Elementary Curriculum

Reading, Grades K-3Reading Mastery Signature Edition is a phonics-based program that uses a highly explicit, systematic approach to accelerate reading. It addresses five essential components of reading—phonemic awareness, phonics and word analysis, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. In our K-2 programs, students become fluent readers; then the focus transitions to reading for comprehension across our curricula.  Reading Mastery is supplemented and enhanced with the addition of classic, developmentally appropriate novels throughout the lower elementary grades.  You can find more information on Reading Mastery by visiting here.

Saxon MathSaxon Math is used to enable all students to develop a solid foundation in math.  It is a systematic, carefully articulated program that introduces new concepts incrementally while incorporating a high degree of review.   It dovetails well with the Direct Instruction methodology of teaching.  Learn more about Saxon Math Materials here.

LiteratureStudents in grades 4-6 study classic literature novels that have played a pivotal role in the development of our modern Western culture.  These novels, which include authors such as Rudyard Kipling, Jules Verne, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, expose our students to texts that have shaped our society, rich and vibrant vocabulary, and storylines that have been modeled time and again.  Our teachers guide the students through the content carefully and precisely, creating students who are well-versed in navigating tough but rewarding material.  The novels are supplemented with primary source texts that align with our history and science units.

SpellingIn early elementary grades, spelling instruction is embedded in the reading curriculum and is delivered using the same Direct Instruction methodology as the reading program.  Embedded spelling employs three strategies: phonemic, morphemic, and whole-word approach.  In older grades, spelling words are taken directly from the classical novels studied in Literature.


  • Writing with Ease (grades 1-4)
    Writing with Ease is a classical writing program that provides balanced instruction through mastery of correct form (spelling, punctuation, and grammar) and exposure to beautiful, inspiring excerpts from classical sources.  Some highlights of the program include narration, copywork, and dictation work which are designed to cultivate a student’s ability to listen, recall, summarize, recognize main ideas, and form and record independent ideas.
  • Writing with Skill (grades 5-6)
    Writing with Skill is a classical writing program that provides balanced instruction through mastery of correct form (spelling, punctuation, and grammar) and exposure to beautiful, inspiring excerpts from classical sources.  It builds on the concepts of narration, copywork, and dictation work, established in Writing with Ease, and incrementally develops skills so that students can understand, plan, and write effective and aesthetic compositions.

Shurley GrammarShurley Grammar is the program used throughout the elementary level at The Vanguard School.  Students learn jingles which help them to better understand the different parts of speech.  They are taught a way of questioning and answering in a flow that enables them to label the parts of speech in a sentence.  As students master sentence patterns, they progress to increasingly complex sentence patterns.  To learn more about Shurley Grammar, please visit https://www.shurley.com/?583c10bfdbd326ba145bc0ac7361.

PenmanshipStudents at The Vanguard School learn cursive beginning in kindergarten.  The curved lines of cursive are much more natural for children to form than the straight lines of printing.  In addition, by teaching cursive beginning in kindergarten, children in third grade do not have to learn a new form of writing at precisely the moment in school when the writing demands upon students are greatly increased.  The mainstream method of trading printing for cursive in third grade places a heavy burden on the student who is expected to use a new written medium to express himself at a substantially higher intellectual level.  Equipping our students to write easy and legible cursive is a critical component in liberating their academic potential.

Core KnowledgeThe E.D. Hirsch Core Knowledge Series will provide the scope and sequence in the basic disciplines, including history, science, literature, and poetry. 

SpecialsIn developing the whole person, The Vanguard School values drawing, music, and physical education.  Students are given one-half year of drawing instruction and one-half year of music instruction each year that includes a choice of vocal music or instrumental music beginning in the fifth grade.  Students participate in physical education the entire school year.

The Vanguard School Elementary uses a method of teaching in grades K-6 called Direct Instruction. Direct Instruction has consistently outperformed other approaches in producing fluent readers by the end of third grade.

Basic Assumptions of Direct Instruction (DI):

  • All children can be taught, regardless of past history.
  • All teachers can succeed when given effective training and materials.

Direct Instruction’s effectiveness with all students and teachers is due to its unique design and delivery.

Direct Instruction applies purposeful instructional planning to give students extensive support as they practice and apply newly learned concepts and skills. Direct Instruction programs:

  • break concepts into manageable steps to help students possess appropriate pre-skills and prior knowledge.
  • use clear, concise language so students grasp concepts the first time they are presented.
  • model skills and steps needed to complete tasks and ensure understanding.
  • give guided practice to support student learning.
  • provide multiple examples in a carefully planned sequence to build independence.
  • integrate previously learned knowledge and skills for continual progress.
  • incorporate continuous assessment to monitor student learning.

Presentation is significant to how effectively students learn. In Direct Instruction programs, teachers:

  • give placement tests so students begin at an appropriate level.
  • follow scripted lessons to ensure consistency.
  • use quick pacing and group responses to keep all students engaged.
  • implement planned correction procedures to prevent errors from becoming learned habits.
  • provide positive reinforcement to motivate students.
  • are able to be immediately responsive to students’ needs because the presentation techniques allow lessons to flow smoothly.

For more information regarding Direct Instruction, please visit http://www.nifdi.org.

The Vanguard School uses the CHAMPs model to assist classroom teachers in designing or fine tuning a proactive and positive classroom management plan that overtly teaches students how to behave responsibly.  CHAMPs strategies are implemented to accomplish the following:

  • Reduce classroom disruptions and office referrals
  • Improve classroom climate
  • Increase student on-task behavior
  • Establish respectful and civil interactions

By applying the effective, research-based practices outlined in CHAMPs, Vanguard School teachers have developed methods for clearly communicating their expectations on every classroom activity and transition.  These expectations are clarified using the following acrostic:

  • Conversation (What level of conversation is allowed/expected during the activity?)
  • Help (How do students get the teacher’s attention and their questions answered?)
  • Activity (What is the task/objective? What is the end product?)
  • Movement (Can students move about during this activity?)
  • Participation (How do students show they are fully participating? What does work behavior look/sound like?)

Key components of CHAMPs:

  • Teachers proactively establish clear expectations with logical and fair responses to misbehavior
  • Teachers spend less time disciplining and more time teaching
  • Teachers learn tools to motivate students to do their best
  • Students are taught how to behave responsibly

To learn more about the CHAMPs Management Model, visit http://www.safeandcivilschools.com/services/classroom_management.php.

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