciplinary early childhood curriculum gives each Little Flower pre-kindergarten student the chance to experience literature in almost everything they do each day. Development of these skills continues in the primary grades through a combination of methods including phonics, whole-language, and use of an extensive sight-word vocabulary. Phonics instruction in kindergarten introduces beginning and ending consonants and short vowel sounds, syllabification, blends and word-families. Vowel variants, long vowels, diphthongs and sound patterns are introduced in first grade. These concepts, along with prefixes and suffixes, are developed and mastered in second grade. A focus on instructional and story vocabulary improves student performance in language fluency and comprehension. Vocabulary instruction is through modeling and guided practice, through visual cues in a print-rich environment and through integration with other content areas using developmentally appropriate practice. Quality literature and useful writing opportunities are used to develop higher level thinking skills such as inferring, making predictions, drawing conclusions, cause and effect, and using context clues.
Writing is used across all curriculum areas to enhance content understanding and importance to the written word through its use in each learning center area in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten as well as its use in more formal writing through journal writing and report writing in first and second grade. “Letter of the Week” snack is provided by each family in kindergarten to help with literature connections. In first grade and beyond, students are encouraged to read a minimum number of minutes each day. Formal book reports are completed monthly in second grade providing a more in-depth retelling of the book and an oral presentation.
In pre-kindergarten a solid understanding of number sense and basic math functions, including shapes and number recognition, begins the mathematic curriculum in the primary grades. With this basis, the kindergarten students begin the Saxon mathematic curriculum, which is used through sixth grade. Saxon Math uses common language beginning in kindergarten and continuing through sixth grade, which helps students take learned skills from year-to-year. Primary level math skills such as computation, money, time, measurement, graphing, and problem solving are the main focuses in kindergarten. The students in Prekindergarten and Kindergarten, through discovery and inquiry, gain initial awareness of new concepts such as geometry, algebra, and functions. All fundamental math concepts are developed and expanded in first and second grade using the Saxon Math Program with emphasis on problem-solving strategies and mastery of basic math facts. Math skills and processes are taught using real-world experiences and hands-on lessons with age appropriate manipulatives and materials.
Science and Social Studies
Science and Social Studies units serve as integration topics for thematic planning. In the primary grades, Social Studies units move the students from the study of self, to school, to family, to community, and then to our nation. Skills are developed using graphs, maps, flow-charts, time-lines and through a variety of community service projects. Social Studies themes in pre-kindergarten such as We Are All Different and Families Help Each Other include events such as “Celebrate Differences Day,” when parents come into the classroom and, with their students, share with the class something culturally unique that makes them special from other families and the “Helping Hands” challenge which encourages students to give a “helpful hand” each day to a family member. Social Studies themes in kindergarten include projects such as making a Native American vest using Native American language, celebration of Chinese New Year and creating a book all about the farm with families at home. Social Studies themes in first grade include comparing rules from home to school to the community, making a simple timeline of important life events, and community service projects. Social Studies themes in second grade include International Food day, visiting national historic landmark Sotterley Plantation to compare the life of an early American settler’s child to their own life, and a visit to a local strawberry farm to increase agricultural awareness.
Little Flower’s comprehensive Science Curriculum treats learning as not only a product, the collection of facts, but as a creative process. Hands-on activities are designed to bring science to life. Projects and lab experiments in all primary grades increase student critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In pre-kindergarten the Science curriculum is based around the goal to develop the youngest learners’ desire to wonder, ask questions, and make discoveries about their world. In-school field trips such as the Maryland Zoo’s ZOOmobile program help to get students interested in the world around them. With a solid scientific thinking foundation the science units in kindergarten through second grade include: life science (plants and animals), earth science (our earth, our home, weather and sky), and physical science (exploring matter and energy). Classroom activities in kindergarten science, for example experiencing first-hand the life cycle and release of monarch butterflies, keep students engaged in the scientific wonder of our planet. First grade keeps the hands on science curriculum by watching a lima bean seed and following its growth through written and drawn observations making a language arts connection. Second grade students learn about proper hand washing technique through experimenting with germs during the Glo-worm project, where students are shown “germs” using a black light. The Science Curriculum also incorporates the school’s close proximity to the Chesapeake Bay. Primary grade students develop an understanding and appreciation for the Bay and surrounding wetlands. Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students visit Elm’s Beach to learn the importance of taking care of the local waterways and surrounding environments for the survival of awesome sea creatures like the blue crab and other animals friends like the woodland bird and learn to classify shells found during their beach walk. First grade students visit Elm’s Beach to investigate the life cycle of a frog and compare it to the life cycle of a salamander. First grade students also explore the woodland, wetland and beach habitats and identify the animals and plants that live there. Second grade students visit Sotterley Plantation, where they make multiple scientific observations about bees, birds, herbs, and learn how to identify the age of a tree. The school-wide study of the Chesapeake Bay stimulates critical and creative thinking and the ability to make informed, responsible decisions concerning the environment.
The religion curriculum includes the Key Elements of the Catholic religion: Knowledge of Faith, Liturgical Education, Moral Formation, Prayer, Education for living in the Christian Community, and Education for Evangelization and Apostolic Life. In the primary grades, students learn about the ways of Christ and how to follow in His footsteps, to praise and thank God, and develop understanding and knowledge of their own self-worth. Pre-kindergarten students are introduced to major key elements of the faith within topics that help the youngest children develop an understanding of God, His works and teachings, and the development of solid Christian morals. Baptism is the Sacrament first introduced in Pre-kindergarten. All primary students discover the meanings of liturgical celebrations and practices from the Sign of the Cross in Pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten to the introduction of all seven Sacraments in first grade. In second grade, students receive two Sacraments: First Reconciliation and First Eucharist. In addition, all students participate in service projects, daily prayer services, and weekly Masses.
Technology plays a major role in enhancing and expanding the curriculum. Various forms of technology are used by each grade level for research, projects, and assessment. The availability of the computer lab ensures that students and teachers can readily access technology and make it part of curriculum planning. In addition to the computer lab, computer time is integrated daily by use of classroom computers with developmentally appropriate software and applications for young learners. Each classroom also has a SMART board, which is used to enhance instruction.
Our Specials program for students in the primary grades is based on collaboration between our Specials teachers and classroom teachers. Core content is actively reinforced by integrating the Letter of the Week, and major themes into the weekly art, music, and PE lessons. Students are engaged in reinforcing knowledge through differentiated learning.
Our primary grade visual arts classes are standards-based, and provide our younger students with opportunities to explore their physical world. Students experiment with a variety of art materials. Lessons are based on elements of design, touching on color, texture, space, shape and line. Project themes are integrated with core content to reinforce the students’ classroom experience.
Music classes for our primary grade students offer many opportunities for our students to experience music. Some examples are: singing, playing simple rhythmic instruments, listening to and identifying different instruments. Our focus is on experiencing music that reinforces classroom content.
The Physical Education program for Pre-K – 2nd grade is designed to encourage maximum active participation in gross motor activities. In a positive atmosphere, children participate in games and other activities that improve their physical skills, fitness, social development and personal enjoyment. When possible, major themes taught in core classes are integrated into activities.