Learning is work. Hard work that is worth the reward, just ask students and educators in the Altmar-Parish-Williamstown Central School District.
Since New York State’s adoption of the Common Core Learning Standards in 2011 the APW educational community has spent countless hours preparing for the implementation of an educational reform that aims to make 21st century students more globally competitive and ready for college and a career.
APW teachers in grades 3-8 participated in several training sessions including one three-day session prior to the start of the school year to explore the theory behind the state’s newly released teaching modules that were established with the ultimate goal of developing students who are cognitive learners, independent and critical thinkers, readers and problem solvers.
These state modules guide what is taught in each classroom and at each grade level and for many teachers this new approach meant letting go of past practice, trusting a new curriculum, and leading students to the learning to allow each student to develop into a cognitive thinker.
Now, four months into the new school year, the teachers are seeing results from the implemented modules and students are excelling.
For example at the kindergarten level students are working on mastering essential pre-reading skills. Jill Parker, Primary Instructional Specialist and mother to three students in the district said that her kindergartener is practicing letter sounds, something that her older children did not experience until a higher grade level.
Through the CCLS students are learning about the world through reading and are reading more rigorous non-fiction texts.
First graders for example have been learning about Early World Civilizations through an ELA listening and learning strand.
According to Parker the first graders “loved” learning about ancient Egypt and the first three major world religions. Students learned how pyramids were build, could define vocabulary words such as monotheistic and were able to make connections between what they learned and read and their own world.
The same results are happening in Math.
“My second graders are becoming phenomenal mental math students,” second grade teacher Hanna Weigel said.
Math modules are based on a base 10 system which requires students to learn how to think in a base 10 frame of mind – making groups of ten, taking away groups of ten.
Lynne Harper, a fifth grade teacher said that her students are working at a higher level than they have ever been expected to work at and “are adjusting well to this new demand.”
For example, following a unit on Esperanza Rising the students were asked to complete a writing piece.
Several of the students’ writing pieces were three to five pages in length and the students were so proud of the papers they created saying, “I’m very proud of this. I have never written this much, ever.”
“I really commend our teaching staff for taking this big step and for their continued commitment,” Intermediate Instructional Specialist Christine Weisenburger said indicating that many teachers spend time, sometimes several hours, after the school day and on weekends preparing and reviewing the lesson for the following day.
All of the NYS modules and the materials that are used in classrooms at APW can be found online at www.EngageNY.org