At Bloom Community School, our curriculum provides structure to our integrated methods and approach. We utilize what is commonly referred to as a “spiral curriculum.” In a spiral curriculum, learning is distributed - or spaced- over time. Compare this to a more traditional or “blocked” approach, which concentrates learning of a particular concept or skill in a short period of time and then moves on to new material.
Spiral curriculum is a highly effective strategy for all learners, including struggling learners and advanced learners. Spiraling allows learning difficulties to be identified early on and intervention strategies put in place during early phases of the spiral. An extensive and robust body of literature has documented the advantages of spiraling curricula. In fact, spiraling curriculum (or spacing learning over time), is the first research-based recommendation in a 2007 practice guide from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Educational Sciences.
Our thematic and project-based approaches at Bloom Community School lend themselves nicely to a spiral curriculum. Children will be repeatedly exposed to concepts, terms, and skills throughout our thematic units and will have many different opportunities to apply and extend their learning in hands-on and meaningful ways.
The reading, speaking and listening, and writing components of our balanced literacy curriculum are integrated into various parts of the day and infused throughout the project-based approach. Informed by Illinois Learning Standards (ILS)/Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts, learners engage in activities to increase their reading and comprehension skills and strategies, cultivate an appreciation and understanding of the spoken word that enriches their vocabularies, and develop their capacity to community effectively in writing. These goals are integrated into our balanced literacy curriculum.
Our balanced literacy approach integrates the Daily 5 model, developed by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, and Writer’s Workshop model, developed by Lucy Calkins at Teacher’s College at Columbia University. The Daily 5 framework structures literacy time in a way that supports children to develop lifelong habits of reading, writing, and working independently. During the Daily 5 Literacy block, students select from five authentic reading and writing choices, working independently toward personalized goals.
The Daily 5 choices include:
Read to self to build a foundation for creating independent readers and writers
Work on writing to provide additional support children require to become effective writers
Word work to focus on spelling and vocabulary with children and create a richly literate environment
Listen to reading, which provides pronunciation and expression models that can only come from hearing fluent and expressive examples
Read to someone supports readers, especially developing readers, increase areas of comprehension, accuracy, fluency and prosidy. It also increases reading involvement, attention and collaboration.
Teachers support children’s individualized learning needs through a combination of whole-group and small-group instruction and one-on-one conferencing and support. For more information about the Daily 5 approach, we encourage you to read the 2016 report, Effective Strategies for Teaching and Learning Literacy Independence: The Daily 5 Literacy Structure strategies.
In addition to our Daily 5 literacy approach, students will also participate in a separate Writer’s Workshop block. During Writer’s Workshop, students will be guided through all the stages of writing, from brainstorming and generating ideas to drafting, revising, editing, and publishing their work. Writer’s Workshop typically begins with a brief writing lesson during one of the focus lessons of Daily 5. These lessons will introduce a variety of concepts (e.g. word choice, diction, sentence structure, etc.). Students will engage in independent, guided, and interactive writing practices to strengthen their abilities to write ideas in sequence, practice new writing strategies, and apply them to different forms of text.
Our framework for math curriculum adheres to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and the Illinois Learning Standards (ILS)/Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Mathematics. We recognize the five “content” strands of math: number & operations, geometry, measurement, algebra, and data analysis & probability; and five “process” strands of math: problem-solving, reasoning & proof, communication, connections, and representation.
To ensure grade-level math standards are met, we use the Everyday Mathematics curriculum, developed by the University of Chicago. Everyday Mathematics is a comprehensive Kindergarten through 5th grade spiral curriculum. It is a research-based and field-tested curriculum that focuses on developing children’s understandings and skills in ways that produce life-long mathematical power.
The Everyday Mathematics curriculum emphasizes:
Use of concrete, real-life examples that are meaningful and memorable as an introduction to key mathematical concepts.
Repeated exposures to mathematical concepts and skills to develop children’s ability to recall knowledge from long-term memory.
Frequent practice of basic computation skills to build mastery of procedures and quick recall of facts, often through games and verbal exercises.
Use of multiple methods and problem-solving strategies to foster true proficiency and accommodate different learning styles.
Each grade of the Everyday Mathematics curriculum is carefully designed to build and expand a student’s mathematical proficiency and understanding. The goal of Everyday Mathematics is to build powerful mathematical thinkers.
Our framework for science curriculum is drawn in part from the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) three dimensions of learning science: crosscutting concepts, science and engineering practices, and disciplinary core ideas. Through investigation and inquiry, children learn how to further their understanding of scientific concepts. Learners have the opportunity to observe, ask questions, develop hypotheses, collect and analyze data, setup experiments, do field work, and share their findings and discoveries with others. They explore a variety of scientific disciplines including physics, chemistry, biology, and earth & space sciences as well as engineering, creating, building, and testing designs to solve problems.
Our cultural/social studies curriculum helps children develop the capacity of critical thinking as a key intellectual skill of analysis. Through our thematic and project-based approach, they explore their place in society and history in a way that empowers them to be effective agents of positive social change. In our younger grades, we focus on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, the needs of people throughout our communities and histories, and human impact on the environment. As children grow and develop their social, historical, and civic knowledge, they will continue to explore these ideas by developing skills and knowledge to interpret and analyze primary and secondary sources. The curriculum includes an examination of the current political, social, economic, and historical context of the United States of America, the State of Illinois, and our local community. The roles and perspectives of immigrants, minorities, and ethnic identities are considered alongside (and as alternatives to) dominant social and historical narratives. Students are guided in studying the cultural identities of their families and their own personal histories.