PROGRAM AND CURRICULUM
At West End Day School, we educate our students, ages 5-13, in a warm classroom setting with a small teacher to student ratio. Classes, typically up to 10 students in size, are created by academic and social capability.
Our curriculums are based on New York State guidelines, covering kindergarten through sixth grade standards. Curriculums, which include reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies and computers, are developed with the needs of individual students in mind. And these core subjects are supplemented with physical education, art, and music.
The addition of SMART Boards in every classroom and our computer lab has enhanced our curriculum by allowing us to teach in an intensified multi-modal and interactive approach.
Our Small Academic Groups: Reading, Writing and Math
Reading, writing and math groups are broken up into smaller groups of approximately 3-5 students in order to address our student’s individual learning styles and ability levels.
For students who need a more structured, phonics-based approach to reading, we use an Orton-Gillingham program called Preventing Academic Failure (PAF). PAF is a multi-sensory program in which the students use their auditory, kinesthetic, and visual modalities simultaneously while learning the skills of written language. These students learn phonics, fluency, handwriting, spelling and grammar in each lesson. The skills taught are practiced and reinforced so that reading becomes more automatic for them. Throughout the program there is also a great focus on new vocabulary, as well as intensive work on comprehension.
For students who are fluent readers but need work on comprehension skills, we use a guided-reading approach where the students are using literature to pull the meaning from books. Students conceptualize the cause and effect, find the main idea and supporting details, as well as summarize the story. Once these skills are developed, high abstract concepts are added, such as making inferences. Students also focus on new vocabulary and spelling in a structured, systematic way.
For students who need a combined approach to reading, we use both the PAF program as well as a guided-reading approach to ensure that the students are obtaining the skills that they need to become independent readers.
During writer's workshop, we use the Basic Writing Skills program which is a program that uses a structured, systematic approach to teach students how to write expository essays. The program focuses on learning how to summarize, justify, persuade, enumerate and discuss. The program starts with the simplest form of writing, sentences, and moves into paragraph writing and compositions as the students grow. Within the program students are learning to raise the linguistic complexity of sentences as well as improve on the organization of their compositions. There is a very high emphasis placed on organizing a writing piece before the students begin to write. The students are taught how to create an outline in a structured way and this helps them to write an expository piece with more complexity and clarity. The mechanics of writing are also emphasized through the process of revising. During revision phase, the students work on improving the topic sentence, vary the words they use, add an adjective, insert a transition, use sentence starters, as well as choose strong and varied nouns and verbs to include in their final written piece.
Students are taught in small groups for mathematics, based on their ability level as well as their learning style. Students are informally assessed and placed in these groupings in order to reach their educational goals. We use the Saxon Math program which is based on a distributed approach to teaching math so that after a concept is introduced it is constantly revisited and practiced for reinforcement and retention. This program also uses a multi-sensory approach to teaching a concept and the students are using manipulatives and/or models to understand and learn each new concept. The program is very structured and each lesson is organized in the same way each day. Additionally, fact practice and fluency are built into each lesson so that basic facts become more automatic for our students. Finally, assessment is an important part of the program and is completed after every fifth and tenth lesson so that we can track student achievement.
Our social studies curriculum is based on a hands-on, interactive model that helps children learn about the world around them. The curriculum begins with a study of communities in kindergarten, and as they get older, expands into city, state, country and world understanding and history. The students are always asked to take a look at the world today, see how it compares to history, and evaluate what those changes have meant over time. Geography and ancient history are also explored in the upper grades. Textbooks, reference materials, newspapers and field trips are also used to enhance the social studies curriculum.
In meeting the National Science Education standards, the science curriculum offers students the tools they need to experience the richness and excitement of knowing and understanding the natural world. Throughout their years at West End Day, students explore life science, earth and space science, physical science and technology, as well as the impact of science through both personal and social perspectives. Textbooks, hands-on activities, experiments and field trips support the science curriculum. At the end of the year the curriculum is culminated with a science fair in which every student presents an experiment that they have completed.
Students attend computer class twice a week in our computer lab. Class is led by our Technology Specialist and supported by classroom teachers. Our classroom curriculums are heavily integrated into the computer lessons to reinforce core concepts, and students participate in group activities, using SMART boards, as well as individual computer sessions.
In the younger grades, children acquire basic mouse and keyboarding skills. They learn to navigate through instructional software and website activities which include educational videos, games, interactive storybooks, maps, and science simulations. The computer program is also designed to teach the technological skills necessary to succeed in middle school and beyond. As students become older, typing skills are reinforced and they learn how to conduct research and analyze information found on the Internet, and as students progress, they’ll complete more complex creative projects and learn more advanced applications.