In all subject areas, we emphasize personalized learning that meets ever child where they are. The following information is based on instruction from previous years. Curricula details are subject to change year to year. For the most up-to-date information on our Lower School curricula, please reach out to Ashley Pfiester, Lower School Director of Curriculum & Integration.
- Social Studies
- World Languages
- Athletics & PE
- Extensions | Personalizing the Curriculum to Each Child
Our literacy curriculum emphasizes personalized learning and encompasses reading, writing and all the components of language arts. Students complete genre-based reading and writing workshops with attentiveness to skill development along trajectories. We conduct mini-lessons with opportunities for strategic practice, and assessments ensure movement along a continuum. Students practice foundational reading skills and language skills with a focus on information, argument, narrative, and text complexity.
Our Approach to Literacy
Lower School Curriculum Specialist Ashley Pfiester and Lower School Learning Specialist Bo Shepard talk about how, starting in kindergarten, we meet each child where they are and use play to make reading and writing fun and developmentally appropriate.
Big Feelings in Fewer Words
Ms. Verrill explains to her second graders the difference between a story and a poem, and the students practice expressing their feelings through poetry.
Our mathematics instruction develops an intuition for numbers, strengthens skills for connecting mathematical concepts and strategies, and challenges students to be creative and think critically to solve problems in multiple ways. We emphasize number intuition and develop a deep understanding of big ideas. We often use small groups to promote collaboration and justification of thinking.
Our Approach to Mathematics
Math specialist Delane Weber outlines how, starting in kindergarten, we help students think of themselves as mathematicians who explore core concepts rather than follow procedures.
Addition Strategies in Kindergarten Math
Kindergarteners practice adding three numbers, learning there's more than one way to get to the right answer.
Students learn social studies concepts through multiple lenses and contribute to planning, designing and implementing projects. They collaborate with peers to gather, evaluate and communicate information. They educate and inform others in the community and to use tools and technology to enhance their own learning. We teach students to value service to others, and they work to develop yearlong relationships with partners in the Austin area — brainstorming, planning and implementing activities that support those in need. They apply what they have learned to larger school-wide projects that benefit those in the community who need our help. Students grow to become empathetic members of the world community and good leaders within their school community.
Habitat Restoration in 4th Grade Social Studies
On our tours, you'll see plenty of examples of active, engaged learning taking place in our classrooms, but we believe learning shouldn't be confined to a classroom. Our curriculum includes outdoor opportunities like gardening and habitat restoration on our 21-acre campus.
We help students perceive science not only as a body of knowledge but as a set of practices and a mindset that allow for discovery and a deeper understanding of their world. We cultivate kids' natural curiosity using an inquiry approach, employing investigations and engineering design challenges related to core discipline ideas. Students sharpen observation skills, make predictions, define questions and problems, collect, record and analyze data, create and use models, and design experiments. They learn to work safely in a lab environment, collaborate with peers and use tools and technology to enhance learning. As students carry out investigations and engage in classroom discussion, they begin to build evidence-based explanations, which can be a real challenge for young children. With time and experience, naïve ideas evolve into scientific theorems that prepare them for Middle School. We embed writing into daily science activities as a mechanism to process the day’s experience as well as a tool for formative assessment. Students use writing journals to reflect on learning, communicate explanations, and connect anchoring scientific ideas. They discuss the work of scientists and engineers to understand that science is knowledge built on the contributions of many, over many years and across many boundaries, and that it is fluid. Students see how science and engineering are instrumental in identifying and solving societal challenges; discussion of current events and discoveries helps students think critically about science-related issues. By engaging students in the work of science and by guiding them to think critically about knowledge and real-world issues, we encourage the development of scientifically literate students who, because of their deeper understanding, are also stewards of the natural world and its resources.
Comparing Volumes in 3rd Grade Science
Ms. Gaskin guides her students as they measure volumes of solids and liquids and discover the relationship between meters and liters.
