learners appreciate the many manipulatives used in math classes; students who are auditory learners are grateful for the songs and raps teachers use while memorizing math facts. Interpersonal and social learners respond well to small group work where they talk through a problem and discuss strategies with their classmates.
Student performance and achievement are continually reviewed as a means of improving the math curriculum. After reviewing recent years’ test results, a math committee confirmed that the curriculum was solid, but curricular supports, including textbooks, could do a better job. A new series, Everyday Mathematics, was adopted. It complements the approach of letting students explore and find solutions to problems rather than having the teacher provide them. Through the use of classroom discussion and math journaling, students recognize multiple approaches to a problem and practice communicating their solution strategies.
4. Instructional Methods:
The St. Josaphat School faculty is committed to the use of differentiated instruction across all grade levels. The faculty believes that all children have individual needs as learners and it is the job of educators to help them achieve their full potential. At SJS we differentiate based on student readiness, student interest, and learning styles.
Teachers differentiate lessons by using pre-assessments to help guide their instruction, activities, and summative and formative assessments. Interest inventories and learning style surveys that students take at the beginning of the year are also used when developing unit plans. Based upon the results from these, student strengths are recognized and used to create flexible grouping for projects, literature circles, and instructional groups. These groups are fluid within the classroom and change throughout the year. For example, in some reading classes students are given the choice of which novel they would like to read based upon student readiness and interest.
The SJS faculty believes that students need to participate in authentic and meaningful lessons that meet the needs of the emerging, on level, and advancing students. Grade level teams meet to discuss and plan differentiated lessons, tiered assignments, and authentic projects. In several core junior high classes, students create their own hands on activities and labs to demonstrate their understanding of a specific concept.
The school community is committed to maintaining a low student-teacher ratio within the classroom. In primary and intermediate classrooms with more than twenty students, there is a full time teacher’s aide who assists the students and teacher. In the junior high, which operates on a departmentalized model, reading and mathematics classes are differentiated based upon pre-assessments and student readiness. This also ensures a low student to teacher ratio for more individual attention. The science classes in the junior high contain no more than twenty students at a time so that students have the full benefit of the science lab and hands-on student activities.
5. Professional Development:
St. Josaphat School is truly a community of learners. As such, the faculty is engaged in a focused and effective professional development program. The entire faculty is united by a common theme that is the focus for at least a year. One great benefit to having a school-wide theme is that teachers can support one another in their development as educators. However, the administration takes responsibility for the growth of each teacher by securing the necessary resources to ensure each teacher’s continued growth.
Most recently, the theme has been differentiated instruction. At the beginning of the last school year, a consultant met with the faculty at a back-to-school in-service to launch a shared journey into differentiated instruction. Throughout the past year and a half, that same consultant has delivered workshops on professional development. Furthermore, she has visited teachers in their classrooms to model, help plan, or coach. As research on professional development suggests, this model of continued, and at times one-on-one, support has
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