English Language Arts
St. Michael's School utilizes a reading and writing workshop model of balanced literacy instruction in which students engage in systematically designed units of study. Each unit of study leans on the heels of the previous unit and stretches the students to new and deeper understandings. Units of study in all grades are aligned to the Common Core State Standards and built on the foundation of the units of study from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. Reading units cycle through a focus on fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and hybrid texts. Writing units include instruction in the areas of opinion, information, and narrative writing. Units of study in the reading and writing workshop are supported by explicit instruction in phonological awareness, phonics, word study, vocabulary, grammar, as well as listening and speaking, offering a balanced program of core academic skills and critical thinking activities.
The St. Michael’s School Math Curriculum utilizes a balanced instructional approach. In addition, The Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which consist of two interrelated sets of standards, The Standards for Mathematical Practice and The Standards for Mathematical Content, are followed. The Standards for Mathematical Practice describe the processes, practices, and dispositions that lead to mathematical fluency. They are common to all grade levels, K-8, highlighting that these practices, and dispositions are developed throughout one’s school career. The Standards for Mathematical Content are grade-specific for K-8.
Science at St. Michael’s School is grounded in the belief that all students can and should be scientifically literate to become active members in the Church and community. Through scientific and engineering literacy, our students are able to use scientific principles to make personal decisions and participate in discussions that affect society. Classroom experiences nurture the 21st century skills of creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration. Emphasis is placed on hands-on laboratory experiences infused with the latest technological resources. We, in partnership with families, are committed to building the scientific knowledge of our students to become leaders who think critically and creatively, are compassionate, responsible and moral, and respect the dignity of others. Our goal is to develop 21st century leaders who will actively participate in and solve current and future problems in the world.
The St. Michael’s School Science Curriculum utilizes a hands-on learning approach following the framework of the Three Dimensions within the Next Generation Science
- Dimension 1 – Practices are behaviors that scientists engage in as they investigate and build models and theories about the natural world and the key set of engineering practices that engineers use as they design and build models and systems.
- Dimension 2 - Crosscutting concepts have application across all domains of science. As such, they are a way of linking the different domains of science.
- Dimension 3 - Disciplinary core ideas focus the K–12 science curriculum, instruction, and assessments on the most important aspects of science. Disciplinary ideas are grouped into four domains: physical sciences; life sciences; earth and space sciences; and engineering, technology, and applications of science. Below are narratives adapted from NGSS of disciplinary core ideas for each grade level.
Utilizing NGSS, the SMS Science Department focuses on deepening scientific content knowledge with engineering and scientific practices. The ultimate goal is to encourage students to explore and apply scientific and engineering practices learned in the classroom to the world in which they live.
At SMS, Grades 7-8 science and math classes are divided into single gender classrooms, allowing teachers to provide gender specific instruction to develop the full potential of each student.
The social studies curriculum at St. Michael’s school focuses on preparing students to be outstanding citizens of their community, state, nation, and world. Students explore the planet around them through the lenses of geography, history, sociology, civics, economics, and politics. Emphasis on current events and connecting the past to the present is a major focus of the curriculum. Students learn that studying the past helps them to understand the present in order to make a better future. Teachers make use of a variety of techniques to meet these goals. Examples include skits, debates, guest speakers, field trips, presentations, character role-plays, and Socratic discussions. Students also examine a variety of primary and secondary sources in their analyses of social studies and its effects on humanity. All units of study are aligned with the California State Standards for History/Social Science. Students in grades 4 - 8 participate in the yearly National Geographic Society Geography Bee.
The heart of St. Michael’s curriculum is daily study and practice of the Catholic faith. From Preschool, where the youngest children learn of God’s love for them and for the world, to the eighth grade program, which includes homiletics and Church history, our main focus is to guide students in developing a personal relationship with Jesus which will last a lifetime.
Every day begins with a prayer assembly on both campuses, and prayer continues throughout the day. Classes alternate in planning and leading our all-school liturgy each Wednesday, preparing and proclaiming the readings, presenting the gifts, and serving as greeters.
St. Michael’s Parish Religious Education program partners with St. Michael’s School to prepare second graders and older students for the sacraments of First Reconciliation and First Eucharist. All experience God’s call to service by participating in various projects such as contributing to the Missionary Childhood Association, obtaining donations to various local, regional and national charities, and providing outreach in the community. Students are also asked to reflect on their volunteer experiences, and recognize their role in building up God’s Kingdom on earth. Throughout their St. Michael’s School experience and commensurate with their developmental readiness, students study Scripture, Catholic doctrine, and traditional practices aligned with the four pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Creed, Sacraments, Morality, and Prayer.
