Language Arts include reading, writing, oral expression, and listening. The goal of the Language Arts curriculum at PS1 is to create citizens who speak, listen, read and write to deepen their own and others’ knowledge, and to advocate for themselves and others. PS1 students become confident readers, writers and speakers. Our work aims to prepare students for any reading and writing task they will set or encounter, to turn them into life-long, confident readers and writers who are proactive and independent in their future endeavors.
At PS1 Pluralistic School, we emphasize all aspects of reading. PS1 students read for pleasure, for information, and for learning. Young students begin elementary school with a range of reading and pre-reading abilities and we accommodate all levels. Reading development is not a linear process and although, reading may appear to be “magic” in its development, it is the result of a complex multi-faceted process of learning. Our teachers are trained in the Columbia University Teachers College Reading Program. This includes phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension strategies. Reading is scheduled into the classroom routine and encouraged as a daily at-home activity. We define Reading proficiency as the student’s ability to access print accurately and fluently and to relate what he or she reads to vocabulary and content knowledge to ensure comprehension.
At PS1, every student is an author. For the youngest students, dictation and transitional spelling help them express their ideas in writing right from the start. It is our goal that children find their voice as a writer. Our teachers are trained in the Columbia University Teachers College Writing Workshop model founded on the work of Lucy Calkins and Donald Graves. At PS1 writing is an essential tool for making meaning.
“Writing doesn’t begin with deskwork, but with lifework.
Writing should not be simply to recording of details
but making significance of them” (Calkins, 1994, p3).
In addition to developing students who have a voice as a writer we also understand that grammar matters. Grammar enables the writer to create a greater subtlety of meaning. Grammar teaching and learning is embedded into the writing process. Grammar education is less about finding errors and more about having the widest range of tools so that students can make the best choices in order to express themselves clearly.
SPEAKING AND LISTENING
PS1 students develop into confident and articulate public speakers (even those who may be shy and quiet). Gaining confidence and comfort expressing one's thoughts and opinions is integrated into every aspect of the curriculum. The sharing of ideas and active listening is central to the school's mission of pluralism. Whether communicating with teachers or peers, in small groups or in front of an audience at all-school Circle Time, students are encouraged to articulate their thoughts, to listen to one another and to build upon each other’s ideas. It is a core belief at PS1 that civilized discourse is an essential element of a democratic society, and that these skills must be taught and nurtured throughout childhood.
The mathematics curriculum at PS1 consists of three components that interact to create a comprehensive and motivated approach to learning and understanding mathematics. The graphic above depicts the three elements in a triangle with Cognitive Guided Instruction on top, the Bridges math program at one corner and the Common Core Standards for Mathematics (CCSM) at the other corner. The three components together provide a conceptual framework implementing a variety of tools for teaching and monitoring and clear standards for monitoring students' progress. The math curriculum promotes learning as a collaborative and social endeavor. We teach mathematical learning as a process of constructing meaning to make sense of concepts and require perseverance and willingness to meet challenges.
The overarching goals of PS1’s math program are aligned with CGI in creating students who are problem solvers, can communicate mathematically, and have mathematical reasoning ability. As our math tool, the Bridges program includes pre-assessments and assessments for students so that teachers can focus on the needs of each student. From the Bridges website:
“Bridges focuses on developing deep understanding of math concepts, proficiency with key skills, and the ability to solve new and complex problems. Learning activities tap into the intelligence and strengths all students have by presenting mathematically powerful material alive with language, pictures, and movement. Students in a Bridges classroom talk about math, describe observations, explain methods, and ask questions. They are encouraged to find multiple ways to solve problems and show different ways of thinking. This is a vital way to help students build more flexible and efficient ways to solve increasingly complex problems. Hands-on activities engage them in exploring, developing, testing, discussing, and applying mathematical concepts.”
The CCSM have a foundation of eight practices that pervade mathematics education at all grade levels. These practices complement and support CGI and Bridges. The Mathematical Practices are:
- Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
- Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
- Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
- Model with mathematics.
- Use appropriate tools strategically.
- Attend to precision.
- Look for and make use of structure.
- Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
A Social Studies theme is often the connecting question or concept in a Cluster’s transdisciplinary study, informing classroom activities, Learning Expeditions, Literature, Geography, and more. Social Studies themes follow a developmental trajectory. The youngest students learn about things that are close to them, such as families, identity, and heritage, and as the children get older their circles expand to the broader Los Angeles community, then California, the United States, and our global community. This developmental trajectory follows students' widening awareness of themselves with the rest of the world. The social studies values we focus on throughout a child’s school experience are IDENTITY, STEWARDSHIP, CITIZENSHIP, COMMUNITY AWARENESS, SOCIAL JUSTICE, ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS, and GLOBAL AWARENESS.
We take a three-pronged approach to our science curriculum that follows the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS). The majority of the design and engineering work occurs in The Studio, the majority of the disciplinary core ideas lessons happen in the classroom. Students learn to observe, record, hypothesize, examine and experiment to develop their scientific problem-solving skills. The school addresses a broad scientific theme every year, and the themes rotate between Physical/Earth Science and Life Science. Within these broad themes, NGSS are chosen, and clusters follow the associated learning goals. Students maintain detailed science journals that they use to record their science learning and retain throughout their years at PS1.
Service Learning provides PS1 students the opportunity to experience first-hand how they can make a difference in the lives of others. Projects that benefit the community are an excellent way for students to learn about social responsibility, contribution, and stewardship. PS1 has a long history of supporting many groups in our area. Past service learning projects include working with organizations like Step up On Second, The Ocean Park Community Center, SOVA Food Pantry, Boys and Girls Club, Sunshine Retirement Home, and Access Books.
We use the term Learning Expeditions because learning is not limited to that which occurs within the confines of a school. At PS1, our students include much of Southern California as part of their learning environment. Students at all grade levels frequently use the city of Los Angeles as their extended campus, linking concepts and ideas from the classroom to the community. Recent field trips include visits to the Santa Monica Library, the California Science Center's space shuttle Endeavor exhibit, Olvera Street's Dia de los Muertos altars, Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook to learn about the water cycle, and of course the annual all-school camping trip to Leo Carrillo State Park.
SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING
Social and Emotional Development is ingrained in the DNA of PS1. Since 1971, fostering caring, responsible students who treat each other ethically has been a central goal. Our school environment provides an emotional safety net for children to be willing to learn and take risks. Everyone must feel “I Am Somebody” in order to be a contributing member of the community. We focus on knowing and working to bring out the best in each child to help develop the best version of themselves. From the Youngers to the Olders, children are taught interpersonal reasoning. Teachers value time spent in this pursuit on par with academic learning.
Technology is a part of the daily life of the classrooms. Specific software is chosen to enhance learning as another tool for teachers. Specific skills such as keyboarding, word processing, and use of the Internet for research are taught. Students create multimedia presentations using iPads or computers. Technology is an integral part of the design and engineering projects that students produce in The Studio. They will use software to design something that they build on the 3-D printer. It is our goal that students become adept and confident with technology as the tools to stimulate and heighten their sense of imagination, discovery, presentation, and exploration.