The Green School uses a Balanced Literacy framework that follows the researched-based model articulated by Fountas and Pinnell in their books (Guiding Readers and Writers, Word Matters, Guided Reading and Interactive Writers), Lucy Calkins, and the work of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Students have a daily Literacy Block of 2 – 3 hours, so that they can develop the core competencies of reading and writing as described by the National Reading Panel. The Literacy Block consists of Interactive Read Aloud, Shared Reading, Guided Reading, Independent Reading, Word Study, and Writing Workshop.
Individual Assessment and Long-Range Planning
The workshop approach to teaching literacy allows teachers to differentiate instruction for each student on a daily basis. In reading, this starts with one-on-one assessments given to each child at the beginning of the year in order to identify the child’s current level of performance - including phonemic awareness, reading (decoding, fluency, comprehension), and writing. Teachers use the information provided by these assessments to develop individual goals for each student around their strengths and needs. Teachers then map these areas of strength and need onto the standards within the common core for reading and the TCRWP curriculum to develop curriculum maps identifying the units and the standards to be taught throughout the year and the timeframe for teaching them. These curriculum maps are used as tools that guide teachers in developing daily lessons, units of study, and monitoring their pacing throughout the year.
The Green School uses the Investigations in Number, Data, and Space by TERC. This complete K-5 program, developed by TERC, correlates to the NCTM Standards and focuses on the major strands of mathematics: number, geometry and measurement, data analysis, and the mathematics of change. The investigations in the curriculum have been designed to engage students in key mathematical contexts as they develop number sense, learn to visualize and describe geometric relationships, and collect and analyze real data. Students work together to explore mathematical problems in depth, use a variety of materials and technology, and express their mathematical thinking through talking, drawing, and writing.
In addition, we have identified particular units at each grade level as ideal opportunities for a project-based learning approach. During these units teachers incorporate economics, art, weaving, and music in order to create an authentic context for students to build and demonstrate understanding of mathematical concepts.
Curricular Framework & Units of Study
Science at The Green School uses an inquiry-based approach. The goal for science instruction is engaging children in making sense of the natural world through scientific practices, such as inquiry and argumentation. We use the Next Generation Science Standards to align process and content in the classroom to this inquiry-based approach. Each class has one anchor unit of study each year, which allows students the opportunity to work deeply over time to investigate essential questions related to that topic. These anchor units are:
· Kindergarten: Pollinators
· 1st Grade: Terrapins
· 2nd Grade: Aquatic Plants and Trees
· 3rd Grade: Sustainability and Environmental Stewardship
· 4th Grade: Oysters and Bay Restoration
· 5th Grade: Organic Gardening
These units function progressively over the course of a student's tenure at The Green School to highlight and make evident the complex connections of living systems (e.g. If students learn about brackish water during the terrapin unit in first grade; then they will have background knowledge to delve into the relationships between that water and bay grasses in second grade, and they will be able to inquire with knowledge about bay restoration in 4th grade.)
Teaching in an inquiry-based approach is an organic and cyclical process. It demands that the teacher be responsive to the line of questions that students are asking, allowing them to take risks and chances while providing resources and experiences that provide opportunities for students to discover content through experiential investigations. The teacher and students are both seen as moving through the learning process together. By choosing this approach, other than an ask-answer model, students are empowered to pursue curiosities in an educated way throughout the course of their lives in and out of school.
These year-long units of study are supplemented and complemented by smaller units that address content in the Next Generation Science Standards. In the same way that we ask students to make connections across systems and standards, we believe that the connection between science instruction in school and scientific inquiry in the larger community is critical. We facilitate that conversation through a rich network of partnerships with community organizations such as the Belair-Edison Neighborhoods Inc., Blue Water Baltimore, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Irvine Nature Center, Living Classrooms Foundation, Tree Baltimore, the Carnegie Institute, the Maryland Zoo, the Department of Natural Resources, Arlington Echo, Real Food Farms, Civic Works and the Baltimore Orchard Project.