Cowan Avenue Elementary

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Academic Programs

General Grade level curriculum

Following is an overview of curriculum areas of focus according to each grade level.  Our curriculum is consistent with state and district academic performance standards.


Kindergarten is an important year for students and parents. While focusing on academics, we recognize the importance of social development for students’ age range (4-6) and support that difference. Language Arts is taught through our reading program and foundational skills, that focuses on alphabetic principles, phonics, letters sounds, and grammar usage. Math is taught through a combination of hands-on learning and technology. Our units include beginning numbers, number values, greater and smaller, money, time, addition to 10, subtraction within 10, sorting/graphing and measurement. We learn about the calendar, the days of the week, and months of the year. Social Studies units include community helpers, holidays, rules we live by, and places/things. Science units include the five senses, seasons, nutrition, dental health, sink/float, life cycles, motion and weather.  As part of a school for International Humanities, kindergarten focuses on the continent of Antarctica.

1st Grade

Rigorous academics continue into 1st grade. Students will enjoy a curriculum with an emphasis on developing strong reading and writing skills. By the end of 1st grade, each student should be reading with a fluency of 65 words per minute, with natural inflection. Students will further develop their writing skills by creating complete, detailed sentences with correct punctuation and beginning paragraph formation (topic sentence with details). Math will continue with addition and subtraction through 20. Students will work on telling time, measurement, and money skills; counting different amounts of coins to $1.00.  In Science and Social Studies, students will explore the world around us through exciting, hands-on, inquiry based lessons that focus on understanding time and place.  Science covers units in sound and light, air and weather, and plants and animals.  As part of a school for International Humanities, first grade focuses on the continent of North America. 

2nd Grade

2nd grade is a year of transformation where students become independent and responsible learners. Language Arts focuses on the skills of spelling, rapid sight word recognition, reading fluency (95 wpm), reading comprehension, vocabulary strategies, synonyms, antonyms, parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, articles, conjunctions), punctuation (end marks, apostrophes, commas in a series, and quotation marks), paragraph writing (beginning 3 paragraph formation), letter writing, sentence structure and so much more! Math focuses on memorization of math facts through 20, adding and subtracting two and three digit numbers, critical thinking skills, fractions, skip counting by 1’s, 2’s, 5’s and 10’s and repeated addition, word problems, money, number sequencing, odd and even numbers, number values, place value, and standard and expanded notation. Social Studies focuses on different cultures, heritage, then and now, courageous American figures, and American history. Science units include rocks & minerals, solids and liquids, and plant and insects.  As part of a school for International Humanities, second grade focuses on the continent of Australia.

3rd Grade

3rd grade is an important transition year for students. We are no longer learning to read, but reading to learn. Language Arts focuses on comprehension and understanding what you have read. Students will begin to make inferences and begin to recognize author’s purpose.  We work on prefixes, suffixes, and base word knowledge. Students also learn cursive. Math focuses on multiplication and division, place value, geometry and statistics, as well as, understanding numbers to 10,000 and adding and subtracting any numbers within that range. Our Social Studies unit covers community, which includes those who lived on the land before us, the Native Americans. We also learn about what cities need in order to govern their communities. Science focuses on structures of life, water and climate, and motion and matter.  As part of a school for International Humanities, third grade focuses on the continent of South America.

4th Grade

As the first of the upper primary grades, fourth graders will learn by reading rich core literature and informational articles that focus on “real world” events. Language Arts focuses on literary analysis, recognizing themes and understanding characterization, and determining the author’s purpose. Writing is a major focus and students move from writing three paragraphs to writing five paragraphs with a thesis, topic sentence, and supporting details. Math continues by building on previously learned skills and includes rounding numbers, comparing fractions and decimals, placing fractions and decimals on a number line, place value to a million and composite and prime numbers. Social Studies units focus on California geography and history, including the California Gold Rush and California Missions. Science units include study of the life sciences (environments, ecosystems, food chains, food webs), earth sciences (types of soil, rocks, and how they are formed), and physical sciences (energy, magnets and electricity). As part of a school for International Humanities, fourth grade focuses on the continent of Asia.

5th Grade

Continuing to increase academic rigor, 5th grade is the year we refine students’ skills and prepare them for the transition to middle school. Language Arts will continue to build upon critical thinking skills applied to “real world” events and award-winning American literature.  Students will bolster their work-study habits to develop greater independence. Math will focus on division, fractions, decimals, algebra, geometry (formulas) and statistics. Students will master 5-paragraph essays that cover 3 writing genres (narrative, informative (including how to/directions), & opinion/persuasive).  Science units explore the digestive system, parts of an atom, energy, the solar system, and an introduction to chemistry. Social Studies units focus on the history of the United States, including the war for independence and the Civil War and early colonization and development of the United States of America.  As a culmination activity students are offered the chance to participate in a trip to Washington DC.  All students may attend ocean day as well.  As part of a school for International Humanities, fifth grade focuses on the continent of Europe.

6th Grade

As our capstone grade level, 6th grade is the year students are expected to engage in high level analytical work and college preparatory subjects that include compelling current affairs and modern literature.  Much of the work is expected to be completed independently or without the help of an adult.  Students are Math is pre algebra and an introduction to early algebra.  Social Studies covers early man and civilizations across the continents with an emphasis on Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Science focuses on Earth Science-tectonic plates, the water, weather, and the rock cycles and the diversity of life.  As part of a school for International Humanities, sixth grade focuses on the continent of Africa.


