Our Kindergarten is a child-centered program where curriculum is structured to take advantage of a child's natural abilities, interests, and enthusiasm for learning. At this level, children are still learning to handle daily school routines such as moving between classrooms and adjusting to different teachers for special subjects.
Classroom skills such as sharing, taking turns, accepting responsibility for belongings, and knowing when to speak and listen are integrated into daily activities. The goal over the course of the year is to encourage children to become more independent, confident, and sensitive to others. Curtis strives to help children learn to recognize and value their own unique abilities, personalities, family backgrounds, and learning styles – as well as those of their classmates.
The Kindergarten language arts curriculum forms the foundation for students to become strategic readers. Reading readiness skills are interlaced within every activity. At this age, children show a natural interest in books, storytelling, role-playing, poems, riddles, and songs. We use a Balanced Literacy approach that emphasizes decoding skills and comprehension skills within the context of authentic reading experiences. We believe it is important for children to learn letter-sound relationships and use them to figure out new words. However, we do not subscribe to a “phonics-first” approach where children’s reading materials are limited by the letter sounds the teacher has introduced. We teach students to use the three cueing systems – meaning, structure, and graphophonics – together as a group of strategies, rather than in isolation. Giving students daily, extended periods of time to read books that are appropriately supportive and challenging allows them to practice the whole act of reading and experience how all parts work together. Teachers can accurately match leveled trade books with individual students by using running record assessments that indicate a reader's "just right" level. Areas of focus include concepts of print, phonemic awareness, decoding and word recognition, vocabulary and concept development, fluency, comprehension and literary analysis, the writing process, handwriting, and listening and speaking. Comprehension skills are primarily developed through discussion, which helps students recognize characters, themes, sequences, and details in a story.
There is no other discipline that will build a child’s reasoning skills, like, math. Moreover, we believe a child’s attitude about math is the most important part to understanding math. Our math program is built on the Singapore Math approach. The key principles of understanding are:
- Number Sense;
- Metacognition [understanding of your own thought processes];
- Visualization [visualize multiple ways of getting to an answer];
- Generalization [applying known to unknown!]; and,
- Communication [explain & justify your thinking—and, practice the ability to take on another person’s understanding!]
We believe that there’s a difference between “finding the answer” & “understanding the math.” In our math program, we apply sophisticated thinking, even when the numbers are small; sometimes, big thinking, in the context of small numbers is the best way to develop deep understanding.
When we teach computational fluency, we foster skills in:
- Flexibility, and,
- Efficiency (the practice of matching a strategy to a situation)
In the first anti-bias unit of the school year, Kindergarten explores the “Physical World Around Us―A Celebration of Skin Colors” [adopted from the Pollyanna Racial Literacy Curriculum]. The children learn that, just as our physical world is filled with color, we also create meaning from color. Color is also a part of culture and how we may identify. Color is something we can celebrate. Our anti-bias workshops continue with the mixing of skin paint colors. After reading the text, The Colors of Us, children are asked to describe their skin using flavors, foods, scents, seasons etc. (creamy peanut butter, peachy tan, honey, reddish brown like leaves in fall, hot cocoa). We explain that when people have less melanin, their skin is lighter; and, when people have more melanin, their skin is darker. By starting with brown paint, and adding white or black, the students’ desired “shade” or “tint” is achieved. Next they label their paint with skin tone names. Inspired by the artist/photographer Angelica Dass, self-portraits are drawn in art and displayed in the Kindergarten Everyday Heroes Show.Science
Students are encouraged to work as young scientists using an inquiry method. Inquiry is central to what it means to be a learner: a curious and involved person. Students also benefit from, and are motivated by, being able to pursue answers to questions they ask. Engaging in active investigation and analytical thinking, they learn how to implement experiences and advance their scientific understanding as they develop hypotheses, take risks, and record their results. The science curriculum is developmentally appropriate and interdisciplinary in scope.
Using many of the ideas and concepts from the Council for Elementary Science International, California Department of Education Science framework and the National Science Teachers Association, the Lower School Science program focuses on four areas of curriculum:
- Investigation and Experimentation
- Physical Science
- Earth Science
- Life Science
Technology at Curtis is not taught as a separate discipline. Instead, students absorb technology skills by using computers in the classroom and the lab. The focus is on teaching computer concepts and skills that can be applied regardless of platform or application. The technology specialist works closely with the classroom teacher to develop lessons to support the curriculum, and teachers remain in the lab with their students during the lab sessions. The technology program for Lower Elementary (Grades DK-2) focuses on six major concepts:
- Technology Awareness
- Word Processing
- Painting/Drawing/Graphic Skills
- Network Awareness
- Introduction to Multimedia