Our solid core curriculum follows Vermont and National English Language Arts (ELA), Math, and Science expectations. Religion and Social Studies are also core subjects at SMSM. All our students, including Pre-K, receive instruction in Art, Music, Physical Education, and Spanish. Pre-K through Grade 3 has Library classes. Grades 1-8 have Technology instruction in our computer lab, including keyboarding and safe internet use. All students in Grades 4-8 are assigned a Chromebook for school use. During Covid-19, our students, K-8, were able to sign out a chrome book for distance learning. Grades 4-8 learn to play an instrument of their choice and participate in Band and Chorus.
Core Curriculum Areas
Our pre-school math program places the focus on early numeracy skills and lays the foundation for growing mathematicians. In Kindergarten through 4th grade, we use a program called enVisions 2020. This program progressively builds on student knowledge to encourage them to think about how they are solving a math problem. Students use additive and multiplicative reasoning as well as practicing fluency with facts but do not rely on memorization of formulas to solve mathematical problems. Our 5th-8th grade students currently use a program designed through the Vermont Mathematics Initiative. Eighth-grade students consistently enter higher-level math classes in high school based on the high school math placement assessment.
English Language Arts
English Language Arts (ELA) includes the learned skills of listening and speaking and the explicitly taught skills of reading and writing; these skills allow us to communicate our thoughts and ideas to others.
Pre-K (ages 3-5 years)
- Follows the guidance of The Vermont Early Learning Standards with developmentally appropriate play-based strategies to develop a foundation for learning to read and write.
- Uses BUILDING BLOCKS FOR LITERACY ®, Teaching Strategies Gold (TSG), and Handwriting Without Tears to develop language skills with attention to social and emotional development.
- Exposes children to phonological awareness that develops the foundation to grasp the Alphabetic Principle: the understanding that the sounds of the language are represented by letters or a combination of letters.
- Develops basic comprehension skills through shared book reading strategies
- Associates sounds of the English language with letter representations
- Uses Wilson Language Learning System Fundations- Wilson Language to promote phonics, spelling, and handwriting.
- Applies a Balanced Literacy Approach incorporating Luck Calkins, Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop, guided reading groups, strategy groups, the whole class read-alouds, shared reading and writing, interactive reading and writing.
- Provides literacy intervention to supplement classroom instruction for struggling students.
- Promotes spelling patterns learned in Fundations. Grade Two uses WORDS THEIR WAY, and Grades 3-8 build grammar and vocabulary with Sadlier’s texts.
- Reads novels, current event publications, historical documents, and a plethora of other literate sources.
- Supports student development of an extensive vocabulary to effectively use words to express thoughts and knowledge and incorporate a deep comprehension across all subjects.
- Builds writing skills through essays, poetry, and research papers. Students enter local, state, and national writing contests, often placing among the top three entries.
St. Monica – St. Michael School follows a spiral curriculum that is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. The focus is on developing an understanding of the world around us through earth science, physical science, and life science. Students in Pre-K -Grade 8 build knowledge through STEM activities and other hands-on learning. Students are encouraged to think like engineers to problem solve and experiment with new ideas.
The school hosts an annual STEAM open house night for families to participate in various levels of difficulty and styles of activities in each classroom.
Our school welcomes students of all faiths, with all students participating in religion classes daily. We teach the beliefs and history of the Catholic Church based on a vertically aligned curriculum. These values are also taught in a way that is relevant to all our students – from learning about and dressing like a Saint on Halloween, to being stewards of the earth and greening up our community, to being altar servers, readers, and gift bearers at School Mass. The school starts each day with a schoolwide prayer and gathers each Wednesday for School Mass, where the priest often engages our students in thought-provoking questions during the homily. Some of these practices may look different as a result of COVID-19 as guidance is given from Bishop Christopher Coyne, Diocese of Burlington. Catholic second graders prepare for and receive First Reconciliation and First Communion, and Catholic 6th graders prepare for and receive Confirmation.
The inclusion of Social Studies in the curriculum from primary to secondary classes signifies the importance of the subject and the role it plays in a student’s life. Social Studies is incorporated into the school curriculum through a combination of subjects – History, Geography, Cultural Studies, Economics, Political Science, Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, etc. Grades 4-8 vertically align social studies through the Houghton Mifflin Holt Social Studies Program.
Through Social Studies, students learn to live in a society, interact with individuals from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, adapt to various situations and circumstances, and adhere to certain societal norms to lead a peaceful and productive life.
