Curriculum and Instruction
At West Ottawa Public Schools, we define curriculum as the “what.” Our curriculum represents what we expect students to know and be able to do. Instruction is the “how.” We are committed to ensuring high levels of learning for every student. We support student learning and differentiate instruction based on student needs. Our practices are grounded in both the science of teaching, through the use of effective evidence-based instructional practices, and the art of teaching, through the use of student-centered innovative and promising practices.
English Language Arts
West Ottawa Public Schools’ core reading and writing program for grades K-5 is Reading Street, by Pearson Publishing. Reading Street is aligned to the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. Each unit in Reading Street focuses on a Big Idea that connects learning. Daily instruction continues to build strong foundational reading skills in phonemic awareness, alphabetic principles, fluency with text, vocabulary and comprehension. Students build knowledge that is deep and transferable each week as they explore one aspect of the unit concept. Throughout each unit, students are exposed to a story from various genres as well as a Paired Selection which strengthens understanding in either science or social studies. Writing instruction within Reading Street gives students the opportunity to respond to what they have read and apply the skills and knowledge they’ve learned during reading instruction. Weekly writing lessons connected to the unit’s theme, unit process writing lessons, and writing to prompts are examples of some of the writing components within Reading Street. The program is supported by many engaging online resources that students and teachers can access from anywhere, at anytime.
Math Expressions Common Core, by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt serves as the core math program for grades K-5. The program is aligned to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Content and Mathematical Practices. The content includes the mathematical knowledge and skills students should learn. The mathematical practices specify the mathematical ways of thinking that students should develop while learning mathematics content. Math Expressions Common Core combines elements of standards-based instruction with the best traditional approaches. The program emphasizes deeper understanding through real-world problem situations, modeling, conceptual language or Math Talk, and exploration in order to build mathematical ideas that make sense to students. Math Expressions Common Core includes digital, 21st-century learning tools for both students and teachers.
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.
Social Studies is the integrated study of the social sciences to prepare young people to become responsible citizens. As stated in the Michigan Department of Education’s Social Studies Grade Level Content Expectations document, responsible citizens display social understanding and civic efficacy. Social understanding includes knowledge of the human condition, how it has changed overtime, the variations that occur in different physical environments and cultural settings, and the emerging trends that appear likely to shape the future in an interdependent world. Civic efficacy is the readiness and willingness to assume responsibilities of citizenship, know how, when, and where to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good in a pluralistic, democratic society. The Social Studies Grade Level Content Expectations balance disciplinary content and processes and skills. West Ottawa uses these content expectations to guide the study of history, geography, civics and government, and economics.