Grades 1-4 Curriculum Overviews

Language arts

The Lower School language arts program creates a solid foundation for students in both reading and writing. Spelling and phonics are included through the use of high-frequency words and a structured spelling program. First graders begin with simple sentences and progress to a structured paragraph with a main idea, supporting details and a conclusion by the third grade. Keyboarding is introduced to students in the first through fourth grade. he approach to literature also changes at each grade level. For first graders, the approach is teacher-directed, while in second, both student and teacher share in the decision-making so that by the third grade, the approach becomes more child-directed. Small class size enables teachers to conference with students on a regular basis; teachers’ aides are available to provide additional assistance.


The Lower School mathematics program focuses on problem-solving through formulas and cross-curriculum activities. Strategies for problem-solving are introduced in the first grade, developed and practiced in second grade and further developed and utilized in the third and fourth grades. The goal is for students to appreciate the value of problem-solving within the mathematical context. For example, students learn to use or look for a pattern, make a table or graph, use logical reasoning, create a diagram or brainstorm to solve problems. Math journals are also used, which allow the student to grasp the progression of his or her thinking in mathematics.

World Language

The World Language program at the Lower School and Montessori levels provides our students with an early introduction to languages using best practices. Starting in pre-school, students receive (semesters of) exposure to both French and Spanish before choosing one language of study beginning in Kindergarten. The seamless design of the program promotes high levels of fluency through a spiral curriculum and the opportunity for thirteen consecutive years of study of either French or Spanish. The World Language teachers use various methods including but not limited to TPRS and the Natural Approach focusing on all aspects of language learning: speaking, listening, reading, and writing in a meaningful context.

Social Studies

The Lower School social studies program provides continuity by teaching a unit on unique geographic areas at each grade level. The first grade studies the rain forest, the second grade learns about deserts, while mountains and grasslands are covered in the third and fourth grades. These topics easily lend themselves to extension into other curricular areas. Literature, art, music and writing have all been incorporated into the teaching of social studies. Each grade level also devotes time to map skills. The Lower School students participate in National Geography Week and Kids Vote.


Readings and stories from the Bible are used extensively within the religion curriculum. Students fully participate in the liturgies as each child has the opportunity to be involved in reading and singing at all Masses and prayer services. Constant awareness of Christian values is promoted through service projects geared to the Lower School student along with the Educating for Character and Family Life programs. Small group instruction allows for a more personal approach to religious instruction. The students, in turn, carry this personal and religious approach back to the larger peer group.


The Lower School utilizes a hands-on program in science with a spiral curriculum of common themes. Two state-of-the-art science labs are available for class use. Students begin by learning about physical science, including simple machines, gears and pulleys and interactive systems. Next, they study the environment, organisms and the solar system. Science processing skills are learned through written work as well as discussions. Students also learn observation techniques, prediction, data collection, experimentation, inference and application of data, interpretation, analysis and how to form a hypothesis.


Computers are used as a learning tool and are integrated into the classroom. Using SmartBoards and ActivVote, students can respond to questions without fear of being wrong, while teachers see immediate results to know if children understand concepts being taught. Scratch Coding is introduced in third grade. In the computer lab, students work collaboratively at round tables where they can interact while giving and receiving feedback.  The fourth grade 21st Century Math class includes a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) experience.

Fine Arts

Following a sequentially developed and skill-based curriculum, the Lower School’s fine arts program focuses more on the process of students’ artistic growth than on the final product. The culmination of student work is represented in many musical performances and art exhibits throughout the school year. A major goal of the program is to help the students become problem-solvers and risk-takers, while developing creativity and originality. For instance, students of music have been encouraged to develop their own accompaniments to simple melodies based on the pentatonic scale. Success within the fine arts program arises from a dedicated and supportive Lower School faculty which maintains an individualized approach within a small teacher-to-student ratio.

Physical Education

The Lower School physical education program is designed to introduce and develop athletic skills, cooperation, sportsmanship and an appreciation for physical activity. The curriculum is presented in a challenging and sequential manner throughout the grade levels. For example, a running/acceleration unit is introduced each spring, beginning with an introduction to proper running form, and progressing to resisted running using speed parachutes and bungee chords. Drills are age-appropriate and training modalities increase in intensity with each grade level. All other units are progressive in nature and appropriate to grade level. Emphasis is placed on working and playing with intensity, concentration and self-discipline. Cooperative challenges, free-play situations, independent thinking and sport games are all key elements in the development of these important values.


The kindergarten to sixth grade parent-run athletic program exists to provide students an opportunity to participate and learn a variety of sports and activities. This program is managed by parents of Summit students, and all coaches and sponsors are volunteers from the parent community. Offerings depend on interest shown by players and volunteer coaches, but in the past have included fall and spring soccer for girls and boys, winter basketball for girls and boys, winter girls' volleyball, spring boys' baseball and spring girls' softball. Read more about the parent-run program here.