Curriculum Overview K-8th – Essential Questions and Enduring Understandings


TISA integrates the arts–visual arts, dance, music and theater – into the general learning process and they are interwoven throughout the lessons using a thematic, interdisciplinary, project-based approach to instruction. TISA also educates with a vision of the “TISA Graduate” in mind, and the curriculum work backwards from 8 to K using two Essential Questions – like the side-rails of a ladder – to guide a student up and through the complete experience. These Essential Questions are: “Who am I?” and “What is Design?” Students re-visit these questions in a fashion appropriate for their class and the content of the lessons.  Below is an outline of the curriculum by grade level.



  • Oral language development through storytelling, poetry, speech practice, songs, phonetic studies, bookmaking.
  • Math concepts using the four processes, measurement, cardinal numbers, number patterns.
  • Studies of cultures through storytelling and the arts.
  • Classroom community and magic, human body puppets, simple machines and the idea of Change.


First Grade

  • Traditional folktales, review of phonetic studies, multicultural stories and traditional stories, writing practice, speech work, reading practice using literature.
  • Practice of the four processes, geometry, measurement.
  • Study of “family” as a basic social unit.  Study of Taos as a case study for Community.
  • Maps and world geography.
  • Environmental Science (weather and air).


Second Grade

  • Storytelling, Process Writing, NM folklore and tales, connection with weaving and other folk arts.
  • More of the four processes, extending  math skills.
  • Our connections to the Earth, origins of materials, structures and life: What comes in Layers?
  • Diversity:  Why are things different, what if they were the same?


Rites of passage:  K, 1, and 2 will share an Storytelling Festival in the Fall, and will collaborate on puppet shows and art openings on campus as well as participate in TISA events. All teachers are supported by a K-8 Singapore Math, Wilson Reading, and Delta/Foss Science kits.


Third Grade

  • Reading practice with quality children’s literature, cursive handwriting, speech practice, grammar, storytelling, phonics skills, book making.
  • Further work with the four processes, measurement, geometry.
  • Components of a society.  What is Home?
  • Research in current events, biographies.
  • Human Habitation, Astronomy, and New Mexico History and Geography.
  • Life science.


 Fourth Grade

  • Reading practice with classics from children’s literature compositions, spelling and dictionary work, cursive handwriting, grammar, storytelling, oral and written reports, book making, extended writing skills.
  • Math concepts such as fractions, decimals, mixed numbers multiplication, division, operations with fractions using all four processes, geometry in nature.
  • Man and Animal, Mythology and Culture, New Mexico Geology and History.
  • Relationship of animals and human beings, permanent and migrating animals.


Rites of passage:  3rd  and 4th  will perform full class-plays like Vacation to Mars, and Theft of Thor’s Hammer. They will also learn the Maypole Dance and explore other multicultural dances as well as participate in TISA events. All teachers are supported by a K-8 Singapore Math, Wilson Reading, and Delta/Foss Science kits.


TISA 5-8th grade teaching structure


Fifth Grade

  • What is Culture? – Why and how a society make a person.  Who am I?  as in, where do I fit in?
  • Middle Ages through the Renaissance – a society based on hierarchy and awe of God and Nature
  • Colonial New Mexico – How and Why Europeans arrived in Taos.
  • Science, Math, the geocentric universe, social hierarchies.
  • Architecture and structure making as metaphors in social study.  How do you design a group?


 Sixth Grade

  • Greek mythology, birth of democracy – What is the democratic idea?  Where does it come from?
  • Revolutions of the 18thy century, focus on the USA – How is democracy reborn in America?
  • Westward Expansion, tall tales, industrial revolution – Where do I fit in the modern world?


Seventh Grade

  • Movies! – The process and logistics of film-making. How to take a role in a complex task
  • Who am I in different contexts (relative to place culture and time)?  Does history repeat itself?
  • New Mexico History – How does New Mexico help create who I am becoming?
  • Egypt – A foreign time and place, where are the hidden connections?


Rites of passage:  5th and 6th will branch out into many areas:  5th participates in a stick bridge engineering challenge. 6th will present a Tall Tales festival. 7th will explore film making, as well as participating in TISA events. All teachers are supported by a K-8 Singapore Math, Wilson Reading, and Delta/Foss Science kits.


Eighth Grade

* Junior Great Books

*New Mexico History

*U.S. History:  Civil War Era

*Eighth Grade Exhibition of Learning