Primary School: Pre-Kindergarten-Grade 2
Letter from Elizabeth Coleman, Head of Primary School
Coming to a Sacred Heart school, you have entered into a family and have come to a home." So begins Life at the Sacred Heart, the long-standing School Rule for Sacred Heart students around the world. This is an especially appropriate description of the Primary School, in which our youngest students are first introduced to the family of Sacred Heart. During these beginning years, students come to know their new school family and, in time, begin to think of Sacred Heart as a true home.
The Primary School lays the foundations for children as students and lifelong learners in a nurturing and stimulating environment. Teachers are well versed in the developmental stages specific to this age group and work to instill an excitement about learning and an eagerness to form community. The coed kindergarten lays the groundwork for the Schools' co-institutional model, allowing boys and girls to get to know one another. In first grade, children break into single gender classrooms, allowing teachers to tailor the learning in their classes to the needs of each student using their knowledge of brain research, of educational theory and of each child in the room.
We focus on instilling confidence and a sense of belonging in these early years at Sacred Heart. Teachers and administrators work to know each child individually and to provide the kind of daily encouragement that allows all children to flourish. Kindness, respect and responsibility are all qualities we actively seek to affirm in our youngest students.
We also work to lay a solid foundation of skills that will support later learning. In the Primary School, we carefully and purposefully balance developmental growth and academic achievement. Early learning cannot be rushed. No two children learn the same way, or at the same pace, and so we make sure there are enough adults on board—homeroom teachers, teaching assistants, special area teachers, an enrichment coordinator, and reading support teachers—so that learning opportunities can be individualized in ways that benefit each child.
Children this age learn best by doing, which is why our curriculum is organized around inquiry-based, hands-on activities in line with the children’s genuine interests and real world contexts. Children explore a variety of topics through reading, writing, and active investigation. They publish class books and perform plays they have written. They practice multiple problem-solving strategies and work on explaining their mathematical thinking. They do the work of real scientists as they question, observe, and analyze phenomena they experience in the natural world. They build French and Spanish vocabulary through games, projects, and role-playing. They express themselves creatively through the visual and performing arts. The Sacred Heart Primary School places children on the path to a life-long love of learning. Our curriculum encourages curiosity, stimulates thinking and helps to instill in each child a sense of self-confidence.
Our goal is for students to leave the Primary School with confidence in their abilities, a sense of joy in and responsibility for their new school family, and the security that all members of the community are working together to help them grow to be their best selves.
Primary School Curriculum
- Language Arts
- Social Studies
- Physical Education
- World Languages
The art program provides children with experiences in both self-expression and cooperative learning, while also offering practice in basic visual and motor skills through the use of drawing media, brushes, and other art tools. Experimentation and creative thinking are fostered as children learn to explore their imaginations in an encouraging and supportive atmosphere. Activities include: drawing skills (pencil and charcoal); basic color theory; pastels and watercolor; artwork of historic cultures; and study of significant artists. Students assemble and use a sketchbook for their Primary School years.
The Primary School curriculum is designed to actively engage younger children in doing mathematics. The classroom environment encourages students to explore, develop, test, discuss, and apply ideas. The framework of the curriculum is organized around six strands: numeration; operations and computation; probability and statistics; geometry; measurement; and patterns, functions and algebra.
Senior kindergarten uses an active, hands-on approach to mathematics. The program develops problem-solving skills and extends the children’s understanding and enjoyment of numbers. Special emphasis is placed on counting, sorting and classifying; relating numbers to quantity; time and money; forms of measurement; the language of math; and basic concepts of addition and subtraction.
Important areas covered in 1st and 2nd grades include: basic addition and subtraction (through three digits and re-grouping); estimation; place value; number patterns through 100; measurement standards for height, weight, length, temperature, money, and time; classification of two- and three-dimensional figures; classification of geometric shapes; fractions as part of a whole; fractional notation and vocabulary; perimeter and area of simple shapes; mental math.