At St. Michael’s School, we endeavor to educate the whole child, which includes helping them discover their creativity. Our fine arts program seeks to expose students at each grade level to a variety of media in drawing, painting, collage, printmaking, and sculpture. Working in both 2D and 3D forms, the seven elements of art are incorporated into a spiraling curriculum, exploring with more depth and independence with each grade level. We also strive to integrate cross-curricular projects to reinforce concepts taught in math, science, and language arts. This starts in kindergarten, where math and art go hand-in-hand as students learn shapes and patterns. It carries on through the elementary grades, where students listen to poetry and create illustrations borne from the vivid imagery created in their mind’s eye as they listen. It progresses in the middle grades, where students learn proportion through grid-drawing, and continues through eighth grade, where students learn the science behind color and how to utilize it to create 3D images. St. Michael’s is creating students who will have the knowledge and creativity to shape the future of our world.
St. Michael’s School offers students the opportunity to explore their creativity through music. Students are taught basic vocal techniques, rhythm, and introductory music theory. Reviewing music for weekly liturgies requires students to apply vocal and breathing techniques, utilize their aural skills to match pitch, and understand proper phrasing. Students also participate in an interactive weekly lesson, Quaver’s Marvelous World of Music, to strengthen their knowledge of music theory. Topics are based on the National Standards for Music Education and are tailored to individual grade levels.
Students in grades 4 and 5 apply their acquired knowledge by learning to play the recorders. This not only gives students confidence in reading music, but prepares them for entering the St. Michael’s school band if they so choose. Those students who continue with music beyond grade 5 build upon their general music theory knowledge, which includes learning about the different periods of music and the composers associated with those periods. Students learn how rhythm emphasizes proportion, patterns, fractions, and ratios expressed as mathematical relations, as well as how each pitch has a specific frequency that can be represented as a soundwave.
Students in grades 5-8 who elect to join the St. Michael’s School band are allowed to select their instrument of choice. Once students learn the proper methods of producing sound with their instruments, method books and musical literature from varying genres are used to teach technique. Students will build on their prior musical knowledge by adding articulation, dynamics, tempo, and tone quality while learning to play as part of an ensemble.
Learning goes beyond the classroom walls as students showcase their talents at our annual Christmas concert while exhibiting proper concert etiquette and presentation skills. Band students also have the opportunity to demonstrate their growing mastery of musical instruments at the Fine Arts Festival.
St. Michael’s School offers Spanish classes to students in grades four through eight. Learning a second language promotes critical thinking, improves vocabulary, and leads to better test scores. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States.
In grades four and five, students practice Catholic prayers, the sounds of the alphabet, and the proper use of vowels and pronunciation. They are exposed to new words through themed vocabulary lessons while being introduced to basic parts of speech such as articles, nouns, and adjectives. Hands-on activities, songs and games are also incorporated during classes. Students begin to count from 1-30 and practice the days of the week and months of the year. They practice the basic conversational greetings and introductions, and they are also exposed to the importance of the use of gender and number in the Spanish language.
In grade six, students build on the fundamentals taught in previous years while working more in depth on grammar rules and building vocabulary. In addition, students begin writing and speaking with more frequency. They practice greetings and introductions, the alphabet, and pronunciation. They are introduced to telling time and counting from 1-60. Students are introduced to additional parts of speech such as pronouns and verbs, and they learn sentence structure. Conversational games, group projects, and skits are also incorporated. Practicing Catholic prayers in Spanish is a continuous component of the curriculum.
Students in grades seven and eight are given the option to take Spanish as an elective class and meet twice each week. Building on knowledge acquired in previous grades, students get accustomed to hearing the spoken language and recognizing cognate words to help decipher what they are reading at a glance. They practice Spanish by engaging in routine conversations involving greetings, asking for help, expressing time, and answering questions related to class topics. They attempt to read, write and speak in Spanish by using text examples to express life experiences, such as introducing a friend, writing a letter, reading an email or ordering food at a restaurant. They begin to learn and use the present tense conjugation of regular and irregular common verbs during in class assignments. Prayers, games, skits, and group activities are also incorporated.
In the spring, a bilingual Mass is celebrated. Student lectors proclaim the readings and petitions in both Spanish and English. Students learn hymns in Spanish, and the pastor even presents part of his homily in Spanish.
St. Michael’s School students engage in 90 minutes of quality physical education instruction weekly. Our goal is to provide an extensive variety of movement opportunities, with and without equipment, to promote a lifelong appreciation of health and fitness. A standards-based approach is utilized to develop the student’s physical, mental, and social growth. Current research demonstrates that movement, at any level of intensity, improves learning. Regular physical activity is one of the most important ways to maintain and improve one’s physical health, mental health, and overall wellbeing. Weekly lessons provide students with the opportunity to:
- Demonstrate motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities
- Demonstrate knowledge of movement concepts, principles, and strategies that apply to the learning and performance of physical activities
- Demonstrate, assess, and maintain a level of physical fitness to improve health and performance
- Demonstrate knowledge of physical fitness concepts, principles, and strategies to improve health and performance
- Demonstrate and utilize knowledge of psychological and sociological concepts, principles, and strategies that apply to the learning and performance of physical activity