Lower School Curriculum
The Lower School curriculum at St. Mark’s is designed to help children develop not only a love of learning but tools for long-term academic success. Our curriculum builds upon the skills and enthusiasm developed in Preschool. The vertically-aligned curriculum in each subject area ensures strong continuity and reinforces skills across the grades.
In grades 1-3, students have one teacher for all core subjects. In grades 4-5, students switch classes and have two teachers for all core subjects. Along with core classes, Lower School students have daily enrichment classes, recess, and P.E.
The goal of first grade is to help children develop a love of learning. Interactive hands-on activities are provided, which gives each child the opportunity to make decisions, solve problems, and practice social skills. Daily instruction and practice are given in listening, critical thinking skills, and effective study habits.
1st Grade Highlights:
- Manners Tea Party
- Introduction to 5th grade Chapel buddies
- Willis-Knighton Health System field trip
- Tyler Zoo field trip (in conjunction with a research project on animals)
3rd Grade Highlights:
- Taste of Louisiana (each kid present an LA food product and bring something to taste)
- Papa Simpson's Farm field trip
- East Texas Oil and Gas Museum field trip in Kilgore, TX (in conjunction with study of rocks and minerals in science)
- Norton Art Gallery field trip about Louisiana culture and art
The fifth grade curriculum is designed to bridge the gap between elementary and Middle School by enhancing, enriching, and extending learning received in earlier grades. We strive to nurture the various learning styles of each child and to prepare them for Middle School with challenging and diverse expectations. We teach communication skills and research techniques that can be relied upon and utilized in their schooling and may continue to be used throughout their adult lives.
5th Grade Highlights:
- 5th Grade Play
- Overnight Houston field trip: Space Center Houston and Houston Museum of Natural Science (in conjunction with study of the history of space in social studies and moon phases/the solar system in science)
- Mansfield Battlefield field trip (in conjunction with Civil War unit)
- Melrose Plantation field trip (in conjunction with Civil War unit)
- 1st grade Chapel buddies
- Navy Tie/Striped Shirt Chapel & Luncheon
- Morning prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and announcements led by 5th graders
- Language Arts
- Social Studies
- Christian Ed
- Physical Ed
In Lower School, we lay the groundwork of strong phonological awareness and develop the fundamental skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Our language arts programs focus on decoding, comprehension, genres of literature, phonics, vocabulary, handwriting (cursive is taught in third and fourth grade), grammar, spelling, writing, and listening skills.
Writing is a critical skill, and developing students with strong writing skills is a top priority for our faculty. Writing mechanics and fluency are introduced in Lower School through journaling and writing assignments. Students learn pre-writing and editing skills to produce final written products.
Second grade students continue with the Superkids Reading Program, a phonics-based reading and writing program, and become independent readers with increased fluency and comprehension skills. Second graders are expected to apply more complex phonics strategies in reading and to recognize different genres in literature.
Third grade students read to learn with the Wonders program. They are motivated and encouraged to become readers of all types of literature and expand their knowledge of varied comprehension skills. They acquire an increased awareness of the importance of reading for pleasure. Cursive is taught in third grade.
Fourth grade students learn about fairy tales and the conventions of fairy tales. They strengthen speaking skills by writing, learning, and performing a monologue based upon a fairy tale. Students also expand their comprehension skills by reading both novels and short stories, which reinforces the skills learned in Wonders.
Students review the parts of speech, the writing process, and how to use reference sources and graphic aids. They continue to learn cursive in fourth grade.
In Lower School, we focus on the fundamental math skills needed for higher math thinking. Our program Math Expressions utilizes hands-on experiences to teach number recognition and number sense. Students develop a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts and high-level problem-solving skills through daily problem-based interactive learning.
