The Citizens of the World schools use a standards-based and academically rigorous teaching approach, known as constructivism.
Constructivism is a learning theory based on the idea that new knowledge is “constructed”on top of learners’ existing knowledge. According to the theory, students are not “empty vessels” that need to be “filled.” Rather, students’ existing knowledge serves as an important foundation for new learning. This approach to teaching and learning requires that teachers take the time to get to know students in depth, and to integrate what they learn about students into their instruction. In other words, a Constructivist classroom is a student-centered classroom.
Constructivism often involves project-based learning. Rather than a teacher demonstrating concepts or delivering information to the students, children work to “construct” their own knowledge by doing. Students often plan and conduct projects around given themes/concepts, later reflecting upon their own work with the teacher’s feedback. Students are guided by the teacher’s facilitation, not just direction, and their resulting work represents the skills and knowledge that they themselves have gained.
Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) was developed by Thomas Carpenter and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin in the 1990s. It is based on a series of longitudinal research projects that looked at how children solve problems before receiving formal instruction in the subject matter. This work developed into an approach to teaching mathematics that focuses on building on children’s intuitions about problems and number. At the core of CGI is the practice of listening to children’s mathematical thinking and using it as a basis for instruction. Children are encouraged to choose their own strategies for solving individualized questions and with that experience, they will reflect and develop different strategies resulting in higher levels of algebraic thinking.
Although CGI is not a set curriculum, the approach deeply informs our teaching at CWC Mar Vista. In Math Workshop, teachers create and pose different types of story problems to students. Problems are differentiated to meet the needs of all learners in the classroom, and children are encouraged to use a variety of tools to explain their thinking to their peers. Children have opportunities to work in whole group, partnerships as well as independently to solve a variety of problem types, utilizing many different solution strategies.
CGI supports children’s mathematical thinking skills by allowing students time and opportunities to draw upon their own math knowledge, while learning new ways to approach problems by working collaboratively with their peers.
Lucy Caulkins’ Writers Workshop is an approach and curriculum designed to give students ample time and space to become creative, focused and fluent writers. The workshop model allows for students to be independent writers, writing about topics that are meaningful and personal to them. The start of every Writer’s Workshop block begins with a mini-lesson in which the teacher directly models writing strategies, techniques, and craft moves. After the direct instruction, students write independently and try out those new skills, keeping a collection of their writing in a journal or folder. At the end of each unit, students choose a piece to take through the publishing process. The publishing process can range from revising by adding on to editing for clarity and grammar.
At CWC Mar Vista, we teach our children to read through scheduled Reader’s Workshop lessons, Shared Reading, and Guided Reading sessions.
Reader’s Workshop Lessons:
Lucy Calkins’ Reader’s Workshop provides children with a supportive environment that involves them in authentic reading experiences that focus on the strengths and needs of each individual child. Reader’s Workshop lessons help children develop strong reading skills through the use of a mini-lesson, shared reading, read aloud, conferencing, independent reading, paired reading, literature response, and Reader’s Chair. The basic philosophy behind the Reader’s Workshop is to allow children to spend an extended amount of time reading authentic texts that interest them on a daily basis and to provide opportunities to talk about literature. The ultimate goal of a Reader’s Workshop lesson is always to develop life-long passionate readers. The workshop model allows teachers to differentiate and meet the needs of all their students. Reader’s Workshop lessons help to foster a love of reading and give children chances to practice reading strategies independently and with guidance. This workshop model is similar to the Writer’s Workshop model.
Every week, each class will read and study a Big Book. The teacher will select a fiction, non-fiction or poetry text. Throughout the week, the children will take part in various activities related to the book, designed to promote reading and reading skills. These activities might include:
- the teacher modeling reading aloud with expression, while the children follow the words on the page
- the children taking it in turns to read aloud, practicing reading with expression, fluency, and accuracy in front of an audience
- locating the punctuation and carrying out punctuation kung-fu (carrying out an action when you see a piece of punctuation)
- discussing the storyline and asking questions to ensure comprehension and deepen understanding
- predicting what might happen next
- discussing the characters, setting, and story structure
Guided Reading is teacher-led, small-group, reading instruction. The children are placed in small, ability groups of around four to six children. The teacher selects a text which is slightly higher than the children’s reading level, this extending them. The children will receive their own copy of the text. Together, they will look at the front cover and back cover, predicting what the story is about. Then, they will read the book independently or as a group, depending on their ability. The teacher will discuss any new language which arises throughout the story. In the end, the children will discuss the text and answer any questions relating to comprehension.
