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Curriculum and Instructional Programs

RELIGION

Catholic education refers to the totality of the Church's efforts to make disciples, to help all believe that Jesus is the Son of God so that believing they might have life in his name, and to educate and instruct them in this life, in order to build up the body of Christ. (CF. CCC 4)

An integral part of Catholic Education is catechesis. "Catechesis is an education in the faith of children, young people, and adults which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted, generally speaking, in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of the Christian life." (CCC 5) The Guidelines for Religious Education are structured around a center; the mystery of the Blessed Trinity and of Christ as expressed in the 4 Pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

  • The Profession of Faith--Creed
  • The Celebration of the Christian Mystery--Sacraments
  • Life in Christ--Commandments and the Moral Life
  • Christian Prayer--Prayer

These guidelines are intended to assist catechists in fulfilling the mission of the Church to educate her children in the fullness of the Catholic Faith: to believe what the Creed teaches; to participate in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church; to live a life of love for God and neighbor; and to pray to the Father through Jesus, His Son, in the Holy Spirit. Click here to review the Diocesan Religion

LANGUAGE ARTS

The language arts program is the foundation of academic instruction in the Catholic elementary school. Retaining our Catholic identity is critical in the selection of reading and writing materials that we utilize with the students. Success in all areas of learning relies on competency in the four areas of language: reading, writing, speaking and listening. In working toward this goal, recognition of varying learning styles, developmental levels and teaching methods is essential.

Language mastery best develops when a program provides systematic and sequential skills instruction along with the opportunity to interact with a variety of literary genres. Familiarity with the scope and sequence of skills as well as with an assortment of materials is a requirement for successful instruction. The implementation of a sound language arts program must be carefully formulated, articulated and integrated into each content area of the curriculum. This approach will help to build confidence and support for each student.

MATHEMATICS

The Mathematics Curriculum Objectives outline the essential components of the Math curriculum for each grade level (K-8) for Diocese of Arlington Catholic Schools. Additionally, the overall academic, personal, spiritual and physical development of the child is an integral part of these objectives.

At each grade level, students are expected to recognize and make meaningful connections with the seven Principles of Catholic Social Teaching: Life and Dignity of the Human Person; Call to Family, Community, and Participation; Rights and Responsibilities; Option for the Poor and Vulnerable; Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers; Solidarity; Care for God’s Creation. The incorporation of these principles at each grade-level curriculum is accomplished by references to them throughout the school year in word problems, cooperative learning tasks, and teacher commentary, thereby providing our students with additional contexts for developing a deep appreciation for them.

Mathematics is recognized as a great example of the expansion of God’s gift of the human mind for the betterment of all mankind. In today’s global society, we are challenged to fully understand and expand mathematical accomplishments to assure a peaceful, productive and more equitable world. Everyday lives are increasingly mathematical and technological. Understanding and applying quantitative skills and solving real-life problems are essential educational goals for all students, regardless of heritage, language, aptitude, talents, needs, or interests. Therefore, all students must be given the opportunity to learn and understand mathematical concepts. Teaching strategies and learning experiences must be varied, meaningful and engaging to students.

In our increasingly technological world, students need to be exposed to and know how to correctly use new tools, communication media and technology to solve cross-curricular mathematical problems. Technology, however, should not be a substitute for the understanding of concepts. Mastery of computational skills should be accomplished at the appropriate grade level as outlined in these objectives. Development of critical thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving skills is recommended in accordance with age-appropriate development of such higher-level thinking skills. It is through communication and collaboration that we will advance our students towards a deeper appreciation and knowledge of mathematics.

SOCIAL STUDIES

As Catholic educators in the field of social studies, we believe that there is an integral connection between this subject and the social teachings of the Church and of Scripture. It is our privilege and our duty to deepen the awareness of this connection in ourselves and in our students. In teaching this social studies curriculum, we will explore the rights and duties of citizenship, the arts and culture of people past and present, the world's geographic and environmental features, the economics of the global community, the struggles of the most vulnerable people in society, and the principles of global solidarity and tolerance for differences.

