Program

Lower Elementary Academics

Curtis School's Lower Elementary division offers a vigorous curriculum from Developmental Kindergarten through 2nd Grade. We inspire a love of learning by providing instruction that challenges young minds and develops confidence through problem-solving experiences.

List of 1 items.

  • Our Approach

    Our approach fosters the young child's natural curiosity and nurtures each child's emotional and social growth in order to establish a foundation for intellectual development. Teachers in the Lower Elementary focus on helping children develop habits of heart and mind that lead to lifelong learning. We teach children how to incorporate patience, curiosity, perseverance, and passion into all that they do. Understanding and practicing the values of kindness, honesty, and respect, along with our monthly Life Skills, are at the core of all learning. As a family school, we celebrate the richness of a variety of cultures and the unique perspectives that diversity offers. The social and academic development of students is supported by character-building skills that help children succeed long after they leave the Lower Elementary and throughout their lives.
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Our Curriculum

List of 4 items.

  • Developmental Kindergarten

    There has been a rapid shift from play-centered Kindergartens to academic-centered classrooms. It is our goal in Developmental Kindergarten to create a stimulating environment, both socially and academically, that bridges the gap. We strive to create authentic learning experiences that allow children to develop both independently and in groups. It is a year to foster social skills and expand upon children's innate enthusiasm for learning.

    Language Arts
    Whether your child learns to read before, during, or after Developmental Kindergarten, try to remember that the timing is the least important aspect. What is important is that your child engages in activities that are meaningful and relevant to his or her level of development. Areas of focus in language arts development include: concepts of print, phonemic awareness, introduction to decoding and word recognition, vocabulary and concept development, comprehension, writing, and listening and speaking. By meeting the needs of students on an individual basis, Curtis hopes to foster a love for reading, writing, and learning in general.

    Math
    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:
    • Accuracy,
    • Flexibility, and,
    • Efficiency (the practice of matching a strategy to a situation)

    Social Studies
    Students in DK begin to demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social identities. The world focuses so much on differences. Even more powerful, perhaps, is the practice of finding similarities of the self as compared to others. While understanding opposites is a foundational aspect to the DK curriculum (i.e, hot and cold, up and down, white and black), taking time to underscore similarities is an essential practice for creating more inclusive perspectives and communities.

    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
    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
    • Keyboarding
    • Word Processing
    • Painting/Drawing/Graphic Skills
    • Network Awareness
    • Introduction to Multimedia
  • Kindergarten

    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.

    Language Arts

    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.

    Math

    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:
    • Accuracy,
    • Flexibility, and,
    • Efficiency (the practice of matching a strategy to a situation)
    Social Studies
    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
    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
    • Keyboarding
    • Word Processing
    • Painting/Drawing/Graphic Skills
    • Network Awareness
    • Introduction to Multimedia
  • 1st Grade

    1st Grade is a time of uninhibited wonder, enthusiasm for learning, and breathtaking, rapid growth. The social, emotional, and intellectual identities that children construct for themselves during this period go a long way toward determining the subsequent trajectories of their lives.

    Language Arts

    Learning to read is one of the most important skills that a student develops during their early academic years. The skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking are essential tools for everyday learning. When students develop greater competence in reading and writing, their motivation to achieve increases. In our language arts curriculum, we use authentic reading experiences within a Balanced Literacy framework to meet the individual needs of students.

    We believe it is important for children to learn letter-sound relationships and use them to figure out new words; however, we don’t 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. By giving students daily, extended periods of time to read books that are appropriately supportive and challenging, they get to practice in 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, which indicate a reader’s Just Right level. Our goal is to provide effective methods and strategies for each student, to promote mastery of fundamental decoding skills, fluency, and to establish a foundation for deeper levels of comprehension.

