Following drop-off on the playground, each day begins with a morning meeting. All elementary students come together to greet, share, and interact with their peers. Morning meeting provides a predictable structure to begin the day and is a strategic opportunity to build community and develop social and language skills.
We have three scheduled movement breaks each day beginning with free play on the playground at morning drop-off. Next, students have a structured movement break during language arts, and then more playground time after lunch. Movement is also embedded into lessons. For example, students may use scooter boards to travel to the correct vowel sound in language arts or jump to the corresponding picture when reviewing vocabulary in science class. We incorporate movement throughout the curriculum because it helps students regulate, strengthens attention, improves memory and retrieval, and it’s FUN!
Elementary students have a two hour language arts class every morning that incorporates phonics, reading, writing, handwriting, vocabulary, and language skills. Having an extended, uninterrupted block dedicated to language arts allows the teacher to connect all these skill areas to make learning more meaning and effective for students. In our rigorous language arts classes each lesson is aligned to a Common Core Standard.
Aligning each lesson to Common Core standards, we utilize Kendore Kingdom, a complete Orton-Gillingham based K-2nd language arts curriculum that uses a multi-sensory approach to teaching phonics, reading, writing, and spelling. We also use the Handwriting Without Tears® program to teach handwriting through hands-on, direct instruction.
Students receive math instruction and practice twice daily: 15 minutes at center time and 45 minutes in class. We use Singapore Math as our main math curriculum, a model that presents material in a natural progression from hands-on, to pictorial, to numerical. This research-based methodology deepens students’ understanding, builds strong number sense, and extends problem-solving abilities. Teachers supplement Singapore Math with their own teacher-made tools, games, activities, and assessments as they see fit to assist in differentiating instruction. We use the Common Core standards to guide math instruction, along with students’ interests and teachers’ professional judgement.
Social Studies, Science, and Health
Social studies and science instruction is split, with the focus on social studies in the fall and on science in the spring. A January health unit bridges the two courses. This approach allows for intensive instruction in one subject without the confusion of alternating between science and social studies content. In addition, students participate in science inquiry class held periodically throughout the year.
Students receive direct instruction during dedicated social skills class every day. Social skills are taught explicitly and directly, then practiced through various activities and games. We often use literature to introduce new concepts. Further, the whole elementary school is working on the same concepts simultaneously so that the students can remind and encourage each other, and teachers can reinforce the skills throughout the day.
Field trips provide students with meaningful, authentic, and experiential learning opportunities. We use field trips to introduce a new topic, enrich a unit of study, or as a means of assessment. In addition, we take students on field trips in order to help them be involved in and be a part of their community. Field trips allow students to generalize social skills to various settings, situations, and people. Field trips are a natural extension of our curriculum, bringing learning to life as students experience it first-hand.