Reading and Writing instruction focuses on growing strong skills and nurturing independence. Both Reading and Writing are taught within a workshop structure, which means a key daily practice is that the children spend time reading and writing independently. Each Block begins with a mini-lesson, in which the teacher explicitly teaches a strategy strong readers use or an aspect of the craft of proficient writing, or teaches about the genre the readers and writers are focused upon. An independent reading or writing period follows. Children make independent choices as writers, but write into the genre the class is studying. And as readers they again make independent choices within the structure of what they know about themselves as readers, and they work to continue to tackle increasingly complex texts and stretch into new genres. The teacher confers with individuals, pulls small groups for additional instruction, assesses children to track growth, and nurtures a positive reading or writing classroom climate.
During the Literacy + Block, instruction is structured around a variety of units of study and focuses on narrative, argument, informational, and poetry. The instruction builds on previous experiences and this instruction enables students to work with increasing sophistication and with decreasing reliance on scaffolds.
During our Math + Block, you'll see us working to deepen understanding of a concept across whole numbers, decimals, fractions, and more. You'll see us working with partners. You may see us writing on the windows and walls. No doubt we'll erase, write big, and scribble as we think deeply about a problem situation. You'll see us answering rigorous questions from peers and teachers and you'll see us gather in front of one child's work to hear him or her explain his or her thinking, providing proof along the way or answering questions if we don't all agree with the line of reasoning. You'll see us standing, sitting, jumping up and down, and getting frustrated. You'll see us pick ourselves up and persevere, and get excited when we figure something out. In short, you'll see mathematics as an active, rigorous, and deep subject, worthy of our best thinking and best collaboration.
Math + Block typically begins with two of our Thought Exercises, such as Analyzing an Algorithm, Translating an Expression, or Organic Number Line. After that, we are deepening our understanding through a Concept Study in what we call our "conversation lounge" and then working with partners in Studio Time at whiteboards. Because we do all of our work on the walls and whiteboards, everything is transparent and constantly being shared. Outdoor Brain Breaks help us refresh as we move towards presentation time with the room in gallery-style.
During our Science + Block, you'll see us solving an engineering design challenge, developing a question to investigate after studying a new topic, or making claims, backed by evidence and reasoning.
Engineering design challenges are brought to students by the teachers at the beginning of the year, and increasingly move to ideas initiated by the students, as they learn to formulate problems that can be solved through design. Students learn to define problems, plan models as a solution, design and build a prototype, test and redesign (as necessary), and engage in argument about the solution based on constraints and criteria. Skills learned at the tinkering table add to the possibilities during engineering challenges.
Additionally, students are immersed in areas of study and supported to formulate questions that can be investigated, either through research or through guided investigations. Investigations lead to deeper understanding of scientific concepts, as well as clarity around the practices of scientists.
During our Computer Science/Coding + Block, we work to grow our skills of computational thinking by learning how to program in Python. Our mathematics practice of developing algorithms with line-by-line justification of mathematical principles supports our work learning how to code, and predicting what a program will do or de-bugging a peer's program develops our logical thinking skills. Our problem-solving skills grow as we learn to understand systems or problems by breaking things down into smaller parts and tackling each one separately. And our skills with abstraction are developed as we learn to find and capture the important structure of a system or problem.
Computer Science/Coding + Block typically starts with a brief de-bugging exercise, followed by a lesson or lab. Projects at regular intervals give us the chance to build on the work of others, program with a peer, and operate on the edge of what we know how to do.