What We Teach
Many parents have questions about how we will meet the needs of the diverse learners at PS276/Battery Park City School. It is our intention that children are the center of all our decisions and actions. In everything we do, we reflect on how we can best teach each child. It has been my experience that all children need different kinds of acceleration and support that can be thoughtfully provided in a "general" education classroom. Using a workshop model approach to teaching allows teachers to monitor and plan instruction for children at multiple ability levels. We build small group work and independent study into the curriculum.
Literacy Our classrooms are filled with opportunities and resources for reading and writing. Each class has a well-stocked classroom library that has texts on a range of topics and at a variety of reading levels. We have dedicated resources this year to building exceptional libraries for our students and have begun collecting donations for our school library from friends of our school.
Reading We advocate a balanced approach to literacy using books written for children. This means that teachers will read to children to model good reading strategies -- from sounding out words to learning about how we think and interact with books. Teacher also use shared and guided reading approaches to teach reading -- teaching specific reading strategies and skills to nurture independence and a love of reading. Students have time each day to read independently and are provided with ample time to talk about the books they and their classmates are reading. We believe that the best way to become a strong reader is to allow our students time to read great books, to talk about the books they are reading, and to learn strategies that help them become active and critical readers of a variety of texts -- from story books to non-fiction to young adult novels to electronic texts.
Writing We also have writing workshop where children are writing stories of their own. In writing, young children learn to communicate their ideas and experiences by drawing upon their growing understanding of what makes a story, using "story book language," and thinking about the sounds in words. Children read their writing to each other and to larger audiences. In middle school, students continue to have time for creative writing, but we also emphasize the importance of non-fiction writing. Students learn to write in the different disciplines -- historical arguments, lab reports in science, and process writing in math.
Mechanics It is important that our students learn the conventions of written English -- both spelling and grammar. Teachers teach spelling in age appropriate ways starting in kindergarten. During shared and interactive writing lessons and in shared reading, teachers draw student attention to the sounds we hear in words and how we use letters in a certain order to write those sounds down. High frequency words and word families are introduced early on. As appropriate, students are guided to use resources in the classroom to spell words correctly. We also want students to think about the sounds they hear in words (this will help reinforce reading skills) and to apply their knowledge to new words. We strive for a balance among spelling words we know how to spell correctly, approximating the spelling of other words, and taking risks with vocabulary and syntax to communicate ideas clearly. We have grade level expectations for students in terms of what words they spell correctly, for how and what spelling is taught in class, and for how students apply strategies for spelling and fixing spelling independently. Grammar and mechanics are taught beginning in kindergarten and are an important part of all writing units.
Math Our goal is to help our students build a solid foundation of conceptual knowledge and the process skills needed to use mathematics effectively. It is expected that students will learn math facts by heart by the middle elementary grades because they will need that information to solve more complicated algorithms later. We use a variety of assessment tools to understand student learning and then, using Investigations (by TERC) in the elementary grades and Connected Math in the middle school as a base, we draw upon multiple resources to help our students attain the mathematical knowledge they need in each grade to be successful in future years. We recognize that not all children learn the same way and at the same pace so teachers draw upon a range of tools to help all students achieve grade level benchmarks and beyond as appropriate.
Science At PS/IS 276 we support curiosity about the world as we teach science skills, knowledge, and ways of thinking. We use the city and state requirements for science as well as national science standards to teach content (the ideas and information in science) and the process (the scientific habits of mind) of science. Whenever possible, we will be working with science experts to help us craft learning experiences that nurture critical and investigative habits of mind as well as build the content needed for future science learning. That is one of the reasons that we are excited about our working relationships with the Wallerstein Collaborative at NYU and the American Museum of Natural History and our work the Globe Program. All science learning at our school begins with hands-on experiences including observations, experiments, and field trips, that are enriched through reading literature on the topic. Students keep science notebooks to document their learning and to guide their inquiries.
Social Studies In social studies, we examine a variety of primary sources including artifacts, images, and texts. An emphasis in all of our social studies work is to learn from multiple sources of information. We also work to create links between geography, history, and cultural studies. While the bulk of the recommended curriculum sequence in New York State focuses on local and US history, we will also nurture a larger global perspective. We feel strongly that our students should develop a sense of the diversity and interconnectedness of the larger world. Just as we will have science experts coach us in creating our curriculum, we also plan to network with historians, anthropologists, geographers and other social scientists as we develop our units of study in social studies.
Field experiences are an integral part of both science and social studies. New York City offers a wealth of opportunities for site-based learning -- from museums and zoos to parks and other science and cultural institutions -- that we will take advantage of.
Art Our new building has a large art studio. Students will have art with an art teacher each week. They work in a variety of media and create two and three dimensional art works. An important part of our art curriculum is art history. Students study famous artists and their works to learn about line, color, texture and how to talk about art. They then use this knowledge and these visual images to help them explore art making on their own. Additionally, the art teacher works with classroom teachers to integrate art into what students are learning in the classroom.
Music We are partnered with Third Street Music Settlement House for our music program. Using Orff, Solfege, and other techniques, students learn music skills such as tone, color, and pitch and learn to read music. As in art, the music teacher works with the classroom teacher to integrate music into classroom studies.
P.E. We strongly believe in the importance of developing healthy life habits. These include nurturing enjoyment of physical activity and building teamwork and good sportsmanship. Students have PE every week and recess every day. We have two gyms in our new building (a regulation size gym and a small gym) as well as an outdoor play space. We will be partnering with Manhattan Youth to develop an intermural afterschool sports program for middle schoolers.
Library At BPC Library, we strive to make our library the heart of our learning community. Our library is a place where all students can explore classroom subjects more fully, as well as topics they are curious about. Our mission is to ensure that all of our students learn the skills to access, use and evaluate information acquired from both print and digital sources. We aspire to assist all our students to LOVE reading with a passion and to LOVE learning. We strive to collaborate with parents, care givers, faculty members and community organizations to make our students' library experience joyful and mentally stimulating. Visit us online at: http://library.nycenet.edu/common/welcome.jsp?site=8897