Core Curriculum

Reading & Writing
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Course Description

Using a Balanced Literacy methodology for reading and writing, also known as Readers’ and Writers’ Workshop, our Lower School students experience student-centered, differentiated literacy instruction daily as we aim to produce proficient, enthusiastic, lifelong readers and writers.

Our faculty train at Teachers College through Columbia University and we follow the curriculum units of study, along with grade-level expectations and standards. We delight as students immerse themselves in “just-right” books and write stories from the heart of their own experiences and noticings.

We launch each workshop with a mini-lesson on reading strategies or the writing process with the majority of the time devoted to independent reading and writing, small groups, and conferring sessions led by two full-time teachers in every K-5 classroom.

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Features & Outcomes


• Grammar, word study, vocabulary investigations and spelling instruction and practice
• Attention to accuracy, fluency, comprehension and conventions used by successful readers and writers
• Instruction in strategies to build and maintain an independent reading and writing life
• Attention to metacognitive thinking skills, speaking and listening skills
• Time for students to present their work and reflect on feedback from their classmates who, in turn, learn to listen attentively and ask productive questions


• Increased reading and writing appetite, stamina, fluency and comprehension
• Competence with phonics and print sound code
• Thoughtful self-selection of reading material from a variety of literary genres, allowing voice and choice for each individual student
• Fluency in writing for varied purposes and audiences
• Competence in language structure/grammar, word choice, spelling, syntax, punctuation and capitalization in all genres of writing (memoir, research, informative, persuasive, poetry)

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Course Description

Trinity develops mathematicians in grades kindergarten through five using a constructivist curriculum, Investigations in Number, Data, and Space. This curriculum evolved from research on how children best come to understand and learn mathematics. Based on standards developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, instruction is focused on mathematical reasoning while building solid computation skills. In fifth-grade our students begin a more formal study of algebraic thinking utilizing unit.

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Features & Outcomes


• Daily 60-minute sessions featuring differentiated instruction in a whole class, small group or individual format
• In-depth coverage of topics with concepts that build upon each other and across grade levels
• Substantive work in important strands of mathematics – rational numbers, geometry, measurement, data, and algebra
• End-of-grade benchmarks for basic number combinations and computation
• Classroom extension and reinforcement activities, including games, challenging problem-solving, and online fluency practice
• Ongoing practice and assessment to monitor student growth and understanding
• Problems presented in a real-world context that help children make relevant connections to their own lives
• Emphasis on mathematical discourse by teaching and utilizing using discussion strategies that set a tone for rich classroom communication
• Digital tools that supplement the text and support and inform students, teachers and parents


• Mathematical thinking and reasoning: students are able to make sense of math as they develop a deep understanding of core mathematical competencies
• Computational fluency
• Ability to use mathematics in a variety of real world settings, such as using statistics to analyze survey data

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Course Description

Trinity’s science program creates scientific thinkers who eagerly investigate, research, explore and record information about the world around them. Our hands-on, inquiry-based approach to learning weaves and spirals scientific content in various disciplines and grade levels allowing students to utilize the scientific method to experiment, construct, dissect and create models to prove their hypotheses.

Throughout their nine years at Trinity Episcopal School, students are introduced to such sciences as earth science, physical science, life science, astronomy, physics, chemistry, microbiology, genetics, physiology and the study of our urban environment.

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Features & Outcomes


• Introduction to the scientific method which requires students to form a hypothesis to prove or disprove
• Reinforcement of the scientific method through research, documentation and communication
• Utilization of scientific tools
• Two fully equipped K-8 science labs
• Hands-on learning approach to reinforce scientific principles
• Experience with the outdoor classroom (vegetable garden, hummingbird/butterfly garden, marshland, etc.) to discover the uniqueness in these habitats
• Opportunity to contribute to Trinity’s “Schoolyard Habitat,”certified by the National Wildlife Federation


• Greater understanding of our environment and the role of science in everyday life
• Measurement and calculation abilities
• Enhanced critical thinking skills
• Confidence in natural curiosity and ability to investigate and analyze data to prove/ disprove hypothesis
• Ability to observe, write and design as they interact with their environment
• Development of ethics and empathy for others


