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’ competencies and areas of growth over time. Our spiralling curriculum lets students build on their strengths as they tackle new challenges.
Story Workshop & Writer’s Workshop
We view children as capable writers with wonderful stories to share. We use a Story Workshop model to support writing development. During writing time, children are given opportunities to play with materials and use the arts to bring the images in their stories alive. Our teachers confer one-on-one with each child to focus on appropriate skills and bring clarity to their writing.
Students also engage in Writer’s Workshop, where they explore the writing process, story structure, craft, and language conventions. Through mini-lessons focused on the craft of writing, we introduce a variety of strategies and genres applicable to each grade level. We focus on a five-step writing process: capturing an idea, transferring that idea to a draft, revising and editing, and publishing. Finally, Author’s Chair is used to share pieces of work, giving young authors valuable peer feedback.
Our classrooms cultivate a “Culture of Literacy” in which students have ample opportunities to engage with various genres and types of texts. Teachers utilize a variety of resources to teach phonics, decoding, and comprehension skills.
Working with small, guided reading groups that support and build students’ skills at developmentally appropriate levels (which fluctuate throughout the school year), teachers carefully monitor the reading development of each child. Reader’s Workshop is a time for students to participate in a variety of whole-class activities, small group work, partner collaboration, and independent work.
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. In K-2 students gain a deep understanding of mathematical concepts so they can apply their knowledge in a multitude of contexts.
We believe that students’ mindset about math is equally important to their skill development. We explore the benefits of challenges to help students foster a growth mindset about mathematics.
In K-2 we focus on developing “number sense,” the flexible and fluid thinking about numbers that allows us to work with them. Students learn a variety of math strategies and practice them with plenty of manipulatives.
Additionally, we engage students in the deep problem solving and representative thinking that defines mathematics. We model how to talk about math and share “math thinking” in groups. We tackle long-form math challenges (i.e. problems that require multiple days to solve) and ask students to represent their thinking in various ways and explain their reasoning to others. Through this collaborative work, they learn to see problems in multiple ways.
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.