Language Arts in Orientation (15 months – 3 years old)
Dr. Montessori believed that the sensitive period for language begins at birth and continues until about six years of age. During this time, children learn best through human interaction, absorbing the sounds and speech patterns of the family and home environment. In the Orientation classroom, students focus on learning vocabulary by naming pictures or objects and having a clear, simple conversation with the teacher. A three-period lesson on the word and concept of a “cow” may progress by naming the animal (introduction), recognizing the animal (identification), and remembering the name of the animal (cognition). The teacher may take the child further, sounding out the phonetics of c-o-w, to prepare the child to read in Primary.
Language Arts in Primary (3 – 6 years old)
In Primary, teachers introduce handwriting in tandem with reading, employing sandpaper letters, the movable alphabet, and other tactile manipulatives to make visible the transformation of sounds to letters to words to sentences to paragraphs to simple stories. The three-finger grasp developed in Orientation is used to hold a pencil in Primary and begin writing.
The lined paper of a Primary child shows the sky as the top line, the fence as the dotted middle line, and the grass as the bottom line (often decorated with a whimsical flower).
The student’s voice is given space for written and pictorial expression on paper that includes a dedicated area for illustration followed by lines for text. Primary students may write and illustrate stories about their family, their friends, what they know, and what they imagine, creating a delightful window into the mind and soul of a young student. Kindergarten students read their stories to their friends and family at an annual Authors’ Night, a tradition that will continue into Upper Elementary.
Language Arts in Lower Elementary (1st – 3rd grade)
In Lower Elementary, students begin to analyze more abstract concepts of language: the how, the why, and the from where? Students explore handwriting, spelling, word study, and grammar (parts of speech, nouns, pronouns, articles, adjectives, conjunctions, prepositions, verbs, adverbs, sentence analysis). With strong reading comprehension skills and a library of great literature at their fingertips, Lower Elementary students will progress from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”
In addition to studying how we write today, Lower Elementary students take a trip back in time in the Montessori Fourth Great Lesson to explore the history of language. A holistic and cosmic exploration of early people, how they communicated, how they developed written language, and how written language evolved over the centuries, the Fourth Great Lessons captures the attention and imagination of young learners and inspires them to tell their own stories.
Language Arts in Upper Elementary (4th – 6th grade)
Upper Elementary students continue to use distinct symbols to represent each part of speech. This tool allows students to study grammar at the word level and the sentence level. Students explore the meaning and function of words and the syntax of how they go together to create a meaningful sentence.
Empowered and equipped to read, Upper Elementary students enjoy efferent reading, which is reading (usually nonfiction) to find information, and aesthetic reading, which is reading (usually fiction) for enjoyment and to appreciate the literature. The teacher guides students to a deeper understanding of fiction and literature (plot and setting, character, vocabulary and figurative language, themes and ideas) as well as of nonfiction and information (main idea, key details, vocabulary, text features). Students explore literature together in classroom book clubs.
The writing curriculum in Upper Elementary, which parallels the reading curriculum, focuses on the three main purposes of writing — narrative writing, informational writing, and persuasive writing. Students work through a similar hierarchy of skills in developing their writing, including composing with pictures, engagement, generating ideas, focus, organization/structure, and drafting (elaboration, word choice, spelling, grammar, and punctuation). Writing projects are diverse and run the gamut from research papers to found poems to persuasive infomercials.
Advanced Language Arts and Humanities (7th & 8th grade)
Social World (US History, World History, World Religions, World Geography)
Students engage in experiential activities in each unit within cycle themes. Students collaborate within small groups to create and present projects. The sharing, presentations, and discussions that follow allow students the benefit of frequent peer-to-peer learning. Throughout each subject, a focus on historic and contemporary social justice issues fosters students’ skills of advocacy. Students are also exposed to world religions and cultures to spark a global mindset.
Advanced Language Arts (Memoir, Personal Narrative, Podcast, Fiction, Persuasive, Drama, Expository, Nonfiction, Research, Poetry, Creative Writing, Public Speaking, Grammar)
The Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop focuses on students as individuals, leading our students to become self-directed, life-long readers, writers, and communicators. In the Writer’s Workshop, the students create, edit, publish, and share original writing pieces in varied genres. In the Reader’s Workshop, students engage in reading studies independently or with peers and participate in weekly in-depth dialogues.
Language Arts in the Fine Arts
Everyone has a story to tell. Stories define who we are and who we want to be. St. Stephen’s Fine Arts Program is built around magnifying the voices of our young storytellers. Exploring avenues of expression in music, visual arts, and film, St. Stephen’s students create and represent their individual and collective narratives.
The music program at St. Stephen’s strives to support a lifelong love of creating, performing, and appreciating music from the earliest levels. The youngest students focus on developing pitch and rhythm through seasonal songs, games, stories, and playing instruments. Starting in Kindergarten, students continue to build their aural training and begin their journey into music notation, utilizing Kodály-influenced materials. In the upper levels, the students gain a deeper understanding of music history and theory.
Through visual arts courses beginning in Kindergarten, St. Stephens students are offered a full range of creative studio art opportunities, from drawing and photography to multimedia and sculpture projects. Budding artists learn art history in the art room and experience it firsthand through visiting museums and collaborating with guest artists. Students speak about their work, process, and influences at art shows and exhibitions.
Students create and tell their stories in St. Stephen’s film class. Each filmmaker is responsible for writing, producing, directing, and editing a short film, shown at our annual film festival. Students form their production teams and learn all aspects of filmmaking, from camera operation to film editing and scriptwriting. Through active participation in this year-long, project-based course, students develop artistic and technical skills as well as organizational and time-management skills.