Austin Trinity

An independent K-8 Episcopal day school five miles from the heart of Austin

Lower School Course of Study

The Trinity education is deliberate and responsive, and our curriculum is relevant and forward- thinking. We take seriously the goal of bringing about growth for each and every child, and we pay attention to the shifts in the world and ensure that our curriculum prepares our students for the world and the workforce they will enter when their education is complete. 

We teach for understanding and transfer, with a desire to foster the development of individuals who seek to constantly and continuously learn and grow. 

Literacy

Our literacy program – reading and writing and all the components of language arts – is very ambitious. Forefront in our minds is ensuring our students are able to reach very high levels of literacy, as we know that reading and writing skills are extremely important in the 21st century. Our image of literacy instruction involves students reading lots of books and documents of all sorts, meeting in small groups to engage in heady, provocative conversations about what they have read, taking stances for and against the views they find in books, working daily in a genre-based writing workshop, and conferring with teachers who encourage continued development of craft and structure.
 
Proficiency, complexity, and independence drive our vision of our literacy program. We want our students to be able to proficiently read and write complex texts with independence.  Rich and rigorous instruction from Kindergarten up is a hallmark of Trinity’s programs.

Components of Trinity’s Lower School Literacy Curriculum

  • Genre-based reading and writing workshops with attentiveness to skill development along trajectories
  • Mini-lessons with opportunities for strategic practice
  • Assessments to ensure movement along a continuum
  • Personalized learning
  • Emphasis on information, argument, and narrative texts
  • Explicit teaching and practice in foundational reading skills and language skills
  • Emphasis on text complexity

 Trinity's Writing Promise

Math

At Trinity, we believe that powerful math instruction challenges students to develop strong number sense and the skills for connecting mathematical ideas.  We strive to create a learning environment that promotes critical thinking and encourages students to confidently and thoughtfully approach problems.

Components of Trinity’s Math Curriculum

  • Emphasis on Number Sense
  • Deep Understanding of Big Ideas
  • Small Group Learning
  • Automaticity of Facts
  • Personalized Learning
  • Collaboration and Justification of Thinking
  • Informative and Summative Assessment

4th Grade Math

Science

At Trinity we believe the core work in science classrooms is to 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.

Young students enter the classroom with natural curiosity, lots of ideas about how things work in the world, and diverse exposure to science content. Using an inquiry approach to guide learning builds on students’ curiosity. Science investigations and engineering design challenges related to core discipline ideas allow students to sharpen observation skills, make predictions, define questions and problems, collect, record and analyze data, create and use models, and design experiments. Students 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--challenging work for young students. However, with time and experience, students’ naïve ideas evolve into anchoring scientific ideas that prepare them for middle school work.

Writing is embedded in daily science activities and serves as a mechanism to process the day’s experience as well as a tool for formative assessment. Through the use of writing journals, students reflect on their learning, communicate their explanations and connect the anchoring scientific ideas.

Discussing the work of scientists and engineers helps students 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. 

Social Studies

Across grade levels, Trinity students are given opportunities to learn social studies concepts through multiple lenses, and they are allowed to be active contributors in planning, designing, and implementing projects. They carry out investigations, and collaborate with peers to gather, evaluate and communicate information, to educate and inform others in the community, and to use tools and technology to enhance their own learning.

Students are taught 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 world community who need our help. Each grade level is given a theme for their service learning discussions, and they are charged with being the Stewards of Friendship, Safekeeping, Gratitude, Giving, or Compassion. Students grow to become empathetic members of the world community and good leaders within their school community.

Spanish

The Trinity Lower School Spanish program focuses on both Hispanic culture and the Spanish language. Trinity students in grades K-4 attend Spanish class 2 times per week.  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.

Mandarin

Trinity third and fourth-grade students can choose Mandarin as their language of study. Students are instructed by a native Mandarin speaker who incorporates the "5 C's" 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, 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.

Additionally, students in first through fourth grade are also offered the opportunity to join an afterschool Mandarin Chinese course.

Extensions

In the Lower School, Extensions is the official program of differentiated and blended learning that occurs in first and second grades (all students four times a week for 40 minutes). Underlying the model is an RTI framework, and the model requires collaboration among numerous school personnel who work collectively on behalf of the students. The Extensions “team” is composed of the head of the Lower School, the specialist team (math, literacy, and learning specialists), the technology instructor, and lead and assistant teachers. Integrating different types of expertise to provide specialized instruction and track student performance towards mastery of predetermined foundational skills is a fundamental program concept.

For students with multiple needs, the team determines the top priority for the student at that time. Student groups range in size from approximately six for teacher-led instruction and reach 20 for students using instructional software. The groups are highly flexible with some students migrating between groups on a weekly basis, others remaining in one group throughout the year, and others splitting time between two groups by rotating every other day. Extensions classes are held four days per week, with the fifth day used for reassessment and reassignment of students and program team communication (“Extensions Meetings”). Thus, student groups remain flexible and change frequently; when a student masters a skill(s), faculty revise the priority learning need for the student. Instructors are assigned to student groups based on their specific expertise.

Blended learning and computer-assisted instruction are part of the model. Instruction varies by the targeted literacy or math skill(s) goal for the group. For example, struggling first-grade readers receive a repeat of the general classroom instruction from earlier in the day and are provided the opportunity for additional practice. Alternatively, the highly talented math students receive advanced instruction using a curriculum designed for gifted and talented students.

Art

In Lower School, art students create art based on perception, creative expression, 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: multi-media, 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 between 35 and 40 minutes. Art is showcased campus-wide during the end of year art show. 

Music

Music-making promotes risk-taking, open-ended thinking, problem solving, listening skills, and creativity. Our children 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, our students meet every third day for 35 minutes. 

Technology

Lower School students use and learn technology both during dedicated time in the Tech lab, as well as integrated into the rest of their Trinity experience.  Based on ISTE Standards, we have multiple strands of technological literacy that are built upon from year to year.  Here are some of the 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 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 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.

Physical Education

The kindergarten and first-grade PE curriculum provides the opportunity for developing movement skills, body and spatial awareness, and cooperation. Students come to PE five days a week, for 30 minutes. There is an emphasis on strengthening loco-motor skills, so that students can learn to move more efficiently and to explore what their bodies are capable of. In these first two years of physical education, we build a foundation of basic movement and physical skills that includes throwing/catching, kicking, striking, rolling, dribbling, passing, and volleying. Fitness is encouraged through warm-up activities, jumping rope, and team challenges. Gymnastic skills such as balance, flexibility, jumping/landing, rolls, cartwheels, and yoga poses are introduced to strengthen body control. Students are also introduced to basic sports skills for soccer, basketball, baseball, kickball, and tennis. Socialization skills are emphasized as these young students learn to cooperate, share, take turns, win/lose, listen, and follow directions.

In second through fourth grade, PE builds on the foundation that was learned in previous grades. These students attend PE five days a week, for 40 minutes each day. During low-organized games, on teams and in small groups, students have opportunities to strategize, problem solve, and demonstrate leadership. There is a continued emphasis on strengthening loco-motor skills, and we provide instruction that helps students become more capable athletes. Students refine their skills in throwing/catching, kicking, striking, rolling, dribbling, passing and volleying, and begin to apply those skills to sports activities. There is a greater emphasis on fitness, as we teach students the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. Students challenge themselves with more complex gymnastic skills such as jumping/landing, rolls, cartwheels, yoga poses, and partner stunts to strengthen balance and flexibility. Sports skills and teamwork are emphasized through participation in 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.

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