Our approach fosters the young child's natural curiosity and nurtures each child's emotional and social growth to establish a foundation for intellectual development. Teachers in the Lower Elementary focus on helping students develop habits of heart and mind that lead to lifelong learning. We teach students how to incorporate patience, curiosity, perseverance, and compassion 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. In our classrooms, we celebrate students' unique identities and appreciate the diverse perspectives and experiences of all in our community. Combining social and academic skills helps students succeed long after leaving Lower Elementary and throughout their lives.
In Lower Elementary, Curtis students experience intentional literacy instruction that involves an explicit and systematic phonics program, coupled with language-rich reading opportunities to develop background knowledge and vocabulary. Students develop phonemic awareness, knowledge of connection between letters and letter combinations, and sight recognition. In addition, students engage with a wide variety of genres through whole-group modeling, interactive read-aloud, strategic small-group work, and individual conferences. Through the workshop model, students learn to write in different genres and for various purposes.
There is no other discipline that builds a student's reasoning skills like math. In addition, we believe a child's attitude about math is an important part of understanding math. Our math program is built on the Singapore Math approach of concrete-pictorial-abstract. Students build conceptual understanding using physical manipulatives and sense-making visuals before delving into abstract numbers and symbols on a page. The key principles of understanding are:
- Metacognition [understanding of your own thought processes]
- Visualization [visualize multiple ways of getting to an answer]
- Generalization [applying known to unknown]
- Communication [explain & and justify your thinking—and practice the ability to take on another person's understanding]
We believe there's a difference between "finding the answer" and "understanding the math." In our math program, we apply sophisticated thinking, even when the numbers are small, which helps to develop deep understanding. When we teach computational fluency, we move away from rote memorization and instead emphasize accuracy, flexibility, and efficiency (the practice of matching a strategy to a situation). Our program emphasizes flexibility and perseverance in problem-solving and encourages students to explain and model their mathematical thinking in various ways so that they may choose the most efficient strategy for the situation at hand.