Elementary Academic Overview


At Saint Mark’s, we focus on building a life-long love of reading. At all grade levels, we center reading for joy, for information, for exploration, for empathy. Our students learn that reading creates a pathway for a deeper understanding of our diverse community and world. In the lower grades, students engage in the building blocks of reading with explicit phonics instruction supported by Orton-Gillingham in a sequential, multi-sensory approach. Our upper elementary students grow into literature circles and literary analysis, learning to support their thinking with evidence drawn from a variety of texts. Students finish their Saint Mark’s journey with the skills needed to share their insights and ideas in myriad ways.



Writing at Saint Mark’s follows a developmental, workshop approach, which allows students to grow in their writers’ voices and gain experience in a wide variety of genres. From our youngest grades, students are taught that they have important ideas to share and that their voices are valuable and valued.  Students explore narrative writing, opinion and expository writing, poetry, informational writing, and responses to literature in a variety of ways. Throughout their years at Saint Mark’s, students are supported by small groups and 1:1 teacher conferences, designed to support the skills and strategies necessary to build strong, creative, and expressive writers.



In grades five and six, students engage in a Humanities model, following a two-year arc of reading, writing, and social studies that explores essential questions focused on themes of identity, place, and community. Students examine how the past, present, and future make up a continuous chain, exploring issues and ideas, analyzing perspectives, and lifting up voices that are often silenced. Using the foundation laid in earlier grades, students employ their skills to use reading and writing as extensions of their thinking, helping them to make sense of themselves and their evolving world while harnessing the power of their words to effect change.

Social studies provides a lens and a framework for our students as they synthesize experiences in all of their academic and social subjects. In each grade level, integrated projects and explorations begin with the themes and essential questions below.



Kindergarten: Explorations of Family and Identity: How do we work, live, and play together? What makes me special? 


First Grade: Using our Voices to Share our Stories: What is my story? How can I share my story with others? What can I learn from others’ stories?


Second Grade: Diversity in Community: What makes a community? How are communities built?  How do people make a difference in their communities?


Third Grade: Exploring Change: What is the history of my local area (LA River project)? How does the past inform our present and inspire the future? What issues are important to my local area? How do rules and laws affect my local area? How can I make a difference or effect change? 


Fourth Grade: Systems, Perspective and Identity: How have diverse voices and experiences shaped California – past, present and future? How does history affect us today? How is our identity shaped by our larger picture? What does it mean to be an activist? 


Fifth and Sixth Grade (Humanities): Power, Voice and Perspective – US History and Ancient Civilizations: How does place shape who we are? How do systems organize our world? How is power defined? How does information, art, culture and perspective shape our understanding? How does what we think and know change over time?

Saint Mark’s employs the Singapore Math approach, in the form of a curriculum called Dimensions. It allows students to approach novel, authentic problems from a variety of angles. Math is everywhere, and ideal mathematics instruction centers around problem solving and the ability to use logic and reasoning skills in authentic application. Through this process, we allow our children to become mathematically fluent. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics defines fluency, in part, as the ability to apply procedures and knowledge in an efficient, accurate, and flexible manner. 


Our students are consistently engaged in problem-solving, mathematical fluency, and reasoning in every lesson. Instruction includes a  concrete – pictorial – abstract approach, which allows for each lesson to be accessed, supported, and extended in multiple ways. Concrete materials such as blocks, counters, and other tactile objects allow children to interact with problems in a real and tangible way. Students also learn to use visual models to demonstrate their thinking skills, which then support more solid depth and understanding when they move to the more abstract stage of using symbols like numbers, equations, and variables.


Students enjoy numerous interactive experiences  that build their knowledge and understanding of math concepts. Emphasis is placed on inquiry, problem-solving, and logical reasoning. Using lessons based in real-world application, children hone their investigative, problem-solving, and critical application skills to become lifetime mathematical thinkers.

Our science program is designed to spark curiosity and ignite a passion for scientific exploration in young minds. We foster a love of science by encouraging students to ask questions, make observations, and draw their own conclusions as they explore life, physical, and earth sciences each year. Through inquiry-based instruction, hands-on experiments, written analysis, and collaborative activities, students develop critical thinking skills and gain a deeper understanding of the natural world. 

Spanish is offered in kindergarten through sixth grade. Our program promotes Spanish language acquisition through comprehensible input and follows an instructional model that supports language development through lessons delivered in the Spanish language. Students engage in a variety of language rich activities, including storytelling, story acting, group games, songs, reading, retelling, and daily conversations. Students are exposed to the history, culture and geography of several Spanish-speaking countries, gaining an understanding of their uniqueness and diversity. The Saint Mark’s Spanish program also includes school traditions such as the creation of a “Day of the Dead” altar in early November, chocolate caliente in the winter, and various cooking activities. The Spanish program provides students a global perspective in their understanding of today’s world.

At the preschool level, children learn basic music competence. The school’s philosophy is that every child has a musical aptitude. The goal of the preschool music program is to expose children to a variety of creative ways of enjoying music and movement.

Saint Mark’s elementary music curriculum promotes vocal music with a blend of the Orff-Schulwerk and Kodály methods. Students develop an understanding of fundamental musical concepts such as rhythm and pitch through singing games and part-singing. In addition, students explore reading and theory on instruments such as pitched and unpitched percussion instruments, recorders, ukuleles, bucket drums, hand drums and hand bells. Students discover music appreciation for all genres of music through careful listening, dramatic play. Students experience the opportunity to perform by participating in seasonal programs.

In art class, students in kindergarten through 6th grade participate in challenging hands-on activities that foster creativity, exploration, innovation, and experimentation, encouraging each child to grow as an individual. Through practice observing and discussing their own work, the work of their peers, and diverse artistic traditions, students also develop empathy and an understanding of diversity and differences. The art curriculum is designed to both support and expand on classroom learning, integrating with multiple subject areas. Students develop their skills in a wide variety of media and processes as well as the basic principles of art.

Saint Mark’s Technology curriculum begins in second grade and continues through to our sixth grade. The curriculum covers digital literacy and digital fluency, digital citizenship and media literacy, computational thinking through coding and robotics, and hands-on creation and exploration through our digital media and makerspace units. 


Technology education is integrated into the core curriculum at Saint Mark’s. We consider technology to be another tool in the student’s toolkit of learning. Students learn how to identify and solve problems by using creative thinking and the technological tools at their disposal. Through our 1-1 iPad program, the school provides every third – sixth-grade student with an iPad to use throughout the year as well as access to Chromebook carts.

Beginning in kindergarten, students participate in physical education classes. The physical education program promotes both physical and social development of the students. Children develop fine and gross motor skills as they take part in individual activities, small group games, and team sports. The PE program emphasizes cooperation, teamwork, and sportsmanship.

With almost 10,000 books, the Saint Mark’s library is a rich resource for students. The library’s collection includes age-appropriate picture books, chapter books, and nonfiction titles. The librarian helps to inspire in students a love of reading by working personally with each child to find books of interest at the right reading level.



Kindergarten through sixth-grade students visit this warm, welcoming space each week to learn about literature and develop library and research skills. The librarian reads engaging stories covering a wide range of topics, from biographies and poetry to current events. Upper-grade students learn to use the library as a source of information for research reports and other classroom assignments.



Developmental kindergarten and preschool students are visited by the librarian once a month for story time.

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