A “school design” is much more than curriculum but involves thinking through many aspects of the life of a school: educational objectives; choice of curriculum; rewarding and developing faculty; assessment systems; the culture of a school; school calendar; schedule; and hundreds of other decisions, each affecting one another.
As a new school, Avenues has had the unique opportunity to design its curriculum, and the other components of a school design, from scratch. Any curriculum design, however, is based on a number of well-established factors, including national and local standards and the school’s mission.
Avenues’ curriculum design process begins with consideration of these factors and then uses what Grant Wiggins, a nationally recognized educator, called “backwards planning” in his approach called “understanding by design (UbD.)” This approach focuses first on the outcomes desired, then works backwards, plotting the steps that will produce those outcomes. UbD helps teachers clarify learning goals, devise assessments that reveal student understanding and craft effective learning activities. Developed by Mr. Wiggins in association with Jay McTighe, UbD’s key idea is that a primary goal of education should be the development and deepening of student understanding, which is most effectively revealed when students can transfer what they have learned in one area to understanding in other areas. By defining what student outcomes they want to achieve, teachers then work backwards to develop their curriculum to reach those goals.
A major component of the resulting curriculum design is a good assessment program, which will allow teachers and administrators to evaluate how students are progressing and where they need to go. The curriculum can then be adjusted to respond to students’ needs, improving and strengthening it through many iterations, with more detail added with each iteration.
Curriculum design, then, is not a one-time process. The school is constantly reexamining the curriculum, fine-tuning and improving it, both during the school year and at the end of each year.
January 5, 2018
This year we are introducing a new math tool to be used in our kindergarten and 1st grade curriculum—rekenreks. Rekenreks are used for students to understand numbers in a multi-sensory way.
January 3, 2018
At the end of the school day, I change from my work clothes into stretchy pants and a t-shirt, and make the transformation from Chinese teacher back to the fire-and-brimstone martial arts instructor I once was. Students come into my class with varied motivation; some come to become physically fit, some to learn to defend themselves and some to connect themselves to an unbroken line of an old tradition
December 21, 2017
During a child’s development it is essential to build and maintain routines. Having consistent routines and knowing what to expect creates a predictable and safe environment for children. One of the first goals for children when starting pre-school is to internalize the daily routine.
December 20, 2017
This year, our middle grades students set a new record in our young history. Seventy-four students from grades 6 through 8 participated in one of the most prestigious math contests in the world, American Mathematics Competition 8.
December 18, 2017
This fall, 5th graders from Avenues traveled about two hours out of the city to Black Rock Forest for an educational and recreational day trip. The Black Rock Forest Consortium is a “living laboratory for field-based research and education, encompassing native terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that are increasingly rare in the region.”