The educational cornerstones which our school’s curriculum is based on are:
- Habits of Mind
- Environment & Community
- Curriculum: The South African National Curriculum & Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS)
- Medium of instruction: English
- Blended Learning
- Employing the Habits of Mind, Growth Mindset and Thinking Skills
- Playball (Grade R ) & Physical Education (Grade 1-7)
In addition to the National Curriculum requirements, Thorntree learners participate in benchmarking Olympiads such as Conquesta and Quintathlon. The World Scholars Cup is an annual 2-day event that Intermediate Phase learners participate in as well.
Being an independent school, Thorntree have the flexibility to offer a more robust academic curriculum that enriches and extends beyond the required National Curriculum, and beyond the classroom. There is intent to enrol on the IEB Primary School Initiative in the coming years which will afford the school a variety of benchmarking opportunities and validation of school standards.
The Foundation Phase
Grade R, 1–3
The foundation phase underpins all future learning to develop a “whole-brain” child by promoting:
- personal, social and emotional well-being
- positive attitudes and a disposition towards learning
- social skills
- knowledge and understanding of the world
- physical development with the emphasis on gross motor and fine motor skills
- creative and enquiring minds.
Our English is based on the CAPS literacy programme that is designed to enable comprehensive early literacy achievement. Reading is developed by means of a variety of readers including; Bob books, Oxford Readers and New Way reading programs. A strong phonics-based reading programme lays the foundations for excellent spelling, writing and comprehension skills. The components of Writing, Handwriting, Reading, Language comprehension, Speaking and Listening, and Spelling are addressed daily through Jolly Phonics and Trumpeter, Primary and Creative Comprehension work programmes. Additional support is afforded through the IXL computer based programme.
Music is introduced weekly through exposure to singing, instrumental and movement exercises.
The Trumpeter Life Skills program is used to introduce a variety of relevant themes and concepts to the young students. The school is committed to real life outings and oral submissions encourage the students to share their personal perspectives and experiences.
The National curriculum covers all aspects of Mathematics, including Sorting and Patterning, Number, Base Ten, Shape, Measurement, Location and Arrangement, Chance, Data and Problem Solving. Students are introduced to a variety of concepts through both “hands on” and “abstract” tasks using the Prac Math programme. Additional support is afforded through the IXL computer based programme.
Science (Grade 1-3)
The Science curriculum contains a range of teaching experiments to diversify the exposure base. This prepares students for the Intermediate phase. It is devised to stimulate the students creative mind and intuition.
First Additional Language: Afrikaans
Language skills of listening, speaking, reading and the building of vocabulary and phonics are taught through various activities, the Trumpeter and “Afrikaans Geniet Dit” learning programmes. The Afrikaans reading programme encourages the learners to expand their vocabulary and develop effective comprehension skills.
Conversational Language: Sepedi
Language skills of speaking, reading and processing simple Sepedi are taught through various activities.
Fundamental manipulative skills and processes are introduced and developed. The subject matter is integrated with themes being studied wherever possible. The art programme gives the children an opportunity to express themselves according to their own level of ability and to encourage creativity in drawing, painting and craft.
Reading – covered in English section.
Due to the small class numbers children are assessed almost daily and any suspected barriers are noted and discussed with the relevant teachers for further plans of intervention. If deemed necessary professionals, such as occupational therapists, educational psychologists and/or speech therapists are discussed and recommended to parents to discern the best possible method of support for the concerned child.
Playball/ PE: (Grade R – Grade 3)
Playball classes are held once a week during school time for the Grade R-3 learners. These classes provide assistance in gross and fine motor coordination as well as general sports skills.
The Intermediate Phase
This phase extends and enriches the children, increasing their critical thinking skills and awareness of the world. This phase ensures self-development and intellectual maturation so that the children will be successful at High School and are ready to fulfil their potential on their chosen career paths.
English is taught by integrating the required language skills as indicated in the National Curriculum namely, Listening and speaking, Reading and Viewing, Writing and Presentation, Language Structures and Conventions. A strong emphasis is placed on Reading and Literature at Thorntree. An Annual Book Day and Book Fair are the first terms’ highlights. The smaller classes allow for both individual expression and collaborative work in English. Robust discussions around current events and topics of Interest are commonplace. Individual enrichment and extension is enabled to keep all students involved and fully extended through the IXL Programme.
The National Curriculum covers all aspects of Mathematics: Number and Number Systems, Calculations, Mental Skills; Problem Solving; Organizing and Using data; Shape, Space and Measurement including patterns and properties of shape, properties of position and movement. Students are introduced to a variety of concepts through both “hands on” and “abstract” tasks. Further support and extension is provided to each learner through the IXL Programme.