    1st Grade students develop their writing skills within the context of Writers Workshop, where students create individual pieces of writing, in a variety of genres. Individual students confer with a teacher on each stage of the writing process (planning, drafting, revising, editing and publishing). Additionally, students practice proper sentence structure and the fundamentals of good grammar, including capitalization and punctuation. At this stage, students begin to spell more conventionally, but invented spelling is still evident. Our word study curriculum focuses on understanding and applying spelling patterns.

    Math
    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:
    • Accuracy,
    • Flexibility, and,
    • Efficiency (the practice of matching a strategy to a situation)
    Social Studies
    1st Grade explores the Anti-Bias unit “Encouraging Kindness, Social Awareness, and Empathy.” First, children learn that our families are comprised of three essential ingredients: kindness, empathy, and love. Next, in order to enhance communication and social skills, classroom discussions and activities aim to examine the roles we play in larger groups and the impact we can have on the well-being of our peers in the classroom. Furthermore, aspects of identity are explored, such as names and cultures/ethnicities, with the goal of developing a sense of pride and a positive awareness of others. By exploring identities, 1st Graders are learning that who we are is an evolving process of discovery and celebration. Later, students explore the concept of inclusivity and “visibility.” Acknowledging that many of us have experienced feeling like an outsider at some point in our lives, students learn that by advocating for ourselves and for others, we can build a more inclusive community.

    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
    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
    • Keyboarding
    • Word Processing
    • Painting/Drawing/Graphic Skills
    • Network Awareness
    • Introduction to Multimedia
  • 2nd Grade

    2nd Grade is a year in which students become increasingly independent in a variety of ways. Their self-esteem grows by being responsible for their own assignments and materials, and by organizing and completing their own projects. They become more independent readers as they develop mature literacy skills and the tools to explore varied genres of literature. 2nd Graders also apply sophisticated word study techniques, and develop "authorship." Students also become more independent thinkers as they constantly relate mathematical principles to the world.

    Language Arts

    The overall goal of the language arts program is to develop confident and independent readers and writers who take pride in their abilities and experience joy in sharing their accomplishments with each other and the larger school community. Additionally, we stress the importance of a balanced program determined by each student's individual skill level. Fluency and comprehension are at the core of reading development.

    Best reading practices are taught and implemented in environments that support, enhance and reinforce those practices, as well as nurture students' natural abilities and learning styles. Students meet regularly in guided reading groups to practice strategies to improve decoding, fluency and comprehension. Our writing program emphasizes a free flow of student ideas without the anxiety of making spelling errors. Students are encouraged to sound out words and write them, just as they would sound them out to read. Student work goes through the writing process: planning, drafting, revision, editing, and publishing. During the revision stage, students are expected to spell grade-level words correctly. Students confer with their teachers often, and at all stages of the writing process. As confidence builds, the Six Traits of good writing (ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions) are introduced for students to learn how to deepen their own writing practices. The Writing Workshop provides further opportunity for a literature-rich environment, as the published works of our own students are used as Read Alouds to demonstrate good writing and authorship.

    Math

    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:
    • Accuracy,
    • Flexibility, and,
    • Efficiency (the practice of matching a strategy to a situation)

    Social Studies
    2nd Graders learn that in order to build an inclusive community, we must be encouraged to nurture positive social behaviors in each other by having and showing appreciation for others and for ourselves. Lessons focus on the concept that showing kindness and respect for others may not only impact another person, it can also impact our own self-worth and improve our own happiness and joy. 2nd Graders participate in lessons this trimester that focused on exploring identities in literature as well as examining their own, personal identities. For example, students construct identity webs and identity icebergs, which helps answer the question “Who am I?” Classroom projects develop students’ awareness of each other’s uniqueness in addition to noticing the connections students have with each other. Lessons on the topic of consent [i.e., What are the different ways we say “yes/no” in this class?] are also introduced.

    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
    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
    • Keyboarding
    • Word Processing
    • Painting/Drawing/Graphic Skills
    • Network Awareness
    • Introduction to Multimedia

Curtis School

15871 Mulholland Drive  ·  Los Angeles CA 90049
310-476-1251