School of Grammar (K-5)
Nova’s School of Grammar (Kindergarten–Grade Five) content draws from the traditional Western canon. It is designed to maximize the young child’s innate developmental receptivity to absorb and retain large quantities of information. Reading is emphasized along with spelling and handwriting. Phonemic awareness (phonics) and orthographic analysis (rules of spelling) are taught to enable decoding and encoding. Nova’s emphasis on history provides the backbone for the sequenced spiral of the general curriculum. Science emphasizes an understanding of key scientific concepts in addition to using the scientific method as a grammar for scientific thinking. In math, Nova uses the Singapore math curriculum, which is heavy on visual and verbal problems, to develop arithmetic skills. The study of Latin is introduced in grade 3 and progresses alongside the students’ understanding of English grammar. Together, the study of Latin and English grammars teaches students the structural underpinnings of language and expands the child’s vocabulary in preparation for more sophisticated levels of communication. Oratory skills are taught starting in Kindergarten and center around Aristotle’s Rhetorical Canon of Delivery (public speaking). The curriculum of Oratory School comes from the school’s general education and specialist curricula to work through the 14 progymnasmata, which are exercises for teaching children oratory while exploring the nature of virtue.
The thrust of the School of Grammar is training. Each academic endeavor seeks to form the habits of mind and character befitting a scholar and a citizen. Given the rich body of knowledge and skills expected of School of Grammar students, pedagogy in the School of Grammar facilitates this learning through the use of direct instruction buttressed by the teaching of various mnemonic devices. Teachers abstain from exploratory learning in favor of direct instruction to convey a large amount information to students through the use of stories and lectures while depending on songs, chants, flash cards, call and response, note-taking, poems, and limited use of projects to help students, through repetition to move their learnings into long-term memory.
Nova’s School of Grammar explicitly defines for students the nature of virtue as a good, repeated habit through the cardinal virtues of fortitude, justice, temperance, prudence, and wisdom. Students learn the behaviors associated with these virtues and are taught to look for them in the school’s rich content and in their daily lives. Once they can see them in the exemplars of others, they are taught specific ways to apply virtuous frameworks to their own choices.
A School of Grammar classroom is a knowledge-rich, nurturing environment where children learn the fundamental skills of reading, writing, and reasoning along with training in the positive habits of a scholar and citizen. The classroom is presided over by a teacher who is a content master and who understands the challenges and capacities of her students’ developmental level. School of Grammar classrooms are designed to facilitate the acquisition of a vast amount of knowledge. Classroom educators are trained to achieve this intentional, classical design largely through Grammar Stage-specific pedagogy and curriculum, reflection, classroom arrangement, and discipline.