Classroom ‘Flooding,’ a Literacy Advantage

Children are acquiring literacy from birth; from dinner table conversations promoting oral language development, to bedtime storytelling demonstrating that meaning can be made from text, to creating shopping lists which help children learn sounds and alphabetic symbols.

Good educators understand this and work to know and support each student where they are, or, where they fall in the ‘Continuum of Literacy.’ (Fountas and Pinnell)

Based on the continuum of literacy framework, targeted instruction is the current gold standard in literacy programs. What is targeted instruction? It’s not quite individualized curriculum; it’s closer to a tailored curriculum. It begins with collecting information, also called a ‘body of evidence,’ to determine what students know and what they need to know next. Tools such as benchmark assessments, running records, authentic tasks, teacher observations, student work samples, and, in some cases, standardized tests allow for the creation of a ‘literacy profile.’ From there, educators tailor curricular decisions by student, organize groupings, plan strategies for teaching reading and writing, discern how to appropriately-level resources, and create productive learning activities.

Targeted instruction is then implemented through ‘literacy blocks.’ Literacy blocks are 90-minute periods of uninterrupted literacy instruction in reading and writing. Studies show they are the best way to maximize instruction and make sufficient progress. (FCRR) Boulder Country Day School students in Kindergarten – 2nd grade begin every morning with a ninety-minute literacy block called The Daily 5. (Boushey and Moser) Students select from five purposeful reading and writing choices and work independently toward personalized goals while the teacher meets individual needs through whole group, small group, and one on one instruction. BCD’s Learning Specialist Team of literacy experts also ‘floods’ the classroom to further reduce the teacher/student ratio. The early literary advantage created by the Daily 5 is among many benefits we are able to offer at BCD. 

More on BCD’s Elementary program.

Sources: FCRR (Florida Center for Reading Research)Boushey, Gail and Moser, Joan. The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy in the Elementary Grades. Stenhouse Publishers and Pembroke Publishers, 2014,Irene Fountas, Lesley University, Gay Su Pinnell, The Ohio State University. The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum. 2016. http://www.fountasandpinnell.com/continuum/

Start the Momentum Early – Why invest in a PS-8 education?

For several years running, usually around the time reenrollment contracts are due, parents have asked me about investing in PS – 8 education. “College is so expensive,” they say, “Shouldn’t we save our resources when our children are younger so that we can afford to send them to the college of their choice?” 
 

My usual answer is that investing in children during their formative, younger years pays dividends down the road. Even still, as the cost of college education continues to rise, I remain firm in my conviction that an investment in the primary years is what best sets students up for success in later life.

When it comes to raising confident and competent children, the importance of investing in a high-quality education when children are young is critical. This makes sense if you think about the rapid pace at which students learn when they are younger. From language development in toddlers to critical thinking in elementary to navigating the social context of middle school, our kids need exceptional school environments to help them navigate what is becoming an increasingly complex world.

Researchers have been looking at this questions for many years now, and there are at least four key reasons to make this investment.

Literacy – Literacy serves as the springboard for education, and students who attend schools that focus on early literacy have an advantage over those who do not. A study run by the American Educational Research Association, investigated the impact of early education by tracking nearly 3,000 students from preschool through their 11th birthday. In short, the research determined that a student who cannot read at grade level by third grade becomes four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than students who are meeting standards.

Brain Development – Human brains grow more during the first five years of life than any other development period, with the first three serving as a mold for the organ’s architecture. Experiences during these formative years determine the brain’s organizational development for the remainder of life. Consequently, these years impact academic abilities, social-emotional skills, and executive functioning.

Young brains are also “plastic” brains. That is, they have the ability to change, or find new neural pathways, much more easily than older brains. The earlier we can nurture and develop those pathways, including an openness to new ones, the more easily brains can adapt to future opportunities.

Natural Explorers – Children in primary school are natural detectives, journalists and mad scientists. They love to explore and take in new material. They are also at the prime season of their life for absorbing information. Schools that use their resources to provide a broad-based, but balanced, curriculum have an advantage over those that do not. For example, early exposure to world languages, the arts, and STEM classes increase intellectual development. Furthermore, a diverse and rich curriculum increases the opportunities our children have to develop the ability to make cross-curricular connections and devise wide-ranging solutions.

Social-Emotional Growth – Academic and social-emotional growth are not mutually exclusive at any point in education, but they are most connected during elementary and middle school. Skills developed through practice, such as self-regulation and social interaction, have positive effects that are evident throughout an entire lifetime. Furthermore, developing a sense of empathy and understanding is critically important at younger ages. This is especially true in today’s world as cooperation and collaboration are rising to the top among skills critical for the workplace.  

BCD invests heavily in all of the above. We use a “flooding” model for literacy instruction, staffing each grade in K – 3 with four specialists from our Learning Center for 30 minutes each day. This intensive model lowers our student-teacher ratio and allows our students to receive more personalized instruction than they would get from their homeroom teacher.

We provide a broad-based and balanced curriculum to engage young brains and to expose them to multiple pathways of learning. Preschoolers start world language classes when they are three years-old, elementary and middle schoolers benefit from diverse curriculum taught by subject areas specialists in the Arts, STEM, technology, world languages, PE, and library. And, middle schoolers engage and participate in our Explore program, a series of electives designed to expose them to a rich array of topics and subjects that more closely resembles a college course catalog than middle school.

