Curriculum and Instruction
The West Ottawa Public Schools curriculum is student-centered and standards based. Our curriculum provides a framework of the core concepts that students learn in each grade and/or course. Our core curriculum provides students with brain-compatible instruction focused on rigorous and relevant core concepts.
Please click on the link for further information on the curriculum aligned with the Common Core State Standards.
Philosophy & Approach
The West Ottawa Public Schools curriculum is student-centered and standards based. Our curriculum provides a framework of the core concepts that students learn in each grade and/or course. It exceeds the standards of the Michigan Curriculum Framework (a document from the State of Michigan which provides standards in mathematics, science, social studies, and English/language arts). Our dedicated and caring staff is working hard to articulate the expectations of students in a rubric (a document that articulates levels of performance or progress). For many content areas, rubrics are already in use to communicate expectations to students and parents. Our core curriculum provides students with brain-compatible instruction focused on rigorous and relevant core concepts. These core concepts, or big ideas, are learned through multiple instructional strategies and applied in multiple contexts. By using multiple instructional strategies, we meet the needs of diverse learners, and by applying the learning in multiple contexts, we are able to assess that students can apply the learning to new situations. As students learn the core concepts, they will develop an understanding of the relationships and connections of significant knowledge, facts, and skills necessary to be successful in the 21st century. We focus on the development of higher order thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and effective communication skills. Students are challenged to achieve high expectations. We are continually working to improve curriculum standards, instructional practices, and assessment strategies to provide the best education for your children. Improvements are made based on analysis of M-STEP data, progress report objective results, and classroom tests. We believe all children can learn and strive to provide learning options that will help all students find success. Beyond the four core content areas, we provide all students in grades 1-5 with additional instruction in art, music, physical wellness, computers, technology, and library services. In order to effectively support all students, West Ottawa implemented Response to Intervention, a general education based process for monitoring and responding to student progress, for kindergarten – fifth grade in the Fall of 2006.
Integration of Technology
This is a major focus for West Ottawa Public Schools. Extensive professional development is being provided to expand our knowledge in using technology to access information and demonstrate understanding.
In early elementary, our primary focus is to ensure all students can read. We utilize many resources to enhance the opportunity for all students to be successful. Throughout the elementary grades, our aim is to challenge students with books to read at their level of ability. Toward that end, each teacher and each building has a very large selection of books for children for a wide variety of literacy activities and multiple reading strategies (such as guided reading, choral reading, and independent reading). To meet the needs of all learners, we utilize a “whole language” program with added lessons in phonemic awareness and phonics activities with all students. Further, we have many programs designed to assist targeted students. Our program is interactive and utilizes many mini- lessons to develop skills in spelling, grammar, and writing. We use process writing in every theme or unit, and students are continually challenged to improve their written communication skills.
Kindergarten Writing Learning Targets
1st Grade Writing Learning Targets
2nd Grade Writing Learning Targets
3rd Grade Writing Learning Targets
4th Grade Writing Learning Targets
5th Grade Writing Learning Targets
Kindergarten Reading Learning Targets
1st Grade Reading Learning Targets
2nd Grade Reading Learning Targets
3rd Grade Reading Learning Targets
4th Grade Reading Learning Targets
5th Grade Reading Learning Targets
Our math curriculum focus is on using a few challenging problems (complexity not difficulty), using fact triangles and appropriate games. Teaching mathematics is about teaching math reasoning; basic math facts are only a part of the end goal. Math games are used every day, because it is a brain compatible and flexible way to provide distributed practice of math facts (more math games at home may help your child; don’t hesitate to ask your teacher). Distributed practice is important, but only for habitual skills like memorizing basic math facts. The goal of distributed practice is to decrease the time necessary for recall; therefore, it is best to work against time and make it a game. We believe mathematical understanding of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division is enhanced when the relationship within the fact triangle is emphasized. In other words, studying math facts through fact triangle cards is more likely to improve a child’s long-term memory. In grades 1-3, the “explorations” provide background information for all students. The first unit at each grade level introduces most of the routines used in the year. The last unit of grades 1-3 and the tours in grades 4 and 5 provide a review of core concepts in a different context and/or introduce significant information to prepare students for the following grade level.
Our science curriculum is designed to focus on students “constructing and reflecting on scientific ideas.” To accomplish this focus, we use “scientific inquiry” or a hands-on approach to student learning. Teaching science is about students learning the process of inquiry; science facts are not the end goal. Our students are expected to ask specific questions about their observations, form hypotheses that explain observations, test hypotheses through inquiry, analyze data, and draw conclusions. We expect students to discuss scientific ideas, observations, hypotheses, and conclusions. We allow young students to explain observations by guessing…it is the first step toward hypothesizing. We expect all students to reflect on their learning through written summaries and verbal communications. The textbook series, “Discovery Works,” provides teachers with performance assessments and unit projects. The teacher’s role is to ask questions, guide students, and model the appropriate behaviors:
- Demonstrate how to observe with all senses and expect students to use all senses.
- Share questions that result from your observations and ask students to discuss theirs.
- Provide evidence for your explanations and ask students for evidence of their conclusions.
Kindergarten Science Learning Targets
1st Grade Science Learning Targets
2nd Grade Science Learning Targets
3rd Grade Science Learning Targets
4th Grade Science Learning Targets
5th Grade Science Learning Targets
Our social studies curriculum is designed to focus on a few core concepts at each grade level. It is integrated with English/language arts whenever possible. Incorporated into the core concepts are knowledge, facts, and skills regarding the Core Democratic Values, economics vocabulary, and significant ideas in geography and history. We provide our students with many opportunities to take a stand on relevant social issues and challenge students to respond to extended response items (a type of question on the M-STEP social studies test).
Kindergarten Social Studies Learning Targets
1st Grade Social Studies Learning Targets
2nd Grade Social Studies Learning Targets
3rd Grade Social Studies Learning Target
4th Grade Social Studies Learning Targets
5th Grade Social Studies Learning Targets
We believe the best way to prepare students for the M-STEP is to provide a challenging core curriculum. Further, we provide our students with many experiences with constructed response items (a type of question used on the M-STEP) in science, math, social studies, and language arts. Further, we use a M-STEP-like rubric to evaluate student responses. This strategy improves students’ writing in all core content areas and prepares students to be successful on the M-STEP tests.