in the classroom
We realize that not all children learn in the same manner and at the same pace. The Museum School’s core programs require teachers to identify students’ skills, interests and needs and tailor lessons to meet each child at his or her level. Students work in differentiated reading and math groups, and teachers help each child set achievement goals. These core programs strengthen children’s skills and build self-confidence. In gaining knowledge and seeing what they already can do, children learn to believe there’s nothing they cannot do.
Reader’s Workshop teaches literacy through both independent and small-group guided reading. Students use tactics such as whisper reading, peer reading, echo reading and shared reading. They are asked to complete comprehension activities such as creating story webs, story pyramids or character studies. Teachers facilitate interactive discussions centered around books and stories. In addition, students select their own books to read individually, and classmates are encouraged to form book clubs to discuss books and create projects based on them.
Language learning centers are a key part of Reader’s Workshop. Student-centered stations are set up around the classroom, and children receive instructions for a hands-on activity that results in a reading-related product. For example, a vocabulary center might ask students to choose five words from their book of choice, define those words, illustrate them and use them in a meaningful writing assignment.
In Word Study, students tackle word knowledge, spelling, phonics, phonemic awareness and vocabulary. A word wall may list commonly used words, words with tricky spellings and vocabulary words. A word-study notebook becomes each child’s own reference book, highlighting particular word patterns, such as how the letter pattern \"ould\" makes the similar-sounding words \"should,\" \"could\" and \"would.\" This approach is meaningful because words chosen for study often appear in students’ readings.
At The Museum School, writing is a daily activity, beginning in kindergarten. Fluency is built through continuous, repeated exposure to the writing process. Students work at their own pace as they learn and practice the basics of story creation — from planning and writing to revision, teacher editing and grammatical instruction. As students write, teachers circulate throughout the room, answering questions, providing mini-lessons and working with individuals to meet each one’s needs. Children write about their own experiences and learn to think creatively.
Students also keep journals, recording their thoughts and experiences and exploring essential questions of each nine-week thematic lesson. These journals become an insight into their minds, storing their observations, reflections, questions, drawings and imaginations.
Writer’s Workshop is integrated with other classroom topics, such as social studies and science. For example, a first-grade lesson on American folk tales may lead to a writing assignment asking students to create their own folk tale. Or a fifth-grade history lesson on the Great Depression may accompany an assignment to write an essay summarizing the events of the Dust Bowl.
Everyday Mathematics focuses on real-life problem solving and engages students by showing them exactly how mathematics relates to their own worlds. A kindergarten teacher might read from The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and afterward, students sequence events of the story using props. They retell the story focusing on ordinal numbers, showing which item the caterpillar ate first, which item he ate second, etc. Then students create lines of blocks and name the ordinal numbers associated with each block. They learn to apply ordinal numbers to real-life situations; for instance, each child is given an ordinal number and students must line up based on those numbers.
For higher grades, the material, of course, is more difficult, but the concept is the same. Fifth graders learn to gather, organize and display data and interpret graphs. A small group of students might complete a school-wide survey on the number of siblings each student has. They research different types of graphs, the purposes of those graphs and their applications. Then they organize their survey data, create graphs, analyze the data and present their findings to classmates.
Everyday Mathematics uses self-directed learning and whole-class collaboration. Students might create a financial plan for a school store — complete with a budget, initial costs, sale prices and profits — and then build and manage the store. They learn to work individually and with classmates.
Everyday Mathematics is designed as a spiral curriculum, where core concepts are taught multiple times over two or more years, giving children many opportunities to grasp an idea when they are developmentally ready. Children have multiple exposures to important concepts before they are expected to master them.