Second grade students learn to use numbers in real-world situations such as money, time, and temperature and explore complex addition and subtraction strategies. Topics include:
- Comparing fractions and numbers
- Adding/subtracting 3- and 4-digit numbers
- Making change
- Finding range, median, and mode
- Measurements to the nearest centimeter
- Perimeter and area
Third grade students formulate and determine strategies for problem solving, reinforce higher level addition and subtraction skills, master multiplication, and are introduced to division skills. Concepts of money, fractions, time, and temperature are developed and strengthened. Topics include:
- Linear measures and area
- Multiplication and division
- Measuring angles
- Naming parts with fractions
Fourth grade students reinforce multiplication and division skills. Students are introduced to algebra and geometry concepts. They expand their knowledge of fractions, decimals, and measurement. Topics include:
- Solving multiplication/division problems involving multiples of 10, 100, and 1,000
- Multiplying 3-, 4-, and 5-digit numbers
- Long division
- Adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing decimal numbers
Lower School students explore grade-specific topics by conducting research, reading books, participating in field trips, and listening to outside experts speak to the class. Students experience hands-on activities and labs pertaining to their current science topic in science lab. Fourth grade students tend to and manage the school garden.
The Lower School science lab provides students with the foundations for observing, communicating, measuring, comparing, describing, classifying, predicting, collecting, and interpreting data. The science lab was built to foster curiosity, inventiveness, persistence, and enthusiasm. We want our students to learn by doing and reflecting. The program uses materials from a variety of programs to explore the life, earth and space, and physical sciences.
Lower School students explore the world around them by reading books, engaging in class discussion, participating in field trips and listening to outside experts. Students learn about current events and national holidays.
In Lower School, we aim to nurture self-expression and the art-making process so that students gain an understanding and appreciation of art. Our program progresses through increasingly complex activities of drawing, painting, collage, printmaking, sculpture, and ceramics. Lower School students attend art class weekly.
All students attend Christian education classes weekly, which crosses ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. We focus on instituting a love of learning, a love of self, and a love of our neighbors, as well as the values of integrity, perseverance, compassion, and respect. Christian education classes are planned around Bible characters or themes, always focusing on God’s love for each individual and His covenant with the community of faith. Each grade has a specific service learning experience that teaches the skills of service to others, empathy, kindness, caring, peace, and mercy.
Our Lower School computer curriculum focuses on guiding each child into experiences which will extend his/her understanding about the world of technology. This is accomplished by planning activities that provide opportunities for students to show continuous growth in personal productivity, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration in the classroom and in daily life. Our curriculum is ever-changing to reflect the growth of technology throughout our society which includes block programming and basic robotics.
At St. Mark’s, library experiences go beyond listening to literature and checking out books. The library curriculum integrates a plethora of skills and real-world application. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade learn the importance of the Dewey Decimal System, reading comprehension skills, choosing appropriate level books, as well as developing speaking and listening skills. Students are introduced to a variety of literature genres from nonfiction to Caldecott award winners.
Technology is introduced through age-appropriate activities with internet safety of utmost importance. Fourth and fifth grade delve into using various technologies for research-based activities, utilizing print and electronic reliable resources such as creating brochures, PowerPoint presentations, and creative writing pieces.
Projects build upon classroom learning as well as opportunities to think out of the box and exercise creativity. For instance, in library students become authors utilizing a variety of writing strategies. The teachers and the librarian work together in order for students’ instruction to be presented from multiple perspectives.
It is our privilege to foster the next generation of leaders with a fundamental appreciation and understanding of the arts. Proudly rooted in our traditions of the Episcopal church, we incorporate classical musical components as well as contemporary and modern musical elements so that our students have a well-rounded understanding of music education. We celebrate educational collaboration with the Shreveport Symphony and Shreveport Opera. Above all, it is our goal for every student to learn of the love and joy of music.
Lower School students perform at events throughout the year, including Grandparents' Day, Lessons and Carols, class plays, and more.
Our daily Lower School P.E. program instills an early love of fitness and physical activity. We create a positive and enthusiastic environment that emphasizes individual expression through movement, personal body and spatial awareness, and basic skills. Students are introduced to a variety of sports and team activities.