Children have an innate curiosity about their surroundings — a desire to explore, figure out how things work, and find answers to their questions as they seek to understand the natural world. Science curriculum nurtures this curiosity by giving students opportunities to investigate phenomena, predict outcomes, and construct explanations in real-world contexts. Learning science is an active endeavor involving content and process, building a foundation of experience and understanding upon which later learning can be based. Lab work and experimentation are woven throughout the Primary School program.
Based on the philosophy that students best learn by doing, the senior kindergarten program encourages a hands-on, inquiry-based approach to learning. Students explore units in the natural world and STEAM projects, developing an understanding of the natural world through their own inquiries, investigations, and analyses.
First grade continues with a hands-on, inquiry-based approach to science, deepening skills and empowering students to think, read, write, and argue like real scientists and engineers. Students explore units in life science, earth science, and physical science, developing an understanding of the natural world through their own inquiries, investigations, and analyses.
Second grade continues with a hands-on, inquiry-based approach to science, deepening skills and empowering students to think, read, write, and argue like real scientists and engineers. Students explore units in life science, earth science, and physical science, developing an understanding of the natural world through their own inquiries, investigations, and analyses.
The curriculum is based on the philosophy that reading, writing, listening, and speaking are most effectively taught to Primary School students when integrated with the study of phonics and the writing process.
Senior kindergarten provides developmentally appropriate experiences in reading, writing, and oral language skills. The print-rich environment of the classroom works to foster both competency and enjoyment in our youngest students’ emerging relationship with language. Children are read to daily and begin to explore basic literary elements of shared stories. The phonics program provides a thorough understanding of the letters of the alphabet and their sounds. Self-selected reading, differentiated learning groups, and literacy centers enhance the program. Through daily journaling and writing workshop activities, the children learn to transform their writing from pictures and symbols to letters, words, and sentences. Handwriting (printing) skills are introduced in senior kindergarten.
Literature and reading play crucial roles as children build their reading skills. Children are read to daily and have opportunities for both teacher-guided and self-selected reading. Engaging children’s literature accommodates the varying levels of literacy common among young readers. The use of phonics, as well as multi-sensory techniques, assists children in developing strong decoding, comprehension, and reading fluency skills. Writing is taught as a process. Children come to understand that ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions (grammar and mechanics), and presentation are all important aspects of good writing. Through daily journaling, Writer’s Workshop, and literacy centers, children progress from composing simple, clear sentences to short stories, poems, personal narratives, persuasive and informative pieces, and research reports. The writing program is supported by instruction in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and handwriting.
Literature and reading play crucial roles as children build their reading skills. Children are read to daily and have opportunities for both teacher-guided and self-selected reading. Students begin to read short stories through the Junior Great Books program. The use of phonics, as well as multi-sensory techniques, assists children in developing strong decoding, comprehension, and reading fluency skills. Writing is taught as a process. Children come to understand that ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions (grammar and mechanics), and presentation are all important aspects of good writing. Through daily journaling, Writer’s Workshop, and literacy centers, children write short stories, poems, personal narratives, persuasive and informative pieces, and research reports. The writing program is supported by instruction in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and handwriting. Cursive is taught in 2nd grade.
Social studies looks at human behavior within a social and environmental context. As such, it encompasses several disciplines, including history, geography, economics, and civics. The social studies program at Sacred Heart assists students in establishing habits of careful inquiry, supported by a sound knowledge base and a firm commitment to personal responsibility through good citizenship. Students grow in their appreciation of the diversity of human experience, culture, and values.
Students in senior kindergarten are called to a fuller awareness of the world around them and the variety of communities in which they participate. Thematic units incorporate art, music, and appropriate children’s literature.
First grade students learn about the U.S. political system, the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois, and the similarities and differences between rural and urban communities. Students also receive an introduction to economic principles and how they affect daily life.
In 2nd grade, students engage in a study of world geography, delving deeply into one country on each continent. By gaining a greater understanding of world neighbors and their cultures, students see themselves as global citizens in an interdependent world.
