Primary School Signature Programs
Primary students are invited and empowered to live out their faith in exuberant and creative ways. Gathering together at chapel becomes the heart and soul of our community as we celebrate God’s goodness, learn to be attentive to his Word, and pray for the world. Worship takes place twice a week, with special focus on the holy days and holidays, and teachers take these lessons into the classroom the rest of the week. Faith in our heavenly Father challenges us to go deeper, ask questions, and live ever more fully in God’s world. Find out more about Primary School Chapel.
Reggio-Inspired Approach to Learning
To live and work in our rapidly changing world, children must learn to ask questions, think critically, solve problems, and work with others. Our Primary School program—modeled after the early education programs of Reggio Emilia, Italy—teaches these skills through child-initiated projects requiring teamwork and problem-solving. The Reggio approach fosters in-depth inquiry and shared responsibility for learning between the child, teacher, and peers.
The Primary School’s Reggio-inspired/project-based approach encompasses several key components:
Children are seen as competent, resourceful, curious, imaginative, inventive, and possessing a desire to interact and communicate with others. All children have potential, construct their own learning, and are capable.
Teachers are seen as researchers who listen, observe, and document children’s work and growth. Teachers are learning alongside the children. Serving as facilitators, they plan and provide learning opportunities, stimulate thinking, and encourage collaboration.
Environment is the third teacher. The room that the teacher organizes provides the immediate background for the physical, social, cognitive, and emotional development of the child. Our Primary School provides a stimulating environment in which a child can maximize his or her potential in each of the four areas of development: cognitive, social-emotional, spiritual, and physical.
Emergent curriculum builds upon the interests of the children. Projects emerge and are in-depth studies of concepts, ideas, and interests. The student experiences learning through play and interaction.
Our emergent curriculum is based upon the questions and interests of the students within the class. Teachers observe students engaged in conversation and play; from these observations spring projects that often span several weeks to several months. Topics are discovered as the students’ interests vary from class to class and from year to year, with new projects unfolding and following the lead of student inquiry. Teachers ask questions to inspire thinking, provide materials and experiences, and assist in student research. The result is students who are focused and demonstrate a much greater attention span, collaborative endeavors that are full of dialogue and active learning, benchmark skills that surface time and again in project work, and meaningful, student-centered study that serves as a hallmark of St. Francis.
Rice Early Literacy
Our Reggio-inspired curriculum isn’t our only stepping stone to future success in the classrooms of St. Francis’s Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools. Our thriving collaboration with Rice University’s School Literacy and Culture program is another. This pupil-centered, best-practice method positions teachers as “story takers” who carefully record students’ thoughts, words, and ideas, which are then acted out by classmates. Teacher-student interaction helps our educators hone in on specific literacy skills, including print concepts, word encoding, vocabulary, and punctuation—all of which meshes seamlessly with the Writer’s Workshop methodology of Lower School. Another aspect of the program is the importance of dramatic play, which enhances learning through a focus on the listening, speaking, and reasoning aspects of literacy.