Beginning in kindergarten, students can choose Mandarin or Spanish as their language of study. Students are instructed by native Mandarin and Spanish speakers who incorporate the “5 Cs” from the American Council on Teaching of Foreign Languages: Communication in oral and written form, Culture studies that highlight different viewpoints and contributions to the world, Connections to other subject areas, Comparisons that analyze similarities and differences across language and culture, and Community connections that extend the classroom experience.
Every third day, for a 40-minute lesson, students are introduced to the basic sounds of the letters and blends of the Mandarin Chinese alphabet. They practice the five tones for speaking and learn vocabulary words and conversational phrases that help the class communicate in Mandarin Chinese. Cultural holidays and traditions are studied, and learning is enriched by video, books, songs, games and online resource materials.
Naming Animals in 1st Grade Mandarin
Ms. Lu uses flash cards to help students spot similarities between words and phrases. Activities include a matching game, singing, and conversation.
The Trinity Lower School Spanish program focuses on both Hispanic culture and the Spanish language. First-through-fourth graders attend Spanish class every third day for 40 minutes, and kindergartners attend for 30 minutes. We believe that early exposure to a second language contributes greatly to a child's intellectual development and expands appreciation of other cultures. Our Spanish curriculum focuses on encouraging students to gain confidence in their skills, to feed their curiosity about other cultures and languages, and to give them a safe place to try new skills. Young students are willing and curious, and if they are encouraged, they will want to continue their study of Spanish.
Athletics & PE
We are committed to daily PE, and we offer lacrosse for grades 1–4 and basketball for grades 2–4. See below for an overview of our program, and visit our Tornado Athletics website for details like our philosophy and approach, how to join a team, and frequently asked questions.
In the first two years of physical education, students come to PE five days a week for 30 minutes, and we focus on developing movement skills, body and spatial awareness, and cooperation. We build a foundation of basic movement and physical skills that includes throwing and catching, kicking, striking, rolling, dribbling, passing and volleying. We encourage fitness with warm-up activities, jumping rope, and team challenges. Students learn to strengthen body control via gymnastic skills such as balance, flexibility, jumping and landing, rolls, cartwheels and yoga poses. We also introduce basic sports skills for soccer, basketball, baseball, kickball and tennis. Coaches emphasize socialization skills, too, as these young students learn to cooperate, share, take turns, win and lose, listen and follow directions.
Kindergarteners Stay Active with Daily PE
Kindergarteners practice fun exercises with Mr. Hendricks. Physical education teaches students how to think strategically, problem solve, make decisions and overcome adversity.
Students attend PE every day for 40 minutes each day. During loosely organized team games, students have opportunities to strategize, problem-solve, and demonstrate leadership. We continue to emphasize strengthening loco-motor skills, and we help students become more capable athletes. Students refine their skills in throwing and catching, kicking, striking, rolling, dribbling, passing, and volleying. They begin applying those skills to real sports situations. Our older Lower School students focus more on fitness and the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle. Students challenge themselves with more complex gymnastic skills such as jumping and landing, rolls, cartwheels, yoga poses, and partner stunts to strengthen balance and increase flexibility. Students play soccer, basketball, baseball, kickball, volleyball, team handball, ultimate Frisbee, lacrosse, badminton, and tennis. We emphasize character development, personal responsibility, and life lessons through physical participation.
In Lower School, art students create art based on perception, creative expression, and historical and cultural learning. They practice response to art in formal critiques that center around the elements of art. Students use many types of media: multimedia, clay, pencil, pen, paint, collage, printmaking, wire, pastels, charcoal, textiles, plastics, recycled media and canvas to create art in both 2D and 3D forms. Each Lower School student attends art once every three days for 35 to 40 minutes. Art is showcased campus-wide during the end-of-year art show.
Mixing Science into Second Grade Art
Students learn about atmospheric perspective, color blending, narrative and the science behind the Northern Lights.