Social Studies
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Course Description

In kindergarten through fifth grade, students explore civics, economics, geography and history through problem-based learning units and inquiry work. Many of these units are known as Storypaths, units in which students take on roles as characters in a story and become stakeholders in a critical situation--perhaps scientists studying an oil spill in an ocean, knights protecting a medieval castle under siege, or members of the Boston Tea Party struggling for independence during the American Revolution. This approach capitalizes on the principle that, through problem solving and constructing their own knowledge and understanding of the world, as well as having a real "stake" in the problem, students engage in more meaningful and memorable learning.

Social studies work at Trinity is often integrated with students' reading and writing, and always keeps at its core the development of deep and enduring understandings, concepts, and skills as preparation for democratic decision-making.

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Units of Study


• Wampanoag Indians
• (Solving Problems in) The Park (:Developing Young Citizens)

Grade 1:

• Families, Neighborhoods, Community
• The Parade: Celebrating Cultural Traditions
• Safari in Kenya: The Land and the People

Grade 2:

• Communities, Citizen Influence, Leaders and Elections
• Amazon Rainforest & Deforestation
• How Do People Use Our Environment?
• Understanding Maps & Geography
• Communities Change, Good Citizens, Landmarks of Citizenship
• Oil Spill in the Coral Reef (Protecting the Ecosystem: The Great Barrier Reef)

Grade 3:

• The Castle: Life in Medieval Times
• Geography: The Travel Agency
• Charlotte History

Grade 4:

• Geography
• European Exploration
• Indigenous Americans
• Colonial America
• American Revolution
• Establishment of Government
• North Carolina Study

Grade 5:

• Bill of Rights
• The United States
• Westward Expansion
• Geography
• Events that divide a nation through 1850
• Junior Achievement "Biztown"
• A country goes to War
• The American Civil War

Word Study
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Course Description

Word study at Trinity encompasses the specific and intentional instruction around phonics, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and writing mechanics.  Some of this work happens naturally within the context of reading and writing workshops, but additional stand-alone time is devoted to both whole-class instruction and differentiated small-group or one-on-one work led by both teachers in a classroom.  

The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, Words Their Way, and Michael Clay Thompson's Grammar series inform much of the phonics, word study, and grammar work in the Lower School.

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Units of Study

Grades K-1

• Units of Study in Phonics (from Teachers College Reading Writing Project) for spelling

• Grammar exposure to nouns, verbs, adjectives

• Types of sentences, capital letters and end punctuation, with exposure to commas and apostrophes

Grades 2-3

• Words Their Way (Bear, Invernizzi, et al) for spelling

• Grammar emphasis on nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs

• Simple sentence structure, use of commas, apostrophes, quotation marks

Grades 4-5

• Words Their Way, and in 5th grade, Caesar's English, for spelling and vocabulary development

• Grammar emphasis on all parts of speech and parts of sentence, with exposure to phrases and clauses

• Complex sentence structure, use of commas, apostrophes, quotation marks, with exposure to colons, semicolons, dashes, hyphens

Assessment at Trinity
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An important component of any school is the opportunity for teachers to give feedback and to assess the work of students. The word “assessment” derives from the Latin word assidere meaning “to sit beside” and conjures an image of what effective assessment looks like – a teacher sitting alongside a student to discuss his or her work, review progress and suggest next steps. Ultimately, teachers judge and give value to the student’s work as it relates to a certain standard. This is the evaluation portion of the system. As complementary processes, assessment and evaluation allow students to practice, refine, reflect on and demonstrate what they know and can do. We consider assessment critical to instructional decisions made in response to a child’s understanding of the work. In addition to feedback related to the academic program, students are also evaluated on their progress with the Scholarly and Community Habits of our School.

