A coeducational day school serving students JK-12

Lower School Curriculum


Reading and writing is taught through a workshop approach in which large and targeted small group instruction is utilized. Children are exposed to a variety of genres and authors throughout the year. Speaking, listening, word study (spelling), grammar, and handwriting are an integral part of our students’ literacy development. These skills are taught explicitly as well as integrated into the daily context of their reading and writing.

Junior Kindergarten

Unit: Storytelling

Reading: alphabet recognition and letter-sound correspondence, recognition of environmental print, recognizing rhyme, making inferences and predictions about books read aloud, sequencing and retelling main events of a story or book

Writing: names, capital letters; label and explain illustrations, begin experimenting with inventive spelling

Speaking: perform for each other and parents through poetry, songs, movement and storytelling, show-and-tell

Listening: stories, conversations, group discussions, songs,rhymes, poems; understand and interpret the spoken word

Senior Kindergarten

Reading: phonemic awareness, sound-symbol connections, sight word exploration and a variety of other literacy experiences

Writing: Writer’s Workshop, shared writing, thinking journals, letter and number formation

Speaking: class discussions, partner pair shares, show-and-tell, news share, reader’s theater and song shares for small and large groups

Listening: interactive stories with the teachers, group lessons and discussions, morning meeting and closing circle

First Grade

Reading: Reader’s Workshop: large group, small group, and one-on-one instruction based on needs and goals, word study, guided reading, shared reading, read-alouds, independent and partner reading with leveled books and a variety of non-fiction and fiction texts.

Writing: Writer’s Workshop: large group, small group, and one-on-one instruction based on needs and goals, narrative, opinion, fiction, and non-fiction, shared writing, mechanics and grammar, handwriting instruction

Speaking: small and large group presentations, express and clarify ideas, ask questions and engage in social conversation, present at a lower school assembly

Listening: read aloud, directions, discussions.

Second Grade

Reading: Reader’s Workshop using Lucy Calkins second grade program-including reading habits, fiction, nonfiction, and series books. Large group and small group instruction, and one-on-one instruction based on needs and goals, word study (Words Their Way), guided reading, shared reading, read-alouds, independent and partner reading with leveled books and a variety of genres

Writing: Writer’s Workshop using Lucy Calkins second grade program – including units on narrative, informational, opinion, and poetry; large group and small group instruction, mechanics, grammar and handwriting instruction

Speaking: small and large group sharing, presentations of research and information learned; express ideas clearly, ask questions and engage in social conversation

Listening: read aloud comprehension, directions, discussions

Third Grade

Reading: Reader’s Workshop will consist of four major units, including habits of good readers, critical informational text skills, study of characters, and research.

Writing: Writer’s Workshop will consist of four major units, including the habits of good writers, the art of informational writing, a unit on opinion/argumentative pieces, and narrative writing.

Speaking: Students are regularly given opportunities to collaborate with one another, share their writing aloud, read aloud, and use discourse to deepen their understanding of topics.

Listening: Because students are regularly given opportunities to collaborate and engage in discourse, they will also be using critical listening skills. We will lay the foundation for these skills in morning meeting, as well, and monitor these in academic blocks.

Fourth Grade

Reading: During Reader’s Workshop, students will read, write, discuss, be read to, work on vocabulary and comprehension, and choose appropriate books. Units include: interpreting characters; obtaining information from non-fiction texts; and media literacy/social justice.

Writing: The Writer’s Workshop program provides opportunities for students to exercise writing skills that will support their ability to communicate ideas, thoughts and perspectives. Units include: writing realistic fiction; informational writing; and media literacy/social justice. Grammar skills are addressed in each writing unit. Cursive and keyboarding skills are practiced throughout the year.

Speaking: Students regularly are given opportunities to share their writing aloud in front of peers. Students also regularly read orally to aid in their reading fluency.

Listening: Students practice active listening skills in whole group and small group settings.

History and Social Studies

The lower school social studies program is dedicated to providing a sound understanding of the world in which we live and an appreciation for the rich diversity of humankind. The curriculum reflects an age-appropriate, multidimensional, project-based approach to the study of people and the land. The goal is to give students a sense of others and a context of their place in the larger world. Specific units of study integrate literature, music, art, social studies and, where appropriate, math and science.

