At Ventana we know that reading and writing skills do not always develop linearly. Our team of literacy experts have created a skills continuum from pre-K to 5th grade, allowing teachers to identify students’ strengths and areas of growth over time. Our spiralling curriculum lets students build on their strengths as they tackle new challenges.
In 3rd-5th grades our students engage in Writer’s Workshop, which centers around the five steps of the writing process: brainstorming, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Peer revision and editing are hallmarks of our program: We believe that feedback is a gift and that students benefit from giving and receiving constructive critique. Additionally, teachers confer one-on-one with students to individualize their writing instruction. Students practice writing in multiple genres, including poetry, persuasive, informational, and narrative.
Reflective writing is another key element of our intermediate writing program. Students practice responding to a variety of prompts that encourage them to think deeply and abstractly. Additionally, they reflect upon their own work by writing “artist statements” that explain their thought processes when creating pieces of art.
Project work provides many opportunities to practice informational writing, and students explore various formats for communicating their ideas. They learn to craft theses and support their statements with facts from credible sources.
At Ventana, we believe that the practice of writing fiction helps foster creativity. It also helps students develop empathy for others and allows them to experiment with situations outside their immediate experience. In addition, it allows students to stretch themselves artistically, develop an understanding for the cadence and beauty of words, and envision the fantastic. Utilizing “mentor texts” to teach the craft of writing, teachers invite students to study how authors create moods, emotions, or experiences.
We believe every classroom should build a “Culture of Literacy” where students have ample opportunities to engage with various genres and types of texts. Our intermediate reading program helps students deepen both their comprehension and interpretation of text.
Our Reader’s Workshop model helps demystify elements of reading while encouraging students to discuss texts with peers. It features a “mini-lesson” during which a key comprehension or interpretation skill is modeled. Small book club groups and whole-class read-alouds are used as opportunities to practice these skills.
Learning to write about reading is a key component of literacy. Our program helps students develop the ability to interpret a text and support their interpretation with evidence. As part of our commitment to engaging children in the “100 Languages,” students further their understanding of literature by engaging in projects that link design, drama, visual arts, and writing.
Our math program is built around the Singapore Math curriculum, which develops proficiency through the use of concrete materials, followed by pictorial representations, and finally algorithmic equations. Students gain a deep understanding of mathematical concepts so they can apply their knowledge in a multitude of contexts.
Our 3rd-5th grade program focuses on developing students’ skills in pictorial representations. Through the use of bar models, students break down complex problems into familiar components. Word problems are another major focus, as students learn to interpret and solve multi-step problems.
We use multiple teaching approaches. During “skill development,” we provide direct instruction in math strategies and then give students time to practice them in the Singapore Math books. We also tackle long-form math challenges (i.e. problems that require multiple days to solve) that engage students in the deep problem solving and representative thinking that defines mathematics.
We believe that students’ mindset about math is equally important to their skill development. We explore the benefits of challenges, help students set and monitor goals, and reflect on their learning to foster a growth mindset about mathematics.
Helping students understand the various ways that they can solve a problem and finding ways that make sense to them are another key to our teaching. In our math “congresses,” students learn to explain their thinking and help their peers understand the myriad ways a problem can be solved.
We believe that designing and building are two essential “languages” that students use to explore their world and represent their learning. Using the Design Thinking model of Empathize > Define > Ideate > Prototype > Test > Refine, students tackle various design challenges that encourage them to empathize with others, think creatively, and utilize feedback to improve their design.
Through design thinking students learn skills that help them define problems in our world, devise solutions, and refine those solutions through collaboration.
We also know that students learn a great deal when they have the time and space to freely create. Students at Ventana are given opportunities to take things apart to see “what makes them tick.” They also have access to tools and materials they can use to tinker, playing with components and ideas to see what they can create. When a child needs support, adult mentors are on hand to ensure they can bring their ideas to fruition.
Through tinkering we help students build skills that will allow them to approach new technologies with an inquiring mind.