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Curriculum Overview: Reading

The following strategies are framed within the context of Reader's Workshop. Students are immersed in quality literature and learn to choose their own books based on interest. The Center of the Study of Reading reports that the single factor most strongly associated with reading achievement - more than the socioeconomic status or any instructional approach - is independent reading (Anderson, Wilson, Fielding, 1988). During the course of the year students will engage in the following strategies outlined. This is done for authentic purposes and in varying contexts.

Activating relevant, prior knowledge (schema) before, during and after reading text. Proficient readers "use prior knowledge to evaluate the adequacy of the model of meaning they have developed" and to store newly learned information with other related memories (Pearson, et.al., 1983; Hanson, 1981).
Students will learn strategies to identify the most important ideas and themes in a text. (Afferbach and Johnson, 1986). Proficient readers develop the ability to filter out extraneous information.
Proficient readers carry on an inner dialogue with the author, ask questions of the author to clarify and focus on making meaning of them.
Create visual and other sensory images from text during and after reading. This strategy aids in a deeper understanding of text.
Retelling and synthesizing what they have read.
The ability to select from an array of strategies to repair comprehension difficulties when they occur.


Curriculum Overview: Writing

"Writing is a struggle against silence"

The December 1999 issue of the "Reading Teacher" reported that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) observed that students who were doing "process writing had higher scores in writing on standardized tests."

Students are working in a Writing Workshop that supports a structure to simulate the strategies real writers use. They work within the confines of the "writing process" as a vehicle to formulate and craft ideas from stories, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as other forms of written expression.

In the Writing Workshop, students are given regular chunks of time in class to write. They learn how to choose their own topics and decide on the purpose and audience for their pieces. Students also learn how to take tests that supply a writing prompt and limit time to write.

Part of the workshop is devoted to teacher reading and modeling quality literature. students notice literary elements of published writers, with the intent of infusing their techniques into their own writing.

The mini-lessons fall into three distinct categories. They are procedural, literary and writing conventions.

Procedural - students learn the practices and procedures of the workshop to help move them smoothly through the writing process.

Literary Craft - students analyze and critique quality literature to incorporate strategies and techniques in their writing.

Writing Conventions - students recognize the purpose and use of grammar, punctuation and spelling as a means to make sense out of print.

As student writing unfolds, the varied genres that are covered are some of the following:

Personal narrative, memoir, biography,expository writing, short story, fables, fairy tales, myths and legends.

Research,essays, news reports, editorials, opinion, poetry, book reviews, letter writing.

Social Studies Curriculum Overview 7th Grade

  
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world”   Mahatma Gandhi

We will begin the year with a study of our civic responsibility.  Students will use Junior Scholastic, a local newspaper and the New York Times, as well as on-line media to inform them of current events.

We will study some major events in United States and world history.  We begin with Jim Crow laws introduced at the end of Reconstruction, and ending with the Civil Rights movement; we will compare segregation and discrimination during these two periods.  Following this study, we will explore the causes and effects of World War II and the Holocaust (the 7th grade’s culminating study will be the field trip to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City).  

The emphasis of our study will be on the political and economic incentives that laid the groundwork for the egregious treatment of blacks, Jews, and other minorities who became popular targets for persecution, discrimination, and in some cases, genocide.

We will examine the common themes that are prevalent in these studies:  racism, discrimination, stereotyping, scapegoating, conformity.  The central question is: How we can recognize these themes today in our own times, and learn from the results these destructive forces have had on a citizenry, so we don’t repeat them.

In addition to the above studies, current events are a viable part of the curriculum.  Students will access the online replica edition of the New York Times, the Norwalk Hour online, and monthly issues of Junior Scholastic.  We will also examine the organization, functions and roles of the U.S., federal and state governments. Students will develop mapping skills, and increase awareness of other peoples and countries around the world through the study of geography. Students will also enhance their understanding of the interdependence of individuals in a global environment. 

We know how important an informed citizenry is to our democracy. Students will learn how to develop their voice, demonstrate personal responsibility and feel empowered to be active participants in a world that needs leaders.


Social Studies Curriculum Overview 8th Grade

  
“Right is of no sex—Truth is of no color—God is the father of us all, and we are all Brethren”   Frederick Douglass

The first part of the year we will be studying the events, ideas and people of the United States during the era leading up to the Civil War.  We will look at the various reform movements of the first half of the 19th century, including the abolition of slavery, women’s rights and education.  We will then focus on the issue of slavery:  the living and working conditions of slaves, the economics of slavery and issues such as state’s rights.  Students will discover how the country stood on this issue and how they tried to reach a compromise so as to prevent tearing the country apart.

The second part of the year we will study in more detail about the events and issues that led directly to the Civil War.  Students will discover President Lincoln’s views on slavery, how they evolved as the war progressed, and how this change impacted the course of the war.  Students will learn in detail about the causes and effects of this conflict.

Our final study will look at the aftermath of the Civil War: the period of Reconstruction.  Students will make comparisons between this era and the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Students will also draw conclusions about how the Civil War changed the United States, with a focus on whether or not real change occurred after the Civil War during Reconstruction.  Students will reflect about similarities still existing today.

In addition to the above studies, current events are a viable part of the curriculum.  Students will have access to the New York Times and the Norwalk Hour online, and monthly issues of Junior Scholastic.

Side by Side Charter School has a strong mission statement of social justice; therefore, raising student awareness of their responsibility to be informed citizens, and the knowledge that their voice is essential in a democracy is a skill we integrate through the curriculum.