Music & Theater
Music-making promotes risk taking, open-ended thinking, problem solving, listening skills and creativity. Students learn pitch matching, beautiful singing, musical symbols and terms, rhythm reading and note reading in a spiral curriculum that begins with the simplest concepts in kindergarten and reviews and builds in each successive year. Gaining an understanding of the nuts and bolts of musical notation gives children a framework for creating music, which enables them to express themselves and offers freedom for children to discover who they are. Our students experience folk songs, games and dances from around the world as well as songs that are uniquely American. Along with their singing voices, students use body instruments, percussion instruments, hand chimes and mallet instruments as a way to cement a feeling of the steady beat and create a group musical experience. Group performance unites our community, reinforces our core values and encourages teamwork. Our children perform in a kindergarten through fourth grade Christmas pageant, and each grade level performs a spring musical. Music classes meet every third day for 35 minutes.
Lower School students use and learn technology during dedicated time in the technology lab, as well as integrated into the rest of their Trinity experience. Based on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards, we have multiple strands of technological literacy that are built upon from year to year. Below are goals we have for all of our Lower School students:
- Computer Fluency – Familiarity with the structures and basic functioning of a computer and operating system, in order to be able to navigate and stay organized with independence
- Digital Expression – Choosing and using appropriate tools to express oneself effectively utilizing the unique capabilities of digital technologies
- Digital Citizenship – Making safe, smart and respectful decisions as a consumer of online content and a member of an online community
- 21st Century Skills – Data collection and analysis, real-time collaboration, computational thinking and an introduction to STEM thinking and problem‑solving
In kindergarten, technology is used to meet specific learning needs of individuals and small groups using targeted programs and apps that are adaptive and closely monitored. Starting in first grade, classes regularly visit the technology lab to learn and practice skills and concepts with the Lower School Technology Specialist. The curriculum is based on addressing real-life tasks and situations, and it is often related to what is being taught in other subject areas. In fourth grade, technology instruction is integrated into Inquiry Seminar, the year-long guided experience of understanding and doing critical and meaningful self-initiated research. As our children grow up in a rapidly changing world, both intentionally and unconsciously immersed and influenced powerfully by technology, our goal is help them to be proficient, self-aware, discerning and creative users of the tools, devices and capabilities at their fingertips. Technology in the classroom is the means to an end, not an end in and of itself.
One way we use technology as a vehicle for creativity and critical thinking is D-Lab, our an innovation maker-space outfitted for hands-on, creative problem solving and design thinking. Whether sewing fabrics or soldering circuits, programming drones or composing soundtracks, woodworking or 3D printing, students can bring their ideas to life. D-Lab is a fun and interactive way to get kids excited for S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics).
Geometry and Robots in Second Grade Math
On the second day of a two-day lesson, Technology Integration Specialist Matthieu Spindler brings D-Lab to the classroom, showing students how to program robots while applying the math concepts they learned the day before.
Extensions is our program of differentiated and blended learning that occurs in first, second, and third grade. Students in first and second grade attend four times a week for 40 minutes during school hours, while third grade students attend three times a week. Built on a Response-to-Intervention (RTI) framework, Extensions requires collaboration among numerous school personnel who work collectively on behalf of the students. The Extensions team is composed of lead teachers, teaching fellows, and instructional support specialists. These integrated forms of expertise provide specialized instruction and track student performance toward mastery of predetermined foundational skills.
For students with multiple needs, the team determines the top priority for the student at that time. The groups are flexible, with some students migrating between groups. This enables us to keep student groups flexible, so when a student masters a skill, we can reprioritize the learning needs for the student. We assign instructors based on their specific expertise.
Adapting to What Each Child Needs
Morgan and John Burnham share their thoughts about our Extensions program, an extra period that enables us to meet the unique needs of each child. Students can stretch themselves in areas where they excel, or they can focus on areas where they need a little help, which builds confidence and a love of learning. Students learn and progress at a level that's just right for them, even if it means stepping back to grade-level content from previous years, or ahead to advanced years.