Junior Kindergarten

Units: caring for me and my community, peace, art and design

Research: Read and create books based on ongoing observations and accumulation of facts. Explore what it means to become a peacemaker. Hands-on study and exploration of various artists, architects, and artistic styles and traditions

Senior Kindergarten

Developing our sense of belonging to our classroom community and school; thinking about “Who Am I?” and “How are we alike and different?”; observing nature including the earth, water, animals and their habitats; considering wellness and the human body. Exploration of literature to consider families, communities and history; study of a children’s author. Building Chicago connections by making a craft for Inspiration Cafe in Uptown; welcoming elders from Little Brothers/Friends of the Elderly to share their stories

First Grade

Units: Community: school and local, architecture, Mexico

Research: Student-led inquiry during Mexico and architecture units

Second Grade

Units: Getting to Know Our Classroom Community (The First Six Weeks), Getting to Know Ourselves and Each Other (Identity), Peace, Our Country and Its Symbols, Urban, Suburban and Rural (Our Local Community)

Research: Peacemakers in our present and past, student-led inquiry of our country’s symbols, state research

Third Grade

Units: The First Six Weeks/Identity (Quarter 1), Chicago History (Quarter 2), Chicago Neighborhood Study (Quarter 3), Neighborhood Research Projects (Quarter 3)

Research: Chicago History, Chicago Neighborhoods

Fourth Grade

Units: First Six Weeks Community, Empathy, Respect (Unit 1); Identity: First in Family to Illinois, Heritage Objects, “I am” Poems” (Unit 2); Peace: Activism Brings Peace (Unit 3); Illinois: Geography, Transportation Hub, Illinois: Who was here first? (Unit 4)

Research: Use informational texts and literature to discuss issues that matter to the students, interviewing classmates using oral and digital formats (e.g., Seesaw).


JK and SK are collaborating with the Erikson Institute’s Early Math Collaborative to put into practice the Big Ideas of Early Mathematics. First through fourth grades are using the Singapore math program, which teaches significantly fewer topics per grade level, but in greater depth. There are two lower school math specialists who provide weekly support and resources to teachers and students in a whole class setting or in small groups. For additional challenge, students in grades 2-4 have the option to attend a weekly challenge word problem session or use the ST Math (Spatial Temporal Math) computer program.

Junior Kindergarten

Unit: Art and Design

Numbers and counting, shapes and patterns, sorting objects by various attributes, introduction to number stories, charts and measuring tools

Senior Kindergarten

Counting and making meaning of numbers; practicing spatial reasoning skills while matching and arranging; making comparisons and assigning numbers to measures; patterning with objects, movements, colors and symbols; ten frame explorations and story problems, math stories and practicing the concept of working with a problem

First Grade

Numbers to 100, add and subtract within 20; intro to multiplication and division concepts; fractions with halves and fourths; time to the hour and half-hour; measuring with non-standard units and the concept of a ruler; basic 2D and 3D shapes; money with all coins and bills up to $20

Second Grade

Add and subtract double-digit numbers with re-grouping; multiplication and division with 2, 5 and 10; adding fractions with halves, thirds, and fourths; time to the nearest five minutes; measuring length in U.S. and metric units; properties of 2D and 3D shapes; picture graphs; money up to $100 and making change

Third Grade

Use place value to perform multi-digit addition and subtraction to 1,000; multiplication and division and strategies for multiplication and division within 100; basic understanding of fractions, especially unit fractions (fractions with numerator 1); rectangular arrays, area, and perimeter; describing and analyzing two-dimensional shapes; telling time to the nearest minute; measuring length to halves and fourths of an inch

Fourth Grade

Addition and subtraction within 10,000; multiplication and division facts 0-12; multiplying and dividing 3-digit by 1-digit numbers; fractions bigger than 1 and mixed numbers; writing decimals, comparing, ordering, and converting decimals; elapsed time; angles and classifying triangles and quadrilaterals; bar and line graphs


Science in the lower school encourages students to explore the world around them while introducing them to science concepts and vocabulary. In JK and SK, science is integrated into daily activities and thematic units. In grades 1-4, science takes place in a stand-alone classroom. Students develop observational and record-keeping skills by collecting and recording data, taking notes in science journals and making written observations. Process skills are developed through hands-on activities and investigations. Some of the most important skills for students are observing, collecting and recording data, and developing and using models and diagrams. Through cooperative activities, students construct explanations and design solutions. They engage in discussions based on evidence, and learn to communicate their ideas to others. Often, technology is integrated into the science curriculum. Students use iPads, laptop and desktop computers to explore concepts in depth, research, and use creative applications to present information.