Natural Science & Technology
Natural Science forms part of the core subjects in the primary phase (Gr 1-7). It serves as a stimulating vehicle for developing basic skills. Learners are encouraged to develop their natural curiosity, ask questions, devise suitable investigations, collect and observe, check and solve problems, record their findings and draw conclusions through the Scientific method and technological process. The curriculum includes plants and animals, the human body, human influences on the earth, types and uses of materials, seasonal changes, space, sound, music and energy. An annual outing to Bush Pigs Outdoor Environmental facility forms part of the Intermediate Phase learning.
First Additional Language: Afrikaans
Our aim for Afrikaans is to supply each and every child with a sufficient vocabulary to express themselves clearly and effectively with, in writing and speaking. We teach vocabulary, language structures and skills such as critical thinking and interpretation. As with English, reading in Afrikaans is encouraged to improve their comprehension and vocabulary.
This subject is divided into two components namely History and Geography. Learners study human societies and social relationships over time with a strong emphasis on South African and African history and geography. Various critical thinking, explorative and comparative research and map skills are taught in this subject.
The necessity to offer learners the opportunity to engage in self-enriching experiences and learning beyond the academics is afforded through the subject Life Skills. Here learners look at personal and social well-being, the creative arts and physical education. Yoga, physical education through Playball and Music and Art are offered by trained individuals who come in once a week. Aspects of personal and social well-being are addressed by staff and on topics relevant to the learners. Study skills workshops are also included under this subject.
The Habits of Mind
We strongly hold that having the correct attitude, disposition, behaviours toward learning and problem solving are what lend to success in its broadest sense. At Thorntree we encourage the want to learn, lend depth and deeper more meaningful learning experiences through adopting and integrating the Habits of Mind into the classroom. These habits are drawn into our teaching and learning through various ways and practiced in and out of the classroom and even at home through the support of parents.
The essential outcome is to develop and expand the dispositions of skilful problem solvers who can apply their learnings to an ever-expanding array of challenges not only in commonly taught subjects in school, but also in their communities, in their world and in their lives. These will ultimately enable young people to engage socially, to be responsible citizens, and to live healthy and productive lives. We want to prepare our students to be morally responsible, law-abiding participants in our multifaceted country.
What Are Habits of Mind?
Habits of Mind are dispositions that are skilfully and mindfully employed by characteristically intelligent, successful people when they are confronted with problems, the solutions to which are not immediately apparent. When we draw upon these mental resources, the results are more powerful, of higher quality, and of greater significance than if we fail to employ those habits.
Employing Habits of Mind requires a composite of many skills, attitudes cues, past experiences, and proclivities. It means that we value one pattern of thinking over another, and therefore it implies choice making about which habit should be employed at which time. It includes sensitivity to the contextual cues in a situation signalling that it is an appropriate time and circumstance to employ this pattern.
It requires a level of skilfulness to carry through the behaviours effectively over time. Finally, it leads individuals to reflect on, evaluate, modify, and carry forth their learnings to future applications. It implies goal setting for improved performance and making a commitment to continued self-modification.
While there may be more, 16 characteristics of effective problem-solvers have been have been derived from studies of efficacious problem-solvers from many walks of life. (Costa and Kallick, 2009).
The list of Habits of Mind are:
- Managing Impulsivity
- Listening with Understanding and Empathy
- Thinking Flexibly
- Thinking about Thinking
- Striving for Accuracy
- Questioning and Posing Problems
- Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
- Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision
- Gathering Data Through All Senses
- Creating, Imagining, Innovating
- Responding with Wonderment and Awe
- Taking Responsible Risks
- Finding Humour
- Thinking Interdependently
- Remaining Open to Continuous Learning
Environment & Community
The students’ involvement in community and environmental projects are an essential part of our school curriculum. Our school’s motto for our outreach arm is: “be the change you want to see in the world”. Our aim is to lead by example, to serve others, to respect other cultures and to contribute positively to society.
Each term learners are involved in an opportunity to look beyond themselves and into their surrounding community and reach out with an effort that gives of themselves. Learners donate to various charities, a newly established community centre, the SPCA and enjoy reading opportunities with another less resourced school.
At Thorntree we have already acted upon reducing our water usage following a water audit conducted in 2016; have conducted a waste audit and sort our waste which is collected by a local recycler. We celebrate and bring awareness to at least one environmental day each term. Thorntree subscribes to the Envirokids magazine, a termly publication that learners eagerly await, enjoy reading and contributed articles for publication.