We believe that we are called to teach the value of citizenship as Jesus did when He spoke of loving our neighbor, hungering and thirsting for justice, and rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar's. In the words of the U. S. Bishops in 1990:

"We are called to transform our hearts and our social structures, to renew the face of the earth...As believers we are called to bring our values into the marketplace and the political arena, into community and family life, using our everyday opportunities and responsibilities, our voices and our votes to defend human life, human dignity, and human rights."

This is the call of the Church and the Gospel. The social studies educator responds to the call by encouraging active citizenship on the part of his or her students.

We believe that just as Jesus spent most of His life on earth with ordinary folk, listening to their stories and sharing their good times and bad times, so should we incorporate the daily lives of the people into our social studies instruction. Whether it is a study of our neighborhood, our state, our country, or our world, learning about the literature, traditions, and arts of any group of people can only deepen our understanding and respect for the global community, past and present. It is through these avenues that we learn their story, uncover their dreams, and find the expression of their values.

As social studies educators we are called to teach the importance of geography and the environment in the lives of all the world's people. The materials of construction, the food supply, the climate, the agricultural development, the rivers, deserts, mountains, forests, and wildlife - all these impact on the way of life in any society, for better or for worse. The study of the human and environmental interactions of any group of people can help us to better understand them and to evaluate with our students the scriptural and global responsibility to be stewards, caretakers of the earth.

We believe that just as Jesus demonstrated the value of work through the carpentry trade, we should teach the dignity of work, discuss the rights and duties of workers in any society, and model for our students a strong, personal work ethic. "Work is more than a way of living; it is an expression of our dignity and a form of continuing participation in God's creation. People have the right to decent and fair wages....In Catholic social teaching, the economy exists to serve people, not the other way around." (U. S. Bishops' Pastoral, November 1990) In teaching the value of work, it is our hope that our students will discern that a life of discipline, sacrifice, and service is rewarding and that the self-centered life is not.

Jesus in both story and action showed concern for the poor, the disabled, the sick, the children, and the elderly. As social studies educators, our teaching should show the same concern for the most vulnerable people in society. It is hoped that our students will grow in their awareness of what it means to be marginalized as well as in their understanding of the work of those who continue to search for remedies. "Poor and vulnerable people have a special place in Catholic social teaching. A basic test of a society is how its most vulnerable members are faring." (U. S. Bishops' Pastoral, November 1990) Promoting this awareness and providing ways for our students to become part of the solutions is the duty of all social studies educators.

We believe that social studies education is not just teaching facts but also teaching the value and principles of tolerance and solidarity with all people and cultures. "We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and gender differences. We are our brothers' and sisters' keepers. In a linked and limited world, our responsibilities to one another cross national and other boundaries." (U. S. Bishops' Pastoral, November 1990) Therefore, we believe that the contributions and lives of women and men should be incorporated into the teaching of social studies. In addition, every effort should be made to identify the contributions of people of diverse cultures and races. If we answer the call to teach as Jesus did, exclusion, bigotry, and discrimination will have no place in our classrooms. Deepening the awareness of solidarity in ourselves and our students can only result in a more just and peaceful world.

It is our sincere hope that the following curriculum will provide our students with a strong foundation in social studies and our teachers with a valuable vehicle of instruction. In addition to learning the factual information in the curriculum, we hope that our students will also be empowered to embrace the values thus stated in this philosophy.

We give credit to the Virginia State developers of the Social Studies Standards of Learning. We have adopted and modified their work to reflect our philosophy and curriculum needs. Special emphasis has been placed on the Catholic Social Teachings which is highlighted as our first objective across the grade levels.

SCIENCE

God has planted within human nature the desire to know and understand, to learn and explore, and to seek the answers to the questions of the world around us. Science is an area of the curriculum where that desire can be fostered by allowing the children to explore and discover the wonders of their world. Science probes the mysteries of the earth and universe, seeking the Creator in all things. Using the Catholic Social Teaching Principles, we must, as educators, create a Christ-centered atmosphere in which the students can and will grow mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Our primary goal as science teachers is to facilitate the learning of science by engaging the student through enjoyable and meaningful scientific inquiry, while preparing these students to become life long learners. In this way, the students develop their full potential and grow in the love, knowledge, and appreciation of the gift of Life in our World.

