St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School offers students opportunities for growth in the following major subjects:
Literacy - Primary and Intermediate Grades:
Saxon Phonics is implemented in Kindergarten through the 2nd grade. This strong, research-based phonics program lays the groundwork for beginning reading skills. Along with the teaching of phonics, Voices reading program embeds character development within systematic, comprehensive literacy instruction. The program's innovative use of instructional read-alouds and theme-based character development concepts inspire young learners to reflect, express, and connect literacy instruction to their lives. Treasures is a research based, comprehensive reading language arts program for grades three and four which couples high quality literature with explicit instruction and ample practice to ensure that students grow as life-long readers and writers.
Literacy - Middle School:
In middle school, student literacy skills are honed and refined. For vocabulary development, students use the Sadlier Vocabulary Workshop serires, which is specifically designed to support grade level literature and improve students' performance on standardized vocabulary tests. Students at this level are also asked to construct longer essays and research papers. Their understanding and use of standard English grammar is emphasized through the Daily Grammar Practice program. Literature study focuses on the elements of the novel, short story, poetry, and essay. Critical reading and thinking skills are emphasized.
Through the study of language arts, our students develop the intellectual, social, moral and spiritual qualities to serve their parish and civic communities, to think critically, to be productive, to grow spiritually and to make moral decisions. The program is balanced and includes speaking, listening, reading and writing integrated across the curriculum rather than as separate disciplines and discrete skills. Mastering literacy is an active process in which the students construct meaning and apply understanding from one area to another. As much as possible, students practice skills through authentic literacy experiences rather than in detached exercises and assignments. Teachers expose students to a wide variety of techniques, materials, and genres.
Our goal is to help children live rich, literate lives. To do this, we offer a balanced language arts program which includes five main components: reading, writing, spelling/word work, listening, and speaking. We believe that reading and writing are social activities. Children learn to read and write best within a richly and rigorously interactive community of learners.
The five components of our balanced language arts instruction are strategically and directly taught in each classroom through a variety of structures:
- Reading aloud across disciplines
- Guided reading / writing lessons / groups
- Independent reading / writing groups
- Phonics, spelling and word work, fluency, comprehension, vocabulary-building
- Coaching and conferring with readers / writers
- Assessment driven instruction
Through the study of religion, the students will progress beyond knowledge of precepts of the Faith to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Spirit of the Living God dwelling in each and every person. From that awareness comes a deep respect for the dignity integral to every human being.
In 2nd grade, students prepare for the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist. In the 8th grade, they prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation. Throughout all grade levels, students attend Mass and participate as readers, cantors and servers. Students also learn to write prayers and serve others in the community.
The study of mathematics is the study of relationships, structure, and problem solving. Through math, students learn about patterns, chance, form, algorithms, and change. They learn to observe, predict, analyze, and solve problems related to routine daily tasks. Pre-Algebra and Algebra I are offered to eligible middle school students.
The citizen of the twenty-first century must be scientifically literate. He/she must have a basic knowledge of science and its processes to appreciate the wonders of the universe, analyze the problems presented by life, and develop appropriate and morally responsible solutions to those problems. There is less emphasis on knowing scientific facts and information and more emphasis on understanding scientific concepts and developing abilities of inquiry. 40% of the weekly science instruction takes place through hands-on experiences in science labs located on both campuses.
Movement and play are important in children's lives, critical in all aspects of their growth and development. Our physical education program provides opportunities for all students to learn while being physically active regularly. Children learn to enjoy a variety of movement experiences in several activity areas. Physical education is an integral part of the education process. Researchers have shown that students who participate in regular physical education will enjoy enhanced memory and learning, better concentration and increased problem-solving abilities. Regular physical education encourages a positive attitude toward self and others, which is an important factor in creating a healthy learning environment.
Language and communication are the heart of the human experience. The United States must educate students who are equipped linguistically and culturally to communicate successfully in a pluralistic American society and abroad. This imperative envisions a future in which all students will develop and maintain proficiency in English and at least one other language, modern or classical. Children who come from non-English-speaking backgrounds should also have opportunities to develop further proficiencies in their first language. Kindergarten-5th grade students receive Spanish instruction twice weekly, 6th-8th grade students receive Spanish instruction three times weekly.
The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.
The social studies curriculum focuses on learning about all aspects of the world, the United States and the state of Texas. In the primary grades, the emphasis is on early America and community. The intermediate grades learn about the history of Texas, the different states in the union, and the history of the United States of America. Sixth grade studies world history, while students at the 7th and 8th grade levels concentrate on an in-depth study of Texas history and U.S. history, respectively.
Music, visual and performing arts are offered to all students. Study of the fine arts allows students to appreciate God in nature and utilize different areas of their creativity. It encourages growth in self-esteem, risk-taking, and sharpens skills in the mastery of many techniques and mediums. It is for these reasons we believe the fine arts are essential for students to grow spiritually, academically, emotionally, and personally.
It is critical for our students to be taught how to reflect, analyze, evaluate, manage, and apply information rather than merely absorb it. This requires higher-order thinking, multiple perspectives, and new communication and relationship skills. It requires that we give the students the body of knowledge that enables them to make sense of the world around them, to be culturally and technologically literate in an information-based, global environment. The integration of technology and curriculum enables students and teachers to maximize their ability to access information, enhance problem-solving skills, and develop effective communication skills.
The guidance program addresses the needs of students on a holistic level. Students experience spiritual growth as they understand the need for empathy in their relationships with one another and as they realize that every person is indeed a child of God. Educational growth is experienced as students use their cognitive processes to modify their behavior. Social learning is achieved when students are able to contemplate and see the effects their actions have on others. At a personal level, students come full circle in that they are able to use their learned skills to make them better people and representatives of Christ.
Our comprehensive guidance program is facilitated by a counselor at each campus to offer support to students in areas of academic, social and emotional development. Students and faculty are also supported by the Upper School learning specialist, who focuses on student academic needs, student accommodations, and testing.
Thinking Maps, developed by Dr. David Hyerle, are visual teaching tools that foster and encourage lifelong learning. They are based on a simple yet profound insight: the one common instructional thread that binds together all teachers, from pre-kindergarten through postgraduate, is that they all teach the same thought processes. Based on thorough and well-accepted academic study and brain research, the eight Thinking Map tools correspond with eight fundamental thinking processes. More than simple task-specific graphic organizers, the tools can be utilized individually or in various combinations to form a common visual language for students and teachers at all grade levels, in all subjects.
St. Thomas Aquinas also implements Write from the Beginning...and Beyond, a developmental writing program for kindergarten through 8th grade. Write from the Beginning...and Beyond focuses on the criteria necessary for successful writing achievement beyond the elementary years. The program includes narrative, expository response to lierature, each utilizing the Thinking Maps Common Visual Language. Teachers build upon and extend the instruction of previous grades by using Modeled Instruction, Improvement Rubrics, and Focused Mini-Lessons. The resultant effect is a common, targeted focus and school-wide accountability which creates an expectation of high student writing achievement on state and local writing tests.