Junior Kindergarten

Unit: Caring for our earth

Hands-on activities that develop science investigation, exploration, observation and scientific thinking

Senior Kindergarten

Hands-on science explorations and observations, walks to observe nature and record observations, exploration of data from non-fiction books and resource materials from the library

First Grade

Biology: vertebrates and invertebrates, skeletal system, life cycles

Chemistry: properties of matter

Earth science: rock cycle

Astronomy: Sun, Earth and Moon system

Second Grade

Topics of study: biology: vertebrate classes, body systems, trees; paleontology: dinosaurs and fossils; physical science: electricity

Third Grade

Topics of study: Earth science: rock observation, physical science: water cycle, force and motion, engineering and design challenges: Engineering is Elementary bridge building, parachute design

Fourth Grade

Topics of study: Biology: trees and tree identification; chemistry: acids and bases inquiry, physical and chemical changes, mummification simulation; engineering and design challenge: indoor and outdoor egg drop


Latin’s language program seeks to encourage students to become motivated language learners and global thinkers, connecting to the school’s mission of providing students with an educational program that embraces diversity of people, cultures and ideas. The primary goal of the program is to build a vocabulary base that fosters communication and creates a degree of comfort with the language. An integrated approach to teaching enhances student learning and provides cultural connections in a stimulating and meaningful way.

Junior Kindergarten

Exposure topics in Spanish language include: Greetings and goodbyes; introducing one’s self; counting up to 10; describing items using color and size words; commands, including: stand up, sit down, watch, listen; statements of preference

Senior Kindergarten

Exposure topics in Spanish language include: introducing and describing one’s self, family, friends and teachers. A second semester story-telling unit incorporates these topics with the goal of encouraging students to move from focusing on receptive language skills to developing expressive language skills as well.

First Grade

Students begin building conversational Spanish language skills by exploring the essential question: What are my routines... at school? ...in the home? ...and in my free time? Language goals include describing a typical school day, comparing morning and night routines, and exchanging information related to personal interests

Second Grade

Students continue building conversational Spanish language skills by exploring the essential question: Who are the children of the Spanish-speaking world, and how are our lives different and the same? Language goals build on the first grade topics of school, home, and free time to draw comparisons to daily life in several Spanish-speaking countries.

Third Grade

Spanish language skills involve conversations around neighborhoods and creating descriptions of places in the city of Chicago.

Fourth Grade

Spanish language skills spiral more deeply to practice using SK-4th grade topics in a conversational context. Role plays with classmates are integrated into a simulated trip to the countries of Central America.

Physical Education

Our comprehensive physical development and health program is designed to help students learn to identify and work toward short- and long-term goals, to utilize fitness technology, to persevere in solving problems, to follow directions responsibly and to work both independently and cooperatively with others. The program seeks to help students achieve active and healthy lives.

Junior Kindergarten

P.E.: Participation in age/developmentally appropriate games and activities that support gross motor development, body and spacial awareness.

Senior Kindergarten, First, Second, Third & Fourth Grades

Skill-building in games and sports begins with the premise that every child has athletic potential is to be developed and celebrated. Physical education in the lower school emphasizes fine and gross motor skills through games, activities and sports that contribute to the growth, development and social attitudes of each student. The physical education program includes basic body management, skill development and improvement, visual-motor integration and spatial awareness. The program stresses civility and good sportsmanship for all. Low-level activities include golf, field hockey, soccer, floor hockey, bowling, scooter activities, tumbling, mat games, yoga and Baggo. Multi-level activities include swimming, rock climbing and rope jumping. High-level activities include lacrosse, volleyball, softball, flag football, tee ball, softball and racket sports. Physical education teachers will coach during free choice to help with fair play and game skills.

Performing Arts

The performing arts program in the lower school is represented by a predominantly Orff based general music program in grades JK-4, band in fourth grade, and dance/movement classes in JK and SK. The goal of the music program is to give every student rich opportunities to explore, experience, perform and create music of many genres and styles through singing, playing instruments, moving, active listening, writing and notating music, thus guiding students to become true appreciators of music performance and composition. Lessons that are planned to stimulate imagination, develop cognitive, physical, emotional, social, and critical thinking skills.