At Trinity we utilize a trimester calendar with interim reports going home at the mid-point and end-of-trimester reports at the end of each trimester which translates to formal evaluative reports six times a year. Our first conference of the year occurs at the first trimester interim point and allows parents and teachers to review academic and social progress and goals. Students in every grade level conduct student-led conferences at the end of the second trimester. During these sessions students present to their parents a portfolio of work highlighting their strengths and challenges along with goals for the next term. Additional time is set aside for you to confer with teachers about the progress and goals of your child. Additional time is set aside for parents and teachers to review the trimester reports and address questions.


Faith Studies
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Course Description

Faith Studies classes, an integral part of Trinity’s overall curriculum, ask our students to be reflective servants, thoughtful stewards, and critical thinkers.  All Lower School Faith Studies classes hear and discuss the stories of the Bible and students make connections to their own stories, as well as stories from other faith traditions.  

This complements and reflects our belief that all of life has a spiritual dimension. During Faith Studies there is also time for connections and reflections to service learning, as well as discussions of embracing diversity in our community and world.

Faith Studies Essential Questions:

1. What are the stories of our faith?  
2. How do we integrate faith stories with our own stories?  
3. Who are our neighbors and what are we called to do?     
4. How do we process mystery and ambiguity?

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Units of Study

Grades K-2: Godly Play Stories

Children will hear and wonder about stories of our faith through Godly Play lessons and materials.  Kindergarten students begin with stories of the Old Testament and Torah including Creation, Abraham, and Moses. Students will also hear stories of King David and Solomon, as well as stories of the prophets and Exile. Children will also hear and respond to the stories of Jesus. Stories that share a common theme from other faith traditions will also be shared. Seasons of the Christian Church year as well as holidays of other faith traditions will be lifted up during classes as well. Students will also have time to share and respond to the stories using the Godly Play materials independently during Faith Studies.

Grades 3-4: Exploring the Bible: Old and New Testament Stories

Third grade students begin with a review of the Old Testament, as they open up the Hebrew Scriptures and explore the biblical text. Students become comfortable with the text and enter into a conversation with the stories, especially focusing on the Kings and the Prophets. Third grade students also study the life of Jesus and make connections between the Old and New Testament stories. Students in fourth grade focus on the gospels of Jesus as they read and reflect on the stories of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Stories and holidays from other faith traditions are also shared and lifted up. Students keep a Faith Studies journal in 3rd and 4th grade where they are able to reflect on the text and make connections to their own stories.

Fifth Grade: World Religions

The goal of the class is for students to come to understand and appreciate religious expressions across faith traditions around the world. Students in fifth grade study the following World Religions respectively: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Students study these world religions as they connect to the faith traditions of our service learning partners. We also examine the seasons of the Christian church year and make connections with the holy days and seasons of these other faiths.

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Course Description

All students are introduced to Spanish as an enrichment class in grades K-5, with an emphasis on language and culture via the Descubre el espanol curriculum. Students learn Spanish through the five Cs from the National World Language

Standards: Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities. They explore not only the language, but the culture of 20 Spanish-speaking countries. The focus is on developing listening, comprehension, and beginning conversational skills through sounds, poems, songs, stories, total physical response, music, art, and games. For heritage speakers the program also provides the Anthologia which includes leveled literary and informational texts that develop reading comprehension, vocabulary, spelling and writing activities. Students in grades 4-5 access this program at school and at home using student books and an eLearning center.

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Features & Outcomes


• Exposure to another language and culture and comparison to the student’s own language and culture
• Oral language development with a focus on listening, speaking and conversational skills
• Introduction/incorporation of reading and writing skills as extensions of oral language skills
• Communication through basic words and expressions within a context


• Oral, written and aural language acquisition
• Awareness and understanding of cultures outside the student’s own
• Deeper understanding of the structure and meaning of student’s native language
• Knowledge of the formal grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary of the target language

Performing Arts & Music Education
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Course Description

Trinity’s performing arts program reflects our commitment to a well-rounded liberal arts education with a focus on each student’s creative expression. All students take general music which emphasizes creativity, music appreciation, musical literacy and performance preparation. Each grade-level features a dramatic performance from Fairy Tale Plays in first grade to Shakespeare in fifth grade.

