Performance-Based Learning and Assessment
In the Lower School, we operate within a performance-based assessment belief system. Every moment with the children in the classroom welcomes a wealth of insightful information. The interpretation of a text, a spelling error or a mathematical approach that appears clever but inefficient are all revealing and informative for the teacher. This is the information that guides the next mini-lesson, think-aloud or individual conference. This is your individual child, with his or her individual needs, made visible through the observation of his or her authentic inquiry, projects and investigations.
The Workshop Model
There are as many educational theories as there are children in our school. One educational belief system is based on what is often called the “empty vessel” theory the assumption that a child comes to school without any understanding of the world; the child has no experience to offer and therefore must have knowledge poured in.
At Staten Island Academy, we use the Workshop Model, which is designed to access the many ways children learn and acquire knowledge. This method is rigorous and challenging, while promoting and maintaining a positive sense of self. Teachers often start with mini-lessons where they model a skill or strategy. After the mini-lesson, the students have an opportunity to practice the skill or strategy. Students break into groups that are formed based upon similar needs as identified by the teacher’s observation and assessment. Our teachers work with each group in guided instruction addressing their needs. Students then work independently or collaboratively on a project or assignment that allows them to employ and develop the particular skill or strategy. Afterwards, students have an opportunity to share their work with the class and teachers and engage in a class-wide discussion.
It is the goal of the Lower School program to challenge all children. We create open-ended assignments that meet each child at his or her place of development. We believe that classroom dialogue develops thinking, vocabulary and an appreciation of alternative ideas. We believe that rigor is stretching them beyond what they were originally capable of. Toward that end, we organize our curriculum around “big ideas” and engage them in high-level critical thinking.