Finally, we teach social emotional skills through our Responsive Classroom and DDMS curriculum. As Preschool Head Kath Courter likes to say, “Pushing over a block tower at age five is kind of like annoying a colleague at the copier much later in life.” Teaching these skills and creating an emotionally safe and welcoming environment within which to learn them only adds to the education our children receive.

Simply put, investing “early and often” in a PS – 8th grade education is good policy and better practice.  Students that receive the benefit of that investment outperform their peers, are better prepared for high school and beyond, and have a stronger and more developed sense of self. In addition, they build on the skills and habits they develop at a young age and are more likely to succeed in a college or university environment when the time comes.

Read about BCD’s Preschool program.

Read about BCD’s Elementary program.

Read about BCD’s Middle School program.

Schedule a tour to see what makes BCD so special.

Register for our August 11, 2020 Virtual Open House at 4pm

8 Tips for Choosing a Kindergarten Program

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There are numerous Kindergarten options available for children and parents. Today, more than ever, parents carefully examine their many choices: open enroll or neighborhood, public or private, full day or part day, morning or afternoon, academic or play-based…So what should a parent look for in a Kindergarten program?

 1. Consider the atmosphere of the school and classroom. Are you greeted warmly when you visit the school? Do the children seem happy, excited to learn, and eager to be there? Do the teachers and administrators create an atmosphere of support and individualized attention. Remember that the early years are a time when children must develop a love of learning and excitement about school. A child’s sense of “I am and I can” is often solidified in kindergarten and that confidence will help to propel them through many more years of school and learning. Chose a school that communicates this message to you.

BCD teachers and staff, from Preschool through to Middle School, are intentional every day in their teaching and dedication to children. We promise to promote a love of learning within a safe and nurturing environment our priority.

2. Small class size is critical. Small class size helps to ensure that your child’s Kindergarten teacher truly knows your child. Small class size coupled with in-depth knowledge of your child means that teachers are better able to support your child strengths, challenges, and opportunities for growth. Many educators talk about the need for differentiating instruction (i.e. tailoring teaching for individual students). However, reality often does not provide the time or resources for this to happen in classrooms. When class size grows, even the best teachers are forced to teach to the median learning level of the students. When your touring schools be sure to ask about how teachers meet a wide variety of learning styles and needs. Be sure to ask about their strategies for acceleration, remediation, and accommodation.

Elementary class sizes at BCD are limited to 18.

3. Teachers support and nurture students as they learn to navigate socially. Academics are important, but strong social skills are critical to success in today’s world. Whether a person is five years old and knocking over another child’s block tower, or is 50-years-old and irritating co-workers at the copy machine – it is the same thing. Social skills, and the life lessons that accompany learning what works and what does not, are a cornerstone of success today. Look for a school that is focused on supporting development of the whole child and is committed to teaching character development.

BCD’s Elementary School Program has an extensive social and emotional support program including: Responsive Classroom trained faculty, a school counselor, and the Kid Power program.

 4. Teachers have support. Do the classroom teachers have the support of the school administration? Are there resource teachers to help ensure that student needs are met? Do teachers have time to collaborate with one another? Do teachers work as a team and share ideas? Do teachers take the time to work one-on-one time and in small groups time with students? Again, do not be afraid to ask these questions. 

BCD teachers have time built into their weekly schedules for grade level collaboration. Additionally, BCD teachers have a monthly collaboration time that focuses on cross-division collaboration or professional development.

5. Every child matters. No child should ever fall through the cracks – PERIOD.

BCD students are known and nurtured everyday by a faculty of many. The Kindergarten team at BCD includes a homeroom classroom teacher, teachers in world language, science, innovation, music, art, physical education, and library, as well as, school counselors, literacy specialists from the BCD Learning Center, the Head of Elementary, and the Head of School.

6. Look for balance. Just about every adult can recall the drone of Charlie Brown’s teacher and the image of children being sucked into a void of boredom. Kindergarten should also be exciting! Look for a balance in the daily routine. Ideally, students should experience a blend of teacher directed and child initiated activities; activities for the large group, small group, and time to work individually or one-on-one with a teacher; time indoors and time outdoors; time to be focused and put pencil to paper and time to just play and have fun. A balanced Kindergarten program will offer challenging academics and variety of enrichment classes (i.e. “specials”) such as art, computer, music, choir, world language, physical education, technology, and science lab.

BCD’s Kindergarten program stands apart in its breadth of enrichment offerings.

7. After school programs are an important factor. If you know that you will need to use a school’s before or after school program (also commonly known as Extended Day, Y-Care, or KinderCare), check out the program. Does the program seem organized? Are classes held afterschool that might interest your child? Is the program easily accessible to families and easy to use? Can you have your child drop-in on an as-needed basis or is a reservation required? In addition, the cost of extended care either before or after school is often significant. Ask about these costs up front.

BCD offers several affordable (and fun!) on-site after-school classes, as well as, daily aftercare. Our After-School Program (After 3 at BCD) is available to use any day you need it – without advance notification or reservation.

8. Trust your instinct when you visit. One of the most important factors to consider is the feel of the classroom and the sense that the children are actively engaged. It is critical that teachers create this foundation through joy, enthusiasm, and a nurturing passion that reminds us all of our most nostalgic memories and positive experiences in elementary school. Avoid the “mompetition” of what others parents say or do and choose a school that feels right for you and your family. The school that feels right is often the best fit for your child.

If you’re still considering your Kindergarten choices for Fall 2020, we invite to take a look at BCD. Call to schedule your tour today.