Elementary Language Arts
Language Arts in the Elementary grades correspond to the first two stages of the classical Trivium: Grammar and Dialectic. At the grammar stage students learn the proper use of language. Building on children’s natural aptitude for language, the Kolbe curriculum includes the study of grammar, reading/literature, composition, vocabulary/word study, spelling, and oral presentation.
Students who cover these subjects in depth become aware of the structure of language and develop the ability to analyze what they read and hear. Are the definitions clear? Are the thoughts expressed reasonable? Do opposing arguments to the writer’s position come to mind? When students transfer this kind of awareness to their own writing and speaking, they have entered the dialectical stage of development. This stage meets students where they are in terms of their cognitive development, at a time when they are apt to take issue with every proposition that comes their way and are fond of finding fault in other people’s arguments. The Kolbe curriculum helps parents guide their children through this stage to the goal of becoming able communicators.
At the dialectical or logical stage, students work as apprentice thinkers: grappling with the main lines of an argument, evaluating evidence, and expressing their thoughts in writing or in speaking. Beginning with their first written answers and oral presentations, and continuing with longer essays and reasoned oral defenses, students see that communication requires logic, order, and precision. Further, they learn that writing and speaking require different skills.
In writing and composition students begin to see the development of their own ideas as a series of related thoughts. As they support a position, they learn to present their thoughts in the best order, to use the most exact word, and to strive to deliver a clear message. When students compose as the result of thinking deeply on a significant topic or in response to a piece of literature, they are laying the foundation for critiquing the ideas they will encounter in life. When they speak in order to explain, inform, or persuade, they are taking their first steps toward passing on something of value — toward transmitting the Catholic cultural tradition. Further, as students turn their thoughts and beliefs into solid communication, they are gaining the skills they will need to become apologists for the Faith. At this stage they will be well prepared to enter the last stage in the Trivium, the rhetorical stage, to be fully developed through further studies.
Kolbe Academy uses a well-rounded approach to the language arts. The basis of reading in first grade is memorization of seventy phonograms, giving the student the tools necessary to decode new words. The student learns to spell the words he is learning to read and begins writing answers to reading questions in the second quarter of first grade, thereby getting informal instruction in composition, capitalization, punctuation, application of spelling, and practice in printing. He begins formal English instruction in the second quarter of first grade and continues throughout the remainder of grammar school. The Catholic National Readers, originally published in the 1890s, are the core reading curriculum for grades one through six. It is a challenging series, which aids the student in understanding archaic language and helps to develop his vocabulary. The Elementary Literature program for grades four through six and Junior High Literature in grades seven and eight introduces the students to unabridged classic literature, which is great preparation for the classics program in Kolbe’s high school. Phonics/Word Study is used to reinforce the student in the language arts, teaching spelling rules, rules of syllabication, and meanings of prefixes and suffixes. While the student begins composition in first grade with writing of paragraphs, formal composition commences in fifth grade with the Sadlier-Writing Workshop, which introduces ever-challenging material through high school. Every aspect of the language arts begins at a fundamental level, which is built upon each year in a spiraling manner for mastery.
High School English
In high school, students are entering the last state of the Trivium: the rhetorical stage. The overall goal of the High School English courses is to teach essay writing, proper citation, and oratorical skills, while increasing the student’s vocabulary and knowledge of English grammar in order to apply them in courses where in depth essay writing is required. Each course uses Sadlier-Oxford’s renowned composition and vocabulary workbooks as well as guides to citation and research papers. Kolbe Academy’s Oral Presentation series spans from ninth to eleventh grade and corresponds to the historical and literary studies of each respective year.