The intent of physical education is to motivate students to create, improve and maintain their personal health and fitness. Physical well-being is directly linked with academic learning. The healthy, physically active child is more likely to be intellectually motivated and alert. Physical education promotes the social skills that are increasingly viewed as essential for success in school. Physical education at Sacred Heart offers activities that allow students to make developmental transitions from childhood to adolescence. Games and sport are viewed as a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Competition is put into proper perspective. Students are encouraged to develop a positive outlook to personal fitness and relate to others in encouraging ways. The program helps students develop an age-appropriate level of fitness, a broad spectrum of physical skills, and the enjoyment, understanding, and self-confidence needed to motivate a lifetime of active participation.
SENIOR KINdergarten, GRADES 1-2
Primary school PE emphasizes the development of motor skills and movement patterns through a variety of skill-based games and activities. Students work toward a greater understanding of space and body awareness, team-building and sportsmanship skills, as well as hand-eye and foot-eye coordination skills.
The music program nurtures the natural creative impulse in each child through a wide range of vocal and instrumental activities. The program consists of three primary activities: singing, instrument playing, and musical academics. Singing is taught as a form of personal expression, for enjoyment, and as a form of prayer. Instrument playing accompanies singing and is used as a practical expression of other music skills, such as keeping time and music reading. In the academic portion of class, students explore the history of Western music, orchestral music, American folk music, and African American spirituals. Children learn to enjoy music and to participate with confidence. Children at all grade levels participate in performances.
SENIOR KINDERGARTEN, GRADES 1-2
In Primary School, students are introduced to the basics of music. Singing is an integral part of every class. Students are introduced to pitch matching and proper breathing, and perform on pitched and un-pitched percussion instruments using simple rhythm patterns. Active listening to music is practiced regularly.
The Primary School religion curriculum is based on the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a program grounded in scripture, the liturgy of the Church and the educational principles of Maria Montessori. Children experience faith through the use of manipulative presentations and objects that help make the curriculum tangible. Children are introduced to the many faith traditions of the world.
The senior kindergarten program is designed to help each child develop a personal experience of faith and a relationship with God and the community. Lessons are presented utilizing Bible stories, songs, children’s literature, and art projects. Children will also encounter lessons on prayer, geography, and liturgical celebrations.
Children continue their exploration of faith and spirituality as they learn about God as a loving Creator and the giver of gifts. Bible stories and appropriate literature from a wide variety of sources are used to support classroom themes. Feast days and liturgical seasons are explored each week. The children learn more about the spirituality and traditions of the Religious of the Sacred Heart. Throughout the year, children have opportunities for self-expression through prayer, worship, art, and music activities.
In 2nd grade, students are encouraged to learn about their own family’s faith traditions. Classroom teachers work with the religion teacher to help students learn about their faiths. Preparation is provided for Roman Catholic students to celebrate the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist. Non-Roman Catholic students are involved in the preparation process in appropriate and engaging ways.
Students study both French and Spanish from senior kindergarten through 2nd grade. The program emphasizes conversational skills through the development of correct pronunciation, vocabulary, aural comprehension, and cultural awareness. Games, songs, and dialogues encourage the students to take risks with language while having fun.
Children are introduced to French and Spanish through songs, games, art projects, and by using props and puppets. By the end of senior kindergarten, the student has become familiar with basic vocabulary and is comfortable expressing greetings, colors, days of the week, numbers, and the alphabet.
In the 1st grade curriculum, the children review topics and vocabulary that were covered in senior kindergarten and proceed further along with those same topics. Additionally, they are introduced to short conversations, presentations and cultural activities. Listening and speaking skills in both French and Spanish are highlighted during each activity.
The main focus in the 2nd grade curriculum shifts to developing oral proficiency in a communicative approach. The interactive activities require students to exchange information in the target language. Reading and writing in French and Spanish are introduced at this level and a greater cultural awareness is developed.