Our young musicians start with songs that emphasize following directions and working together in our classroom space with a lot of time for movement and exploration of our voices. Songs are based on seasons or themes the students are learning about in their classrooms. Students then add on to these concepts through the use of classroom instruments with more focus on beat vs. rhythm as well as beginning notation symbols and solfege vocal singing. (use of hand signs to guide the voice, the body, and the mind to move together). Older elementary students add the use of the school xylophones and then recorders to begin playing and experiencing traditional music notation. These instruments allow individuals to read, perform alone, and work together as a group. Grades 4-8 students each have the opportunity to learn a traditional band instrument, sing in chorus and perform in Drama club. Classroom music for older students covers a wide range of topics like Composers/musical time periods, world music, digital music, bucket drumming, different musical careers, and science/ music concepts like the effect of music on the brain.
Students from Pre-K through Grade 8 receive Spanish instruction. Research demonstrates many benefits to exposing children to a second language; the younger they are, the better. Spanish is taught with developmentally age-appropriate strategies. In Pre-K through Grade 3, children learn through songs, movement, games, stories, and comprehension questioning. Grades 2 and 3 build on that by incorporating some reading and writing. Young language learners are able to comprehend through listening much more than they are able to speak. Students in Grades 4 and 5 build on their learning with dialogues and guided worksheets. Grades 6-8 are introduced to grammar and vocabulary topics with a focus on conversational development. When students transition to high school, many are well prepared to go directly into Spanish level II.
Our PE program emphasizes social-emotional learning and developing a lifelong love of physical activity. We use SPARK PE, a research-proven curriculum in all classes, Pre-K through Grade 8, to develop gross motor and sport-specific skills as well as physical fitness. SPARK PE aligns with the SHAPE (Society of Health and Physical Educators) America National Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes. Students in grades 4-8 participate in the FitnessGram physical fitness assessment at least once a year to track their growth and monitor school-wide trends in aerobic capacity, flexibility, and muscular strength and endurance.
PE field trips have included Sunrise Gymnastics, cross-country skiing at Stowe Mountain Resort, snowshoeing, swimming, and disc golf.
Computers and Technology
Grades 1-8 participate in weekly classes in our computer lab. Our youngest students focus on learning parts of a desktop computer and mouse skills, while our older students use Google Drive to create spreadsheets, presentations, and artwork. All grade levels practice proper keyboarding techniques and learn internet safety and computer etiquette. We have a 1:1 technology program for students in grades 4-8 as they are assigned a Chromebook for school-based use.
Title I Literacy Intervention
The Title I Literacy Intervention program, funded by the Consolidated Federal Program Grant with funds managed through the local public school system (LEA) is designed to increase reading skills. The program is staffed by a reading interventionist, including pre-reading, decoding, language and vocabulary, and comprehension. Students will increase confidence and fluency and develop a love of reading.
The art program encourages creative expression through a variety of media and techniques. Pre-k through Grade 8 uses the EPIC curriculum, which follows national core art standards and combines elements of art and principles of design into a sequenced art program.
Renaissance Star 360 is a comprehensive nationally normed assessment that SMSM uses to assess student progress and direct teacher instruction in Early Literacy, Reading, and Math. Star 360 is aligned with national and state expectations and may be given throughout the year to determine student learning. The assessment is simple enough for a Pre-K student to take on a tablet but complex to assess for high school preparedness for our 8th graders. This past school year, due to COVID-19, we used this assessment that adapts to a student’s learning in Grades 1-8. Kindergarten had not had an opportunity to learn the nuances of this online assessment before remote learning commenced. All students in Grades 1-8 were able to complete the assessment at home, and teachers were quickly able to see strengths as well as areas needing to be targeted and adjust to individual distance learning instruction. During the school year, the assessment is completed at school with our lab’s desktop computers.
Improving Schools. Empowering Students. Promoting Excellence.
The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) is an independent, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization that partners with over 1500 public, independent, and international schools in the US and worldwide to assess, support, and promote high-quality education for all students through accreditation, professional assistance, and pursuit of best practices. NEASC aspires to provide a process for meaningful, ongoing whole-school improvement while honoring the unique culture and context of each institution we support. Founded in 1885, NEASC has a long tradition of school improvement across the six states of New England and in more than 85 countries around the world.
Today NEASC focuses on the accreditation of schools spanning PK to Grade 12 and, as a deeply mission-driven organization, is guided by key priorities which include advancing equity, promoting innovation and excellence in education, and empowering students.
NEASC is an advocate of educational quality and its ongoing improvement; its purposes are exclusively educational. It serves the public interest, the educational community, and the students within the educational system by:
- establishing and maintaining high standards of educational excellence
- providing a framework for institutional self-reflection and objective peer review
- serving as a resource and support for ongoing, meaningful whole-school improvement and growth.
Drawing upon its considerable experience, NEASC serves as a public policy resource on issues related to the condition of education in New England, the US, and the international learning communities it serves. The Association is a private, nonprofit corporation that adheres to fundamental principles of fairness and non-discrimination, thus NEASC is uniquely positioned to work in partnership with other organizations on a regional, national, and international scale as it works to sustain and advance the quality of education for all students.