Instructional Programs

Instructional tools are programs, classroom materials, technologies and supports that teachers utilize to further the curriculum aims of the school.  They are designed to reinforce, introduce and strengthen concepts that are essential to advancement in various subject areas.  Here are a number of instructional tools currently in use at St. Mary's.


Word Study

Word Study, as developed by Invernizzi, Johnston, Bear, and Templeton, is a developmental spelling, phonics, and vocabulary program. Word Study is an approach to spelling and word knowledge that is based on extensive research and includes stages of development and instructional levels that are critical to the way students learn to read and write. Using Word Study instead of traditional "one size fits all" spelling instruction allows teachers to provide differentiated, efficient, and effective instruction in phonics, spelling, and vocabulary, at each student's individual developmental spelling level.

Empowering Writers

Empowering Writers is a comprehensive writing instruction tool used from grades K-8. The aims of this writing tool work in conjunction with the diocesan curriculum standards in the areas of narrative, expository and persuasive writing. This method of instruction, with its common language and instructional support materials, provides a basic framework for written composition. A strong focus is placed on writing across the curriculum as well as integrating real world published media during instruction. St. Mary’s has developed a school-wide plan for instruction which includes grade level benchmarks, assessment portfolio management, and grade level rubrics.  The end purpose is to equip our students with strong foundation skills needed in high school, college and beyond to clearly and effectively communicate using the written word.

Below, you will find rubrics and instructional plans for grades K-8. (The "R" in the instructional plans stands for "Required"

Kindergarten Writing Awareness Rubric

First Grade Writing Awareness Rubric

Empowering Writer's Instructional Plan--Narrative, Grades 2-8

Empowering Writer's Instructional Plan--Expository, Grades 2-8

Empowering Writer's Instructional Plan--Persuasive, Grades 4-8 

Accelerated Reader

Accelerated Reader is an independent reading program that was developed by Renaissance Learning. Students' independent reading level is assessed individually on the computer, by the STAR Reading Assessment, which then assigns each student an independent reading level within a Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). This level is used to help students identify books to read independently at each student's appropriate level. After the student finishes the book, the student takes an AR test on the computer, which looks at how well the student was able to comprehend the book. Students checkout AR books in our school's library, and each book is labeled with its corresponding AR level. For AR reading, students should be checking out books within their ZPD level. Parents also need to monitor the AR books brought home by their child, in order to make sure the content and/or themes addressed in the book are appropriate for their child's age and grade level. AR is a great way to foster a love of reading, as well as improve fluency and comprehension for each student.

Parents can look at AR Book Finder in order to find books with AR quizzes and/or the AR level of a book.

Reading Success is as Easy as 1-2-3 with AR

  • Student Reads a Book. Students choose books at their appropriate reading level and read them at their own pace. Visit AR BookFinder to search for available titles.
  • Student Takes a Quiz. Accelerated Reader Enterprise offers more than 140,000 quizzes to help you motivate and monitor students’ reading performance and vocabulary growth.
  • You Get Information. You get immediate feedback on the reading and vocabulary progress of each student.


Instruction is a balance of teaching skills including instant recall of math facts, combined with developing an in-depth understanding of mathematical concepts, problem solving, and higher order thinking skills.  In grades K-5, we ensure all students have a foundation for understanding computation, number sense, basic geometry, data analysis, and algebraic concepts.  Students in grades 6-8 have the opportunity for advanced math placement including pre-algebra, algebra, and geometry.  This placement is based on criteria established by the Office of Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Arlington.  The criteria is outlined in the Parent-Student Handbook, which can be found in the Parent Community area of this website.

Letters Alive

With the goal of teaching children to read, Letters Alive is a supplemental reading program designed for pre-k and kindergarten students. Letters Alive applies research-based, best practices of phonics curriculum, in a way that is engaging and interactive for early learners. Using classroom technology, students interact with a kingdom of 26 entertaining, intelligent animals — each representing a letter of the alphabet — who virtually come alive in the hands of students. In this computer-based, experiential learning environment, students quickly establish strong connections between the letters and the animals they represent. In addition, the students can easily learn the meanings of sight words and see how those words are used in sentences.