Many teachers in the SAS school have elected to teach CA Treasures In the magnet, teachers have chosen a rich and varied selection of award-wining literature, coupled with non-fictional texts that emphasize current real-world events. In both schools, teachers implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) into their academic planning to develop a comprehensive program that meets the diverse needs of all students. Teachers are given the flexibility to choose the stories but must adhere to the grade level CCSS for literacy. Technology is an integral part of our literacy program and is used to facilitate projects-based learning, including the use of skills related to researching, publishing, and presenting.  


Literacy is comprised of 2 major genres: fiction and non-fiction. link to Cowan Expectations    Writing stretches across 3 main genres, narrative, informational and opinion.   Students will additionally be introduced to letter writing and poetry at various depths depending on grade level. link to Cowan Expectations



At Cowan, Math focuses on the common core mathematical practices, which include the processes of problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, representation, and connections. In alignment with CCSS teachers have developed a comprehensive and challenging mathematics program. In addition to utilizing technology to support learning, teachers integrate a number of different programs to meet the individual needs of their students. Implemented programs include: Engage NY , Mc Graw-Hill “My Math” , and Pearson’s Envision .


Physical Education

Our Physical Education program is a comprehensive curriculum that meets the California State Board of Education Standards. Each class receives 1 hour of P.E. instruction weekly. Our program engages students, regardless of their physical ability, and progressively builds on their skill level throughout the school year. The curriculum emphasizes movement skills and movement knowledge, self-image and personal development, as well as, teamwork. Students participate in a diverse range of noncompetitive and competitive activities.  Our program also helps students reach or surpass benchmark standards of the Presidential Challenge and the 5th grade California Fitness Test.



Study of the arts helps all students exercise their cognitive reasoning and makes their experiences more joyful. Students’ cognitive skills, such as language fluency and reading comprehension, are enhanced as they talk and write about works of art they have viewed, created, and performed. When students talk about works of art and performances, they engage in the process of analysis. When they discuss relationships between works of art, they synthesize perceptions and information about those works and their own experiences.  Here at Cowan Avenue Elementary each classroom receives 30-60 minutes of weekly art instruction by a credentialed art instructor with follow up lessons delivered by the classroom teacher.  Come by and see the varied art displayed throughout the campus.



Basic Music

Cowan Elementary School's music program is an integral part of our student's learning experience. Each class in grades K-6 receives a year of general music instruction.  Children experience the joy of making music together in a group as they learn the fundamentals of music.  Our music program develops creativity and imagination through singing, chant rhymes, dance, and playing instruments.  Our students utilize high quality instruments including xylophones, glockenspiels, as well as, recorders, boomwhackers, and other percussion instruments. 



Cowan Elementary offers an orchestra program with classes for all levels from Grades 3 - 6.  Students are able to choose from a variety of instruments, including violin, cello, flute, clarinet, trumpet, or trombone.  Instructional classes are thirty to forty minutes long and are scheduled weekly.  Enrollment is limited and priority is given to the earliest applicants.  Additional information concerning affordable instrument rental is available online by accessing this link.  



Cowan Elementary offers a chorus program that allows our students to focus on the vocal performing arts.  Students in grades 4-6 are eligible to participate based on interest and teacher recommendation.  Participating in this program, students are featured in vocal or theatrical performances for all school-wide musical productions, which include our Winter Holiday show, Spring Sing, and our Black History Month Celebration. 



Ballroom dancing

Hosted by Dancing Classrooms, our 5th grade ballroom dancing program is a ten-week (twenty-session) standards-based performance art curriculum that uses social dance, as a vehicle for change.  This curriculum-based teaching approach utilizes the vocabulary of dance to break down social barriers, eliminate bias, and teaches students to honor and respect each other.  The program also promotes self-confidence, communication, and cooperation.  Through this program, students learn the vocabulary of various ballroom dances within a classroom setting.  Each class in the series introduces new steps sequentially, reinforcing what has been previously taught through practice and repetition.


Our 5th graders, who participate in this program, cultivate their self-esteem and develop the maturity necessary to demonstrate teamwork, as well as, opportunities to increase their confidence and the joy of accomplishment.

Instructional Technology Initiative


At Cowan Elementary, we are fortunate to participate in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Instructional Technology Initiative, which allows each of our students access to an iPad for instructional use within the classroom.    The aim of this program is to help ensure equity for all students by “Closing the Digital Divide,” and allowing all our students to have access to 21st Century technology and related skills.  


The use of technology in the classroom is intended to empower students and educators alike.  Technology is used to support student academic achievement by providing them with opportunities to engage in digital curriculum, adaptive assessments, and other digital tools that enhance and enrich the learning process.   Cowan teachers recognize the power of digital technology and its effects on student engagement.  At Cowan, teachers have actively included the use of technology into their lesson planning as a means to help students critically think, be creative, collaborate, and communicate effectively with their classmates.  


Additionally, by participating in this technology initiative, we hope to enable our parents to feel more connected with our learning community, as we grow and develop our digital learning program.   


Smarter Balanced Assessments 

As part of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Cowan Elementary will participate in annual state standardized testing created by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  The Smarter Balanced testing platform is completely digital and was developed as a system of valid, reliable, and fair next-generation assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in both English language arts/literacy (ELA/literacy) and mathematics for grades 3-8 and 11.  


Smarter Balanced assessments move beyond standard multiple-choice questions to include extended response and technology enhanced items, as well as, performance tasks to allow students to demonstrate cognitively higher critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.


Testing dates are scheduled each Spring and will be advised to our parents in advance of the testing window.