Balanced literacy is a framework for instruction built on the premise that all children will learn to read and write when given a wide variety of real-life experiences appropriate to their current level. Students are given daily opportunities to practice reading and writing skills with varying levels of support and scaffolding. At the heart of Powell’ balanced literacy model is the workshop model/literacy block, in both reading and writing using the Common Core State Standards. The workshop structure allows students to spend long periods of time reading grade level rigorous texts and writing using text based questions, while also reading at their independent level and promoting opportunities for small group and individualized instruction. Students engage in authentic reading and writing tasks and develop skills they will apply throughout their lives.
In PreK through 5th grade, workshops are supplemented with daily lessons in phonics and word study and follow the continuum of modeling reading methods (sustained silent reading, paired/buddy reading, repeated reading, recorded books, and shared reading—through interactive read-alouds for close reading of complex text). We use DCPS anchor texts, featuring a 50/50 balance of fiction and non-fiction texts, supplemented by Houghton Mifflin textbooks.The PreK-K curriculum with Tools of the Mind encourages the use of buddy read, choral reading, echo reading, mature and dramatic play to respond to texts.
We use BURST, Imagine Learning, EdMark, and Wilson Fundations and Wilson Just Words interventions. Progress is monitored with DIBELS and TRC assessments, Achievement Network interim assessments; as well as DRA/EDL in Spanish.
Math and Science
We integrate DCPS math curriculum units, based on the DCPS Scope and Sequence into our math/science block aligned to the Common Core State Math and Next Generation Science Standards. We also use Blended Learning with Mind ST Math (grades K-5) and LearnZillion. Go Math! is our core math resource, supplemented by Engineering is Elementary units, LearnZillion, Singapore Math, and Everyday Math resources.
Through a challenging, standards-based, paced curriculum, students learn concepts and skills from all mathematical strands, as well as the connections between these concepts, through multiple exposures to topics and frequent opportunities to review and practice. We use developmentally appropriate inquiry-based science materials that provide students with hands-on opportunities to engage in authentic mathematics and scientific inquiry that require increasingly complex cognitive skills. Many science units and science content are also closely tied to literacy units. Each grade addresses science standards through study of the science units and produces a Science Fair Project.
Our curriculum aims to develop mathematicians with a balance of procedural fluency, conceptual understanding, and problem solving skills. At every level, teachers often use small groups or modified assignments to differentiate instruction for students who are working below or above grade level.
Progress is monitored using iReady and Achievement Network interim assessments.
Students at Powell learn grade level social studies content and concepts by reading and listening to texts on their level. Students are challenged to discuss, think and write about important events, people, places and ideas. Teachers provide direct instruction, using reference texts, primary documents, maps, atlases,etc, to deliver background knowledge or spatial reasoning skills. Social studies units are often integrated with literacy units. Students simultaneously gain skills in reading or writing a particular genre and knowledge of a particular historical period or social studies topic. The students also create a “micro-society” in the school (Pantherville) with a Mayor, City Council, currency, book store, jobs, ventures, and agencies.