Our training and experience involves a strong focus on meeting each student’s individual needs within a larger group. We support project-based learning that builds from a child’s interests and curiosity. We have also had great success with individual and small-group work that allows the teacher to support each student at their own skill level.
A typical lower grade reading lesson may begin with an interactive read-aloud including the whole class, which allows the teacher to model a particular skill and scaffold the children as they attempt to apply the skill as a group. As the children then find comfortable places in the room and choose a book at their level to practice the skill, the teacher can circulate to work with individuals or small groups on additional skills suited for their particular reading level.
There would also be various options for the children to practice fine motor skills, sight words/phonics, and word work skills, such as rhyming or alphabetizing. Again, all of these skills and activities would have been introduced and modeled with the teacher before becoming available for the students. In addition, a student or students may be working on creating an “All About” book on the topic of their choice, designing a diorama, or even developing a PowerPoint presentation that they plan to share with the class. The opportunities are endless.
In addition, we have training and experience implementing Backwards Design, which focuses on determining the essential understandings for each subject and then designing assessments and lessons that work toward those ultimate understandings. For instance, if you look at the scope and sequence for Social Studies in First Grade, the ultimate goal is for the child to understand that people make choices based on wants and needs. Therefore, if we are going to be learning about migration or exploration, every lesson will come back to that essential understanding that people have needs, such as food and water, as well as wants, such as gold or power, which affects their decisions. That one understanding will help connect all of the ideas and concepts we work on during that unit.
In terms of specific curriculums, we prefer to use spiraling curriculums that integrate concepts across subjects and continue to reintroduce topics and skills throughout the year. Thus, instead of “teaching” the concept of time for two weeks, giving a test, and moving to the next topic, the concept of time is incorporated into various lessons connected to various subjects (not just math) multiple times over the course of the year. In fact, students will continue to build on and apply the concept of time all the way through fifth grade.
We have experience with the following programs:
- Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading and Phonics
- Open Court, Balanced Literacy, Teachers’ College, & Understanding by Design
- Saxon Math, Everyday Math, & Singapore Math
- Lucy Caulkins’ Writing Workshop, Write Source, Words Their Way
- Core Knowledge (This provides a scope and sequence for Science and Social Studies)
- We will not be using a curriculum for character as we feel that children develop strong character through consistent modeling and experience in a supportive environment.
However, any curriculums used in the classroom will be used as general guides or supplementary materials rather than as a script. Student interests and questions will ultimately dictate the course of instruction. Some students do not respond to and actually become more confused by the approach of a particular curriculum. Thus, we will constantly be assessing your child’s learning style and using the curriculum and materials that work best for your child.
All of our lessons will go above and beyond merely meeting the Common Core Standards. Our expectations for your children include reaching a higher level of thinking that involves questioning, evaluating, analyzing, applying, and creating. We want our children to acquire more than a mere collection of facts. We want them to be able to observe, investigate, and problem-solve.