Lower School students complete seven class periods every day. Academic courses include Literacy Instruction (Reading, Language Therapy, Language Connections, Language Arts, Literature Workshop), Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, and Physical Education. Elective courses are scheduled weekly and include Music, Creative Drama, Visual Arts, Computer Technology, and Study Skills.
Literacy is the ability to read, write, listen with understanding, and speak. The Fairhill Literacy Committee has worked to create an academic program to support the goals of literacy in a way that meets the individual needs of each student.
Language Therapy for Grades 1-6
The Take Flight curriculum is a sequential and structured language program designed to teach reading, spelling, handwriting and alphabet skills. This program was developed by the staff of Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and is based on Orton-Gillingham principles for dyslexia intervention. The multi-sensory program begins with the introduction of the most frequently used sounds and letters and progresses to letter combinations for reading and spelling. Alphabet sequential skills are introduced and refined throughout the curriculum. Sound manipulatives are used to enhance visual and auditory discovery in phonemic awareness and spelling instruction. The emphasis of Take Flight is to create an automatic response to reading, spelling and writing.
Language Connections for Grades 4-6
Based on research on developmental spelling and word knowledge, the framework of the Language Connections class provides an exploration of spelling or orthographic knowledge as words are examined for relationships, sounds, spelling patterns, and meanings. Students examine, manipulate, and categorize words with a discovery approach resulting in more confident, proficient, and joyful readers/writers as literacy skills are developed. This approach will provide students with the skills to retain, internalize and transfer valuable knowledge for improved results in all areas of literacy including written expression. Cursive writing instruction and practice will be incorporated into this curriculum.
Language arts is a developmental language program that progresses from oral expressive language to written language skills. Initial emphasis is placed on relating verbal language to written language through a variety of methods including language experience stories and collaborative writing activities. The application of written language includes the basic rules of punctuation, capitalization, and grammar. Students write in order to understand, share their knowledge, persuade, and entertain.
The reading curriculum is an interactive program that involves both decoding and comprehension. Students are given opportunities to learn, practice, and apply strategies as part of a dynamic process. Instruction is meaning based and integrates listening, speaking, reading, writing, spelling, and critical thinking. A variety of instructional activities accommodate different learning styles and varying language proficiencies. An eclectic approach involves both phonetic and whole language classroom instruction. Class time is divided between use of a literature based text and novel units.
Literature Workshop contributes to students’ learning in five major areas: expanding reading comprehension strategies, learning to think critically, appreciating the aesthetic qualities of literature, developing communication skills, and extending writing skills. Weekly word study is taught to broaden vocabulary. Both independent and group projects and discussions are utilized to enhance and deepen the understanding of literary selections. Students are guided to reflect and evaluate their participation, identify characteristics of quality conversation, and to value interpretations other than their own. Through literature, the writer’s craft is analyzed as students attempt to implement the craft techniques into their own writing.
Additional Core Curriculum
Math instruction focuses on developing number concepts from concrete experiences to abstract understanding. Each concept is introduced at the concrete level with a variety of manipulatives. Instruction progresses through semi-concrete and abstract levels as the student demonstrates an understanding of the concept. In addition to concept development, problem-solving emphasized. Students are taught to think mathematically in order to apply their mathematics understanding and skills to solve problems.
The emphasis of the science program is to expand the students’ base of scientific knowledge as well as develop their abstract thinking skills. Students are given opportunities to observe, measure, infer, make judgments, analyze data, test hypotheses, and conduct experiments. Discussions and experiments focus on learning through guided discovery.
All concepts are introduced and reinforced with a “hands on” approach. Field trips, speakers, movies, and other resources allow students to visualize and apply their knowledge to the outside world.
The content and concepts of social studies involve history, geography, political science, economics, and sociology. Each of these disciplines provides an understanding of human relationships and our world, past and present. The content is introduced and reinforced through a variety of learning modes including dramatizations, discussions, research, and art projects.
The goal of physical education is to develop attitudes, skills, and knowledge of movement that will result in a lifetime participation in physical activity to maintain physical fitness. To attain this goal there is a focus on developing fundamental movement skills and perceptual motor skills. Teaching methods include movement exploration, guided discovery, demonstration, and explanation.
Study Skills is designed to provide students with a wide variety of strategies to assist them in achieving academic success. Throughout the course, focus is placed upon the students’ individual learning styles, and those study techniques which best serve the students’ needs. Emphasis is on organizational skills, reading strategies, listening, note-taking, mnemonics, and test-taking.
The technology program implements educational technologies into the classroom, enhancing the learning process and expanding the skills and capabilities of all students. The students learn word processing, graphic design, spreadsheet applications that include charts and graphs, slide show productions, and research techniques using various electronic reference tools. Content specific software programs support and reinforce the academic curriculum through classroom instruction.
“Creative Drama” is an improvisational, non-exhibitional, process-centered form of drama. Participation in creative drama has the potential to develop language and communication abilities, problem solving skills, and creativity; to promote a positive self-concept, social awareness, empathy, clarification of values and attitudes, an understanding of the art of theatre.
The emphasis of the music program is to create an awareness, appreciation and love of music. Music education provides each student the opportunity to listen, sing, move, create, play instruments, and perform according to individual abilities and interests. Music allows each student to develop concentration, listening skills, and positive self-esteem.
“Visual Art” is expressing and symbolizing concepts within a level of literacy comparable to the verbal and perceptual development of the child. This is achieved through emphases on development of the senses as related to form, texture, color, line, and the many ways in which these elements affect our lives. Full understanding of the elements of art, will result in a “visual literacy” or the ability to express and communicate to others in non-verbal terms.