Social Studies and Science are woven together to create our Inquiry Projects. Our Inquiry Projects inspire students to question, explore and develop their own theories. Projects help students to find and draw upon their individual strengths, while at the same time collaborating with their peers and creating work that impacts the larger community.
At each grade level, there is one specific through-line or “Big Idea” for the year. Teachers choose and develop these through-lines based on the state standards in Social Studies and Science, while also considering the developmental needs and interests of each grade. Throughout the year, the units’ focus broadens so that students understand how their own experiences connect to those in the larger world.
Our year-long through-lines are organized into three units which stem from essential questions. Children explore these key questions, concepts, and skills through hands-on activities and projects. These projects also help to build students’ “21st-century skills” which include critical thinking and problem-solving, curiosity and imagination, collaboration, effective oral and written communication, initiative, adaptability, and accessing and analyzing information. Students actively participate in the planning and development of projects, and each year culminates with an Exhibition Night when students reflect and share their learning with the larger school community.
At Citizens of the World-Mar Vista, we believe that Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is integral to academic success.
- self-recognition and self-management of one’s emotions
- an understanding of others including empathy and perspective-taking
- decision making, problem-solving and resolving conflict
In Physical Education classes at CWC Mar Vista, children develop their confidence and skills with an emphasis on Body and Space awareness. Students learn personal versus shared space, fundamental locomotor, as well as non-locomotor, manipulative skills, and applications. The introduction of team lead-up and cooperative games and activities help to promote good sportsmanship and fair team play. Sport-specific units of study include basketball, soccer, tennis, kickball, and volleyball. In addition to the vast array of sports skills and team sports fundamentals that are taught, activities practicing effective social skills such as active listening, conflict resolution, and compromising with others are interwoven as well.
CWC’s music program strives to provide children with opportunities to sing songs, play instruments and create musical compositions of their own. Children learn to describe music using the eight musical elements – melody, rhythm, harmony, dynamics, timbre, texture, structure and tempo. Children are exposed to music from different cultures, musical periods and rich musical traditions from around the world.
Kindergarten children are introduced to rhythm and tempo whilst learning a range of songs and action rhymes. Kindergarten uses Boom-whackers to develop their understanding of pitch and as an introduction to performing as a small group.
In First Grade, children sing a range of songs from around the world that involve a range of tempi, percussive accompaniments, and style. Children begin learning about dynamics, rhythm, and pitch whilst playing tuned and untuned percussion instruments. First graders become part of ‘The CWC Rainbow Orchestra’ comprised of Boom-whackers, handbells, and home-made instruments.
In Second Grade, children are introduced to graphic scores where they use body percussion and a range of world percussion instruments. Children will develop listening skills whilst appreciating music by a range of composers from the Baroque period through to present day.
In Third Grade, children begin to learn basic music theory including notation and basic composition skills to allow them to create and perform their own pieces independently and in groups. Third graders will focus on the development of the musical elements they have previously learned with the addition of melody, texture, and timbre.
Art at CWC is an exploratory journey where children not only learn about art but also about themselves, their world and each other. Our children gain a practical understanding of art processes and skills whilst using a wide variety of art materials and techniques. Children learn artistic perception and aesthetic valuing, i.e. how to look and respond to works of art, culture, nature and the environment. They learn about the elements and principles of art and design and develop their visual vocabulary.
Citizens of the World- Mar Vista offers all students a world language curriculum taught by a credentialed bilingual/bi-literate teacher, using a Standards-Based Spanish curriculum: Sombrero Time (www.sombrerotime.com).
This curriculum captures best practices in world language instruction and student engagement. It includes Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing, Culturally Responsive lessons as well as music and movement.
Parent engagement is a key component of the program and quarterly Family Spanish Nights encourage school-wide social events where parents and children participate in a Spanish language activity that promotes community as well as language practice. The over-arching goal of the Spanish Language Arts program at Citizens of the World is to provide all students and their parents with a fun, engaging Spanish literacy program that honors the mission of Citizens of the World Mar Vista.