Performance Objectives

The following are broad performance objectives to be used when developing lesson plans throughout the year.

1. To cultivate in our students a love, curiosity, respect, and stewardship of God’s infinite creation.

2. To recognize that we share the responsibility to respect the sanctity of all human life and the dignity of the human person.

3. To develop scientific inquiry skills to be used both in individual and cooperative learning environments.

4. To maximize hands-on opportunities for students to explore, discover, and experience the universe.

5. To insure the ability of students to safely use scientific materials and equipment to explore, discover, and experience the universe.

6. To incorporate mathematical tools into the organization and interpretation of the data.

7. To integrate technology to prepare students to be able to effectively succeed in today’s society.

8. To achieve scientific literacy and an understanding of the role science plays in our daily lives through utilization of cross-curricular instruction.

SPANISH

The teaching of foreign languages provides a variety of benefits:

  • Teaches listening, speaking, reading, writing and culture with emphasis on communication
  • Exposes students to the beauty and richness of other languages and civilizations
  • Strengthens cognitive thinking skills
  • Supports the native language of the student and reinforces English grammar

The ultimate goal of an academic elementary program is to complete successfully the level one high school curriculum. The high schools currently require a foreign language placement test and/or written recommendation by the student’s foreign language teacher.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE RATIONALE

To support the current/existing philosophy incorporated in the Diocesan Foreign Language Guidelines, we offer the following rationale:

  • Research indicates the most successful language learning takes place between birth and age ten to twelve. At this young age, the child will have an easier time of learning and retaining the language.
  • When children study foreign language, they develop higher cognitive thinking skills. Foreign language study helps students gain a better understanding of the grammar/ structure of their native language. As a result they usually perform better on standardized tests (Terra Nova, HSP/AT, SAT, ACT).
  • Two or three years of foreign language study in high school do not always provide fluency in a foreign language. Fluency will more likely be reached if the child has started foreign language learning much earlier and continues to advanced levels in high school.
  • Study of a foreign language creates citizens who will learn to accept, understand and appreciate the diversity of cultures. Thinking globally will help to promote world peace.
  • In our global society, as the world becomes more interdependent, students’ knowledge of foreign language is crucial for expanded career opportunities. It will also aid in developing responsible citizens of the world community and bring us closer to realizing the Kingdom of God on earth.

COMPUTERS

Advancements in our rapidly changing world necessitate the acquisition of technological skills to enable students to function in the 21st Century. As lifelong learners and followers of Jesus, students should strive to become citizens who are capable of making significant contributions to our global society. They must also become aware of the social and ethical impact of technology. To this end, the Diocese of Arlington endeavors to make our students not only knowledgeable, but also effective technology users.

Our goal is to present and strengthen the skills students need to access, interpret, and synthesize information which is constantly changing. Thus, technology will be used as a tool for learning and developing critical thinking skills across the content area. Having students acquire these skills will result in the development of self-directed learners who can independently and cooperatively apply technology to solve problems and make informed decisions. Following the established end goals/target areas, given the varying resources at the elementary level, the students will be well equipped with a strong foundation to enhance their learning with advanced technology resources at the high school level.

Technology should enhance and enrich as well as extend the existing curriculum. It should be used in a variety of ways within the classroom and computer lab setting. The classroom teacher, the media specialist, the technology coordinator, and the librarian should collaborate to maximize the effective use of technology in support of the Diocesan curriculum.

Due to the rapid advancements and changes in technology, the curriculum will be reviewed annually or as needed. The review process will reflect appropriate changes and or adjustments as needed.

TECHNOLOGY AND CURRICULUM INTEGRATION

Technology for technology’s sake does little to enhance the academic lives of our students or our role as Catholic educators. Accordingly, technology curriculum coordinators will, to the greatest extent possible, work toward achievement of the following skills-based target areas by close collaboration with teachers. Sharing of written curriculum objectives, one-on-one meetings and teacher hands-on participation in technology instruction are examples of proven collaborative methods. In this way, student technology skill achievement is successfully integrated with content/subject-based, curriculum objectives achievement. Successful integration, whether in a lab or classroom environment:

  • Leads to maximum use of technology resources
  • Provides more substantive learning experiences
  • Encourages teachers to creatively incorporate instructional technology tools into their curriculum over time

PHYSICAL EDUCATION

God grants us the intellect to know, to care for and to protect the body that houses His image. For students, this is learned when schools promote and model lifetime wellness by teaching health concepts and physical fitness activities. As such, physical education needs to be an integral part of a holistic Catholic educational process.

Physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle need to be everyday priorities. Evidence based research strongly supports improved student academic outcomes when health, P.E. and wellness strategies are utilized in the school setting. Each promotes the development of confidence, dignity and respect for self and others. Within our Mission, we will reinforce Christian values that will promote life-long health and physical and spiritual fitness.

MUSIC & ART

The philosophy of the Diocese of Arlington is based on the belief that each person is a unique creation, having worth as a child of God, and as a gift of God, possessing many talents. The child develops an awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the order and beauty of God’s creation and of man-made works of art. Art is a visual language that can be read and understood by children and teachers alike as an important part of their response to beauty in God’s created world.

It is the task of the teachers of art in the diocese to encourage and challenge each student to fulfill his/her spiritual, moral, social, physical and creative potential through the development of these talents. Teachers of art are charged to engage students in making, looking at, discussing and learning about art in the cultural, social and historic context. The art curriculum can sequence visual concepts, artistic media, and the study of art historical periods and themes with concepts being covered in other academic subject areas. Study of historical and cultural contexts gives students insights into the role played by the visual arts in human achievement. As they consider examples of visual art works within historical contexts, students gain a deeper appreciation of their own value, of the values of other people, and the connection of the visual arts to universal human needs, values and beliefs. They understand that the art of a culture is influenced by aesthetic ideas as well as by social, religious, political and economic factors.

The art curriculum is designed to stimulate the child to think creatively, to plan, to attempt, to evaluate and to choose to work in a variety of visual, oral and written languages with a variety of media, tools and technologies. Students understand that making and responding to works of visual art are interrelated and include perception, analysis and critical judgment. The following statements underlie all programmatic and instructional goals:

  • Art instruction allows children to explore and nurture their God-given abilities.
  • Art instruction respects students’ developmental levels and is child-centered.
  • Art production is personal and intentional; each student’s expression is valid.
  • Art instruction provides a context for critical and creative thinking for the communication of feelings and ideas through the production of art.
  • Art instruction provides a context for making connections because students have the opportunities to reflect personally on ideas, experiences, objects, processes or products to deepen their understanding.
  • Art instruction provides challenges that require individual and cooperative problem solving, resulting in creative and cognitive growth.
  • Art instruction is delivered sequentially to establish a foundation for students to acquire art content, knowledge, and skills.
  • Art instruction provides students regular opportunities to see works of art from diverse cultures
  • Art instruction includes opportunities for students to view and discuss art, analyze and critique art, and learn about the cultural, social and historic context of art.
  • Art instruction provides students with the opportunities to interpret and apply key ideas and to develop a level of technical mastery and control over materials, using the elements of art and principles of design.
  • Art instruction promotes students’ sensory experiences as a basis for creative expression and for understanding artists’ works

LIBRARY

Walk into the library at St. Mary’s School and you will see a hub of reading. Reading for fun, reading to learn new information, reading to become a better reader is what our students love to do! The library maintains an open door policy. Students are welcome to visit throughout the school day in addition to their scheduled class periods. Our wonderful library collection is bursting with print and digital materials carefully selected to meet and nourish the needs and interests of growing young minds and souls.

Our students build 21st century information literacy skills through instruction, activities, research, and interaction with our state-of-the-art online library catalog. Students are guided in the selection, evaluation, and appropriate use of information. The goal of the library program is for our students to become independent learners and lifelong readers. The library, above all, serves as an extension and promoter of all classroom curriculum studies and school-wide programs.

As a parish school, St. Mary's operates under the auspices of the Diocese of Arlington Office of Catholic Schools.

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.

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.

CURRICULUM GUIDELINES

St. Mary School operates under the auspices of the Office of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Arlington.

For more detailed information, click here to view the Curriculum Guidelines for the Diocese of Arlington.

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