Beginning in fourth grade, students may choose from one of three ensembles: chorus, strings or band. The music program provides many opportunities for individual growth and fosters every child’s innate love of music. Ensembles perform at chapels, commencement and various venues outside of school.

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Features & Outcomes


• Access to a comprehensive, balanced and sequential program of music study
• Weekly music classes allowing students to focus on both instrumental and choral music
• Individual and group performing arts opportunities through weekly chapels, school and community events
• Opportunity to explore music composition
• Professional music and theatre experiences
• Annual school-wide arts festival


• Ability to read music through the use of rhythms and melodies
• Competency to bridge musical thought through multicultural music and culture
• Greater self-awareness and confidence with public performance
• Identification and recognition of form, harmony, expression and history in music
• Confidence and competence in critically reviewing performing arts

Visual Arts
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Course Description

Trinity’s art curriculum follows the pedagogy of Teaching Artistic Behaviors (TAB), a methodology that is student-focused, choice-based, and teacher-facilitated. The learning environment is designed to provide centers or mini art studios complete with instructional information, menus, resources, materials and tools. Students move independently between centers, utilizing materials, tools and resources as needed in their art making, such as painting, clay or printmaking.

Centers are arranged to provide students with independent learning opportunities. We value the process of art as children as well as students as artists. It is the responsibility of the art teacher to guide students through the art curriculum in an engaging and thought-provoking way.

Edmund Feldman states, “ is a universally human act,” so its importance is held in high regard. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the art room at Trinity Episcopal School where students are given the opportunity to learn while engaged in the process of creating something new. Although the product is usually fantastic the process-based learning is where the beauty is!

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Features & Outcomes


• Weekly studio art classes where students explore a wide variety of media from clay to wire to pastels, all presented in “mini art studios” throughout the space
• Open art studio where students can use materials and resources to work on classroom projects
• Intentional integration with core subject learning
• Safe and encouraging environment for students to problem solve while exploring their creativity, artistic voice and individual expression
• Exploration of technology, how it is used and how it has impacted visual art
• Visual arts elective choices allow students to explore specific artistic passions such as photography, painting, architecture, etc.
• Annual school-wide arts festival


• Awareness of different materials and processes to communicate different ideas
• Understanding of the basic elements of art and how they contribute to each work of art
• Readiness to dig deeper and elaborate on particular themes and current issues
• Ability to use art as an historic and cultural indicator
• Understanding that art is not created in a vacuum and work its way into other subjects
• Ability to “think” in a visual manner and to reflect on their work and the work of others

Healthful Living: Physical Education & Wellness
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Course Description

We believe all students should have the opportunity to discover and enjoy lifelong activities and sports. The connection between healthy body, mind and soul is ever-present in the weekly programs which include cooperative games, skill development, sportsmanship and making healthy decisions. In the last trimester of fifth grade, students split into gender-based small groups for the RISE program to develop personal leadership skills that build confidence for the transition to Middle School.

Wellness classes teach subjects regarding how to keep our minds and bodies healthy and safe. This includes topics around emotional regulation, conflict resolution, self-esteem, nutrition, and personal boundaries.

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Features & Outcomes


• Assessment and skill development through tri-annual fitness tests
• Twice-weekly physical education classes, with separate wellness (lower school) classes led by the School Counselor.
• Introductory training sessions during physical education class highlighting five biomechanical skills (agility, speed, power, endurance, flexibility) necessary for athletic performance
• 10-week RISE program designed to support the fifth-grade transition into Middle School, with a focus on physical and social-emotional changes; culminating with an overnight camping trip
• Extensive warm-up sessions prior to all physical education classes, emphasizing dynamic stretching, full range of motion and proper progression (general to specific)


• Understanding of the impact of proper nutrition and developing healthy eating habits
• Development of proper biomechanics in all areas of fitness and improvement of motor skills
• Appreciation of the human body and understanding of body functions and care
• Character building through cooperative game play, self-awareness and problem solving
• Preparation and bolstering of skills necessary for athletics, both recreational and competitive