Students study the musical concepts in depth and instruction is based on Orff Schulwerk and Kodály approaches to music education. Stages of learning are: Imitation – interactive teacher-modeled structures; Exploration – the opportunity to alter a musical experience through experimentation; Improvisation – creating music within structured frameworks; Visualization – the use of graphic or traditional notation leading to musical literacy and Composition – synthesizing knowledge to create and write a lasting piece of music. Technology is an integral part of the music curriculum. Students use iPads and laptops to access various applications that promote design thinking and allow them to store their work in digital portfolios. The music curriculum is a stand-alone curriculum that aligns with the National Performing Arts Standards and integrates elements from the language arts, mathematics, science, art, computer science and social studies curricula.

Visual Arts

In JK and SK, visual arts are integrated throughout the curriculum. The program in grades 1 through 4 familiarizes students with how art functions in different cultures and increases students’ understanding of artists and how they use art to communicate about the world. Students learn about elements and principles of art through a wide range of media and techniques.

Junior Kindergarten

Unit: Art and Design Daily classroom art activities with a focus on process, where children participate in the exploration of art materials and media.

Projects: Self and family portraits; water color and tempera painting, eco-friendly art; JK Art Museum

Senior Kindergarten

Regular participation in art activities and exploration of materials and media, including collage, construction, printmaking, painting and drawing; opportunities to reflect on process and discuss work with the group.

First Grade

Students develop fine motor skills and practice varieties of lines, recognize shapes, learn the color wheel, explore texture, construct a balanced and stable three-dimensional form, model a form in clay, learn about a range of artists and styles from different cultures.

Second Grade

Examine the color wheel in depth; investigate negative and positive shapes; experiment with the elements of texture and value; explore printmaking; model in clay; build a three-dimensional sculpture; discover contemporary art; learn the genres of still life, portraiture and landscape

Third Grade

Drawing from observation; design and paint a landscape with illusionistic depth; use printmaking tools to make a Day of the Dead print with Spanish titles; model and carve a relief terracotta clay tile; employ math skills to measure and divide space with a ruler; study Chicago public sculpture and architecture; partner with the third grade at Courtenay School in Uptown on a Louis Sullivan project.

Fourth Grade

Examine masterworks from the Art Institute collection; draw the figure in action; learn drawing techniques of contour, gesture, and sketching; employ a range of value in a self-portrait; partner with the Courtney School fourth graders on reading and illustrating the book Hugo Cabret; mix tints and shades with acrylic paints on canvas; carve a linoleum block and make a Japanese print; fold origami cranes; practice Chinese calligraphy with a bamboo brush and ink and make a bamboo painting; use a compass to design an Indian manuscript for the Hindu god Ganesha; design Lunar New Year banners for Sun Wah restaurant in Uptown; study the monuments of the Silk Road and model an Islamic eight-pointed star tile out of clay

Computer Science

In the lower school, the computer science program introduces students to key concepts and problem solving techniques. In the youngest grades, students learn concepts like sequencing through hands on activities. In the oldest, students have developed to a point where they are able to create interactive computer games.

Counseling/Children's Roundtable

The lower school counseling program provides a range of prevention and intervention services to support the social and emotional wellbeing of all students. The Roundtable program helps children gain a foundation in the areas of self- awareness, self-management, relationship skills and responsible decision making. Counselors visit each classroom JK-4 to build relationships with the children, lead discussions, and facilitate activities that promote the positive mental health and wellbeing of students. In the early grades, the goal is to help children develop a vocabulary to talk about feelings. As they get older, the curriculum shifts to help children think about group dynamics and forming healthy relationships.


The librarians meet with all lower school students. Goals are organized into four curricular areas: accessing information, evaluating information, using and creating information, and appreciating information and literature in all formats. The librarians collaborate with homeroom and special subject teachers to ensure an integrated curriculum. Students, teachers and parents are encouraged to visit the library to select materials for pleasure reading, for assignments and to satisfy natural (and encouraged) curiosity.

Learning Resources

The lower school learning resources program is designed to work with children who have diagnosed learning differences in collaboration with their teachers and families. Support is provided through individualized remediation, modifications, accommodations and/or consultative services. The primary goal is to meet the unique needs of our youngest students preparing them to be confident and resourceful learners. The lower school reading and math resource programs are designed to support struggling and at-risk readers in senior kindergarten through grade four. Students are referred by their classroom teacher and work in small groups.

Health Services

Latin employs two full-time registered nurses, one in the lower school and one to serve the middle and upper schools. The nurses provide immediate emergency care, do initial assessments and work with parents and health care providers to help children with chronic conditions remain healthy at school. They also educate students, faculty and parents about health issues and good health practices.

lower school students in a classroom